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Goddess of Tragedy
Member of the Muses
Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek - Melpomene.jpg
Roman statue of Melpomene, 2nd century AD. The muse is shown in a long-sleeved garment with a high belt, clothing that was associated with tragic actors. Her wreath of vines and grapes alludes to Dionysus, the god of the theatre
AbodeMount Olympus
SymbolsTragic mask
Personal information
ParentsZeus and Mnemosyne
SiblingsEuterpe, Polyhymnia, Urania, Clio, Erato, Thalia, Terpsichore, Calliope, Aeacus, Angelos, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Dionysus, Eileithyia, Enyo, Eris, Ersa, Hebe, Helen, Hephaestus, Heracles, Hermes, Minos, Pandia, Persephone, Perseus, Rhadamanthus, the Graces, the Horae, the Litae, the Moirai
Childrenthe Sirens
Melpomene by Joseph Fagnani (1819–1873) (1869)

In Greek mythology, Melpomene (/mɛlˈpɒmɪn/; Ancient Greek: Μελπομένη, romanizedMelpoménē, lit.'to sing' or 'the one that is melodious'), initially the muse of chorus, eventually became the muse of tragedy, and is now best known in that association.[1]

Melpomene on an antique fresco from Pompeii


Melpomene's name is derived from the Greek verb melpô or melpomai meaning "to celebrate with dance and song.".[2] The Oxford English Dictionary cites μέλπειν (melpein - to sing).[3]


Melpomene is often represented with a tragic mask and wearing the cothurnus, boots traditionally worn by tragic actors. Often, she also holds a knife or club in one hand and the tragic mask in the other.


Melpomene is the daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne.[4][5][6] Her sisters include Calliope (muse of epic poetry), Clio (muse of history), Euterpe (muse of lyrical poetry), Terpsichore (muse of dancing), Erato (muse of erotic poetry), Thalia (muse of comedy), Polyhymnia (muse of hymns), and Urania (muse of astronomy).

She is also the mother of several of the Sirens,[7][8][9] the divine handmaidens of Kore (Persephone/Proserpina) who were cursed by her mother, Demeter/Ceres, when they were unable to prevent the kidnapping of Kore (Persephone/Proserpina) by Hades/Pluto.


In Greek and Latin poetry since Horace (d. 8 BC), it was commonly auspicious to invoke Melpomene.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Blyth, Charles (1990), Virgilian Tragedy and Troilus, vol. 24, The Chaucer Review, pp. 211–218
  2. ^ Compare: Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham (1882). Etymological and Pronouncing Dictionary of Difficult Words. London: Ward, Lock, & Co. p. 645. Retrieved 12 May 2022. melpo, to sing
  3. ^ "melpomenish". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.) - " < μέλπειν to sing, of unknown origin"
  4. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 77
  5. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica 4.7.1
  6. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.3.1
  7. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.3.4 & Epitome 7.18
  8. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae Preface, 125 & 141, ed. Grant
  9. ^ Tzetzes, Chiliades, 1.14, line 339
  10. ^ Bruce Merry, Encyclopedia of Modern Greek Literature (Santa Barbara CA: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004), 269-70. ISBN 0313308136


External links[edit]