Mnemosyne (// or //; Greek: Μνημοσύνη, pronounced [mnɛːmosýːnɛː]), source of the word mnemonic, was the personification of memory in Greek mythology. A Titanide, or Titaness, she was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia, and the mother of the nine Muses by her nephew Zeus:
- Calliope (epic poetry)
- Clio (history)
- Euterpe (music)
- Erato (lyric poetry)
- Melpomene (tragedy)
- Polyhymnia (hymns)
- Terpsichore (dance)
- Thalia (comedy)
- Urania (astronomy)
Zeus and Mnemosyne slept together for nine consecutive nights, thus birthing the nine Muses. Mnemosyne also presided over a pool in Hades, counterpart to the river Lethe, according to a series of 4th century BC Greek funerary inscriptions in dactylic hexameter. Dead souls drank from Lethe so they would not remember their past lives when reincarnated. Initiates were encouraged to drink from the river Mnemosyne when they died, instead of Lethe. These inscriptions may have been connected with Orphic poetry (see Zuntz, 1971).
Similarly, those who wished to consult the oracle of Trophonius in Boeotia were made to drink alternately from two springs called "Lethe" and "Mnemosyne." An analogous setup is described in the Myth of Er at the end of Plato's Republic.
|Mnemosyne's family tree |
- Collection of the Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, Rossetti Archive.
- Memory and the name Memnon, as in "Memnon of Rhodes" are etymologically related. Mnemosyne is sometimes confused with Mneme or compared with Memoria.
- Richard Janko, "Forgetfulness in the Golden Tablets of Memory", Classical Quarterly 34 (1984) 89–100; see article "Totenpass" for the reconstructed devotional which instructs the initiated soul through the landscape of Hades, including the pool of Memory.
- Hesiod, Theogony 132–138, 337–411, 453–520, 901–906, 915–920; Caldwell, pp. 8–11, tables 11–14.
- Although usually the daughter of Hyperion and Theia, as in Hesiod, Theogony 371–374, in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (4), 99–100, Selene is instead made the daughter of Pallas the son of Megamedes.
- According to Hesiod, Theogony 507–511, Clymene, one of the Oceanids, the daughters of Oceanus and Tethys, at Hesiod, Theogony 351, was the mother by Iapetus of Atlas, Menoetius, Prometheus, and Epimetheus, while according to Apollodorus, 1.2.3, another Oceanid, Asia was their mother by Iapetus.
- According to Plato, Critias, 113d–114a, Atlas was the son of Poseidon and the mortal Cleito.
- In Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 18, 211, 873 (Sommerstein, pp. 444–445 n. 2, 446–447 n. 24, 538–539 n. 113) Prometheus is made to be the son of Themis.
- Aeschylus, Persians. Seven against Thebes. Suppliants. Prometheus Bound. Edited and translated by Alan H. Sommerstein. Loeb Classical Library No. 145. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-674-99627-4. Online version at Harvard University Press.
- Apollodorus, Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Caldwell, Richard, Hesiod's Theogony, Focus Publishing/R. Pullins Company (June 1, 1987). ISBN 978-0-941051-00-2.
- Hesiod, Theogony, in The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Hymn to Hermes (4), in The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
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