Your patience has been much appreciated since this month we have been slammed with other responsibilities. We are getting a steady stream of questions for our Ask A Historian segment. Thank you to all who have taken the time to send questions and well wishes. Thank you to the spammers for giving us a good laugh and material so we may exercise our delete button finger.
Now, let’s get down to business.
One question that has shown up in our email multiple times is “Who is the woman in the logo?” There has been some online debate about if it is Aphrodite, Athena, or just a random image based on Greek sculpture. Allow me to indulge you in the very first installment of ASK A HISTORIAN!!!
Who is that lady in the logo? Clio, the Muse of History
Clio (also sometimes spelled Kleio), is one of the nine muses of Greek mythology. She is described as the Proclaimer, often depicted with a scroll, open book, or tablets, a lyre, and a wreath of laurel leaves. As legend states, she is the muse who scribes history as it happens. She does not write history before it happens nor does she interfere. Her name, Clio, is said to have the root meanings of “to make famous”, “to recount”, and “to celebrate”. Here at History Through the Pages, we felt she was an accurate representation of what we are trying to accomplish. We are here to relay historical information with explanation without judgment or biased opinions.
More depictions of Clio crop up within the Renaissance period. Her image, like other paintings of the muses, are depicted as human-like with everyday object or showing human emotions. In the painting by Baglione (left), Clio has a stack of books rather than her Grecian scroll. Her clothes are indicative of the Renaissance attire of the day instead of her Grecian robes. Instead of claiming her presence within the Renaissance period, the artwork is simply an artistic interpretation of her character from a bygone age.
I thoroughly enjoy looking through the modern form of “fan art” and seeing the amazing interpretations of Clio. The further away we move as a society from these ancient characters, celebrating them through free artistic expression will carry on their history and their story. Share your artwork of historical characters by using our hashtag #pagesofhistory101 on Instagram!
What is a Muse?
A muse is a goddess in which artistic or scholarly themes are personified. The Greek myth of the muses starts with, go figure, Zeus and his inability to keep it in his pants. He and the Titanness Mnemosyne, the goddess of Memory, create their daughters, the nine muses of the world. Their daughters were Calliope, muse of epic poetry; Clio, muse of history; Euterpe, muse of flutes and lyric poetry; Thalia, muse of comedy and pastoral poetry; Melpomene, muse of tragedy; Terpsichore, muse of dance; Erato, muse of love poetry; Polyhymnia, muse of sacred poetry; and Urania, muse of astronomy. Traditionally, muses would be invoked for inspiration with a chant or prayer. Temples were built for followers to visit and physically seek blessings from them by bearing gifts. The ancient historians who provided a window into their world also tried to invoke these goddesses. Some of their examples include :
These things declare to me from the beginning,
ye Muses who dwell in the house of Olympus,
and tell me which of them first came to be.
— Hesiod (c. 700 BCE), Theogony (Hugh G. Evelyn-White translation, 2015)
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists
and turns driven time and again off course, once
he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.
—Homer (c. 700 – 600 BCE), in Book I of The Odyssey (Robert Fagles translation, 1996)
O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate;
What goddess was provok’d, and whence her hate;
For what offense the Queen of Heav’n began
To persecute so brave, so just a man;
—Virgil (c. 29 – 19 BCE), in Book I of the Aeneid (John Dryden translation, 1697)
While we here at History Through the Pages do not have altars set up to Clio nor want to have her image overshadowing our content, we believe she makes an excellent contribution to our work. For more information about Greek Mythology we suggest Stephen Fry’s Mythos and Heroes.
Be safe and be kind to one another,