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I’m not sure whether artists today are just less talented than their predecessors in ancient Greece or whether the muses have just got lazier. Either way, there are way more drawings of girls with super huge boobs around than there used to be. I’ll leave it up to you as to whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

There are also stupid comics about muses around now. That’s probably not a good sign, either.

I’m kidding, obviously.

The muses of ancient Greek mythology were credited with inspiring all sorts of creative pursuits but they were also considered the source of general knowledge such as math and the sciences. It was thought that from these divine beings sprang the sudden thoughts and inspirations that drive human progress and there have been countless songs, stories, poems, paintings, and sculptures depicting and venerating these beings.

Seems a little conceited, when you think about it, doesn’t it?

There have been disagreements as to the number of muses. There are some accounts that say they are three in number, but the most popular number is nine. Most stories, however, are clear on the fact that these godly women were the offspring of the mighty Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess thought of as memory personified. Early in their existence, the muses were typically spoken and thought of as a single group responsible for all learning. However, in later periods, individual muses became associated with a particular type of knowledge. Each muse watched over those pursuing the art she was associated with and, if offered the proper respects and sacrifices, she would grace an individual with insight and talent in the area of her expertise. Many artists, poets, and philosophers belonged to cults dedicated to the muses and many cities built temples dedicated to them as a means of promoting learning and social harmony among their people.

It may seem strange these days for people to quite literally worship knowledge, but there’s something kind of beautiful about that. If one were to worship anything at all, why not knowledge?

It was this love and dedication to the acquisition of knowledge and progress in the arts and science that propelled muse-worship through many hundreds of years in Greece. Even the ancient Romans, though far more warlike than those whose culture they adopted, had significant religious practices devoted to the muses that they hoped would help inspire new works of art and new ideas in their centers of learning.

Nowadays, especially here in the US, there seems to be a bit of a war against science and against knowledge in general. It’s a little disheartening to see when you look back thousands of years into the past at people we consider to be sort of beneath us and realize that they, as a society, actively promoted the acquisition of knowledge and the idea of learning for the sake of learning.

Aristotle, in his Treatise on Education said, “All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.”

Now in our age of globalization, education dictates more than just the fate of empires, it is a matter of grave importance for the entire world. Hopefully societies around the globe will carry on this attitude, pushing for education and instilling their children with a love of knowledge and a love of critical thought rather than turning back the hands of time to live in superstition.

With any luck, the muses will offer us a little help along the way.

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