Calliope: The Greek Muse of Epic Poetry and Eloquence

Written by: GOG Team



Time to read 7 min

Greek mythology is one of the most fascinating topics in world history. It's full of gods and goddesses, heroes and villains, and epic tales of love, war, and adventure. And one of the most important figures in this rich tradition is Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at Calliope's story, exploring her family tree, her role in Greek mythology, and the symbols associated with her. We'll also examine the broader significance of the Muses and the role they played in the ancient world.

Calliope's family tree

As we mentioned earlier, Calliope was one of the nine Muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Zeus was the king of the gods and Mnemosyne was the goddess of memory. Together, they had nine daughters, each of whom presided over a different area of the arts and sciences.

In addition to Calliope, the other Muses were:

  • Clio, the Muse of history
  • Euterpe, the Muse of music
  • Thalia, the Muse of comedy and pastoral poetry
  • Melpomene, the Muse of tragedy
  • Terpsichore, the Muse of dance
  • Erato, the Muse of love poetry
  • Polyhymnia, the Muse of sacred poetry
  • Urania, the Muse of astronomy

Together, the Muses represented the pinnacle of human creativity and achievement. They inspired artists, writers, musicians, and scholars, and their influence can still be felt in the arts today.

Calliope's role in Greek mythology

As the Muse of epic poetry, Calliope played a critical role in Greek mythology. Epic poetry was the most prestigious form of literature in ancient Greece, telling stories of gods and heroes, battles and triumphs. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are perhaps the most famous examples of epic poetry, but there were many others.

According to legend, Calliope was the inspiration for Homer's epic poems. She would appear to him in his dreams, whispering stories of gods and heroes into his ear. With her help, Homer was able to craft some of the most magnificent literary works in history, works that have inspired generations of readers and writers.

But Calliope's influence extended far beyond Homer. She was also the patron of other poets and writers, inspiring them with her beauty, grace, and intelligence. Her name, "beautiful voice," was a testament to the power of her inspiration and the beauty of the works she inspired.

Calliope's symbols

Like all of the Muses, Calliope had several symbols associated with her. These symbols were used to represent her in artwork and literature, and they served as reminders of her influence and power.

The most common symbols associated with Calliope were:

  • The writing tablet: This symbolized her role as the inspiration for writers and poets. The tablet represented the blank page, waiting to be filled with words and ideas, and Calliope was the one who breathed life into those words.
  • The laurel wreath: This symbolized her status as a goddess and was a sign of victory and achievement. In ancient Greece, athletes who won competitions were often awarded laurel wreaths as a sign of their victory. The laurel wreath was a symbol of excellence and success, and it was fitting that Calliope should wear one.
  • The lyre: This symbolized her association with music and song. The lyre was a stringed instrument similar to a harp, and it was often used in ancient Greek music. Calliope was said to have a beautiful singing voice, and she was often depicted holding a lyre in her hands.

Calliope was a significant figure in Greek mythology, a source of inspiration for writers and poets, and a symbol of the power of creativity and imagination. Her story serves as a reminder of the importance of the arts and literature in human culture and the enduring power of the written word.

Beyond her individual story, Calliope is part of a larger tradition of the Muses, a group of goddesses who embodied different aspects of human creativity and achievement. The Muses were a crucial part of the ancient Greek worldview, representing the heights of human achievement and the ultimate expression of divine inspiration.

But the influence of the Muses extends far beyond the ancient world. Today, we still use the word "muse" to describe someone who inspires us creatively. We still look to the arts as a source of inspiration and wonder, and we still aspire to achieve the kind of greatness that the Muses embodied.

So whether you're a writer, musician, artist, or simply someone who appreciates the power of creativity and imagination, Calliope and the Muses are worth celebrating. They remind us of the importance of the arts in human culture and the enduring power of the human spirit to create, to inspire, and to achieve.

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Calliope in modern culture

Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry in Greek mythology, has been a significant figure in human culture for thousands of years. Her influence extends far beyond the ancient world, with her story and symbols appearing in modern culture in a variety of ways. In this article, we'll explore some of the ways that Calliope has been represented in modern culture, from literature and art to music and film.


One of the most significant ways that Calliope has influenced modern culture is through literature. Her status as the Muse of epic poetry has inspired countless writers, poets, and novelists over the centuries. Some of the most famous examples of modern literature that feature Calliope or draw on her inspiration include:

  • Dante's Divine Comedy: This epic poem, written in the 14th century, tells the story of Dante's journey through hell, purgatory, and heaven. Calliope is mentioned in the opening lines of the poem, as Dante calls on her to guide his pen as he writes.
  • John Keats' Ode to a Nightingale: This famous poem, written in 1819, is a meditation on the power of music and poetry to transport us to other worlds. Keats invokes Calliope as one of the Muses who can help him escape the mortal world and enter into a realm of pure imagination.
  • James Joyce's Ulysses: This landmark novel, written in 1922, tells the story of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, a middle-aged Jewish man living in Dublin. Calliope is mentioned briefly in one of the novel's episodes, as Bloom recalls a childhood memory of his father reciting a poem about her.


Calliope's image and symbols have also appeared in a variety of art forms throughout modern history. From paintings to sculptures to film, artists have been inspired by her beauty, grace, and intelligence. Some notable examples include:

  • John William Waterhouse's Calliope: This painting, created in 1891, shows Calliope holding a writing tablet and gazing off into the distance. The painting captures the beauty and elegance of the Muse, as well as her power as the source of inspiration for poets and writers.
  • Rodin's The Gates of Hell: This sculpture, created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, depicts a scene from Dante's Divine Comedy. Calliope is one of the figures featured in the sculpture, standing alongside other mythological and historical figures.
  • Disney's Hercules: This animated film, released in 1997, features Calliope as one of the Muses who help narrate the story of Hercules. The film presents a modern, playful take on the ancient myth, with Calliope and the other Muses providing a lively, upbeat soundtrack to the action.


As the Muse of epic poetry and music, Calliope has had a significant influence on modern music as well. From classical to pop to rock, musicians have been inspired by her beauty, her voice, and her role as the source of inspiration for creativity. Some notable examples include:

  • The band Muse: This British rock band takes its name from the Muses, and their music is often infused with references to ancient mythology. Their song "Map of the Problematique" features the line "Calliope, dreams of liquid blue," a reference to the Muse's association with music and song.
  • The opera Calliope's Voice: This modern opera, composed by William Osborne and released in 2007, tells the story of Calliope as she struggles to find her place in the modern world. The opera features a mix of classical and contemporary music, blending ancient myth with modern themes.
  • The album Calliope by Minutemen: This 1984 album by the punk band Minutemen features a track called "Calliope," which pays tribute to the Muse's role as the inspiration for creativity and imagination.

Film and Television

Calliope's influence can also be seen in film and television, where her image and symbols have been used to evoke a sense of ancient myth and storytelling. Some notable examples include:

  • Clash of the Titans: This 1981 film tells the story of Perseus, a mortal hero who must defeat the gods in order to save the princess Andromeda. Calliope is mentioned briefly in the film, as one of the Muses who sings of Perseus' deeds.
  • Wonder Woman: This 2017 film features a character named Etta Candy, who is described as a "modern-day Calliope." Etta is a witty, intelligent woman who serves as a support to the film's heroine, Wonder Woman.
  • American Gods: This television series, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, features a character named Mr. Nancy, who is described as "the trickster god of storytelling." In one episode, Mr. Nancy transforms into Calliope, demonstrating the Muse's power to inspire creativity and imagination.

Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry, has been a significant figure in human culture for thousands of years. Her story and symbols have inspired writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers, and her influence can be seen in a variety of modern works. From literature to art to music to film, Calliope's legacy lives on, reminding us of the power of creativity and the enduring influence of ancient mythology.