MNEMOSYNE was Titan goddess of memory and remembrance and the inventress of language and words.

As a Titan daughter of Ouranos (Heaven), Mnemosyne was also a goddess of time. She represented the rote memorisation required, before the introduction of writing, to preserve the stories of history and sagas of myth. In this role she was represented as the mother of the Mousai (Muses), originally patron goddesses of the poets of the oral tradition.

Finally Mnemosyne was a minor oracular goddess like her sister-Titanes. She presided over the underground oracle of Trophonios in Boiotia.

The Titanis Mnemosyne was sometimes described as one of three Elder Titan Mousai (Muses), who preceded the nine daughters of Zeus as goddesses of music.


Alcman, Fragment 133 (from Etymologicum Gudianum) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (Greek lyric C7th B.C.) :
"Mneme (Memory) : Alkman, they say, calls her big-eyed, since we see the past by our thinking."

Plato, Critias (trans. Bury) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"Hermokrates : You must go and attack the argument like a man. First invoke Apollon and the Mousai, and then let us hear you sound the praises and show forth the virtues of your ancient citizens.
Kritias : Friend Hermokrates . . . But besides the gods and goddesses whom you have mentioned, I would specially invoke Mnemosyne (Memory); for all the important part of my discourse is dependent on her favour, and if I can recollect and recite enough of what was said by the priests and brought hither by Solon, I doubt not that I shall satisfy the requirements of this theatre."

Plato, Theaetetus 191c (trans. Fowler) :
"Sokrates : Can he [man] learn one thing after another? . . . Please assume, then, for the sake of argument, that there is in our souls a block of wax, in one case larger, in another smaller, in one case the wax is purer, in another more impure and harder, in some cases softer, and in some of proper quality . . . Let us, then, say that this is the gift of Mnemosyne (Memory), the mother of the Mousai (Muses), and that whenever we wish to remember anything we see or hear or think of in our own minds, we hold this wax under the perceptions and thoughts and imprint them upon it, just as we make impressions from seal rings; and whatever is imprinted we remember and know as long as its image lasts, but whatever is rubbed out or cannot be imprinted we forget and do not know."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 67. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Of the female Titanes they say that Mnemosyne discovered the uses of the power of reason, and that she gave a designation to every object about us by means of the names which we use to express whatever we would and to hold conversation one with another; though there are those who attribute these discoveries to Hermes. And to this goddess is also attributed the power to call things to memory and to remembrance (mneme) which men possess, and it is this power which gave her the name she received."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 39. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Part of the rituals at the oracle of Trophonios at Lebadeia in Boiotia :] He [the supplicant] is taken by the priests, not at once to the oracle, but to fountains of water very near to each other. Here he must drink water called the water of Lethe (Forgetfulness), that he may forget all that he has been thinking of hitherto, and afterwards he drinks of another water, the water of Mnemosyne (Memory), which causes him to remember what he sees after his descent . . . After his ascent from [the oracle of] Trophonios the inquirer is again taken in hand by the priests, who set him upon a chair called the chair of Mnemosyne (Memory), which stands not far from the shrine, and they ask of him, when seated there, all he has seen or learned. After gaining this information they then entrust him to his relatives."

Orphic Hymn 77 to Mnemosyne (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"To Mnemosyne (Memory), Fumigation from Frankincense. The consort I invoke of Zeus divine; source of the holy, sweetly speaking Mousai nine; free from the oblivion of the fallen mind, by whom the soul with intellect is joined. Reason’s increase and thought to thee belong, all-powerful, pleasant, vigilant, and strong. ‘Tis thine to waken from lethargic rest all thoughts deposited within the breast; and nought neglecting, vigorous to excite the mental eye from dark oblivion’s night. Come, blessed power, thy mystics’ memory wake to holy rites, and Lethe’s (Forgetfulness) fetters break."

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 1. 14 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"When he [Apollonios of Tyana, pagan prophet C1st A.D.] reached the age of a hundred, he still surpassed Simonides in point of memory, and he used to chant a hymn addressed to Mnemosyne (Memory), in which it is said that everything is worn and withered away by time, whereas time itself never ages, but remains immortal because of memory."

docvoodoo docvoodoo 31-35, M Jun 15, 2012

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