The myth behind the play

Thamyris and the Nine Muses

 Thamyris’s tale is a difficult one to find, and even harder to unravel. Although mentioned in passing by many ancient poets and scholars no one can agree upon what exactly happened to bring down the wrath of the muses upon him.


One thing they all acknowledge, though – The Gods can give you a gift, and the Gods can take it away. Woe to any mortal that dares to challenge them.


In our production, we hold all of these bits and pieces of his story to be true. One event leads to another in a downward spiral to Thamyris’s destruction. However, the Goddesses have found that they are not as immune to such suffering as they thought.


What happens then?


Here are a few fun facts about the origin and history of this myth. What do you think is the truth? Enjoy!





Article courtesy of

In Greek mythology, Thamyris, son of Philammon and the nymph Argiope, was a Thracian singer who was so proud of his skill that he boasted he could ousting the Muses. He competed against them and lost. As punishment for his presumption they paralyzed him, and took away his ability to make poetry and to play the lyre. This outline of the story is told in the Iliad.This allusion is taken up in Euripides’ Rhesus, in the Library attributed to Apollodorus, and in the Scholia on the Iliad. These later sources add the details that Thamyris had claimed as his prize, if he should win the contest, the privilege of having sex with all the Muses (according to one version) or of marrying one of them (according to another); and that after his death he was further punished in Hades. The story demonstrates that poetic inspiration, a gift of the gods, can be taken away by the gods.

According to Diodorus the mythical singer Linus took three pupils, Heracles, Thamyris and Orpheus, which neatly settles Thamyris’s legendary chronology. When Pliny the Elder briefly sketches the origins of music he credits Thamyris with inventing the Dorian mode and with being the first to play the cithara as a solo instrument with no voice accompaniment.

A lost epic, Titanomachy, attributed to the blind Thracian bard Thamyris, himself a legendary figure, was mentioned in passing in an essay On Music that was once attributed to Plutarch.

Homer, Iliad Book 2

Men from Pylos, lovely Arene, Thryum,
by Apheus ford, well-built Aipy, Cyparisseis,
Amphigenea, Pteleum, Helos, Dorium,
where the Muses met the Thracian Thamyris,
and stopped his singing—he was coming back
from Oechalia, from the court of Eurytus the king,
having boasted his singing would surpass the Muses,                                         
daughters of aegis-bearing Zeus, should they compete,
so in their anger the Muses mutilated Thamyris,
taking away his godlike power of song,     
and making him forget his skill in playing the lyre. 

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