Germans and their Nazi Past (1945–2010)
Chapter 1. Mnemosyne – Mother of the Muses
Mnemosyne – Mother of the Muses
Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory (from mnēmē; Greek for memory) occupied a special place in ancient mythology. The daughter of Uranus – the father of the Titans and the Cyclops, personification the sky – and Gaia, the great mother of all, gave birth to nine Muses by Zeus. For ancient Greeks, the sky represented constancy while the Earth represented change. Thus, the mythological inspiration lets us interpret the meaning of memory, which includes elements of what is constant and what is changing. At least since the times of Homer, there used to be a custom of referring to a Muse at the beginning of every work. The goddess of memory, as the mother of Muses who were honoured to feast with gods at Mount Olympus and who were patrons of various fields of art and science, symbolises the source and fundament of what is most important in life. Allegoric Memory as “the mother of all knowledge and thinking”, born from “the nuptials of Heaven and Earth” was expected to remind successive generations that she was the beginning of all human skills and actions.4
Cesare Ripa, the author of Iconologia, generously referred to the tradition and aesthetic imagination of antiquity according to the rules of Baroque. His Memory is presented as a two-faced woman, as it embraces “all things past, and through the rule of prudence, all things which will happen in the future”.5 In the world of...
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