- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology»
- Ancient History»
- Greek & Roman History
The Name of Thalia in Greek Mythology
The name of Thalia is one which appears in multiple stories from Ancient Greece, although these stories do not necessarily relate to the same person; for in Greek mythology Thalia was named as one of the Charites, a Muse, a Nereid and a nymph. Today, the name of Thalia is more famous than it ever has been though, for it is a name given to a reoccurring character from the works of Rick Riordan.
Thalia the Charis
The Charites were three sisters, the daughters of Zeus and the Oceanid Eurynome. The Charites, who were also known as the Graces, were the goddesses of beauty, charm and human creativity, and so their role often overlapped with that of the Muses.
In ancient texts, the three Charites were normally named as Aglaea, meaning Splendour, Euphrosyne, meaning Mirth, and Thalia, meaning Good Cheer. Thalia’s name though has also been taken to mean bountiful banquets, and so Thalia was also regarded as the goddess of festivity and rich banquets.
Thalia was commonly depicted dancing with her sisters’ or as an attendant of Aphrodite; Thalia, with her sisters, could be found where ever banquets or festivities were being undertaken, from the realm of Hades, through the mortal lands, and on Mount Olympus.
The Three Graces
Thalia the Muse
The Muses, or more specifically the Younger Muses, were the nine daughters of Zeus and the Titanide Mnemosyne. The nine daughters were born on successive nights, having been previously conceived on successive nights, and thus Thalia was the eighth daughter born to Mnemosyne.
The Younger Muses were the goddesses of inspiration, and closely associated with the arts and sciences. Later on the muses were given specific roles and so Calliope became, Muse of epic poetry; Clio, history; Erato. Lyric poetry; Euterpe, music; Melpomene, tragic literature; Polyhmnia, sacred poetry; Terpsichore, dance; Thalia, comedy and pastoral poetry; and Urania, astronomy.
As goddess of comedy and idyllic poetry, was said to inspire laughter and light relief, and to this end Thalia would be depicted wearing a comic mask, and holding onto a shepherd’s staff. In this role, Thalia’s name was said to mean “flourishing”.
The Younger Muses would entertain the gods with stories, song and dance, and so were commonly found on Mount Olympus or at festivities elsewhere. This would bring Thalia into contact with many of the prominent gods, and it was said that Thalila slept with Apollo, causing her to give birth to the seven Corybantes, the rustic dance spirits.
Thalia Muse of Comedy
Thalia the Nereid
A third Thalia was also spoken of in ancient stories and this Thalia was one of the 50 Nereids, the sea goddess daughters of Nereus and Doris.
Less prominent than the Charity or Muse, Thalia the Nereid was nevertheless mentioned by Homer and Virgil, where her name was taken to mean “blooming”, in relation to the gifts of the sea.
The most famous appearance of Thalia comes in the Iliad, where Thalia comes to the shoreline of Troy to mourn the death of her nephew Achilles (the son of the Nereid Thetis).
Thalila the Nymph
A fourth Thalia was named in ancient tales, with this Thalia being the daughter of the metalworking god Hephaestus. This Thalia would be closely associated with Sicily, and sometimes regarded as the nymph of Mount Etna.
A tale written by the roman writer Macrobius would tell of Thalia’s abduction by Zeus, who was taken by the nymph’s beauty. Zeus would have his way with her, but the avoid the wrath of Hera, Zeus would subsequently bury Thalia beneath the surface of the earth. Nevertheless, Thalia would give birth to two sons, the Palici, the rustic gods of Sicily’s thermal springs and geysers.
Today, the most famous Thalia comes from the modern stories of Rick Riordan, where she commonly features in the tales of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series.
Riordan names this Thalia, Thalia Grace, daughter of Beryl Grace and Zeus, linking back to the Ancient Greek Charity. This Thalia was transformed into a pine tree by her father when she sacrificed herself for her friends, and as the pine tree she would be the boundary line and protector of Camp Half-Blood, although she would later be revived to take a more prominent role in the stories.