Momus, the Greek God of Satire and Criticism
Momus is the Greek god that represents satire and mockery, using humor to criticize. The other gods eventually expelled him from Mount Olympus because of how harsh he criticized others, and some think he even helped start the Trojan War.
Aesop’s fables, the writings of a slave and storyteller who lived in ancient Greece, also feature him in some tales. In one story, Momus had to judge the work of three other gods. Of course, he was not kind when he told them of their mistakes. In another tale, Momus is considered the deity that finds the worse parts of things and other people. Many would claim that if Momus could not see a fault in a person, they were perfect.
In some ancient comedies, he is found to make criticisms of the world around him and the other gods of Olympus. In one case, he made the god Jupiter so angry that he tied Momus to a rock! However, Jupiter later looked for the writings of Momus to find that the criticisms had merit. This event led some scholars to see Momus as not just an annoying god who is mean to the others, but as a truthful critic that judges others. Momus was still mean, of course, but what he said made sense.
As time passed, some people began to see Momus as more of a silly critic than a serious one. Sometimes he was even painted as jester! His newer identity was likely the result of various comedies of the times in which Momus uses humor to deliver satire and sarcastic jokes.
• It was Momus’s goal to find fault in anything and everything so that he could ridicule it. When Prometheus made mankind, Momus criticized him for not creating a door in man’s chest so that his thoughts could be seen and dishonesty could be prevented.
• Athena was mocked by Momus for having built a home without wheels because it could not be relocated away from unwanted neighbors.
• Momus criticized Poseidon’s handiwork when he built a bull because Momus believed it should have eyes in its horn to make it gore more effectively.
• Some believe that Aphrodite annoyed Momus because he could find nothing to criticize in her perfect form. Other literary sources though say that Momus criticized her for having creaky sandals and for talking too much.
• Momus even had the audacity to mock the king of the gods, Zeus, for being violent and for lusting after so many women. Zeus would eventually be the one to banish Momus from Mount Olympus.
• Momus is typically depicted as a man lifting a mask from his face. In more modern art, he is depicted as a fool or king’s jester.
• Two of Aesop’s fables feature Momus as a character.
• Momus also is to blame for Zeus’s decision to start the Trojan war as a way of reducing the population.
• Being from the realm of the Underworld, Momus also has a dark side. He would often instill in men feelings of failure in regards to new ideas or new ventures.
• Oizys, Momus’s twin, was a misery goddess. She was known for being the goddess of anxiety, worry, and distress. She played a part in inciting many wars, feuds, and disputes.
• Greek tragedian Sophocles wrote a satyr play called Momus. Satyr plays were tragicomedies with choruses of satyrs. The plays were often full of drunkenness, sexuality, sight gags, and other forms of merriment. The play itself is now almost entirely lost.
• Momus is associated with writers and poets because he is also known as the god of censure and the god of satire. Censure means harsh criticism, strong disapproval, or strong condemnation, explaining its connection to Momus.
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