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Momus or Momos was in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 the god of satire
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

, mockery, censure
Censure
A censure is an expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism. Among the forms that it can take are a stern rebuke by a legislature, a spiritual penalty imposed by a church, and a negative judgment pronounced on a theological proposition.-Politics:...

, writers, poets; a spirit of evil-spirited blame and unfair criticism. His name is related to , meaning 'blame' or 'censure'. He is depicted in classical art as lifting a mask from his face.

In classical literature


Hesiod
Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

 said that Momus was a son of Night (Nyx). He mocked Hephaestus
Hephaestus
Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods - or else, according to some accounts, of Hera alone. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes...

, Lucian of Samosata recalled, for having made mankind without doors in their breast, through which their thoughts could be seen. He even mocked Aphrodite
Aphrodite
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.Her Roman equivalent is the goddess .Historically, her cult in Greece was imported from, or influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia....

, though all he could find was that she was talkative and had creaky sandals. He even found fit to mock Zeus, saying he is a violent god and lusts for woman, giving birth to two villainous sons equal to him in disgust (works of Apollonius Molon
Apollonius Molon
Apollonius Molon or Molo of Rhodes , Greek rhetorician who flourished about 70 BC.He was a native of Alabanda, a pupil of Menecles, and settled at Rhodes. He twice visited Rome as an ambassador from Rhodes, and Marcus Tullius Cicero and Gaius Julius Caesar both took lessons from him...

). Because of his constant criticism, he was exiled from Mt. Olympus.

Momus is featured in one of Aesop
Aesop
Aesop was a Greek writer credited with a number of popular fables. Older spellings of his name have included Esop and Isope. Although his existence remains uncertain and no writings by him survive, numerous tales credited to him were gathered across the centuries and in many languages in a...

's fables, where he is to judge the handiwork of three gods (the gods vary depending on the version). However, he is jealous of what they have done and derides all of their creations. He is then banished from Olympus by Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 for his jealousy.

Sophocles
Sophocles
Sophocles is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides...

 wrote a satyr play
Satyr play
Satyr plays were an ancient Greek form of tragicomedy, similar in spirit to burlesque. They featured choruses of satyrs, were based on Greek mythology, and were rife with mock drunkenness, brazen sexuality , pranks, sight gags, and general merriment.Satyric drama was one of the three varieties of...

, now almost entirely lost, called Momos.

In Lucian's satiric dialogue Assembly of the Gods (ca 165 CE) it is Momus who is the secretary when the gods stage a city meeting as if at Athens, to decide what to do about newly-arrived outsiders and metic
Metic
In ancient Greece, the term metic referred to a resident alien, one who did not have citizen rights in his or her Greek city-state of residence....

s, the target of the satire being the recent development of complete enfranchisement of unworthy outsiders (Lucian himself being of Syrian origin).

In Book VI of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's Republic, Glaucon says to Socrates: "Momus himself could not find fault with such a combination."

Renaissance and later writers


Leon Battista Alberti wrote a savage and pessimistic Latin satiric dialogue, Momus, (ca. 1450) which drew upon Lucian's example; as with his model — though some readers, with Eugenio Garin
Eugenio Garin
Eugenio Garin was an Italian philosopher and Renaissance historian. He was recognised as an authority on the cultural history of the Renaissance...

, detect in it some of Alberti's own streak of bitterness — the end use of the cynicism in the satire is to amuse.

When Sir Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

 wrote an essay "Of Building," (XLV) he said that "He that builds a fair house upon an ill seat, committeth himself to prison. .. Neither is it ill air only that maketh an ill seat, but ill ways, ill markets, and, if you consult with Momus, ill neighbours."

In Giordano Bruno's philosophical treatise "The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast", Momus plays an integral part in the series of dialogues conducted by the Olympian Deities and Bruno's narrators. Momus was brought back from his expulsion deep in the cosmos in order to assist Jove in reconstructing the heaven's by purging them of vice and heralding in an age of virtue.

In one scene of Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

's The Battle of the Books
The Battle of the Books
The Battle of the Books is the name of a short satire written by Jonathan Swift and published as part of the prolegomena to his A Tale of a Tub in 1704. It depicts a literal battle between books in the King's Library , as ideas and authors struggle for supremacy...

, Momus, while rushing to defend the Moderns
Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns
The quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns was a literary and artistic debate that heated up in the early 1690s and shook the Académie française.-Description:...

, gets some aid from the goddess Criticism. Interestingly, Swift, a renowned satirist, sides with the Ancients while the goddess of satire sides with the Moderns

Laurence Sterne
Laurence Sterne
Laurence Sterne was an Irish novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published many sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics...

 ruminated on the possibilities of Momus' window into the soul in a typical rambling excursus in Tristram Shandy.

Antonin Artaud
Antonin Artaud
Antoine Marie Joseph Artaud, more well-known as Antonin Artaud was a French playwright, poet, actor and theatre director...

 is referencing him in his brief Artaud Le Momo (1947), written shortly after nine years of incarceration.

Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist...

 references him in Walden
Walden
Walden is an American book written by noted Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau...

. In his first chapter, "Economy", Thoreau notes what he considers the valid objection of Momus/Momos against the house which Minerva
Minerva
Minerva was the Roman goddess whom Romans from the 2nd century BC onwards equated with the Greek goddess Athena. She was the virgin goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic...

/Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

 made, that she "had not made it moveable, by which means a bad neighborhood might be avoided".

Mardi Gras



Inspired by the god, the "Knights of Momus" ("KOM") was the name of a Mardi Gras society in Galveston, Texas
Galveston, Texas
Galveston is a coastal city located on Galveston Island in the U.S. state of Texas. , the city had a total population of 47,743 within an area of...

, founded in 1871. The original Knights of Momus went defunct around the time of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. A new group was founded in the mid-1980s, and seeking to rekindle the spirit of the original group, adopted the Momus name.

"The Knights of Momus" is also the name of the third-oldest New Orleans Mardi Gras
New Orleans Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana, is a Carnival celebration well-known throughout the world.The New Orleans Carnival season, with roots in preparing for the start of the Christian season of Lent, starts after Twelfth Night, on Epiphany . It is a season of parades, balls , and king cake parties...

 krewe
Krewe
A krewe is an organization that puts on a parade and or a ball for the Carnival season. The term is best known for its association with New Orleans Mardi Gras, but is also used in other Carnival celebrations around the Gulf of Mexico, such as the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, Florida, and...

, founded in 1872. Unlike the Galveston Momus organization, the New Orleans iteration of the Knights of Momus has operated continuously since its founding, and remains true to its roots as a secret society.

For over 100 years, the Momus parade was a fixture of the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade schedule, parading annually on the Thursday before Fat Tuesday. Since Momus was the Greek god of mockery, the themes of Momus parades typically paid homage to the organization's namesake with irreverent humor and biting satire. The 1877 parade theme, "Hades, A Dream of Momus," caused an uproar when it took aim at the Reconstruction government established in New Orleans after the Civil War. Attempts at retribution by local authorities were largely unsuccessful due to the secrecy of the membership.

In 1991, the New Orleans City Council passed an ordinance that required social organizations, including Mardi Gras Krewes, to certify publicly that they did not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, in order to obtain parade permits and other public licensure. In effect, the ordinance required these, and other, private social groups to abandon their traditional code of secrecy and identify their members for the city's Human Relations Commission. Momus was one of three historic krewes (with Comus
Mistick Krewe of Comus
The Mistick Krewe of Comus is a New Orleans, Louisiana Carnival krewe.Prior to the advent of Comus, Carnival celebrations in New Orleans were mostly confined to the Roman Catholic Creole community, and parades were irregular and often very informally organized.Comus was organized by...

 of 1857 and Proteus of 1882) that withdrew from parading rather than identify their membership.

Two federal courts later declared that the ordinance was an unconstitutional infringement on First Amendment rights of free association, and an unwarranted intrusion on the privacy of the groups subject to the ordinance. The Supreme Court refused to hear the city's appeal from this decision. Nevertheless, the Momus parade never returned to the streets of New Orleans, although the group still conducts an annual bal masqué on the Thursday before Mardi Gras.

See also

  • The Puccini
    Giacomo Puccini
    Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was an Italian composer whose operas, including La bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot, are among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire...

     opera
    Opera
    Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

     "La Bohème
    La bohème
    La bohème is an opera in four acts,Puccini called the divisions quadro, a tableau or "image", rather than atto . by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger...

    ", where the Café
    Café
    A café , also spelled cafe, in most countries refers to an establishment which focuses on serving coffee, like an American coffeehouse. In the United States, it may refer to an informal restaurant, offering a range of hot meals and made-to-order sandwiches...

     Momus is the setting for Act II, in the Latin Quarter, Paris (although the actual Café Momus described in the original stories by Henri Murger
    Henri Murger
    Louis-Henri Murger, also known as Henri Murger and Henry Murger was a French novelist and poet....

     on which the opera is based was located on the Right Bank near the church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois
    Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois
    The Church of Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois is situated at 2, Place du Louvre, Paris 75001; the nearest Métro station is Louvre-Rivoli.Located at the center of Paris, by the Seine and near the Louvre, this former parish of the kings of France is generally regarded as the Church of the Louvre...

    ).
  • Kafka
    Franz Kafka
    Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century...

    's novel
    Novel
    A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

     The Castle
    The Castle
    The Castle is a novel by Franz Kafka. In it a protagonist, known only as K., struggles to gain access to the mysterious authorities of a castle who govern the village for unknown reasons...

    , where Momus appears in chapter nine
  • Mikhail Bulgakov
    Mikhail Bulgakov
    Mikhaíl Afanásyevich Bulgákov was a Soviet Russian writer and playwright active in the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for his novel The Master and Margarita, which The Times of London has called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.-Biography:Mikhail Bulgakov was born on...

    's novel The White Guard
    The White Guard
    The White Guard is a novel by 20th century Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, famed for his critically acclaimed later work The Master and Margarita.-History:...

    , where a bust of Momus appears in the house of the Turbins.
  • Boris Akunin
    Boris Akunin
    Boris Akunin is the pen name of Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili , a Russian writer. He is an essayist, literary translator and writer of detective fiction.-Life and career:...

    's The Jack of Spades (a Erast Fandorin
    Erast Fandorin
    Erast Petrovich Fandorin is a fictional 19th-century Russian detective and the hero of a series of Russian historical detective novels by Boris Akunin. The first novel was published in Russia in 1998, and the latest was published in December 2009...

     story), where Momus is the pseudonym assumed by a character
  • Lev Grossman
    Lev Grossman
    Lev Grossman is an American novelist and journalist, notably the author of the novels Warp , Codex , The Magicians and The Magician King...

    's novel
    Novel
    A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

     Codex, where MOMUS is an addictive and mysterious computer game
  • Sean Stewart
    Sean Stewart
    Sean Stewart is a U.S.-Canadian science fiction and fantasy author.Born in Lubbock, Texas, Sean Stewart moved to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in 1968...

    's novel
    Novel
    A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

     Galveston, where Momus is a mysterious but powerful ruler of a realm in a world where magic has returned.
  • Rei Momo
    Rei Momo (Carnival character)
    King Momo or King Momos or King Momus, is considered the king of Carnivals in numerous Latin American festivities, mainly in Brazil and Colombia. His appearance signifies the beginning of the Carnival festivities. Each carnival has its own King Momo, who is often given the key to the city...

     ("King Momus") is one of the figures of the Brazilian Carnival
    Brazilian Carnival
    The Carnival of Brazil is an annual festival held forty-six days before Easter. On certain days of Lent, Roman Catholics and some other Christians traditionally abstained from the consumption of meat and poultry, hence the term "carnival," from carnelevare, "to remove meat." Carnival celebrations...

    .
  • In John Dryden
    John Dryden
    John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

    's poem The Secular Masque, Momus mocks the gods Diana, Mars, and Venus for the vanity of what they represent among human beings.
  • Scottish artist and musician Nick Currie
    Momus (artist)
    Nick Currie , more popularly known under the artist name Momus , is a songwriter, blogger and former journalist for Wired...

    , who performs under the stage name
    Stage name
    A stage name, also called a showbiz name or screen name, is a pseudonym used by performers and entertainers such as actors, wrestlers, comedians, and musicians.-Motivation to use a stage name:...

    Momus

External links