Like the muses, the Graces were goddesses of inspiration, charm and gracefulness. Among the Greeks, the Graces were known as the Charities, but would later become the Graces when Rome conquered the Greek region.
Origins of the Myth
Scholars don't agree on the origin of the Graces. Their worship dated back to river regions where they were revered as three maiden goddesses. Some scholars point to meteor showers as a source for their origins. The falling stars were seen as the goddesses returning to earth to bring beauty, friendship, refinement and grace to the mortals.
The Graces first appeared in literary works such as Homer's Illiad and Odyssey as well as Hesiod's Theogony. According to Hesiod, the Graces were named Euphrosyne, Thalia and Aglaea. They represented joy, flowering and radiance. Hesiod named the Graces daughters of Zeus and his third wife Eurynome. Eurynome was a Titan and a goddess of the meadows and pastures. Her daughters represented all that was beautiful about the open land.
The Graces were honored with annual festivals, usually celebrated in the late spring, early summer when the weather was most generous. The outdoor festivals included music, dance and games. Greeks enjoyed athletic games and saw them the height of joy in the physical being while dancers exhibited the grace and the music would celebrate the radiance.
Aristotle wrote that temples to the Graces were located in the most prominent areas of a city, notably in Athens. The temple was typically outdoors where everyone could see the sanctuary and be reminded of the simple joys of life and celebrating each other.
Some scholars link the Graces to the inspiration for Vestal Virgins and other maiden dedicants to the gods. They believed that the maiden goddesses were all that was pure, happy, beautiful and gracious among men. This was especially important to the Greeks, for they believed without this appreciation for the simple joy of life, then labor was not worth performing. The Graces were celebrated with the show of decorum, manners and politeness.