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Momus or Momos (μῶμος) was in Greek mythology the god of satire, mockery, censure, writers, poets; a spirit of evil-spirited blame and unfair criticism. His name is related to μομφή, meaning 'blame' or 'censure'. He is depicted in classical art as lifting a mask from his face.


In classical literature

Hesiod[1] said that Momus was a son of Night (Nyx). He mocked Hephaestus, Lucian of Samosata recalled,[2] for having made mankind without doors in their breast, through which their thoughts could be seen. He even mocked Aphrodite, though all he could find was that she was talkative and had creaky sandals[3] 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). Because of his constant criticism, he was exiled from Mt. Olympus.

Momus is featured in one of Aesop'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 for his jealousy.

Sophocles wrote a satyr play, 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 metics, 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'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)[4] which drew upon Lucian's example; as with his model — though some readers, with Eugenio Garin,  detect in it some of Alberti's own streak of bitterness — the end use of the cynicism in the satire is to amuse.

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