AskDefine | Define Parnassus

Dictionary Definition

Parnassus n : (Greek mythology) a mountain in central Greece where (according to Greek mythology) the Muses lived; known as the mythological home of music and poetry; "Liakoura is the modern name of Mount Parnassus" [syn: Mount Parnassus, Liakoura]

Extensive Definition

For other uses, see Parnassus (disambiguation).
Mount Parnassus is a mountain of barren limestone in central Greece that towers above Delphi, north of the Gulf of Corinth, and offers scenic views of the surrounding olive groves and countryside. According to Greek mythology, this mountain was sacred to Apollo, the Corycian nymphs, and the home of the Muses. The mountain was also favored by the Dorians. The name Parnassos seems etymologically related to the pre-Greek Substratum language (some call Pelasgian) that made use of *-ssos in placenames (eg. Knossos). *Parna- it has been suggested is derived from the same root as the word in Hittite meaning House.


Mount Parnassus is named after Parnassos, the son of the nymph Kleodora and the man Kleopompus. There was a city of which Parnassos was leader, which was flooded by torrential rain. The citizens ran from the flood, following wolves' howling, up the mountain slope. There the survivors built another city, and called it Lykoreia, which in Greek means "the howling of the wolves." While Orpheus was living with his mother and his eight beautiful aunts on Parnassus, he met Apollo who was courting the laughing muse Thalia. Apollo became fond of Orpheus and gave him a little golden lyre, and taught him to play it. Orpheus's mother taught him to make verses for singing. As the Oracle of Delphi was sacred to the god Apollo, so did the mountain itself become associated with Apollo. According to some traditions, Parnassus was the site of the fountain Castalia and the home of the Muses; according to other traditions, that honor fell to Mount Helicon, another mountain in the same range. As the home of the Muses, Parnassus became known as the home of poetry, music, and learning.
Parnassus was also the site of several unrelated minor events in Greek mythology.
  • In some versions of the Greek flood myth, the ark of Deucalion comes to rest on the slopes of Parnassus.
  • Orestes spent his time in hiding on Mount Parnassus.
  • Parnassus was sacred to the god Dionysus.
  • The Corycian Cave, located on the slopes of Parnassus, was sacred to Pan and to the Muses.
Parnassus was also the home of Pegasus the winged horse of Bellerophon.

Parnassus as metaphor

The name "Parnassus" in literature typically refers to its distinction as the home of poetry, literature, and learning.
Thus, it receives mention in such works as: Furthermore, in classical music, there are many works associated with Parnassus. For example, Orazio Vecchi's L'Amfiparnaso (1597), Carolus Hacquart's Harmonia Parnassia Sonatarum (1686), François Couperin's Le Parnasse ou L'Apotheose de Corelli (1725), Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer's Musikalischer Parnassus (c.1738), George Frideric Handel's Il Parnasso in festa (1734), Christoph Willibald Gluck's Il Parnaso confuso (1765). Important didactic and pedagogical works referred to Parnassus, including Johann Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum (1725) which is a classic treatment of counterpoint and fugue; and Muzio Clementi's piano studies Gradus ad Parnassum (1817-26), later satirized in Claude Debussy's Docteur Gradus ad Parnassum (suit Childres's corner No.1, 1908).
In the massively multiplayer online roleplaying game World of Warcraft, the Night Elf capital is called Darnassus, seen by many as a nod to Parnassus. Night Elves are known for their deep appreciation for learning and the arts. Parnassus is also the name of the main campus of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and UCSF Medical Center, located on Parnassus Avenue in San Francisco, California.

Parnassus today

Today, the slopes of Mount Parnassus are the location of two ski centres. The Parnassos Ski Centre is composed of two sections, Kellaria and Fterolakka, which together make up the largest ski center in Greece. A smaller ski centre (only two drag lifts) called Gerontovrahos is across a ridge from Kellaria. Parnassus is mined for its abundant supply of bauxite which is converted to aluminium oxide and then to aluminium.
The construction of the ski resort started in 1975 and was completed in 1976, when the first two drag lifts operated in Fterolaka. In 1981 the construction of a new ski area was completed in Kelaria, while in winter season 1987-1988 the chair lift Hermes started operating and connected the two ski areas. Both ski resorts continued expanding and in 1993 the first high-speed quad in Greece was installed, named Hercules. Today the ski center operates with 14 lifts,a 4-seater cable car, a 4-seater high-speed chair lift, four 3-seaters, one 2-seater chair lift and 6 drag lifts, with a maximum capacity of about 5000 people per hour. The ski center boasts 25 marked ski runs and about 12 ski routes of 30km total length while the longest run is 4km.


External links

Parnassus in Catalan: Parnassus Mons
Parnassus in Czech: Parnas
Parnassus in German: Parnass
Parnassus in Modern Greek (1453-): Παρνασσός
Parnassus in Spanish: Parnaso
Parnassus in Esperanto: Parnaso
Parnassus in French: Mont Parnasse
Parnassus in Italian: Parnaso (monte greco)
Parnassus in Georgian: პარნასი (მთა)
Parnassus in Latin: Parnassus
Parnassus in Hungarian: Parnasszosz
Parnassus in Dutch: Parnassus
Parnassus in Japanese: パルナッソス山
Parnassus in Norwegian: Parnassos
Parnassus in Norwegian Nynorsk: Parnassós
Parnassus in Polish: Parnas
Parnassus in Portuguese: Monte Parnaso
Parnassus in Russian: Парнас (Гора в Греции)
Parnassus in Finnish: Parnassos
Parnassus in Swedish: Parnassos
Parnassus in Turkish: Parnassos Dağı
Parnassus in Ukrainian: Парнас
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