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Sirens

by Micha F. Lindemans
In Greek mythology, the Sirens are creatures with the head of a female and the body of a bird. They lived on an island (Sirenum scopuli; three small rocky islands) and with the irresistible charm of their song they lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding their island (Virgil V, 846; Ovid XIV, 88).

Sirens

The Argonauts escaped them because when he heard their song, Orpheus immediately realized the peril they were in. He took out his lyre and sang a song so clear and ringing that it drowned the sound of those lovely fatal voices. When on another journey the Odysseus' ship passed the Sirens, had the sailors stuff their ears with wax. He had himself tied to the mast for he wanted to hear their beautiful voices. The Sirens sang when they approached, their words even more enticing than the melody. They would give knowledge to every man who came to them, they said, ripe wisdom and a quickening of the spirit. Odysseys' heart ran with longing but the ropes held him and the ship quickly sailed to safer waters (Odyssey XII, 39).

Homer mentions only two sirens, but later authors mention three or four. They were regarded as the daughters of Phorcys, or the storm god Achelous and either Melpone, Sterope, or Terpsichore. Libanius on the other hand relates that they were born of the blood of Achelous when he was wounded by Heracles.

According to Ovid, they were nymphs and the play-mates of Persephone. They were present when she was abducted and, because they did not interfere, Demeter changed them into birds with female faces (Ovid V, 551).


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    Seirenes
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