Sirens in Greek mythology

In early Greek mythology, sirens were actually prophets and described as having bodies of a bird and beautiful human heads.
Some ancient myths say the sirens are the daughters of the river Achelous and the Muse of dancing, Terpsichore the “Whirler.”
The numbers and names of the sirens are inconsistent in classical mythology.

Homer mentions two Sirens, but only names one, Himeropa (“arousing face”).

Elsewhere, there was said to be three three Sirens. Thelchtereia (“enchantress”), Aglaope (“glorious face”), and Peisinoe (“seductress”).

In Italy, they were named Parthenope (‘virgin”), Leucosia (“white goddess”). And also Ligeia (“bright-voiced”).
One of them played the lyre. Another sang, and yet another played the flute. Consequently luring mariners to crash their ships into the rocks.


The Sirens had in earlier times been companions of Persephone. Before she was ravished by Hades. After having sought for her in vain, they prayed that they would grow wings. A wish that the gods granted. They also prayed that they might not lose their tuneful voices. A wish that was also granted by the gods. Since then, it is said, they sing in unison with the music of the Moerae.

Sirens and the Argonauts

It was prophesied when any ship was able to sail past their island without succumbing to the sweet song, the Sirens would leap into the sea and drown.

The Argonauts were accompanied by the god Orpheus and sailed past in the ship Argo. He was able to drown out their singing with his music. So that only one man, Butes. Some accounts say his name was Eryx. Butes heard them and leapt overboard.

The goddess Aphrodite loved Butes and saved his life.

Sirens in Greek mythology. A Photograph of a siren as described in ancient Greek writings on pottery.

Sirens and Odysseus

In another tale, Odysseus escaped because on the advice of Circe. He blocked his men’s ears with beeswax. Also, he made them tie him to the foot of the mast. Odysseus did this so he could not be drawn away by the lure of the Sirens’ song. When he begged to be released, the crew had orders to tighten his bonds.

In a legend about the Sirens and the Muses, it was said Hera, queen of the gods, persuaded the Sirens to enter a singing contest with the Muses. The Muses won the competition. After which they then plucked out all of the Sirens’ feathers and made crowns out of them.

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