They were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Originally, the Sirens were the companions of young PersephoneDemeter gave them wings to search for Persephone when she was abducted by Hades

Parents: Acheolus and Melpomene

NAMA Sirène.jpg
Attic funerary statue of a Siren, c. 370 BC. (c) Marsyas

Jason and the Argonauts had been warned by Chiron that Orpheus would be necessary in his journey. When Orpheus heard their voices, he drew out his lyre and played his music more beautifully than they, drowning out their voices. One of the crew, however, the sharp-eared hero Butes, heard the song and leapt into the sea, but he was caught up and carried safely away by the goddess Aphrodite.

Odysseus and the Sirens, eponymous vase, c. 475 BC.

Odysseus was curious as to what the Sirens sang to him, and so, on the advice of Circe, he had all of his sailors plug their ears with beeswax and tie him to the mast. He ordered his men to leave him tied tightly to the mast, no matter how much he would beg. When he heard their beautiful song, he ordered the sailors to untie him but they bound him tighter. When they had passed out of earshot, Odysseus demonstrated with his frowns to be released.

Odysseus and the Sirens. Roman mosaic, 2nd c. AD, Bardo National Museum.

Back to Mythical Creatures