The Sirens

The Deadly Sea Nymphs

The Sirens: Who were they?

In Greek Mythology, the Sirens were very dangerous yet beautiful creatures, portrayed as female fatales who lured and trapped nearby sailors with their enchanting, yet beautiful music, songs, and voices to shipwreck the sailors on the rocky coast of their island. These mythical aquatic sisters are often depicted with the head and torso of a human female, with large wings and occasionally the legs of a bird. Other depictions portray them as beautiful sea nymphs, sitting on rocks or in meadows waiting for their next victim.


The Sirens were the daughters of Phorcys and Ceto. "Phorcys was a primeval god of the hidden dangers of the deep and was depicted as a fish-tailed merman with crab-claw fore-legs and red-spiked skin. His consort was his sister Ceto, the primordial sea goddess, and they together in their union produced terrible monsters such as the Echina, Ladon and the Gorgons (Alchin)".

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Story of their Creation

Sirens were human companions of Persephone. After she was carried off by Hades, they sought her everywhere and finally prayed for wings to fly across the sea. The gods granted their prayer. "In some versions Demeter turned them into birds to punish them for not guarding Persephone. In art the Sirens appeared first as birds with the heads of women and later as women, sometimes winged, with bird legs (Barthell, Pg. 79)".

Odysseus and the Sirens in the Odyssey

In Odyssey Book VII, Circe warns Odysseus about the dangers he will face at sea. One of these are the deadly Sirens. In the adventure of the Argonauts, Jason and his men faced the danger of the Sirens with the help of the singing of Orpheus.


"Odysseus has no Orpheus to drown out the lovely and beautiful voices of the Sirens, so he orders his men to stuff their ears with wax and tie him to a mast so he can't escape, but can still hear them singing (Lindemans)."

Family Tree

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Interesting Facts

  • According to legends and stories, the Sirens would eat the sailors who ended up at their island.
  • The most famous Sirens in Greek mythology were the daughters of Achelous - Pisinoe, Aglaope and Thelxiepi.
  • The Sirens would be depicted as Mermaids in this day of age. They were very similar in many physical characteristics.
  • Legend has it no man could live after hearing the sounds of the femme fatales.
  • The Starbucks logo actually depicts a Siren. Starbucks had to change their corporate logo because some consumers found the suggestive split tail of their topless siren too lurid. A simplified logo was introduced which is the one still around today.

Photo Gallery

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Here it shows a map of where the Sirens were located and it was on the coast of southern Italy by the Adriatic Sea.
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In the picture above, the ship is being surrounded by the Sirens who are singing and trying to lure the sailors into their "trap". But all the sailors have their ears closed off with either clothing or wax and they continue to row the boat (for Odysseus journey). The man who is strapped to the pole upright is Odysseus and according to legend, he was up there strapped so that the Sirens couldn't have taken him and killed him.
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This cartoon picture shows how Odysseus was so in love with their voices and singing but since he was strapped on to the boat's mast, he couldn't enter their trap and escape. Unlike all his sailors, his ears were not filled with wax so he could still hear their beautiful voices.

Bibliography: Cited Sources

MLA FORMAT
Atsma, Aaron J. "SIRENS : Bird-Women Monsters | Greek Mythology, Seirenes, W/ Pictures." SIRENS : Bird-Women Mythology Creaures. Theoi Project, 24 Nov. 2010. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "The Sirens in The Odyssey." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Siren (Greek Mythology)."Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 6 Apr. 2014. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.
Lindemans, Micha F. "Sirens." Sirens. Encyclopedia Mythica, 30 July 2006. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.
Alchin, Linda. "The Sirens." Sirens ***. Siteseen LTD, 23 June 2014. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.
"Ancient History." The Sirens. N.d. America: History and Life on the Web. Web. 6 Nov. 2014. <http://ancienthistory.abc-clio.com/Search/Results?q=sirens>.

-Printed Source (Book)

Barthell, Edward E. Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece. Coral Gables, FL: U of Miami, 1971. Print.