Photo from Ancient Origins
What is a Siren?
According to Wikipedia, Sirens in Greek mythology, were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. (Wikipedia)
Sirens (also seirenes) orignated in Greek mythology. They can be described as a half bird, half woman. (Britannica) It is believed that the Sirens originally had a different purpose but after the disappearance of Persephone, things changed. Once Persephone was gone the Sirens were given a new role, a more sinister one. It is also believed that once Persephone disappeared, no mortal ever saw a Siren and lived to tell the tale. (Greek Legends and Myths)
“It is believed that if a mortal can resist the song of a Siren then that Siren will commit suicide.” – Britannica
Bodies of water were always very important in Greek mythology along with the creatures and deity associated with it so there’s no wonder why Sirens are such a popular topic in these stories. Although, Sirens were not always connected to the sea. They were originally classed as Naiads, freshwater nymphs. They and their story evolved over time. (Greek Legends and Myths)
There is much confusion on who the Siren’s are daughters of. They were thought to be fathered by Phorcys or Archaelis. (Britannica) Also that they could have been born to a muse like Melpomene or Calliope. They were also thought to be the daughter of Porthaon, who was the king of Calydon.
There was also confusion on exactly how many Sirens there were. The estimate is anywhere from three to five total. It is believed that the first three Sirens names were Aglaophonus, Molpe, and Thelxinoe.
The Sirens were believed to have had an island given to them by Zeus called “Anthemoessa.” They were also believed to inhabit three rocky islands called “Sirenum Scopuli.” (Greek Legends and Myths)
Anthropologists also combine this particular creature from Greek mythology to an ancient tale in Asian culture. They have sort of evolved into similar beings; both sort of women with bird souls. They are winged ghosts that steal the living to share their fate. This version in Asian culture is called a Harpie. (Britannica)
Photo from Greek Legends and Myths
This particular myth was used a lot in literature. One of the most popular was The Odyssey. Homer the author of The Odyssey, said there were two Sirens on an island in the Western sea. This was between Aeaea and Scylla. These numbers usually increased. These Sirens were said to be the daughters of Phorcys, god of the sea and or Achelous the river god. In the famous book The Odyssey, Circe (as sorceress) advised Odysseus (a Greek hero) on how to escape the Sirens and save his crew by stuffing their ears with wax so they could not hear the Siren’s song. (Britannica)
Another myth that mentions Sirens is Jason and the Argonauts. In this partiular myth, Jason and his crew sail past an island with Siren’s. Lucky for them they had a legendary muscian with them by the name of Orpheus. When the Sirens began to sing their song, hoping to lure in Jason and his crew, Orpheus began playing a tune on his lyre. The tune played on his harp-like instrument overpowered the Siren’s song, saving Jason and the Argonauts. Most were able to sail safely past, except one by the name of Butes. Butes ended up jumping off the ship into the sea so he could swim to them but he was eventually saved by Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. (Ancient Origins)
One ancient story of Sirens, says that they used to compete with the other younger muses. They would compete to find out who had the most beautiful voices. Whenever the Sirens lost their components would pluck out their feathers. (Greek Legends and Myths)
Photo from Britannica
I think the myth of the Sirens is a very interesting and complex one. There is a lot of debate on specific things about them but I think one of the reasons for that is because of how long the myth has been around. I could imagine there’s been a lot of time for the story to change and grow.