The sirens (Ancient Greek: Σειρῆνες, Seirēnes) are demigoddesses of Greek mythology with the body of a bird and the head of a woman. Sirens seduced their listeners with singing or erotic sounds that could not be resisted by men.
According to some stories, the sirens were young women who constantly asked for attention but did not want to lose their virginity. That would be the reason why Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and sexuality, turned them into birds.
Sirens were said to be the daughters of the sea god Phorcys or of the stream god Acheloüs and Sterope. According to Roman authors, they lived on three small rocky islands between Sorrento and Capri.
In the oldest legends there were two sirens (among others by Homer), more recent writers counted three and even more recent writers added more.
Aglaope (beautiful face), Aglaophonos (beautiful voice), Leucosia (being white), Ligeia (shrill), Molpe (music), Parthenope (maiden face), Peisinoë (seductive thoughts), Raidne (improvement), Teles (perfection), Thelxepeia (soft words), Thelxiope (seductive face) are their names. The most famous three were Parthenope, Ligeia, and Leucosia.
Myths and sagas
Ovid described them as nymphs, playmates of Persephone, who witnessed her abduction. Demeter, reproaching them for having done nothing to save her, turned them into birds with women's heads.
They were very handsome and sang such beautiful songs that the travelers who passed their island could not resist the lure. Then their ship crashed against the rocks and they were killed, as the sirens sucked all the life force out of their victims.
The Argonauts were saved from the deadly temptation by the singer Orpheus, who recognized the danger and played a song that drowned out the voices of the sirens.
Odysseus, according to Homer's story, escaped their singing by filling his crew's ears with wax and having himself tied to the ship's mast. The crew was expressly ordered not to untie him, despite his entreaties.
In this way he could hear the songs of the nymphs while the wax in their ears prevented his crew from sailing too close to the rocks. Odysseus' passage permanently deprived the sirens of their magical powers and the women turned into rocks.
Only Parthenope plunged into the sea and drowned. Her body washed up and was buried at the site where the city of Naples would later arise.