Derived from a Greek root meaning 'to bind or attach', Sirens are mythological creatures half bird and half woman who lure sailors to their destruction by the sweetness of their song.
The Sirens abode was the 'Sirenum scopuli', three small rocky islands between Sorrento and Capri.
In Greek legend Sirens were thought to be the daughters of Phorcys or the river god Achelous, magically born from drops of his blood and playmates of Persephone. They were punished for failing to prevent Hades from abducting Persephone, and that is why they became birds with the faces of women.
Sirens are also associated with mermaids, to which they are often transformed into in later legends. Today, the term is used to describe a seductive or alluring woman.
The number and names of Sirens are very inconsistent in Greek mythology. Most authors say that there were three, but the number of names is much higher: Teles, Raidne, Molpe, Thelxiope, Parthenope, Lecosia, Ligia, and Aglaophonus
Sirens are mentioned by Homer (he mentions two, but only names one, Himeropa) in the Odyssey in which Odysseus escaped them by blocking his crewmen's ears with wax and tying himself to his ship's mast and in the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, where they were saved from them by the musician Orpheus, who drowned their singing.
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Sources: (1) Cooper, J.C. (Editor), Brewer's Book of Myth and Legend, Cassell Academic Publishing; (2) Evans, Bergen, Dictionary of Mythology, Dell Publishing Co., Inc.; (3) Dixon-Kennedy, Mike, Encyclopedia of Greco-Roman Mythology, ABC-Clio Inc. Publishers.
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