Are Sirens Mermaids Or Birds

David Lawrence
• Sunday, 08 November, 2020
• 13 min read

Those who did never leave the island; their bodies remained, rotting amid the flowers, for none who heard the Sirens song could escape it. This forgotten mythology was unearthed by Emily Wilson, a University of Pennsylvania classicist, whose historic new English translation of Homer’s Odyssey has won her accolades for its modern language and style.

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Sirens first appear in the literary record with the Odyssey (written around 750 BCE) in a segment that’s much briefer than you’d think considering the cultural impact of these mystical, singing creatures. It goes like this: Odysseus, warned by the enchantress Circe of the danger posed by the Sirens song, orders his crew to stuff their ears with wax.

But in ceramic paintings and tomb sculptures from the time of writing, and centuries after, Sirens were usually depicted with taloned feet, feathered wings, and a beautiful human face. The bird-body of the Siren is significant to Wilson: In the eyes of traditional peoples all across Europe, birds were often graced with an other worldliness associated with gods, spirits, and omens.

An Anatolian vulture goddess sweeping away the dead with broom-like wings, suggested by some to be a precursor to the Siren, is pictured on the walls of a 6,500 BCE Turkish settlement. These are the Sirens the Ancient Greeks would have recognized: bird creatures of the underworld, bridging the human world and what lies beyond.

Wilson suggests that later writers might have conflated Sirens with water nymphs like the Lorelei, a 19th-century poetic creation whose seductive songs lured men to their deaths along the Rhine River. In one prose translation, the Sirens speak of “the sweet voice from our lips,” despite the word directly translating to the less sensual “mouths.” Another adds flowery descriptors of “each purling note/like honey twining/from our lips.” But unlike the Odyssey’s other island temptresses, Circe and Calypso, the Sirens get no admiring description of their faces or hair.

But there’s something richly thematic about the Sirens of Classical Greece that deserves to be remembered: in-between creatures on a lonely island, floating between the boundaries of life and death, and offering an irresistible song of both. Originally, it was only the mermaid that was a half-human, half-fish creature, and a singing voice wasn’t mentioned in early myths.

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Living specimens were said to have been examined by writers such as Ananias in the second century, and were described as having scales covering their entire bodies, gills, a fish-like mouth, and a scaly tail like a dolphin’s. It was the sirens that were known for their singing voices, supposedly of such beauty that sailors would forget what they were doing, and simply stop to listen.

Ships would crash on the rocks around the sirens island, killing those who fell prey to their song. Originally, there were only three sirens, and they started out as mortal human women who were the handmaidens of Persephone, daughter of the goddess Demeter.

When they couldn’t find her they eventually gave up and went to live on the island of Anthemoessa, cursed by Demeter (who was angry at their abandonment of the search) to remain in their half-bird form. The sirens were further cursed when they entered a singing competition with the Muses and lost the contest as well as their wings and many of their feathers.

And they did; when Odysseus had his men block their ears and then tied himself to the mast of his ship, so he could listen but not interfere, the sirens hurled themselves into the sea and died as he passed. Thomas Conclave’s “La Male Regale,” written in the 15th century, clearly refers to mermaids luring sailors to their death with their song.

Strangely, it is this melding of the two creatures that has persisted throughout the centuries; according to sailors’ logs and records dating back to the 1600s, mermaids were very, very real. However, that's pretty much where the resemblances end, because as Audubon points out, while mermaids strictly live in the water, sirens are bird-women who soar across the air, land, and only sometimes the sea.

sirens mermaids harpies fiction fact they
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These flying creatures, mentioned as far back as The Odyssey, have otherworldly voices that tempt men with whatever they desire: Odysseus, for instance, defied warnings and asked to be strapped to his ship's hull, so he could hear the siren's song. Mentions of mermaids, on the other hand, date way back to the Assyrians, according to.

However, the so-called “Nereid” of Greek mythology, described by the The oi Project as the sea-nymph daughters of the Aegean Sea, could have also helped inspire some later mermaid myths known today. Well, it seems time and translation confusion may have played a part, writes Vice.

Poets in later years began referring to sirens as half-women, half-fish, even though mermaids remained extremely popular, which only further muddied the waters. As time went on, artists used the idea of a siren to symbolize lust, and the supposed dangers of female sexuality.

But honestly, the two mythical creatures shouldn't be confused: One is a bird and the other is a fish. SHARE In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on rocky coast of their islands.

According to literature (Homer’s Odysseus), the Sirens lived on an island near Scylla and Charybdis (traditionally located in the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily). Later, they were represented as female figures with the legs of birds, with or without wings, playing a variety of musical instruments, especially harps and lyres.

mermaid mermaids tale
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According to literature, the Sirens lived on an island near Scylla and Charybdis (traditionally located in the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily). In most Greek poet and tradition, the Sirens were depicted as beautiful maidens that would sit half-naked on rocky shores.

According to classical Greek poets and traditions, there are around seven named sirens, they include:Angle, Mole, Casino, Thelxiope, Leukosis, Patience and Legal. A famous Greek folktale claimed that the Sirens were fated to die if any mortal should hear them sing and live to tell the story.

In folklore, a mermaid is an aquatic creature with the head and the upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide including the Near East, Europe, Asia and Africa.

In other folk traditions they can be benevolent or beneficent, bestowing boons or falling in love with humans. A famous Greek folktale claimed that Alexander the Great’s sister, Thessaloniki was transformed into a mermaid upon her death in 295 BC and lived in the Aegean Sea.

In some ancient texts, Mermaids appear not alone but in a group of two or three and not only in the water but sitting on reefs waiting for the arrival of ships. Today the images that represent mermaids are the ones of ladies of waters, very beautiful and showing provocative gestures to those who glimpsed at them.

siren know things drama didn
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Historical accounts of mermaids, such as those written by Christopher Columbus during his exploration of the Caribbean, have been discountenanced by many scholars as sightings of similar aquatic mammals. In folklore, a mermaid is an aquatic creature with the head and the upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish.

In all folklore, mermaids are depicted as magical creatures that live and dwell under the sea with their own culture and customs. A famous Greek folktale claimed that Alexander the Great’s sister, Thessaloniki was transformed into a mermaid upon her death in 295 BC and lived in the Aegean Sea.

Mere Lao suggests that the “fish-formed and winged Sirens shared the same cradle” in the Mediterranean. One is a vase from Regard dating from the 2nd century BC, and the second is a lamp found in Britain, dating from the 1st-2nd centuries (she does not specify BC or AD, but seeing as how it was found in Britain, I think it most likely to be AD…but don’t quote me on that).

I submit that the Celts brought the folklore of the mermaid to the Mediterranean, and it became entangled with the Greek Sirens. Regardless of which came from where, the two iterations co-existed until “the folklore Renaissance of the 1800s.” That’s right, the Victorian Era ruined the mermaids, like so many other things in life.

I have lots of beef with the Victorians, but the relevant issue here is women were taught that intimacy was shameful. Countries less effected by the Victorian era (i.e. Germany, Scandinavia, and eastward) hold truer to their traditional maidens of the deep.

mermaid bird band musicpage performer solo profile
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Sources Mere Lao, Sirens : Symbols of Seduction (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1998), 82. Ian Barnes, The Historical Atlas of the Celtic World (Edison, NJ: Chartwell Books, Inc., 2009), 27.

Heidi Anne Heiner, Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales from Around the World (Nashville, TN: SurLaLune Press, 2011), 1. Skye Alexander, Mermaids : The Myths, Legends, and Lore (New York: Adams Media, 2012), 34.

GroupingMythologicalCountryGreeceIn Greek mythology, the Sirens (Greek singular: , Screen ; Greek plural: , Sarees) were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Roman poets placed them on some small islands called Siren um scapula.

In some later, rationalized traditions, the literal geography of the “flowery” island of Anthemoessa, or Anthems, is fixed: sometimes on Cape Decorum and at others in the islands known as the Siren use, near Past, or in Caprese. According to the Greek Neoplatonist philosopher Process, Plato said there were three kinds of Sirens : the celestial, the generative, and the purification / cathartic.

When the soul is in heaven the Sirens seek, by harmonic motion, to unite it to the divine life of the celestial host; and when in Hades, to conform the soul to eternal infernal regimen; but when on earth their only job to “produce generation, of which the sea is emblematic”. Archaic perfume vase in the shape of a Siren, c. 540 Bathe etymology of the name is contested.

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Others connect the name to (Sara “rope, cord”) and (euro “to tie, join, fasten”), resulting in the meaning “binder, entangled”, i.e.one who binds or entangles through magic song. This could be connected to the famous scene of Odysseus being bound to the mast of his ship, in order to resist their song.

The English word siren “, referring to a noise-making device, derives from the name. Later, they were represented as female figures with the legs of birds, with or without wings, playing a variety of musical instruments, especially harps and lyres.

In his notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “The siren sings so sweetly that she lulls the mariners to sleep; then she climbs upon the ships and kills the sleeping mariners.” Although they lured mariners, the Greeks portrayed the Sirens in their “meadow starred with flowers” and not as sea deities.

Roman writers linked them more closely to the sea, as daughters of Forces. Sirens are found in many Greek stories, notably in Homer's Odyssey.

In the Odyssey, Homer says nothing of their origin or names, but gives the number of the Sirens as two. Later writers mention both their names and number: some state that there were three, Casino, Agape and Thelxiepeia or Parthenon, Legal, and Leukosis; Apollonian followed Hesiod gives their names as Thelxinoe, Mole, and Anglophones; Sundas gives their names as Thelxiepeia, Casino, and Legal; Cygnus gives the number of the Sirens as four: Tells, Raid ne, Mole, and Thelxiope; Mustachios states that they were two, Grapheme and Thelxiepeia; an ancient vase painting attests the two names as Improve and Thelxiepeia.

siren vector mermaid princess sea theme
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Their individual names are variously rendered in the later sources as Thelxiepeia/Thelxiope/Thelxinoe, Mole, Improve, Anglophones/Agape/Grapheme, Since/Casino/Pastor, Parthenon, Legal, Leukosis, Raid ne, and Tells. On) Apollonian Lycophron Strabo Apollodorus Cygnus Series Mustachios Sundas Teethes Vase painting Euripides Parentage Cotton Bachelors and Terpsichore Bachelors and Melpomene Bachelors and Ste rope Bachelors and Calliope Forces Number 2 3 4 Individual name Thelxinoe or Thelxiope Thelxiepia Thelxiepe Thelxiepeia Anglophones Agape Grapheme Mole Alone Parthenon Leukosis Legal Casino or Since Improve Odysseus and the Sirens, painting by Leon Belly, 1867According to Ovid (43 BC–17 AD), the Sirens were the companions of young Persephone.

Demeter gave them wings to search for Persephone when she was abducted by Hades. However, the Fibulae of Cygnus (64 BC–17 AD) has Demeter cursing the Sirens for failing to intervene in the abduction of Persephone.

According to Cygnus, Sirens were fated to live only until the mortals who heard their songs were able to pass by them. It is said that Hera, queen of the gods, persuaded the Sirens to enter a singing contest with the Muses.

The Muses won the competition and then plucked out all the Sirens feathers and made crowns out of them. Out of their anguish from losing the competition, writes Stephan us of Byzantium, the Sirens turned white and fell into the sea at Apter (“featherless”), where they formed the islands in the bay that were called Leakey (“the white ones”, modern Soda).

In the Aeronautical (third century BC), Jason had been warned by Chiron that Orpheus would be necessary in his journey. One of the crew, however, the sharp-eared hero Buses, heard the song and leapt into the sea, but he was caught up and carried safely away by the goddess Aphrodite.

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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 might 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.

“They are manic creatures like the Sphinx with whom they have much in common, knowing both the past and the future”, Harrison observed. “Their song takes effect at midday, in a windless calm.

It has been suggested that, with their feathers stolen, their divine nature kept them alive, but unable to provide food for their visitors, who starved to death by refusing to leave. Although Saint Jerome, who produced the Latin Vulgate version of the bible, used the word sirens to translate Hebrew tannin (“jackals”) in Isaiah 13:22, and also to translate a word for “owls” in Jeremiah 50:39, this was explained by Ambrose to be a mere symbol or allegory for worldly temptations, and not an endorsement of the Greek myth.

According to the truth, however, they were prostitutes who led travelers down to poverty and were said to impose shipwreck on them.” By the time of the Renaissance, female court musicians known as courtesans filled the role with an unmarried companion, and musical performances by unmarried women could be seen as immoral.

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John Empire in his Classical Dictionary (1827) wrote, “Some suppose that the Sirens were a number of lascivious women in Sicily, who prostituted themselves to strangers, and made them forget their pursuits while drowned in unlawful pleasures. The etymology of Chart, who deduces the name from a Phoenician term denoting a songstress, favors the explanation given of the fable by Dame.

This distinguished critic makes the Sirens to have been excellent singers, and divesting the fables respecting them of all their terrific features, he supposes that by the charms of music and song they detained travelers, and made them altogether forgetful of their native land.” The Siren of Canola, statuette exposing psycho pomp characteristics, late fourth century BC The theme of perilous mythical female creatures seeking to seduce men with their beautiful singing is paralleled in the Danish medieval ballad known as Elves “, in which the singers are elves.

A modern literary appropriation of the myth is to be seen in Clemens Brentano's Lore Lay ballad, published in his novel Godwin Oder Was Steiner Build her Mutter (1801). In the folklore of some modern cultures, the concept of the siren has been assimilated to that of the mermaid.

For example, the French word for mermaid is Irene, and similarly in certain other European languages. ^ “We must steer clear of the Sirens, their enchanting song, their meadow starred with flowers” is Robert Fagles's rendering of Odyssey 12.158–9.

22; Mustachios of Thessalonica's Homeric commentaries §1709; Series I.e. ^ Brewer, E. Cobham (1883). 1003 f. ^ Robert S. P. Beeves, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 1316 f. ^ Cf.

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Apollodorus: The Library, with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. ^ Mustachios Commentaries §1709 ^ Linda Phyllis Austere, Anna Naroditskaya,, Indiana University Press, 2006, p.18 ^ William Hansen, William F. Hansen,, Oxford University Press, 2005, p.307 ^ Ken Dow den, Ni all Livingstone,, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, p.353 ^ Mike Dixon-Kennedy,, ABC-Clio, 1998, p.281 ^ Hesiod, The Catalog of Women 27.

^ Caroline M. Salt, “A marble fragment at Mount Holyoke College from the Cretan city of Apter”, Art and Archaeology 6 (1920:150). ^ Liner notes to Fresh Are VI by Jim She, Classics Department, University of Wisconsin ^ Ambrose, Exposition of the Christian Faith, Book 3, chap.

Translation of Isidora, Etymologize (c. 600–636 AD), Book 11, chap. Originally published as The Devil a Monk Would Be: A Survey of Sex & Celibacy in Religion (1945).

Fowler, R. L. (2013), Early Greek Orthography: Volume 2: Commentary, Oxford University Press, 2013. A. Roach.as mentioned in the scriptures Sophocles, Fragments, Edited and translated by Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Lobe Classical Library No.

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