The Sirens (mythology)

   In Greek mythology, the sirens were young maid­ens who sat on a certain island or promon­tory of southwestern Italy and sang songs of such bewitching sweetness that passing sailors, forgetting their duties, were drawn to their destruction on the rocks. Accord­ing to Homer, Ulysses, voyaging homeward to the faithful Penelope, filled his sailors', that is to say his rowers', ears with wax and lashed himself to a mast where he was pow­erless to change the course of the ship. In this way he succeeded in getting safely out of reach of the enchantresses. One account has it that, on being resisted for the first time, the sirens flung themselves into the sea, where they still lie, huge, dangerous rocks. In Greek art, the sirens are figured often as having the wings and legs of birds, with the bust and upper parts of maidens. Each is carrying a musical instrument. No doubt the myth of the sirens is akin to the later belief in mermaids and to the Ger­man legend of the Lorelei or river-siren of the Rhine.

Ulysses and the Sirens