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SIRENS
Form: Gr. Seirenes.
The virgin daughters of Phorcys, according to later legend of Achelous and one of the Muses. In Homer there are two, in later writers three, called Ligeia, Leukosia, and Parthenope, or Aglaopheme, Molpe, and Theloeiepeia. Homer describes them as dwelling between Circe'sisle and Scylla, on an island, where they sit in a flowery meadow, surrounded by the mouldering bones of men, and with their sweet song allure and infatuate those that sail by. Whoever listens to their song and draws near them never again beholds wife and child. They know everything that happens on earth. When Odysseus sailed past, lie had stopped up the ears of his companions with wax, while he had made them bind him to the mast, that he might hear their song without danger [Od xii 41-54,153-200]. Orpheus protected the Argonauts from their spell by his own singing [Apollonius Rhodius, iv 903]. As they were only to live till some one had sailed past unmoved by their song, they cast themselves into the sea, on account either of Odysseus or of Orpheus, and were changed to sunken rocks. When the adventures of Odysseus came to be localised on the Italian and Sicilian shore, the seat of the Sirens was transferred to the neighbourhood of Naples and Sorrento, to the three rocky and uninhabited islets called the Sirenusae [the Sirenum scopuli of Vergil, Aen. v 864; cp. Statius, Silvae ii 2, 1], or to Capri, or to the Sicilian promontory of Pelorum. There they were said to have settled, after vainly searching the whole earth for the lost Persephone, their former playmate in the meadows by the Achelous; and later legend also assigned this as the time when they in part assumed a winged shape. They were represented as great birds with the heads of women, or with the upper part of the body like that of a woman, with the legs of birds, and with or without wings (see cut). At a later period they were sometimes regarded as retaining their original character of fair and cruel tempters and deceivers. But they are more generally represented as singers of the dirge for the dead, and they were hence frequently placed as an ornament on tombs; or as symbols of the magic of beauty, eloquence, and song, on which account their sculptured forms were seen on the funeral monuments of fair women and girls, and, of orators and poets: for instance, on those of Isocrates and Sophocles. [Such a Siren may be seen, beating her breast and tearing her hair, above the stele of Aristion in the Street of Tombs at Athens. The National Museum at Athens contains several examples of stone Sirens, not as reliefs, but as separate figures "in the round"; and a funeral monument of this type maybe noticed on a vase in the British Museum (Cat. C. 29), where the Siren is standing on a pillar and playing the lyre. Cp. Euripides, Hel. 169; Anthologia Palatina vii 710 and 481; with Miss Harrison's Myths of the Odyssey, pp. 146-182, and Mythology and Monuments of Athens, pp. 582-5.1

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A. SIREN Paris, Loavre.)
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