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[19] and from the thighs they had the forms of birds.1 Sailing by them, Ulysses wished to hear their song, so by Circe's advice he stopped the ears of his comrades with wax, and ordered that he should himself be bound to the mast. And being persuaded by the Sirens to linger, he begged to be released, but they bound him the more, and so he sailed past. Now it was predicted of the Sirens that they should themselves die when a ship should pass them; so die they did.2

1 Similarly Apollonius Rhodius (Ap. Rhod., Argon. iv.898ff.) describes the Sirens as partly virgins and partly birds. Aelian tells us (Ael., Nat. Anim. xvii.23) that poets and painters represented them as winged maidens with the feet of birds. Ovid says that the Sirens had the feet and feathers of birds, but the faces of virgins; and he asks why these daughters of Achelous, as he calls them, had this hybrid form. Perhaps, he thinks, it was because they had been playing with Persephone when gloomy Dis carried her off, and they had begged the gods to grant them wings, that they might search for their lost playmate over seas as well as land. See Ov. Met. 5.552-562. In like manner Hyginus describes the Sirens as women above and fowls below, but he says that their wings and feathers were a punishment inflicted on them by Demeter for not rescuing Persephone from the clutches of Pluto. See Hyginus, Fab. 125, 141. Another story was that they were maidens whom Aphrodite turned into birds because they chose to remain unmarried. See Eustathius on Hom. Od. 12.47, p. 1709. It is said that they once vied with the Muses in singing, and that the Muses, being victorious, plucked off the Siren's feathers and made crowns out of them for themselves (Paus. 9.34.3). In ancient art, as in literature, the Sirens are commonly represented as women above and birds below. See Miss J. E. Harrison, Myths of the Odyssey (London, 1882), pp. 146ff. Homer says nothing as to the semi-bird shape of the Sirens, thus leaving us to infer that they were purely human.

2 This is not mentioned by Homer, but is affirmed by Hyginus, Fab. 125, 141). Others said that the Sirens cast themselves into the sea and were drowned from sheer vexation at the escape of Ulysses. See Scholiast on Hom. Od.xii.39; Eustathius on Hom. Od. 12.167, p. 1709; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 712; compare Strab. 6.1.1.

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