Tutorial Topics
Belshazzars Feast, by Rembrandt Leda and the Swan
The Sirens - Passionate Painting
575    Dibyendu Banerjee    07/06/2023

According to Greek legend, the Sirens were the daughters of the river god Achelous and one of the three Muses namely, Terpsichore, the Muse of dance and choral music or Melpomene, the Muse of tragedy or Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry. However, according to the great tragedian Euripides, their mother was Sterope, one of the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas and the Oceanid Pleione. Nevertheless, legends also say, the Sirens were the voluptuous singing enchantresses, capable of luring passing sailors to their islands with their appealing beauty and melodious voice, which ultimately causes their death.

the sirens
By Wilhelm Kray (Germany 1828-1889)

The Sirens of Greek mythology first appeared in Homer’s Odyssey, where the ancient Greek poet mentioned about two nameless sirens, but in the later stories their number was increased to three and the names that appeared frequently were Theixiope, Aglaope, and Parthenope.


According to Homer the Sirens lived on a mythical island named the Sirenum Scopuli, traditionally located in the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily, surrounded by cliffs and rocks.

the sirens
By Gustave Dore (Fr 1832-1883)

While in ancient Greek art, Sirens tended to be grotesque and monstrous, in Roman art, they often appeared as females with beautiful faces and they often continued to appear as beautiful seductresses in European art till the middle Ages.


However, sometimes they were also depicted as beautiful women with the tails of fish, like the mermaids, but at a later date, both poets and artists started depicting the Sirens as creatures with the body of a bird and a woman’s face, which seem to have evolved from an ancient tale of the perils of early exploration, combined with an Asian image of a bird-woman. Although Homer was silent about their visual appearance, he created a picture to influence the imagination of the readers to visualise them as alluring women.

the sirens
By Adolphe Lalyre (Fr 1848-1933)

The best known legendary tale about the Sirens is depicted in Homer’s Odyssey. Before his journey from the island of Aeaea to Ithaca, the love-stricken Circe warned Odysseus about the Sirens, who try to attract all the sailors who come rather near them by inducing their seducing beauty and enchanting voice.


If anyone unwarily draws in too close to look at them and hears the singing of the Sirens, they never return home, they either end up jumping into the sea to chase the alluring beauties and get drowned or the sirens transform them into beasts, after entertaining them with food and drinks and fulfilling their urge to be loved. She also advised Odysseus to plug their ears with beeswax and restrain themselves from looking at the island from the moment it appears as a speck on the horizon, till it vanishes in the blue.

the sirens
By Edouard Veith (Austria 1858-1925)

The warning alarmed Odysseus and before the inception of the voyage to home, he told his men that the Sirens sit on the rocks submerged in the sea, combing their long golden hair and singing in enchanting voices to attract the passing sailors and if they dare to go nearer, they are destined to be drawn to the rocky island like iron to a magnet and their ship crushed upon rocks, resulting in certain death. After that, he ordered his men to plug their ears with beeswax, but as he did not want to miss the famous unearthly song, he also instructed them to bind him tightly with rope to the ship’s mast, until their vessel crossed the island. However, as soon as hears the honeyed song of the Sirens, promising absolute peace and happiness in their arms, Odysseus became impatient, tried hard to make himself free and requested his men by mute signals to make him free, but expecting his reaction, the men did not pay any heed to it and row harder and harder with their oars to pass the cursed island speedily, under the competent guidance of his two most trusted comrades, Eurylochus and Perimedes.

the sirens
The Sirens and Ulysses by, William Etty 1837

Legends say, the Sirens were destined to die if any mortal hear them sing and escape from the fatal trap of their sexual attraction and enchanting music to live long enough to tell the story to others. In other words, a mortal’s ability to resist the appealing beauty and song of the Sirens causes the Sirens to commit suicide. Accordingly, disheartened by their humbling defeat, as Odysseus passed them unharmed, the Sirens hurled themselves into the sea to end their man hunting spree forever.

the sirens
The Sirens by Henrietta Rae (British 1859-1928)
Belshazzars Feast, by Rembrandt Leda and the Swan
Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
Enter New Comment
Comment History
No Comment Found Yet.
Nelson Mandela
An educated, enlightened and informed population is one of the surest ways of promoting the health of a democracy.
Nelson Mandela
Today So Far
Total View (Lakh)
26/05/2018     41364
01/01/2018     35770
28/06/2017     33774
25/06/2018     32831
02/08/2017     32142
06/07/2017     26595
01/08/2017     26559
15/05/2017     26214
14/07/2017     21528
21/04/2018     20513