In early Greek mythology, sirens were actually prophets and described as having bodies of a bird and beautiful human heads.

Some ancient myths say the sirens are the daughters of the river Achelous and the Muse of dancing, Terpsichore the "Whirler."

The numbers and names of the sirens are inconsistant in classical mythology.

Homer mentions two Sirens, but only names one, Himeropa ("arousing face").

Elsewhere, there was said to be three three Sirens - Thelchtereia ("enchantress"), Aglaope ("glorious face"), and Peisinoe ("seductress").

In Italy, they were named Parthenope ('virgin"), Leucosia ("white goddess"), and Ligeia ("bright-voiced").

One of them played the lyre, another sang, and another played the flute - luring mariners to crash their ships into the rocks.

The Sirens had in earlier times been companions of Persephone before she was ravished by Hades. After having sought for her in vain, they prayed that they would grow wings, which the gods granted. They also prayed that they might not loose their tuneful voices, and that was also granted by the gods, and since then, it is said, they sing in unison with the music of the Moerae.

It was prophesied when any ship was able to sail past their island without succumbing to the sweet song, the Sirens would leap into the sea and drown.

The Argonauts were accompanied by the god Orpheus and sailed past in the ship Argo, he was able to drown out their singing with his music so that only one man, Butes (some accounts say his name was Eryx), heard them and leapt overboard. The goddess Aphrodite loved Butes and saved his life.

In another tale, Odysseus escaped because on the advice of Circe, he blocked his men's ears with beeswax, and made them tie him to the foot of the mast so he could not be drawn away by the lure of the Sirens' song. When he begged to be released, the crew had orders to tighten his bonds.

In a legend about the Sirens and the Muses, it was said 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 of the Sirens' feathers and made crowns out of them.

Odysseus and the Sirens

Odysseus and the Sirens. The three sirens seek to lure Odysseus and his companions to their death with their melodious voices. However Odysseus has had himself securely bound to the mast of his ship while his companions row on with their ears stopped with bees-wax, thus unable to hear the sirens' song. Detail from a Greek red-figured stamnos from Vulci. Early fifth century B.C.