Ancient Greek Vase Paintings » Odysseus and the Sirens

This vase painting shows the scene from the Odyssey where Odysseus and his men are passing through the Sirens, creatures with bird-like bodies and women heads. The Sirens could sing so beautifully that anyone who heard them would immediately go mad, wanting to hear more. In their insanity, they would try to follow the sound, right into the sea where they would be killed. In the Odyssey, Odysseus tells his men to tie him to the mast so that he can hear the Sirens for himself; he tells them that, no matter how much he begs, they cannot to let him go. His men then put wax in their ears so that they won’t hear the Sirens song. When they pass through, the Sirens begin singing to the ship, but when no men come looking for them they get angry. They fly directly to the ship, singing right in front of the men. Odysseus strains to break free of the rope binding him to the mast so that he can follow the song, but he is unable to. They escape passed the Sirens, and Odysseus comes out the only man alive to have heard the Sirens song. This vase painting tells the story of this heroic tale.


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