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In Greek mythology, the Sirens or Seirenes were sea nymphs who lived on a island surrounded by cliffs and rocks. Approaching sailors were drawn to them by their enchanting singing, causing them to sail on the cliffs and drown. They were considered the daughters of Achelous (by Terpsichore) or Phorcys. Virgil. V. 846; Ovid XIV, 88

According to some versions, they were playmates of a young Persephone and were changed into the monsters of lore by Demeter for not interfering when Persephone was abducted. Ovid V, 551

Odysseus escaped the Sirens by having all his sailors plug their ears with wax and tie him to the mast. He was curious as to what the Sirens sounded like. When he heard their beautiful music, he ordered the sailors to untie him but they ignored him. When they had passed out of earshot, Odysseus stopped thrashing about and calmed down, and was released. Odyssey XII, 39

Jason had been warned by Chiron that Orpheus would be necessary in his journey. When Orpheus heard their voices, he withdrew his lyre and played his music more beautifully than they, drowning out their music.

It is said that after a ship successfully sailed by the Sirens, they drowned themselves for their failure. Traditions associate this ship with both Jason and Odysseus.

The word siren is nowadays used for devices making sound to alarm others, such as the air raid siren or the sirens on ambulances, police and fire brigade cars. The siren, which is a free aerophone, consists of a disk with holes in it, rotated so that the holes interrupt the air coming out of a hole.

See also: Siren (amphibian)