The sirens were winged creatures who seduced sailors with their beautiful music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Ancient sources do not agree on their number, ranging from two to eight. They were the daughters of the river god Achelous by one of the Muses (Terpsichore, Melpomene, or Calliope), which would account for their particular skills in music. But the sisters were not always the voracious beasts encountered by Odysseus on his way home. On the contrary, the Sirens were beautiful maidens and companions of Persephone when she was gathering flowers in the Nysian Plain. After Hades made his dashing run with his chariot and carried off Persephone, the Sirens were distraught due to their inability to assist their companion. They searched for her on land but could not find any trace. So, they wished to continue the search across the sea. The gods were willing to accommodate them and covered their limbs with golden plumage but allowed them to retain their human faces to ensure that their rich vocal gifts and sweet songs would not perish. However, a different version of the story offered by Hyginus asserted that the maidens lost their human form as a punishment by Demeter for failing to protect Persephone.
Funerary statue of a siren, ca. 370 BCE, sculpture, National Archaeological Museum © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/ Hellenic Organization of Cultural Resources Development