Saturday, February 2, 2013

Word from Mythology: Siren

The word "siren" comes from the Greek monsters called Sirens, dangerous female creatures whose mysterious song lured sailors to their doom. You can read more about Sirens in this Wikipedia article. The use of "siren" to mean a warning sound or alarm is fairly modern, dating to the late 19th century.

We learn about the Sirens in Homer's Odyssey, when the hero Odysseus wants to hear the Sirens' song. He orders his men to fill their ears with wax so that they will be immune to the Sirens' power, and they then tie him to the mast of the ship. When Odysseus hears the song, he wants to jump off the ship and swim to the Sirens' island, but he is unable to break free of the ropes binding him to the mast. You can see that story illustrated in this 2nd-century mosaic:



No comments:

Post a Comment