What a Harpy is in Greek Mythology

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The harpy is one of those legendary creatures of Greek mythology that is also considered a hybrid. Part woman and part bird, this creature was the subject of much fascination to the ancient Greeks. Essentially, the creature has the body of a bird and the face of a female human. Harpies are fearsome creatures who have taken many victims, and stories involving harpies involve the harpies and their victims. Here’s some more information about this mythological creature:

Who the Harpies Were

As mentioned above, the harpies are depicted as fearsome creatures who have taken many victims. However, those who behave well don’t necessarily need to worry about the wrath of the harpies. The majority of their victims have done something evil. They are often depicted as stealing food from their victims and when they do encounter someone who has done something wrong, they usually carry them off to the Erinyes, or the Furies. They are also thought to be wind spirits, or storm spirits. They are also considered to be “soul snatchers” and are said to have done the work of Hades. They were said to steal both children and the souls of other people and cary them to the Underworld. Their likenesses can often be found on graves since they were thought to represent death in some way. However, that is not all they represented.

Where the Harpies Came From

There were actually several harpies and there were three that were considered to be the most famous – Ocypete, Nicothoe, Aello, Celaeno, and PodargaEach of these harpies had a place in Greek mythology. Podarga was actually a harpy who was the mother of the horses that belonged to Achilles. The father of the harpies was Thaumas, a minor god, and Elektra, a sea nymph. Both Homer and Hesiod mentioned the harpies in their stories. Hesiod is largely responsible for writing about what the harpies look like. He described them as creatures with the head of a woman. This woman usually has long, golden hair and fine, beautiful features. The harpy also has large golden wings, the body of a bird, and fearsome talons that they used for grabbing at their victims.

Stories with the Harpies

One of the most well known stories involving the harpies is that of King Phineus of Thrace. When King Phineus asked for the gift of prophecy, Zeus granted it to him. Once he was granted this gift, King Phineus betrayed Zeus by giving away his plans. As punishment, Zeus cursed him and sent him alone to an island. Although the punished king had plenty of food, he never could eat. Zeus sent the harpies to eat the food right out of his hands. Thus, the king was always hungry and could never find satisfaction.

As you can see, the Harpies were a fearsome creature that were often associated with death. They were scary in appearance since they had a large, imposing bird body with sharp talons and also the head of a beautiful woman.


Wikipedia – Harpy

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This post was written by Greek Boston