Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece

Greek Monsters » Harpies

Harpies, the snatchers of souls

Family of the Harpies

The Harpies were born from Thaumas, a god of the wet element and the sea Nymph Electra, a daughter of Oceanus. Their homeland was most probably Thrace, in northern Greece.

The most known Harpies were Ocypete (the "swift-flying"), Nicothoe , Aello (the "storm swift") and Celaeno (the "dark"). Homer also mentions Podarga (the "swift-footed"), who was the mother of Achilles' horses.

Harpies, the snatchers of souls

The Harpies were the messengers of Hades, the god of the Underworld. According to the legend, their mission was to steal away the children and the souls of the people. For this reason, they were often depicted in graves, holding the soul of the dead person with their claws.

Appearance of the Harpies

The Harpies were female creatures with the head of a woman, bronze wings attached to their bodies and sharp claws. According to Hesiod their hair was nice, long and floating.

The Punishment of Phineus

The Harpies were notorious for their speed voracious appetite and their obnoxious smells. One time, the gods wanted to punish Phineus, the king of Thrace, because he revealed the future to the people. His punishment would be eternal hunger. So the gods ordered the Harpies to swoop down from the sky, snatching away the food from the king's banquet table. The little food they left behind stank so strongly that nobody could touch it.

Harpies means "snatchers" in ancient Greek.


Famous Harpies in Greek Mythology

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