Oxi Day Celebration Greece. “OXI”, No, the One Word, Which, on 28th October 1940, Voiced by the Greeks, Changed the Course of World War II

Oxi Day The Greeks said No 28 October 1940
Oxi Day
The Greeks said No
28 October 1940
“Oxi” Day, “No” Day, 28th October, is the day when Greece and Greeks everywhere, remember the courage of the Greeks, who had the strength and determination, to say “OXI”, no, to the Italian Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, known as “Il Duce”.

On 28th October 1940, the Italian ambassador to Greece, Emanuele Grazzi, at a little after three in the morning, after returning home from a party at the German Embassy, Athens, phoned Ioannis Metaxas, (Greek general and dictator, serving as Prime Minister of Greece from 1936 until his death in 1941), delivering an ultimatum.

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (29 July 1883 – 28 April 1945)

 Mussolini, Italian politician, journalist, and leader of the National Fascist Party, ruled the country as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1943, he had ruled constitutionally until 1925, when he dropped all pretense of democracy and set up a legal dictatorship.

 Known as Il Duce (The Leader), Mussolini was the founder of Italian Fascism.

The ultimatum, made by Benito Mussolini, demanded that Greece allow the axis forces (Germany, Italy, Japan), to enter and annex key locations in Greece.

The alternative was war!

Metaxas, answered with one word, a resounding “Oxi” (No), and later added, in French,

 “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (Then it is war!)

An unexpected slap in the face for fascist Italy!

Prime Minister of Greece Ioannis Metaxas   12 April 1871 – 29 January 1941   Greek general and dictator, serving as Prime Minister of Greece from 1936 until his death in 1941.

Prime Minister of Greece Ioannis Metaxas  12 April 1871 – 29 January 1941
  Greek general and dictator, serving as Prime Minister of Greece from 1936 until his death in 1941. 

The comeback of this historic “Oxi” was that the Italian troops, stationed in Albania, which was under Italian protectorate, at five thirty on the morning of 28th October 1940, invaded the Greek border.

So commenced the Greco-Italian war (Oct.1940-April 1941), leading to The Balkan Campaign of WWII, between the axis powers (Germany, Italy, Japan) and the allies, which later lead to the Battle of Greece, when British and German ground forces intervened in 1941.

Greece had entered World War II.

Greece fights for freedom in WWII
Greece fights for freedom in WWII

Greece managed to stop the initial Italian invasion, pushing the Italian army back into Albania.

This Italian defeat, and Greek counter-attack, was called,

“The First Axis Setback of the Entire War”

The Italians went on to organize a spring offensive in 1941, which, again, failed.

The feisty Greeks had surprised everyone with their courage and determination.

It shouldn’t have been surprise though, the Greeks, since ancient times, have been known for their courage and perseverance, they do not give up!

Mighty Greece
Mighty Greece

The heroic performance of Greece, earned them unprecedented praise and respect, from many great, world leaders;

  Praise and respect for the heroic Greeks from world leaders
Praise and respect for the heroic Greeks from world leaders

“When the entire world has lost all hope, the Greek people dared to question the invincibility of the German monster, raising against it the proud spirit of freedom”

Franklin Roosevelt

“Hence, we shall not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks”

Winston Churchill

“If there had not been the virtue and courage of the Greeks, we do not know which the outcome of World War II would have been”

Winston Churchill

‘’Historic justice forces me to admit, that of all the enemies that stand against us, the Greek soldier, above all, fought with the most courage”

Adolf Hitler

“The Greeks delayed, by two or more vital months, the German attack against Russia;
If we did not have this long delay, the outcome of the war would have been different”

Hitler’s Chief of Staff

“We thank the Greek people whose resistance decided WWII…
You fought unarmed and won, small against big…
You gave us time to defend ourselves”

Joseph Stalin

The Proud Greek Flag,  H Galonoleuki The blue and white
The Proud Greek Flag,
 H Galonoleuki The blue and white

H γαλανόλευκη, 

This atrocious war persisted for four horrific years; Greece was liberated from Nazi occupation on October 12th 1944, but, before it had time to recover, it was once again plunged into war.

 The Greek Civil War, (December 1944–January 1945 and 1946–49), two-stage conflict during which Greek communists unsuccessfully tried to gain control of Greece.

Greece was liberated from Nazi occupation 12 October 1944
Greece was liberated from Nazi occupation 12 October 1944

Every 28th October, Greece celebrates “Oxi” day, a public holiday, and, from the smallest village, to the largest town, proud Greeks, flock to the streets, to admire school children, (patriotically dressed in blue and white, the colours of the Greek flag, “H γαλανόλευκη” “H Galanoleuki”, meaning, the blue and white), local brass bands and the Greek army, parade through the streets.

A day when all Greeks remember the motto of Greece:

“Freedom or Death”

Greek Presidential Guard, flying the Greek flag
Greek Presidential Guard, and, the Greek flag flying.

To some, who are in favour of abolishing this 28th October celebration, with the reason that war should not be celebrated, I ask,

"Is that what you understand, that the Greeks are celebrating war?"

Greece is not celebrating war on 28th October; the proud Greeks are celebrating their courage, their strength, their determination, their love for their country, they are celebrating the fact that that they saved Greece, for you

Greece would undoubtedly say no all over again. 

Greek soldier on front cover of Life magazine When the Greeks said no 1940
Greek soldier on front cover of Life magazine
When the Greeks said no
And to all you “Fat Cats" of the  European Union, who treat Greece as thought it were the underbelly of Europe, you would do well to remember this, remember what the ever-heroic Greeks went through, for Europe, as Stalin said, fighting without weapons, small against big, and even Hitler, who said;

 “The Greek soldier, above all, fought with the most courage”

The Greeks fought, with "Palikaria", not only for Greece, but for Europe, a united, peaceful, free Europe

If it wasn’t for that one Greek word, “Oxi”, who knows, under whose rule Europe would be today?

I have to say, this is one post that I have written from my heart, from my soul, with endless love for the Greeks.

 I wrote this post with absolute MERAKI.

Fight like a Greek: Short video extolling the Courage of the Greeks

And another clip, with Greek subtitles

 To learn more about Greece's heroic role in WWII, what they endured, and how they came out triumphant, to be praised by the whole world, for changing the course of a four year war, with just one word "Oxi", read this interesting and informative book , "Inside Hitler's Greece", written by one on my favourite authors, Mark Mowzer.

Inside Hitler's Greece Mark Mowzer

Inside Hitler's Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44

"In April 1941 the German army invaded Greece, leading to four years of hideous barbarism and to a civil war that tore the country apart.
 Inside Hitler's Greece explores the impact of the Occupation upon the lives and values of ordinary Greeks
. Drawing on a wealth of first-hand accounts and previously untapped archival sources Mark Mazower offers a vividly human picture of the experiences of resistance fighters and black marketeers, teenage German conscripts and Gestapo officers.
 He shows how war threw traditional family roles into question as women became breadwinners and children took up arms
. The moral complexities of life under foreign rule are linked to the unfolding political tragedy that brought the civil war."

Read about Greece's other Parade Day here:

Greek Independence Day. Freedom or Death.

Saint Demetrius / Dimitrios, and the Church of Thessaloniki, Greece.

 St. Demetrios by Manuel Panselinos in the Church of Protaton on Mount Athos (circa 1290AD)
 St. Demetrios by Manuel Panselinos
 In the Church of Protaton on Mount Athos
 (circa 1290AD)

 St. Demetrios by Manuel Panselinos in the Church of Protaton on Mount Athos (circa 1290AD)
 St. Demetrios by Manuel Panselinos
 In the Church of Protaton on Mount Athos
 (circa 1290AD)

Saint Demetrius, patron Saint of Thessaloniki, a Christian martyr, born into an aristocratic family of the Roman province of Macedonia, in 270 AD, is one of the most important military, or, warrior saints, often paired with Saint George, and one of the most popular saints of The Greek Orthodox Church.

The Feast Day of Saint Demetrius is celebrated on 26 October.

Despite his high military position, in the Pagan Roman army, under the Tetrarchy of the Roman  Emperors; Diocletian  Maximian, Galerius, and Constantine, during the Great Persecution, or, the Diocletian Persecution of Christians, 303-313 AD, Saint Demetrius, remained a faithful Christian.

The Tetrarchs, porphyry, probably at the Philadelphion, in Constantinople, until 1204. Now in Venice
The Tetrarchs, porphyry, probably at the Philadelphion, in Constantinople, until 1204.
 Now in Venice.

 (Tetrarchy comes from the Greek words for four (tetra) and rule (arch) Tetrarchy refers to the establishment by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, in 293, of a 4-part division of the empire)

Saint Demetrius, encouraged Christians to endure persecution, and resist all demands, that Christian soldiers, comply with traditional Roman religious practices.
 He even managed to convert many Pagans to the Christian faith.

Jealous of Saint Demetrius’ success, the Pagans denounced him, throwing him into prison, (Which was an old, unused Roman bath) where he was visited by Saint Nestor, who asked the blessing of Saint Demetrius, in order to help him slay Lyaios, the most feared Roman gladiator, who mocked and tormented the Christians in the arena .

Saint Demetrius, blessing Saint Nestor
Saint Demetrius, blessing Saint Nestor

Against all odds, Saint Nestor slayed Lyaios, which resulted in the Emperor, first beheading Saint Nestor, outside the city, and then having Saint Demetrius impaled in Prison, and later went on to behead Saint Demetrius’ slave, Lupus, for using the blood-stained tunic and ring of his master, to work miracles.

The Christians buried Demetrius and Nestor, side by side, in the unused Roman bath, where Demetrius had been imprisoned and executed.

Crypt of Saint Demetrios, in the church dedicated to the martyr. " According to tradition, this is where Demetrios was imprisoned, put to death and buried." Greece is. com
Crypt of Saint Demetrius, in the church dedicated to the martyr.
" According to tradition, this is where Demetrius was imprisoned, put to death and buried."
Greece is. com
The feast Day of Saint Nestor, is celebrated, one day after the Feast Day of Saint Demetrius (26 October) on 27 October.

In the seventh century, a miraculous flow of myrrh was said to be seeping from the tomb of Saint Demetrius, giving rise to the name; Saint Demetrius “Mirovlitis”, Saint Demetrius the Myrrh Streamer.

Relics of St. Demetrius,  a Military Saint at the Aghios Demetrius Basilica, Thessaloniki
Relics of Saint Demetrius,
 a Military Saint at the Hagios Demetrius Basilica, Thessaloniki

Also in the seventh century AD, a book, “The Miracles of Saint Demetrius” in Latin “Miracula Sancti Demetri” were compiled, telling of the miracles of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki.

The book is divided into two volumes, the first, written by John, Archbishop of Thessaloniki (610-620), describes miracles attributed to Saint Demetrius.

 Fifteen miracles are mentioned in the first volume of “Miracles of Saint Demetrius” including the intervention of the Saint, during the siege of Thessaloniki, (Known as the invasion of the Slavs), and how the Saint saved the city from the plague.

The second volume, written sometime around 680, by an unknown author, is mostly an historic account of Saint Demetrius, both volumes, were publicly read, to the citizens of Thessaloniki.

The Church of Saint Demitrius.
Haigos Demetrios

The Church of Hagios Demetrius, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius,  the patron saint of Thessaloniki
The Church of Hagios Demetrius, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius,
 the patron saint of Thessaloniki

The first church of Saint Demetrius was built in Thessaloniki, the second largest city of The Byzantine Empire, after Constantinople, early in the fourth century AD, on the site, said to be the spot, where Saint Demetrius was imprisoned, and executed, in an unused Roman bath.
Catacombs of Saint Demetrius, Thessaloniki
Catacombs of Saint Demetrius, Thessaloniki, the church is
believed to be built, the site of the old Roman baths, where Saint Demetrius was executed.

It was the most important and largest shrine in the city, larger than the local Cathedral (Site unknown).

A century later, Leondis, a regional governor, replaced the small oratory (A room for prayer) with a larger, three-aisled basilica (A building for public worship).

Saint Demetrius Church, after " The Great Fire of Thessaloniki" 1917
Saint Demetrius Church, after " The Great Fire of Thessaloniki"
The church, which was repeatedly destroyed by fire, was eventually rebuilt as a five- aisled basilica in 629-634.

The Church of Saint Demetrius in Thessaloniki contains an unusual shrine; The ciborium, an hexagonal, roofed, construction, to one side of the nave.

Small shrine inside the church,  containing the remnants of St. Demetrius
Small shrine inside the church,
 containing the remnants of St. Demetrius 

 Inside the ciborium,  is a bed, and, although it is believed that for four centuries after the Saint’s death, it contained no relics, it seemed to have been a symbolic tomb of Saint Demetrius.

This ciborium has been rebuilt, at least once.

The remains of the original ciborium Photo vlass2000
The remains of the original ciborium
Photo vlass2000

The church of Saint Demetrius in Thessaloniki is famous for six mosaic panels, depicting Saint Demetrius, together with the officials, responsible for the church’s restoration, and with children.

  Saint Demetrius with Archbishop John and regional governor,Leondis , Thessaloniki, mosaic, 650
Saint Demetrius with Archbishop John and regional governor,Leondis ,
Thessaloniki, mosaic, 650

These mosaic panels are rare examples of Byzantine art, which have survived from the Dark Ages, following the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian (527-565 AD).

Saint Demetrius with children,Saint Demetrius Church, Thessaloniki
Saint Demetrius with children,
 one of very few Byzantine mosaics that escaped destruction from the hands of the iconoclasts.

Other magnificent mosaics (recorded as decorating the interior of the church) have been lost, either during the four centuries, when the church functioned as a mosque, under Ottoman rule (1493-1912), or in “The Great Fire of Thessaloniki” in 1917, which destroyed most of the city.

It took decades to rebuild the church, after the great fire, and during the excavations, a Roman bath was discovered, believed to be the place where Saint Demetrius was held prisoner and later executed.

A Roman well was also discovered, during reconstruction of the church, thought to be the well, into which Roman soldiers threw Saint Demetrius’ body, after his death.

The fountain, in the crypt of Saint Demetrius Church, Thessaloniki.
The fountain, in the crypt of Saint Demetrius Church, Thessaloniki.
Believed to be the well, into which the Romans threw the body of the Saint.

The rebuilding, of The Church of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki, was finally finished and the church was re-consecrated in 1949.

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki (in Central Macedonia, Greece), dating from a time when it was the second largest city of the Byzantine Empire, is now part of the  Palaeochristian site, and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki which were added to the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1988.

The Siren; Legendary Creature of Greek Mythology. Do you know the difference between a siren and a mermaid?

Sirens "A Song of Joy and Sorrow" by Vasnetsov
"A Song of Joy and Sorrow" by Vasnetsov

Dusting down my sweet little Fornasetti dish today, reminded me of just how much the weird and wonderful, half animal, half human, legendary creatures of Greek mythology, fascinate me.

Fornasetti Dish Harpy,  a ravenous, filthy monster having a woman's head and a bird's body
Fornasetti Dish
Harpy,  a ravenous, filthy monster having a woman's head and a bird's body

Maybe these creatures will fascinate you too, let me introduce you to them, one at a time, starting today, with the siren.

First of all, put out of your mind, the image of mermaids, contrary to popular belief, sirens were never half fish, half women, and never lived underwater.

I’ll tell you later how that mistaken idea came about.

Edmund Dulac. The Little Mermaid, illustration for William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”
Edmund Dulac. The Little Mermaid, illustration for William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” 
“Ariel’s Song”
 “Full fathom five thy father lies; of his bones are coral made; those are pearls that were his eyes:”

What are the sirens of Greek mythology?

Sirens, prognostic creatures, who knew the future as well as the past, had much in common with the sphinx (A mythical creature, with the head of a human, and the body of a lion).

According to Ovid (Roman poet in the time of Augustus), the sirens of Greek mythology, were handmaidens to Persephone, daughter of Zeus and the Goddess of harvest, Demeter.

Persephone had the bad luck to be kidnapped by Hades, God of the underworld, her distraught mother, Demeter, ordered Persephone’s handmaidens to quickly find and rescue her, to help them with their task, Demeter gave them wings.

The Parthenope Siren with viola on Vesuvius.  The Spinacorona fountain 16th century in Naples
The Parthenope Siren with violin on Vesuvius.
 The Spinacorona fountain 16th century in Naples

The handmaidens of Persephone, searched high and low, all the while, calling out to Persephone with their sweet song, but, to no avail, Persephone was nowhere to be found.

Demeter, in a state of rage at the handmaidens, who had failed to bring home her precious daughter, condemned them, to live forever more as sirens, far away, on rocky, rugged islands, singing their siren song, a song with the power to put body and soul into a state of fatal lethargy.

These beautiful, dangerous creatures, with their sweet siren song, impossible to resist, once heard, lured sailors to the rocky shores, where they were instantly shipwrecked.

Where did the sirens live?

Sirens are represented in early Greek art, as birds, with large, women’s heads, feathers and scaly feet, (And, later, as females with the legs of birds, with or without wings) sprawled in meadows dotted with flowers, playing musical instrument, usually, the harp and lyre.

The Sirens of Ulysses William Etty 1837
The Sirens of Ulysses
William Etty 1837

Some writers have sirens as cannibals, based on Circe's (Sorceress witch in Greek mythology) who has them lolling around in meadows, surrounded by heaps of bones and rotting flesh.

The flower-filled meadows, home to the sirens, in ancient times, were referred to as Anthemoessa or Anthemusa, the flowery islands, said by the Roman poets, Virgil and Ovid, to be the Sirenum Scopuli, three small, rocky islands, (South of Capri) or Pelorus, today known as Punto del Faro, Sicily.

 Punto del Faro, Sicily.
 Punto del Faro, Sicily.

Then again, the siren's home, may have been Le Sirenuse, or Li Galli, a small group of islands off the Amalfi coast of Italy.

Homer (Ancient Greek poet, author of The Odyssey) locates the home of the sirens, as an island in the Western sea, between Aeaea (The island, in Greek mythology, where the witch Circe lived) and Scylla, (A monster in Greek mythology, which lived at one side of a narrow channel of water, opposite her counterpart Charybdis.)

All locations, thought to be home to the sirens, were surrounded by cliffs and rocks, perfect for luring sailors to their death.

 Le Sirenuse, or Li Galli, a small group of islands off the Amalfi coast of Italy.
 Le Sirenuse, or Li Galli,
 a small group of islands off the Amalfi coast of Italy.

How many sirens were there and what were their names?

When the question arises, asking how many sirens actually existed, and what their names were, there seems to be quite a bit of confusion.

The most popular answer is that there were three sirens in Greek mythology.

Homer mentions only two, with no other detail, apart from where they may have lived.

Later writers mention three, their names being Peisinoe, Aglaope, and Thelxiepeia , or, Parthenope, Ligeia, and Leucosia.

Apollonius of Rhodes (First half of 3rd century BCE), in his epic poem “Argonautica”,  about Jason and the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece, gives three sirens the names of; Thelxinoe, Molpe, and Aglaophonos.

Hyginus (Latin Author), mentions four sirens, with the names; Teles, Raidne, Molpe, and Thelxiope.

Eustathius (Greek Archbishop of Thessaloniki, and scholar), states, as did Homer, that there two, and gives them the names Aglaopheme and Thelxiepeia.

Paintings on an ancient Greek vase also show two sirens, named Himerope and Thelxiepeia.

 450 BCE red-figure stamnos from Vulci (now in the British Museum)
"One of the most famous examples is the c 450 BCE red-figure stamnos from Vulci (now in the British Museum) which, interestingly, also has a siren diving into the sea in apparent suicide. In Archaic art they are often fearsome and can have talons but they evolved into beautiful and serene creatures by the Classical period, very different from their still later association with lust and unbridled revelry."
 Mark Cartwright, MA Greek Mythology

All later mention of the sirens of ancient Greek mythology, use the following, individual names:

Thelxiepeia/Thelxiope/Thelxinoe, Molpe, Himerope, Aglaophonos/Aglaope/Aglaopheme, Pisinoe/Peisinoë/Peisithoe, Parthenope, Ligeia, Leucosia, Raidne, and Teles.

Confrontations with sirens.

In the epic poem Argonautica" written by Apollonius of Rhodes in the early third century B.C., Jason is warned by Chiron (A centaur), that Orpheus (Musician, poet and prophet),would be needed on his journey, to play his lyre, in order to  drown out the song of the sirens, which is exactly what Orpheus did.

One member of the crew, Butes, heard the song though, and jumped into the sea, but, luckily for him, was caught and brought to safety by Aphrodite, Goddess of love, pleasure and procreation.

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau (French, 1869-1937), "Orpheus"
Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau
 (French, 1869-1937), "Orpheus" 

In Homer’s "The Odyssey" Odysseus was curious to hear the song of the sirens, and so, on the advice of Circe (A powerful sorceress in Greek mythology), ordered his crew to plug their ears with beeswax, and to tie him to the mast, and no matter what, or how much Odysseus begged them, they were not to untie him.

When he heard the siren song, Odysseus begged his crew to untie him, but they only tied him tighter, enabling their ship to pass by the island of the sirens.

"Ulysses and the sirens" John William Waterhouse
"Ulysses and the Sirens"
John William Waterhouse

"No seaman ever sailed his black ship past this spot without listening to the honey-sweet tones that flow from our lips and no one who has listened has not been delighted and gone on his way a wiser man."
 (The Sirens, Odyssey 12:186-190)

Death of the sirens.

Some post-Homeric authors believe the Sirens were sure to die if someone heard their singing and escaped, and that after Odysseus passed by the sirens flung themselves into the sea and drowned.
According to Gaius Julius Hyginus, (Latin author, sirens were fated to live only until the mortals who heard their songs were able to pass by them

Another story, is that Hera, queen of the gods, persuaded the Sirens to enter a singing completion with the Muses.

The Muses won the competition and then plucked out all of the Sirens' feathers and made crowns out of them.

Out of their anguish from losing the competition, the Sirens turned white and fell into the sea at Aptera ("featherless"), where they formed the islands in the bay that were called Leukai, meaning white, today, the islands of Nisi and Leon, in the bay of modern day Souda, on the island of Crete.

Nisi and Leon in Suda Bay, Crete.  In ancient times these two islets were referred to as Leukai (Greek for "white ones").
Nisi and Leon in Suda BayCrete.
 In ancient times these two islets were referred to as Leukai (Greek for "white ones"). 

Other acknowledgements.

The first-century Roman historian Pliny the Elder, discounted Sirens as sheer fantasy, but went on to say;

"Although Dinon, the father of Clearchus, a celebrated writer, asserts that they exist in India, and that they charm men by their song, and, having first lulled them to sleep, tear them to pieces."

In his notebooks Leonardo da Vinci wrote of the Siren,

"The siren sings so sweetly that she lulls the mariners to sleep; then she climbs upon the ships and kills the sleeping mariners."

Marie-François Firmin Girard  "Ulysses and theSirens"1868
Marie-François Firmin Girard
"Ulysses and theSirens"1868 

In 1917, Franz Kafka wrote in “The Silence of the Sirens”, found in Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories 

"Now the Sirens have a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence. And though admittedly such a thing never happened, it is still conceivable that someone might possibly have escaped from their singing; but from their silence certainly never."

The "Siren of Canosa", from Italy, was said to be among items buried with the dead, to guide them on the after-life journey

.This terracotta figure, from around 340 to 300B.C, has the feet, wings and tail of a bird and bears traces of its original white pigment.

The sculpture is housed in the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid, Spain.

Siren of Canosa 340 to 300B.C National Archaeological Museum of Madrid, Spain.
Siren of Canosa 340 to 300B.C
National Archaeological Museum of Madrid, Spain.

How the sirens became confused with mermaids.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’ll tell you how sirens and mermaids became confused.

Sirens, in Greek mythology, never had the half body of fish, they are half human, and half bird, female creatures, and sirens never lived underwater, but frolicked amongst flowers, in the meadows of rocky islands.

As we see time and time again, by the fourth century A.D, when Christianity began to spread throughout the Western world, all pagan beliefs, and that includes Greek mythology, were considered evil, and the customs and stories, were either changed, to suit Christian belief, or, benevolent beings, became malevolent.

Incorrect translations also play a part, as we saw in the case of my post about the Daimons of ancient Greece.

Such was the case with sirens.

Henrietta Rae (1859–1928
Henrietta Rae (1859–1928

Belief in sirens was discouraged, and, although Jerome, priest, confessor, theologian and historian, used the word “Siren” to translate the Hebrew word “Tannim”, meaning jackals, in “Isaiah 13:22” and as the word “Owl” in “Jeremiah 50:39”, when he produced the Latin Vulgate version of the Scriptures, Ambrose (Bishop of Milan), explained this to be a mere symbol or allegory for worldly temptations, and not an endorsement of the Greek myth.

The Etymologies of Isidore of Sevillean etymological encyclopedia compiled by Isidore of Seville c. 560–636), states;

"They (the Greeks) imagine that 'there were three Sirens, part virgins, part birds,' with wings and claws.

’One of them sang, another played the flute, the third the lyre.

 They drew sailors, decoyed by song, to shipwreck.

 According to the truth, however, they were prostitutes, who led travelers down to poverty and were said to impose shipwreck on them.

 They had wings and claws because Love flies and wounds.

 They are said to have stayed in the waves because a wave created Venus."

The birth of Venus. (Aphrodite) Oil on Canvas.   John Bulloch Souter.(1890-1972)
The birth of Venus. (Aphrodite) Oil on Canvas.
 John Bulloch Souter.(1890-1972)

And here is the clue “Venus”, the Latin term for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation, all qualities frowned on by the Christian church.

Aphrodite, was born from the waves, she was created in the sea, and, according to Isidore of Seville, in his “Etymologiae”, that’s where the sirens lived, among the waves of the sea, just as mermaids do!

So, now, today, sirens are seen as mermaids, female figures of dangerous temptation.

A Mermaid John William Waterhouse
A Mermaid
John William Waterhouse

I must add here, the confusion between sirens and mermaids was not totally the fault of the Christian church.
 Roman writers, tended to link sirens to the sea, when Phorcys, a primordial sea god, depicted as a fish-tailed merman with crab-claw fore-legs and red-spiked skin, is cited as the father of some of the sirens of ancient Greek mythology.

Shall I confess?

Before becoming interested in Greek mythology, I thought sirens were mermaids!

Did you think the same?

For anyone wanting to learn more about ancient mythology, Edith Hamilton's book;

 " Mythology:  Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes"

covers everything, Greek, Roman, and Norse myths and legends.

 It's an easy to read book, dived into seven sections, all including wonderful wood-cut illustrations by Steele Savage.

It's interesting to realize, how myths from different countries, all seem to connect to each other, in one way or another.

Since its first publication in 1942, the book has sold millions of copies worldwide, and has received many glowing reviews.

"No one in modern times has shown us more vividly than Edith Hamilton 'the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome.' Filtering the golden essence from the mass of classical literature, she proved how applicable to our daily lives are the humor and wisdom of more than 2,000 years ago." "New York Times"

Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes.  Edith Hamilton

40 Facts I learned about the Greeks : Celebrating 40 Years of Living in Greece

The Greek  stereotype Forty years ago today, on Saturday the fifth of February 1977, I left England for a new life in Greece. ...

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