The Ancient Library

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On this page: Sirius – Sisenna – Sistrum – Sisyphus




near them never again beholds wife and child. They know everything that happens on earth. When Odysseus sailed past, he had stopped up the ears of his companions with wax, while he had made them bind him to the mast, that he might hear their song without danger[0rf.xii41- 54,153-200]. Orpheus protected the Argonauts from their spell by his own singing [Apollonius Rhodius, iv 903]. As they were only to live till some one had sailed past unmoved by their song, they cast themselves into the sea, on account either of Odysseus or of Orpheus, and were changed to sunken rocks. Wh'en the adventures of Odysseus came to be localised on the Italian and Sicilian


Paris, Louvre.)

shore, the seat of the Sirens was transferred to the neighbourhood of Naples and Sorrento, to the three rocky and uninhabited islets called the Slrinusce [the Sirenum scopuli of Vergil, JSn. v 864; cp. Statius, Silvce ii 2, 1], or to Capri, or to the Sicilian pro­montory of Pelorum. There they were said to have settled, after vainly searching the whole earth for the lost PersephOne, their former playmate in the meadows by the Acheloiis; and later legend also assigned this as the time when they in part assumed a winged shape. They were represented as great birds with the heads of women, or with the upper part of the body like that of a woman, with the legs of birds, and with

or without wings (ace cut). At a later period they were sometimes regarded as retaining their original character of fair and cruel tempters and deceivers. But they are more generally represented as singers of the dirge for the dead, and they were hence frequently placed as an orna­ment on tombs ; or as symbols of the magic of beauty, eloquence, and song, on which account their sculptured forms were seen on the funeral monuments of fair women and girls, and of orators and poets: for instance, on those of Isoorates and Sophocles. [Such a Siren may be seen, beating her breast and tearing her hair, above the stele of Aristlon in the Street of Tombs at Athens. The National Museum at Athens contains several examples of stone Sirens, not as reliefs, but as separate figures " in the round " ; and a funeral monument of this type may be noticed on a vase in the British Museum (Cat. C. 29), where the Siren is standing on a pillar and playing the lyre. Cp. Euripides, Hel. 169; Anthologia Pala-tina vii 710 and 481; with Miss Harrison's Myths of the Odyssey, pp. 146-182, and Mythology and Monuments of Athens, pp. 582-5.]

Sirlus (Gr. SeirlSs ; lit. " the scorcher "). The dog-star, representing among the con­stellations the dog of Orion (q.v.).

Sisenna. A Roman historian. (See annalists.)

SIstnini. _ A kind of rattle, used in the worship of Isis, and borrowed, at the same time with it, from the Egyptians. It con­sisted of a thin oval band of metal, fastened to a handle, and crossed by a number of little metal rods, bent at either end, and loosely inserted in the band. (See cut under Isis.)

Sisyphus (i.e. " the., crafty "). The son of yEolus, brother of Athamas, husband of the Pleiad Merope. His son is Glaucus, the father of Bellgrophon. He is regarded as the builder of Ephyra (afterwards Corinth) and as originator of the Isthmian Games. In legends he appears as extremely cunning and crafty; in Homer he is called the " slyest of all men " [11. vi 153). The rea­son why he is punished in the other world, where he is forced for ever to keep on rolling a block of stone to the top of a steep hill, only to see it roll again to the valley, and to start the toilsome task again [Od. xi 593], is not mentioned by Homer; and later legends vary on this point. According to the account which gives the best idea of his cunning, Sisyphus discloses to the river-god Asopus, in search of his daughter jEglna

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