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Sirens on Capri

The legend of the Sirens on Capri is one of the many stories that sailors or navigators of the past handed down from father to son about these mythical figures.

One of these, stems not from a local “si racconta” but from one of the world’s best-known works.

In Homer’s Odyssey, the Greek poet tells of Odysseus’ encounter with the Sirens, or rather their illusory existence.

Odysseus, the Greek hero magnified by Homer, during his long journey aimed at returning to his beloved island of Ithaca, of which he was also ruler, according to the poet will pass by an area surrounded by the sea that many experts and scholars have made coincide with the island of Capri.

The Odyssey’s protagonist, after a long period spent on Circe’s island, partly voluntarily and partly subjugated by the woman’s magical arts, which he will get rid of thanks to an antidote given to him by Hermes, will manage to take to the sea again and aware that he will have to confront the dangerous Sirens, on the advice of the sorceress herself he will devise an expedient that will enable him to get through the inevitable passage beside the infamous rock unscathed by having himself tied to a pole of his boat, because he is determined to listen to their melodious but deadly song and to bask in their extraordinary beauty without having to incur the tragic fate to which other sailors who were not as shrewd as he was, and at the same time also safeguarding the lives of his men by ordering them to plug their ears with wax.

Mythology relates that the Sirens: Parthenope, Ligea and Leucosia, prostrated by Odysseus’ insensitivity to the charm of their song threw themselves into the sea where they turned into rocks. And it was the dying body of Parthenope that, according to an ancient belief, gave birth to the Isle of Capri, which when observed from afar appears to have the shape of a woman’s outstretched body. Although many attribute, instead, the birth of Naples to the remains of this unfortunate Siren.

These are the poetic versions on the legend of the Sirens. Others, however, give a decidedly more prosaic interpretation (it is perhaps for this reason more inherent to reality). The so-called Sirens, according to some, were nothing more than a group of prostitutes residing on the island who, from a cliff in Marina Piccola, located south of Capri, dressed in discreet clothes and with their singing seduced passing sailors returning from long voyages, who were then, after being circuited, poisoned and their ships despoiled of their cargo.

Be that as it may, the myth of the Sirens, understood as such, has always given the illusion from oblivion from the evils that have plagued the world since antiquity.

And whether they are half-woman and half-fish or with the body of a bird and the head of a woman, the Sirens will forever remain the emblem of Capri’s seduction and fascination from the earliest times.

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