Friday, 21 June 2019

Harpy

In Greek and Roman mythology, a harpy was a half-human and half-bird personification of storm winds. Their name means "snatchers" or "swift robbers". They were generally depicted as birds with the heads of maidens, faces pale with hunger and long claws on their hands. Roman and Byzantine writers detailed their ugliness. Pottery art depicting the harpies featured beautiful women with wings. They are described as human-vultures.
The most celebrated story in which the Harpies play a part is that of King Phineus of Thrace, who was given the gift of prophecy by Zeus. Angry that Phineus gave away his secret plan, Zeus punished him by blinding him and putting him on an island with a buffet of food which he could never eat because the harpies always stole the food out of his hands.

Harpies remained vivid into the Middle Ages. In Dante's Inferno, the tortured woodland was infested with harpies, where the suicides have their punishment in the seventh ring of Hell.