The British Museum

“Come closer, Famous Odysseus,” beckon the Sirens, “so you can hear our song!” With ravishing voices, the Sirens try to lure Odysseus and his shipmates to crash into the rocks of their island in Book XXI of the Odyssey. The scene is depicted here on a fifth-century B.C. Etruscan jug, rendered by a man who made his living by painting Sirens on vases.

Warned by the enchantress Circe to resist the Sirens, Odysseus stops his oarsmen’s ears with beeswax and has himself bound to the ship’s mast so that he cannot answer the Sirens’ call.

As the ship drifts past the Sirens’ island, Odysseus implores his crew to set him free. But his oarsmen can’t hear him and steer the ship into safe waters.