This lekythos with red figures from the 4th century B.C. displays the image of a Siren. This hybrid character combining a bird and a woman, of Assyrian-Babylonian origin, became world-renowned.
Sirens are beings that one should flee from, in spite of their attractive appearance. This ambivalent archetype based on patriarchal assumptions originates from the notion of women as fascinating albeit dangerous objects. In Greek culture, the Sirens lived on a gloomy island and used their songs to entice sailors, who ran aground on their shores. Apollonius of Rhodes describes them for the first time at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C., as possessing the head of a woman and the body of a bird, consistent with their musical prowess. It wasn´t until the Middle Ages that their body shifted into that of a fish.
As beautiful and eternal provocateurs of men, they personified temptation and lust among other things and enjoyed a long life in popular lore under different names and forms: naiads, Lamias, Xanas, maidens from Midsummer Night´s Eve… They were also precursors to the femme fatale of Romantic period iconography, present to this day.