About Our Header Image: Sirens vs Muses

One of my favourite images from antiquity that I’ve come across long ago became the ‘official’ header image of rogueclassicism (scroll to the top of the page if you’ve never seen it). It comes from a sarcophagus currently in the Metrolpolitan Museum and depicts an incident mentioned in Pausanias (via Perseus):

On the market-place of Coroneia I found two remarkable things, an altar of Hermes Epimelius (Keeper of flocks) and an altar of the winds. A little lower down is a sanctuary of Hera with an ancient image, the work of Pythodorus of Thebes; in her hand she carries Sirens. For the story goes that the daughters of Achelous were persuaded by Hera to compete with the Muses in singing. The Muses won, plucked out the Sirens’ feathers (so they say) and made crowns for themselves out of them.

The official description of the Met piece doesn’t mention the story, alas:

On the front, the deities Athena, Zeus, and Hera, assembled at the far left, preside over a musical contest between the Muses and Sirens. The Muses, associated with man’s highest intellectual and artistic aspirations, are defeating the Sirens, creatures that are half woman and half bird who lured men to destruction with their song. […]

… especially the detail about the Muses actually winning and plucking feathers out to make their crowns.

Whatever the case, I can think of few images that better encapsulate the ‘struggle’ of using the Internet for one’s research. Does one heed the inspiration of the Muses and prevail or succumb to the song of the Sirens and get plucked?

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