The Harpyiai

July 16th, 2010 by sabrina

The Harpyiai are the Greek Goddesses of storm winds. They are the daughters of the Titan Thaumas, a sea God, and the Okeanid Elektra, and sisters of Iris, Goddess of rainbows. While the Harpyiai (or Harpies, as they are more commonly called) were originally depicted as being beautiful women with wings, later authors turned them into monsters with huge talons that they used to carry people away. Just as their sister Iris was the messenger of Zeus, the Harpyiai were referred to as the Hounds of Zeus. In one myth, Zeus used them to torment King Phineus of Thrace, who had received the gift of prophecy from Apollo but used it to tell people of the Gods’ plans. Zeus blinded Phineus, and then sent the Harpyiai to snatch away his food whenever it was put in front of him. They were eventually driven off by two of the Boreades, sons of Boreas, God of the north wind.

Ancient authors disagreed about the number of the Harpyiai, listing either two or three. Aello (“storm”) was also known as Aellopos or Aellopus (“storm-footed”), as well as being called Nikothoe or Nicothoe (“running victory”). Okypete or Ocypete (“swift-winged”) was also called Okypode or Ocypode (“swift-footed”) and Okythoe or Ocythoe (“swift-running”). Kelaino or Celaeno (“black one”) was also called Podarke or Podarce (“fleet-footed”) or Podarge (“flash-footed”)—she was the mother by Zephyros, God of the west wind, of Balios and Xanthos, the immortal horses of Akhilleus. Aside from the name Harpyiai itself, which means “snatchers,” the sisters were also known as the Thuellai (“hurricanes”) or the Aella (“storm winds”).

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