The Harpies were born of Thaumas, a god of the wet element and the sea Nymph Electra, a daughter of Oceanus. Their home was most probably Thrace, in northern Greece.
The most famous Harpies were Ocypete (the "swift-flying"), Nicothoe , Aello (the "stormy"), and Celaeno (the "dark"). Homer also mentions Podarga (the "swift-footed"), who was the mother of Achilles' horses.
The Harpies were female creatures with the head of a woman, bronze wings on their bodies, and sharp claws. According to Hesiod, their hair was beautiful, long, and floating.
The Harpies were the messengers of Hades, the god of the underworld.
According to legend, it was their task to steal the children and souls of men. For this reason they were often depicted in tombs, holding the soul of the dead with their claws.
The harpies were notorious for their swiftness, their voracious appetites, and their vile smell. Once the gods wished to punish Phineus, king of Thrace, for revealing the future to the people. His punishment was to be eternal hunger. So the gods ordered the harpies to descend from the sky and steal the food from the king's banquet table. The little food they left behind stank so badly that no one could touch it.
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