Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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In The Odyssey, how do the sirens' danger compare to that of the lotus-eaters?

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Sirens are beautiful mythological creatures that lure travelers to their destruction through song. Sirens sing to those who travel by sea in order to guide their ships into rocky waters, causing them to wreck and drown.

In the Odyssey, Odysseus orders his men to plug their ears with beeswax so that they will not be tempted by the voices of the sirens. He asks them to tie him to the mast of the ship, but to leave his ears unplugged out of curiosity. Odysseus hears the following song:

We know all the pains that the Greeks and Trojans once endured

on the spreading plain of Troy when the gods willed it so--

all that comes to pass on the fertile earth, we know it all!

This strange appeal to knowledge causes Odysseus to beg to be set free; thankfully, his men ignore these pleas, thus, ensuring their safe passage. 

On the other hand, the lotus-eaters cause trouble to travelers by providing them with lotus fruit, which causes those who consume it to think only of eating more and to forget about returning home. Odysseus must drag his men off the island in order to escape this fate. 

Overall, the sirens seem to serve up a worse fate than the lotus-eaters. Although encounters with both creatures will eventually lead to death, following the songs of sirens means that death will be far more immediate. 

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The sirens lure men to their death by singing to them.  Their songs are so beautiful that the men are unable to resist coming over to them.

The danger from the sirens is much greater than that from the lotus eaters.  However, they are both equally dangerous if your goal is to get to your destination.

The reason i say they are both equally dangerous is that they will both keep a traveler from getting home.  But the sirens do it by killing the traveler and that seems rather worse than just staying with the lotus eaters for your whole life because you like eating lotuses.

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