Harpies are bird-like creatures with the heads of women who steal food from travelers, and in fact the word harpy means “snatcher”. They are often believed to be wind spirits.
Harpies of Greek and Roman mythology are notoriously vicious creatures who are known for stealing food and abducting travelers. They are often depicted as having the features of women and birds, with a human face and hair and the wings, feathers and claws of a large bird.
Harpies were known as “The Hounds of Zeus” and were often sent by the god to abduct people and things from the earth. Unexplained and sudden disappearances were often blamed on harpies. They were often said to carry people off to the Erinyes, goddesses of vengeance.
Three famous harpies are the sisters Aello, Cylaeno, and Ocypete. They lived on the island of Strophades, and were encountered by the Trojan hero Aeneas as he traveled with the Trojan army. The harpies stole their feast and prophesied that they would go hungry long before they completed their journey.
The harpy eagle is a large predatory bird named for these mythical creatures.