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The Harpy is one of a race of creatures with origins in Greek mythology, legend and folklore. They would later go on to gain connections to Roman mythology, legend and folklore. They are usually said to inhabit the islands of the Strophades. Their leader is named Celaeno; their numbers vary, but they are sometimes portrayed as a threesome, the other two being Aello and Ocypete.
They appeared in the story of Jason and the Argonauts, where they were causing King Phineas of Thrace to starve to death by devouring all his food before he had a chance to eat it. In The Aeneid, Aeneas and his followers also land on their island and are similarly unable to eat any of the fat cattle they find there.
Dante places the Harpies in the Wood of Suicides in The Inferno.
Harpies have the heads of women and the bodies of birds with large talons. They may be portrayed with or without human breasts.
Harpies are best known for their voracious appetites. Whenever anyone sets out food within their territory, they will swoop in, devour most of it, and leave the remains so befouled as to be inedible. When presented in this manner, they are not necessarily evil—Celaeno berates Aeneas for attempting to "drive the innocent Harpies from their country"—but simply hungry.
In other stories, they are portrayed as agents of punishment, similar to the Erinyes.
Harpies are quite agile and, coupled with their ability to fly, they are difficult or impossible to kill.
Celaeno has oracular powers. After Aeneas and his men attempt to attack them in The Aeneid, she predicts that a famine will befall them before they reach their destination.