In earlier versions of Greek myth, Harpies were described as beautiful, winged guardians. Later they became fierce, filthy, winged monsters who had characteristics of a bird and a woman, similar to that of the early Sirens. Their hideous faces of women with sharp claws mounted on the bodies of vultures inspired both horror and disgust. They could fly as fast as a bolt of lightening
BehaviorEditWhen a person suddenly disappeared from the earth, it was said that he had been carried off by the Harpies; thus, they carried off the daughters of king Pandareus, and gave them as servants to the Erinnyes. The people feared them for it was said that they also stole small children and carried away the weak and the wounded.
In this form they were agents of punishment who abducted people and tortured them on their way to Tartarus. They were vicious, cruel and violent, only obeying the mighty Zeus.The Harpy could also bring life. A Harpy was the mother by the West Wind Zephyros of the horses of Achilles. In this context Jane Harrison adduced the notion in Virgil's Georgics that mares became gravid by the wind alone, marvelous to say.
Their place of abode is either the islands called Strophades, a place at the entrance of Orcus, or a cave in Crete.