"There do the hideous Harpies make their nests, Who chased the Trojans from the Strophades"

Harpies in Circle 7
Public DomainHarpies in Circle 7 - Credit: Gustave Doré

(Canto 13, lines 10-11)

In Greek mythology, the half-woman, half-bird Harpies were daughters of Thaumas and the Oceanid Electra. Named Harpies include Aello, Ocypete, Tiello, Celaeno and others. Traditionally, they inhabited the Strophades islands, and were known for their vicious, greedy nature. Dante's account here follows Virgil's in book 3 of the Aeneid, where it is described how Aeneas with his companions arrive at the Strophades and are attacked by Harpies, who soil their food with excrements and prophesize about further catastrophies to occur to the travellers.