PROJECT: N 2021-1-BE02-KA220-ADU-000035111

4 Elements in Arts

Lesson Plans

The Siren Vase
Ο Οδυσσέας και οι Σειρήνες

Warming Up

  • What do you think the story is that the vase is telling?
  • What do you think people used this sort of pot for?
  • How do you feel about going somewhere by boat?


Cultural Heritage Background

The Siren Vase is a stamnos, a kind of Greek pottery used to store liquids. It is painted in a style called “red-figure”, because it shows red figures on a black background.

This stamnos shows a scene from the Odyssey. The work tells the story of Odysseus’ journey home from the Trojan War. It is one of the fundamental texts of Western classical culture and is still commonly read worldwide in both its original version and its many translations.

Odysseus’ ship is depicted, with Odysseus tied to the mast and his men rowing with their ears plugged; on either side on rocks and swooping above the ship are three winged creatures: the Sirens. Odysseus (who is sometimes called Ulysses) is tied to his ship’s mast so he can resist the Sirens’ enchanting song. The episode occurs during the hero’s long journey to Ithaka after the end of the Trojan War.

The daughters of the river god Achelous and the muse Melpomene, the Sirens were sea demons. They lived on an island where, with their charming song, they lured sailors to their deaths. Odysseus was the only one who could hear the Sirens and yet get past them.

The Siren Vase shows a Siren descending into the sea, perhaps in reference to the legend that the Sirens would die if any sailors managed to escape their clutches and get past them.


Listen to the audio fragment and answer the following questions

Guidelines: You can adapt this exercise based on your audience’s needs. For example:

If you teach deaf learners, you can show the video with subtitles.

If you are teaching learners with visual impairments, they can listen to the video’s audio. 

Adjust the use of audiovisual content based on what you want to achieve with your audience.

Listening Comprehension

Reading the story

When Odysseus is about to leave Circe’s island, she warns him about the Sirens. She gives him a block of beeswax in order to stop up the ears of his sailors so they can row the ship without falling prey to the Sirens’ call. Before he leaves, she tells him:

“The Sirens bewitch everybody who approaches them. If you are not prepared for them, you will never reach home. For with their high clear song the Sirens bewitch everyone who hears them. But they sit in a meadow piled high with the mouldering bones of all the men who have listened to them.”

As they near the Island of the Sirens, Odysseus tells his men to tie him to the mast of the ship and plug their ears with the beeswax, so they can row and steer the ship without being bewitched. Unable to move, Odysseus leaves his ears unplugged in order to hear the song. Although he knows that the song is dangerous, Odysseus still wants to hear it, for the Sirens’ song promises knowledge of the future.

Surprisingly, the Sirens’ temptation is not seduction, but an intellectual promise of untold knowledge.

Here is what he hears:

“Come this way, honoured Odysseus, great glory of the Achaians, and anchor your ship, so that you can listen here to our singing. No one else has ever sailed past this place in his black ship without listening to the honey-sweet voice that issues from our lips. Afterwards, you will sail on, pleased, knowing more than you did; because we know everything that the Argives and Trojans did and suffered during the Trojan war. We know everything that happens everywhere on earth.”

Odysseus hears the song, feels tempted, and struggles against his ropes, but his ship passes safely by. The Sirens are defeated. The Greeks sail on to their next adventure. According to some accounts, if anyone passed them successfully, the Sirens had to kill themselves.

Adapted from:

Reading Comprehension


When we talk about permission and obligation, we often use verbs with modal meanings.


  • can

We often use “can” to ask for and give permission.

Can I sit here?

You can use my car if you like.

  • could

We also use “could” to ask for permission (but not to give it). Could is more formal and polite than can.

Could I ask you something?

Could I borrow your pen for a moment, please?

  • may

May” is the most formal way to ask for and give permission.

May I see your passport, please?

Customers may request a refund within a period of 30 days.


We use “can’t” and “mustn’t” to show that something is prohibited – it is not allowed.

  • can’t

We use “can’t” to talk about something that is against the rules, particularly when we didn’t make the rules.

What does this sign say? Oh, we can’t park here.

You can’t take photos in the museum. They’re strict about it.

  • must not/mustn’t

We use “must not” to talk about what is not permitted. It is common on public signs and notices informing people of rules and laws.

Visitors must not park in the staff car park.

Baggage must not be left unattended.

We use mustn’t, particularly when the prohibition comes from the speaker.

(Parent to child) You mustn’t say things like that to your sister.
(Teacher to student) You mustn’t be late to class.


We use “have to” and “must” to express obligation. There is a slight difference in the way we use them.

  • have to

Have to” shows us that the obligation comes from outside the speaker.

We have to wear a uniform when we’re working in reception.
(Student to teacher) When do we have to hand in our homework?

  • must

Must” expresses a strong obligation or necessity. It often shows us that the obligation comes from the speaker (or the authority that wrote the sentence).

I must phone my dad. It’s his birthday today.
(Teacher to student) You must hand in your homework on Tuesday or you will lose ten per cent of your mark.

No obligation

  • don’t have to

We use “don’t have to” to show that there is no obligation. You can do something if you want to but it’s not compulsory.

  • You don’t have to wear a tie in our office but some people like to dress more formally.

  • You don’t have to go to the bank to do a transfer. You can do it online.

Additional activities

If you are interested in Greek history, you can read more about the Greek Dark Ages here, classical antiquity here, and city-states here

Extra resources for learners

  • You can discover more legends about water here
  • You can learn more about ancient Greek pottery here
  • You can watch an animated movie of the Odyssey here


How true are these statements for you?
I think the story is engaging and interesting. *
I have learnt some new vocabulary and structures. *
I have learnt about its background and culture. *
The extra resources and additional activities have made me reflect on the meaning and the implications of the story. *
I have learnt about its cultural background and history. *
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