Leucosia: Partenope's sister siren who died in Cilento

by Roberto Iossa

Today we tell the story of the mermaid Leucosia, Partenope's sister who bewitched the sailors and who tragically died along the coasts of Cilento. An ancient myth, placed at the dawn of our own civilization, which over the centuries has tickled the imagination of writers, artists and simply curious.


Not only Partenope

Without a doubt the siren Parthenope it is better known than Leucosia. Its myth, in fact, is linked to foundation of Naples. Yet the two mythical figures shared the same sad fate.

It is well known story of Ulysses and of the sirens told inOdyssey by Homer. The leader, during his long journey from Troy to Ithaca, was warned by the sorceress Circe on the danger of sirens.


So he came across these creatures along the Italian coasts. The sea monsters bewitched sailors with their song, forcing them to abandon ships, thus causing shipwrecks. They then killed the victims who fell into their death trap.

Ligea, Leucosia e Parthenope: these were the names of some of the bewitching hypnotic singing sirens that Homer describes as follows:

«You will arrive, first, from the Sirens, than everyone

men enchant whoever comes to them.

To the one who unaware approaches and listens to the voice

of the Sirens, never again his wife and children

they are close to him, happy that he's back home,

but the Sirens enchant him with clear song,

lay down on the lawn: around it is a heap of bones

of putrid men, with wrinkled skin ».

The death of Leucosia at the origin of a city

But Ulysses, as is known, he won the challenge. He ordered his men to plug their ears so as not to fall into the magic trap. Eroded by curiosity, he had himself tied to a ship's mast so as to listen to the song of Leucosia and the others, without ending up in their mortal arms. According to the myth, therefore, the three sirens went mad from anger and they killed themselves, throwing himself off a cliff.

Punta Licosa, where according to legend the lifeless body of the siren Leucosia ran aground

Their bodies separated. Partenope ended up near the islet of Megaride, today the Castel dell'Ovo; Ligea arrived on the shores of the river Okinaros (today it is called Bagni), near Lamezia Terme e Leucosia (which in Greek means "white", "pure") ended instead near Castellabate and the promontory on which she is buried took the name of Punta Licosa.

Unrequited love

Another well-known legend always has the siren Leucosia as its protagonist. It is said that every evening the creature observed a prince overlooking its balcony. She was madly in love with him and constantly spied on him throughout night.

This feeling of love soon turned into an insane craving for possession, a madman obsession which transformed Leucosia into the specter of herself. She had been consumed from within by this insane unrequited love.


One day the mermaid noticed that the prince was in love too, but not her. He saw the prince appear from the balcony in the company of a woman and Leucosia he went out of his mind. He started screaming, scratching himself and tearing his hair. When he ran out of strength, he dragged himself to a nearby islet, he broke off a piece of rock from the rocks and stuck it in his chest. That island would later be called Licosa, in his memory.

Two stories, between myth and legend, which tell the close bond that unites the siren Leucosia to our territory. And perhaps, walking near Punta Licosa, it is possible to hear the bewitching lament of the mythical siren in the distance.

Cover image: HJ Draper, Ulysses and the Sirens, 1909, oil on canvas, Kingston Upon Hull

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