THE HARPYIAI (or Harpies) were the spirits of sudden, sharp gusts of wind. They were known as the hounds of Zeus and were despatched by the god to snatch away (harpazô) people and things from the earth. Sudden, mysterious dissappearances were often attributed to the Harpyiai.
The Harpies were once sent by Zeus to plague King Phineus of Thrake as punishment for revealing the secrets of the gods. Whenever a plate of food was set before him, the Harpies would swoop down and snatch it away, befouling any scraps left behind. When the Argonauts came to visit, the winged Boreades gave chase, and pursued the Harpies to the Strophades Islands, where the goddess Iris commanded them to turn back and leave the storm-spirits unharmed.