Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology

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LAMIA STORIES

(LAY-me-uh Stor-ees)
In ancient Babylon, there were tales told of Lilatou, a vampiric being who fed off the blood of children. Its name translated to mean "vampire." In Assyria and late period Babylon, she was called Lilats. Later, throughout ancient Greece, there were stories of a vampiric being, creature, REVENANT, or what-have-you by the name of Lamia. The stories are all strikingly familiar, but each has its own variant to it. Even ancient Rome, after it conquered the Greeks, took not only the land and holdings, but also the people, their culture, gods, and monsters. The Romans called her Lemuren.
In ancient Greece Lamia disguised itself as a wealthy Phoenician woman. In doing so, it would wander the streets of the city that the story happened to take place in, looking for handsome young men it could lure into a secluded place and drain them of their blood in peace.
In the first century in Corinth, Greece, there was a popular Lamia tale of how it was setting out to seduce a particularly fine-looking young man by the name of Menippos. In the story the man is saved when the highly respected sage and holy man, Apollonios of Tyana, was able to expose the creature for what it was and drive it out of town before anyone was hurt.
Another story of a Lamia-like vampire is thetale of a beautiful young girl named Philinnion. When the story opens, she has already died and risen up as a vampiric REVENANT. Each night she would leave her grave and meet with a man named Makhates, who happened to be visiting her parents. One night the mother happened upon the young people speaking together in a rather secluded place, and upon the discovery, Philinnion fainted back into death. Her parents had the body publicly burned at the stake, rendering the corpse down to ash. After the cremation, Makhates, even knowing what Philinnion now was and what she had intended to do to him, was so stricken with grief over the loss of his love, he committed suicide.
Sybarias was another vampiric REVENANT compared to Lamia. In the ancient Greek tale of Sybarias ("She who bears herself pompously"), the vampire lived in a cave on Mount Kriphis, preying regularly on the men and sheep of the towns of Delpoi and Phokis. This went on until a hero named Eurybaros grabbed Sybarias up and threw it off the mountain, killing it. On the spot where Sybarias's head hit the ground a fountain sprang up. A city was built around the fountain and it and was named Sybaris, after the vampire.
Lamia, the Libyan Queen, was also a vampiric being, and something of a cautionary tale. Her story is an ancient tale from Greece as well. Lamia was born the daughter of Belus, Queen of Libya. She was a beautiful young woman, so beautiful that she attracted the attention of the god Zeus and became his lover. Unfortunately, the affair was discovered by the god's very jealous wife, Hera, who decided to punish Lamia by stealing her children. Lamia literally went insane with the grief of the loss of her children and went on a killing spree. All across her country she murdered the babies of her people. Additionally, she would seduce men and lure them into a private place where she would then kill them during sex, draining them of their blood. As time passed, Lamia lost her beauty and grew to look every bit as monstrous as the murderous acts she was committing. She learned how to shape-shift and became nearly invulnerable to any sort of attack. Zeus saw what had happened to his former lover, and, moved by pity, did what he felt he could to soften the blow his wife had dealt—he gave Lamia the ability to remove her eyes so that she would have the option of not having to look at her new, hideous appearance. As part of the gift, when her eyes were removed, she was vulnerable to attacks and could be slain. Lamia, in her embittered state, aligned herself with a group of demons known as the EMPOUSE, the wicked children of the goddess Hecate.
There was also a race of vampiric beings called Lamia. It was made up of hermaphrodites, many of which were some sort of creature from the waist down, usually a snake. They fed on the flesh and blood of infants and lived in cemeteries and the desert. Their children were collectively referred to as the Lamiae. They too were half man and half animal, and the combination of characteristics they could have were endless. The Lamiae fed on young and handsome foreigners who traveled alone.
In the Basque region of Spain the LAMIA, or lamiak as they are called when they gather together in numbers, are very much like their Greek cousins. They are described as being vampiric creatures who from the waist up are beautiful women with long golden HAIR. However, from the waist down they have the body of a snake or the legs of a bird. They could be found sitting near streams or standing in running water combing out their HAIR, singing alluring songs, attracting men and killing them to consume their flesh and drink their blood. It may be that the Lamiak are the progenitor of the mermaid legend.
Source: Fontenrose, Python, 288; Plutarch, Lives, 20,
23, 28, 32­33, 144; Turner, Dictionary of Ancient Deities, 286; Wright, Vampires and Vampirism
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