What the !? Wednesday: Heraclitus on the True Story of Lamia

This story probably needs trigger warnings. Here, the legend of the Lamia is explained by the Paradoxographer Heraclitus (not the same figure as the philosopher).  Antiquity has bequeathed to us a collection of works on ‘wonders’: some are mere lists of amazing things; others are rationalizing explanations of myths (for which the Hellenistic Palaephaetus is most famous). This summer I am going to post material from the paradoxographers periodically since there is very little of it translated and free online.

From Heraclitus the Paradoxographer 34: On Lamia

“They tell the story that after Zeus had sex with [Lamia], Hera turned her into a beast and further, when she went crazy, she ripped out her eyes and threw them into a cup and, in addition, that she ate flesh and dined on human beings.

It really could have gone this way: Zeus, who was a king, got intimate with her because she was pretty. Then Hera abducted her, gauged out her eyes, and left her on a mountain. For this reason she was living a painful life and had no help at all. Because she was living unwashed and unhealed in desolate places, she seemed to be a beast.”

Περὶ Λαμίας.

     ῾Ιστοροῦσιν ὅτι, Διὸς αὐτῇ συμμιγέντος, ῞Ηρα ἀπεθηρίωσεν αὐτήν, καὶ ὅτι ἡνίκα ἂν μανῇ, τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐξαιρεῖ καὶ εἰς κοτύλην βάλλει, καὶ ὅτι σαρκοφαγεῖ καὶ ἀνθρώπους ἐσθίει. εἴη δ’ ἂν τάδε. καλῇ αὐτῇ οὔσῃ ὁ Ζεὺς ἐπλησίασε βασιλεύων, ῞Ηρα δὲ συναρπάζουσα αὐτήν, τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐξώρυξε καὶ εἰς τὰ ὄρη ἔρριψεν· ὅθεν ἐπιπόνως ἔζη ἐπικουρουμένη δὲ οὐδέν· <διὰ δὲ τὸ> ὑπὸ ταῖς ἐρημίαις καταγινομένην αὐτὴν ἄλουτον καὶ ἀθεράπευτον εἶναι, ἐδόκει θηρίον ὑπάρχειν.

Here is another account:

Duris, BNJ 76 F17 [= Photios s.v. Lamia]

“In the second book of his Libyan History, Duris reports that Lamia was a fine looking woman but after Zeus had sex with her, Hera killed the children she bore because she was envious. As a result she was disfigured by grief and would seize and kill the children of others.”

ταύτην ἐν τῆι Λιβύηι Δοῦρις ἐν δευτέρωι Λιβυκῶν ἱστορεῖ γυναῖκα καλὴν γενέσθαι, μιχθέντος δ᾽ αὐτῆι Διὸς ὑφ᾽ ῞Ηρας ζηλοτυπουμένην ἃ ἔτικτεν ἀπολλύναι· διόπερ ἀπὸ τῆς λύπης δύσμορφον γεγονέναι καὶ τὰ τῶν ἄλλων παιδία ἀναρπάζουσαν διαφθείρειν.

Image result for ancient greek lamia

One response

  1. Pingback: Fragmentary Friday: Heraclitus Explains Pasiphae, the Chimaera, and Circe « SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

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