Ancient Greek Vampires 1: Empousa

The classic Transylvanian-style vampire—male, nocturnal, fanged—is really a product of folklore and gothic horror after the middle ages (with garlic, mirrors, crosses and stakes coming at various times from various places). But human blood-eating creatures of pleasure were present in ancient folktales as well. They are not prominent, but the Lamia and the Empousa, both female creatures of death who live off the life-force of the young, are attested as early as the 5th century BCE. Our best references, however, come from later antiquity. For ease, I am just going to translate them both as ‘vampire’. (There will be a second post about Lamia.) Here are some facts about Empousa.

Vampires live in the East. They can be Frightened off with mockery.

Eusebius, Contra Hieroclem 382.11 4th Century CE 

“These things are from the first book. Let us move on to the material in the second. The story picks up and follows the journey from Persia to India—there, they experienced something surprising—he says that [Apollodorus] saw something paranormal, what he calls a vampire [empousa], on the road and that they drove it away with mockery

Καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ἀπὸ τοῦ πρώτου συγγράμματος, ἐπίωμεν δὲ καὶ τὰ ἐκ τοῦ δευτέρου. τὴν ἀπὸ Περσίδος ἐπ᾿ Ἰνδοὺς πορείαν ἄγει παραλαβὼν αὐτὸν ὁ λόγος. εἶτά τι πεπονθὼς ἀπειρόκαλον, ὥσπερ τι παράδοξον, δαιμόνιόν τι, ὃ καὶ ἔμπουσαν ὀνομάζει, κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἰδόντα λοιδορίαις ἅμα τοῖς ἀμφ᾿ αὐτὸν ἀπελάσαι φησί,

Vampires are Shapeshifters

Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana II, 4 2nd Century CE 

“After they went over the Caucasus they saw people who were four-lengths tall and who already dark-skinned. Once they crossed the river into India, they saw others who were five lengths tall. In the journey up to this river, I have picked out these things as worthy of investigation. For they were traveling in the clear moonlight when a phantom of a vampire [empousa] met them, changing into this scary thing and then another and then nothing! Apollonius understood what thing it was and mocked the vampire himself and ordered his companions—for this is the response to this kind of attack. The apparition went into flight like a ghost.”

Παραμείψαντες δὲ τὸν Καύκασον τετραπήχεις ἀνθρώπους ἰδεῖν φασιν, οὓς ἤδη μελαίνεσθαι, καὶ πεντεπήχεις δὲ ἑτέρους ὑπὲρ τὸν Ἰνδὸν ποταμὸν ἐλθόντες. ἐν δὲ τῇ μέχρι τοῦ ποταμοῦ τούτου ὁδοιπορίᾳ τάδε εὗρον ἀφηγήσεως ἄξια· ἐπορεύοντο μὲν γὰρ ἐν σελήνῃ λαμπρᾷ, φάσμα δὲ αὐτοῖς ἐμπούσης ἐνέπεσε τὸ δεῖνα γινομένη καὶ τὸ δεῖνα αὖ καὶ οὐδὲν εἶναι, ὁ δὲ Ἀπολλώνιος ξυνῆκεν, ὅ τι εἴη, καὶ αὐτός τε ἐλοιδορεῖτο τῇ ἐμπούσῃ, τοῖς τε ἀμφ᾿ αὑτὸν προσέταξε ταὐτὸ πράττειν, τουτὶ γὰρ ἄκος εἶναι τῆς προσβολῆς ταύτης· καὶ τὸ φάσμα φυγῇ ᾤχετο τετριγός ὥσπερ τὰ εἴδωλα.

Vampires like to eat the young (their blood is better)

4.5-6 “She said “be quiet and go away” and seemed to be disgusted at what she heard. And, I think, she was mocking philosophers for always talking nonsense. When, afterward, the golden bowls and what seemed to be silver was shown to be unreal—when everything flew from our eyes as the cup-bearers, the cooks, and every kind of servant disappeared as they were cross-examined by Apollonios—then the apparition seemed to be crying and was pleading that he not test her or compel her to agree what kind of thing she was. But when Apollonius laid on the pressure, she confessed that she was a vampire [empousa] who had been fattening Menippus with delights to eat on his body since she typically ate fine young bodies because their blood was more vital.

I have drawn out this tale, which happens to be the best known concerning Apollonius, out of necessity—most know that it occurred somewhere in the middle of Greece, but they have acquired only a summary account of how he once trapped a Lamia in Korinth. They don’t know what she was doing and that it was for Melanippus. The story is told by Damis and now by me from his records.”

Ἡ δὲ “εὐφήμει” ἔλεγε “καὶ ἄπαγε,” καὶ μυσάττεσθαι ἐδόκει, ἃ ἤκουε, καί που καὶ ἀπέσκωπτε τοὺς φιλοσόφους, ὡς ἀεὶ ληροῦντας. ἐπεὶ μέντοι τὰ ἐκπώματα τὰ χρυσᾶ καὶ ὁ δοκῶν ἄργυρος ἀνεμιαῖα ἠλέγχθη, καὶ διέπτη τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν ἅπαντα, οἰνοχόοι τε καὶ ὀψοποιοὶ καὶ ἡ τοιαύτη θεραπεία πᾶσα ἠφανίσθησαν, ἐλεγχόμενοι ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἀπολλωνίου, δακρύοντι ἐῴκει τὸ φάσμα καὶ ἐδεῖτο μὴ βασανίζειν αὐτό, μηδὲ ἀναγκάζειν ὁμολογεῖν, ὅ τι εἴη, ἐπικειμένου δὲ καὶ μὴ ἀνιέντος ἔμπουσά τε εἶναι ἔφη καὶ πιαίνειν ἡδοναῖς τὸν Μένιππον ἐς βρῶσιν τοῦ σώματος, τὰ γὰρ καλὰ τῶν σωμάτων καὶ νέα σιτεῖσθαι ἐνόμιζεν, ἐπειδὴ ἀκραιφνὲς αὐτοῖς τὸ αἷμα.

Τοῦτον τὸν λόγον γνωριμώτατον τῶν Ἀπολλωνίου τυγχάνοντα ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἐμήκυνα, γιγνώσκουσι μὲν γὰρ πλείους αὐτόν, ἅτε καθ᾿ Ἑλλάδα μέσην πραχθέντα, ξυλλήβδην δὲ αὐτὸν παρειλήφασιν, ὅτι ἕλοι ποτὲ ἐν Κορίνθῳ λάμιαν, ὅ τι μέντοι πράττουσαν καὶ ὅτι ὑπὲρ Μενίππου, οὔπω γιγνώσκουσιν, ἀλλὰ Δάμιδί τε καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἐκείνου λόγων ἐμοὶ εἴρηται.

Vampires like to have sex with mortals and then eat them

4.4 “What I was saying is that this woman is one of the vampires [empousai], whom most people think are the same as Lamiae or werewolves. Vampires feel desire, but they long for human sex and flesh most of all. They use sex to catch the ones they want to eat.”

ὃ λέγω, ἡ χρηστὴ νύμφη μία τῶν ἐμπουσῶν ἐστιν, ἃς λαμίας τε καὶ μορμολυκεῖα οἱ πολλοὶ ἡγοῦνται. ἐρῶσι δ᾿ αὗται καὶ ἀφροδισίων μέν, σαρκῶν δὲ μάλιστα ἀνθρωπείων ἐρῶσι καὶ παλεύουσι τοῖς ἀφροδισίοις, οὓς ἂν ἐθέλωσι δαίσασθαι.”

7.29 “King, would someone who is covetous enough of honor to appear to be a sorcerer seem to credit to a god what he had done himself? What awestruck audiences for his skill would there be if he were to hand the wonder to a god? What kind of a sorcerer would pray to Herakles? These wicked devils credit their kinds of acts to ditches and underworld gods from whom Herakles must be separated since he is cleansed and it good to people. I prayed to him at some point in the Peloponnese for there was some apparition of a vampire [lamia] there too eating the fine forms of young men….”

“Τίς ἂν οὖν σοι, βασιλεῦ, δοκεῖ φιλοτιμούμενος γόης φαίνεσθαι θεῷ ἀναθεῖναι, ὃ αὐτὸς εἴργαστο; τίνας δ᾿ ἂν κτήσασθαι θαυμαστὰς τῆς τέχνης θεῷ παρεὶς τὸ θαυμάζεσθαι; τίς δ᾿ ἂν Ἡρακλεῖ εὔξασθαι γόης ὤν; τὰ γὰρ τοιαῦτα οἱ κακοδαίμονες βόθροις ἀνατιθέασι καὶ χθονίοις θεοῖς, ὧν τὸν Ἡρακλέα ἀποτακτέον, καθαρὸς γὰρ καὶ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις εὔνους. ηὐξάμην αὐτῷ καὶ ἐν Πελοποννήσῳ ποτέ, λαμίας γάρ τι φάσμα κἀκεῖ περὶ τὴν Κόρινθον ἤλυε σιτούμενον τῶν νέων τοὺς καλούς…”

 

Suda, Epsilon 1049 [=Hesychius in the beginning]

Empousa: A devilish apparition sent by Hekate and appearing to the unlucky. It seems to take on many different forms. In the Frogs, Aristophanes [mentions this]. The name Empousa comes from that fact that it goes on one leg [hen podizein]—for people think that the other one is bronze. Or, because she used to appear [eph-aineto] to the those initiated in the mysteries [muomenois]. She was also named Oinopôlê. But some say that she changed her form [to get this name]. She seems to appear in the middle of the day as people offer sacrifices to those who have died. Others claim that she is Hekate. There is also the name Onokôle because she has a donkey leg which they refer to as bolitinon because that is donkey-manure. Bolitos is the specific name for donkey feces.

Ἔμπουσα: φάντασμα δαιμονιῶδες ὑπὸ τῆς Ἑκάτης ἐπιπεμπόμενον καὶ φαινόμενον τοῖς δυστυχοῦσιν. ὃ δοκεῖ πολλὰς μορφὰς ἀλλάσσειν. Ἀριστοφάνης Βατράχοις. Ἔμπουσα δὲ παρὰ τὸ ἑνὶ ποδίζειν, ἤγουν τοῦ τὸν ἕτερον πόδα χαλκοῦν ἔχειν. ἢ ὅτι ἀπὸ σκοτεινῶν τόπων ἐφαίνετο τοῖς μυουμένοις. ἐκαλεῖτο δὲ αὕτη καὶ Οἰνοπώλη. οἱ δέ, ὅτι ἐξηλλάττετο τὴν μορφήν. δοκεῖ δὲ καὶ ταῖς μεσημβρίαις φαντάζεσθαι, ὅταν τοῖς κατοιχομένοις ἐναγίζωσιν. ἔνιοι δὲ τὴν αὐτὴν τῇ Ἑκάτῃ. Ὀνοκώλη δέ, ὅτι ὄνου πόδα ἔχει: ὃ λέγουσι βολίτινον, τουτέστιν ὄνειον. βόλιτος γὰρ κυρίως τῶν ὄνων τὸ ἀποπάτημα.

Cf. Aristoph. Frogs 285-295; Assemblywomen 1056.

Beekes on the uncertain etymology of both Empousa and Lamia:

Empousa

Lamia is associated more frequently with attacking children. This, of course, merits a separate post.

Lamia

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Lamia, carrying off infant

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On The Dangers of Not Being Trained in the Classics

Julian, Fragment of a letter to a priest, 296a

“The reason [they are unwise] is that they don’t give their mind over to be cleansed by the traditional curriculum and they do not open those tightly closed eyes with it and clear the mist that has settled over them.

But because these people are like those who see a great light through a fog neither clearly nor sharply and because they think they do not see a clear light but a fire and they cannot see anything around it, they shout “Be afraid, shake, fire, flame, death, knife, blade…” interpreting in many names the force of a fire. Ah, it would be a lot easier to show how much worse than our own poets are these teachers of tales about ‘god’.”

αἴτιον δέ, ὅτι τὴν ἑαυτῶν ψυχὴν οὐ παρέσχον ἀποκαθῆραι τοῖς ἐγκυκλίοις μαθήμασιν οὐδὲ ἀνοῖξαι μεμυκότα λίαν τὰ ὄμματα οὐδὲ ἀνακαθῆραι τὴν ἐπικειμένην αὐτοῖς ἀχλύν, ἀλλ᾿ οἷον φῶς μέγα δι᾿ ὁμίχλης οἱ ἄνθρωποι βλέποντες οὐ καθαρῶς οὐδὲ εἰλικρινῶς, αὐτὸ δὲ ἐκεῖνο νενομικότες οὐχὶ φῶς καθαρόν, ἀλλὰ πῦρ καὶ τῶν περὶ αὐτὸ πάντων ὄντες ἀθέατοι βοῶσι μέγα· Φρίττετε, φοβεῖσθε, πῦρ, φλόξ, θάνατος, μάχαιρα, ῥομφαία, πολλοῖς ὀνόμασι μίαν ἐξηγούμενοι τὴν βλαπτικὴν τοῦ πυρὸς δύναμιν. ἀλλ᾿ ὑπὲρ μὲν τούτων ἰδίᾳ βέλτιον παραστῆσαι, πόσῳ φαυλότεροι τῶν παρ᾿ ἡμῖν οὗτοι γεγόνασι ποιητῶν οἱ τῶν ὑπὲρ τοῦ θεοῦ λόγων διδάσκαλοι.

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Julian the Apostate.

Basil Goes Into Deep Guilt Over Late Correspondence

Basil, Letter 20

 

“For me, the intensity of the business I am now engaged in might give me some reason for a lack of correspondence. In addition, the smell I have contracted from excessive association with the idiotic mob makes me less at ease in addressing you sophisticates who will grow irritable and intolerant if you don’t hear anything worthy of your own wisdom.

 

But you, I guess, since you are readier to speak than all the Greeks I know, are accustomed to making your voice public on any pretext. And I think I know the most famous people in your ranks. There is no reason for your silence. And that is enough about that.”

 

Ἡμῖν μὲν γὰρ τὸ πυκνὸν τῆς ἀσχολίας τοῦτο ἐν ᾧ νῦν ἐσμὲν κἂν παραίτησιν ἐνέγκοι τυχὸν πρὸς τὴν ἔνδειαν τῶν γραμμάτων· καὶ τὸ οἱονεὶ ἐῤῥυπῶσθαι λοιπὸν τῇ κατακορεῖ συνηθείᾳ πρὸς ἰδιωτισμὸν ὄκνον εἰκότως ἐμποιεῖ προσφθέγγεσθαι ὑμᾶς τοὺς σοφιστάς, οἵ, εἰ μή τι ἄξιον τῆς ὑμετέρας αὐτῶν σοφίας ἀκούσεσθε, δυσχερανεῖτε καὶ οὐκ ἀνέξεσθε. σὲ δέ που τὸ ἐναντίον εἰκὸς ἐπὶ πάσης προφάσεως δημοσιεύειν σαυτοῦ τὴν φωνήν, ἐπιτήδειον ὄντα εἰπεῖν ὧν αὐτὸς οἶδα Ἑλλήνων. οἶδα γάρ, ὡς οἶμαι, τοὺς ὀνομαστοτάτους τῶν ἐν ὑμῖν. ὥστε οὐδεμία παραίτησις σιωπῶντι. καὶ ταῦτα μὲν εἰς τοσοῦτον.

 

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Royal_ms_14_e_iii_f006v_detail

“The Last Sign of Nobility”: How to Flatter Your Favorite Classicists

Sidonius, Letters 7.2

“Most learned man, I believe that I might commit a sin against learning if I procrastinate at all in offering you praise for fending off the end of all literature. When it has already been buried, you are celebrated as its reviver, its agent, and its guardian. Throughout Gaul in this tempest of wars, Latin works have gained safe harbor because you are their teacher even as Latin arms have endured disaster.

For this reason our peers and posterity should unanimously and with enthusiasm claim you as a second Demosthenes, a second Cicero, here with statues—if it is allowed—and there with portraits because your teaching has so shaped them and trained them that, even though they remain surrounded by an unconquerable and still foreign people, they safeguard the signs of their ancient birthright. For as the signs of dignity—the ways in which every noble person used to be separated from the base—become more distant the only remaining sign of nobility after this will be a literary education.

But the advantages from your teaching demand thanks from me beyond others because I am trying to compose something which people in the future might read. For a crowd of competent readers will always come from your school and your lectures. Farewell.”

  1. Credidi me, vir peritissime, nefas in studia committere, si distulissem prosequi laudibus quod aboleri tu litteras distulisti, quarum quodammodo iam sepultarum suscitator fautor assertor concelebraris, teque per Gallias uno magistro sub hac tempestate bellorum Latina tenuerunt ora portum, cum pertulerint arma naufragium. 2. debent igitur vel aequaevi vel posteri nostri universatim ferventibus votis alterum te ut Demosthenen, alterum ut Tullium nunc statuis, si liceat, consecrare, nunc imaginibus, qui te docente formati institutique iam sinu in medio sic gentis invictae, quod tamen alienae, natalium1vetustorum signa retinebunt: nam iam remotis gradibus dignitatum, per quas solebat ultimo a quoque summus quisque discerni, solum erit posthac nobilitatis indicium litteras nosse. 3. nos vero ceteros supra doctrinae tuae beneficia constringunt, quibus aliquid scribere assuetis quodque venturi legere possint elaborantibus saltim de tua schola seu magisterio competens lectorum turba proveniet. vale.

Ancient Greek Vampires 1: Empousa

The classic Transylvanian-style vampire—male, nocturnal, fanged—is really a product of folklore and gothic horror after the middle ages (with garlic, mirrors, crosses and stakes coming at various times from various places). But human blood-eating creatures of pleasure were present in ancient folktales as well. They are not prominent, but the Lamia and the Empousa, both female creatures of death who live off the life-force of the young, are attested as early as the 5th century BCE. Our best references, however, come from later antiquity. For ease, I am just going to translate them both as ‘vampire’. (There will be a second post about Lamia.) Here are some facts about Empousa.

Vampires live in the East. They can be Frightened off with mockery.

Eusebius, Contra Hieroclem 382.11 4th Century CE 

“These things are from the first book. Let us move on to the material in the second. The story picks up and follows the journey from Persia to India—there, they experienced something surprising—he says that [Apollodorus] saw something paranormal, what he calls a vampire [empousa], on the road and that they drove it away with mockery

Καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ἀπὸ τοῦ πρώτου συγγράμματος, ἐπίωμεν δὲ καὶ τὰ ἐκ τοῦ δευτέρου. τὴν ἀπὸ Περσίδος ἐπ᾿ Ἰνδοὺς πορείαν ἄγει παραλαβὼν αὐτὸν ὁ λόγος. εἶτά τι πεπονθὼς ἀπειρόκαλον, ὥσπερ τι παράδοξον, δαιμόνιόν τι, ὃ καὶ ἔμπουσαν ὀνομάζει, κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἰδόντα λοιδορίαις ἅμα τοῖς ἀμφ᾿ αὐτὸν ἀπελάσαι φησί,

Vampires are Shapeshifters

Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana II, 4 2nd Century CE 

“After they went over the Caucasus they saw people who were four-lengths tall and who already dark-skinned. Once they crossed the river into India, they saw others who were five lengths tall. In the journey up to this river, I have picked out these things as worthy of investigation. For they were traveling in the clear moonlight when a phantom of a vampire [empousa] met them, changing into this scary thing and then another and then nothing! Apollonius understood what thing it was and mocked the vampire himself and ordered his companions—for this is the response to this kind of attack. The apparition went into flight like a ghost.”

Παραμείψαντες δὲ τὸν Καύκασον τετραπήχεις ἀνθρώπους ἰδεῖν φασιν, οὓς ἤδη μελαίνεσθαι, καὶ πεντεπήχεις δὲ ἑτέρους ὑπὲρ τὸν Ἰνδὸν ποταμὸν ἐλθόντες. ἐν δὲ τῇ μέχρι τοῦ ποταμοῦ τούτου ὁδοιπορίᾳ τάδε εὗρον ἀφηγήσεως ἄξια· ἐπορεύοντο μὲν γὰρ ἐν σελήνῃ λαμπρᾷ, φάσμα δὲ αὐτοῖς ἐμπούσης ἐνέπεσε τὸ δεῖνα γινομένη καὶ τὸ δεῖνα αὖ καὶ οὐδὲν εἶναι, ὁ δὲ Ἀπολλώνιος ξυνῆκεν, ὅ τι εἴη, καὶ αὐτός τε ἐλοιδορεῖτο τῇ ἐμπούσῃ, τοῖς τε ἀμφ᾿ αὑτὸν προσέταξε ταὐτὸ πράττειν, τουτὶ γὰρ ἄκος εἶναι τῆς προσβολῆς ταύτης· καὶ τὸ φάσμα φυγῇ ᾤχετο τετριγός ὥσπερ τὰ εἴδωλα.

Vampires like to eat the young (their blood is better)

4.5-6 “She said “be quiet and go away” and seemed to be disgusted at what she heard. And, I think, she was mocking philosophers for always talking nonsense. When, afterward, the golden bowls and what seemed to be silver was shown to be unreal—when everything flew from our eyes as the cup-bearers, the cooks, and every kind of servant disappeared as they were cross-examined by Apollonios—then the apparition seemed to be crying and was pleading that he not test her or compel her to agree what kind of thing she was. But when Apollonius laid on the pressure, she confessed that she was a vampire [empousa] who had been fattening Menippus with delights to eat on his body since she typically ate fine young bodies because their blood was more vital.

I have drawn out this tale, which happens to be the best known concerning Apollonius, out of necessity—most know that it occurred somewhere in the middle of Greece, but they have acquired only a summary account of how he once trapped a Lamia in Korinth. They don’t know what she was doing and that it was for Melanippus. The story is told by Damis and now by me from his records.”

Ἡ δὲ “εὐφήμει” ἔλεγε “καὶ ἄπαγε,” καὶ μυσάττεσθαι ἐδόκει, ἃ ἤκουε, καί που καὶ ἀπέσκωπτε τοὺς φιλοσόφους, ὡς ἀεὶ ληροῦντας. ἐπεὶ μέντοι τὰ ἐκπώματα τὰ χρυσᾶ καὶ ὁ δοκῶν ἄργυρος ἀνεμιαῖα ἠλέγχθη, καὶ διέπτη τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν ἅπαντα, οἰνοχόοι τε καὶ ὀψοποιοὶ καὶ ἡ τοιαύτη θεραπεία πᾶσα ἠφανίσθησαν, ἐλεγχόμενοι ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἀπολλωνίου, δακρύοντι ἐῴκει τὸ φάσμα καὶ ἐδεῖτο μὴ βασανίζειν αὐτό, μηδὲ ἀναγκάζειν ὁμολογεῖν, ὅ τι εἴη, ἐπικειμένου δὲ καὶ μὴ ἀνιέντος ἔμπουσά τε εἶναι ἔφη καὶ πιαίνειν ἡδοναῖς τὸν Μένιππον ἐς βρῶσιν τοῦ σώματος, τὰ γὰρ καλὰ τῶν σωμάτων καὶ νέα σιτεῖσθαι ἐνόμιζεν, ἐπειδὴ ἀκραιφνὲς αὐτοῖς τὸ αἷμα.

Τοῦτον τὸν λόγον γνωριμώτατον τῶν Ἀπολλωνίου τυγχάνοντα ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἐμήκυνα, γιγνώσκουσι μὲν γὰρ πλείους αὐτόν, ἅτε καθ᾿ Ἑλλάδα μέσην πραχθέντα, ξυλλήβδην δὲ αὐτὸν παρειλήφασιν, ὅτι ἕλοι ποτὲ ἐν Κορίνθῳ λάμιαν, ὅ τι μέντοι πράττουσαν καὶ ὅτι ὑπὲρ Μενίππου, οὔπω γιγνώσκουσιν, ἀλλὰ Δάμιδί τε καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἐκείνου λόγων ἐμοὶ εἴρηται.

Vampires like to have sex with mortals and then eat them

4.4 “What I was saying is that this woman is one of the vampires [empousai], whom most people think are the same as Lamiae or werewolves. Vampires feel desire, but they long for human sex and flesh most of all. They use sex to catch the ones they want to eat.”

ὃ λέγω, ἡ χρηστὴ νύμφη μία τῶν ἐμπουσῶν ἐστιν, ἃς λαμίας τε καὶ μορμολυκεῖα οἱ πολλοὶ ἡγοῦνται. ἐρῶσι δ᾿ αὗται καὶ ἀφροδισίων μέν, σαρκῶν δὲ μάλιστα ἀνθρωπείων ἐρῶσι καὶ παλεύουσι τοῖς ἀφροδισίοις, οὓς ἂν ἐθέλωσι δαίσασθαι.”

7.29 “King, would someone who is covetous enough of honor to appear to be a sorcerer seem to credit to a god what he had done himself? What awestruck audiences for his skill would there be if he were to hand the wonder to a god? What kind of a sorcerer would pray to Herakles? These wicked devils credit their kinds of acts to ditches and underworld gods from whom Herakles must be separated since he is cleansed and it good to people. I prayed to him at some point in the Peloponnese for there was some apparition of a vampire [lamia] there too eating the fine forms of young men….”

“Τίς ἂν οὖν σοι, βασιλεῦ, δοκεῖ φιλοτιμούμενος γόης φαίνεσθαι θεῷ ἀναθεῖναι, ὃ αὐτὸς εἴργαστο; τίνας δ᾿ ἂν κτήσασθαι θαυμαστὰς τῆς τέχνης θεῷ παρεὶς τὸ θαυμάζεσθαι; τίς δ᾿ ἂν Ἡρακλεῖ εὔξασθαι γόης ὤν; τὰ γὰρ τοιαῦτα οἱ κακοδαίμονες βόθροις ἀνατιθέασι καὶ χθονίοις θεοῖς, ὧν τὸν Ἡρακλέα ἀποτακτέον, καθαρὸς γὰρ καὶ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις εὔνους. ηὐξάμην αὐτῷ καὶ ἐν Πελοποννήσῳ ποτέ, λαμίας γάρ τι φάσμα κἀκεῖ περὶ τὴν Κόρινθον ἤλυε σιτούμενον τῶν νέων τοὺς καλούς…”

 

Suda, Epsilon 1049 [=Hesychius in the beginning]

Empousa: A devilish apparition sent by Hekate and appearing to the unlucky. It seems to take on many different forms. In the Frogs, Aristophanes [mentions this]. The name Empousa comes from that fact that it goes on one leg [hen podizein]—for people think that the other one is bronze. Or, because she used to appear [eph-aineto] to the those initiated in the mysteries [muomenois]. She was also named Oinopôlê. But some say that she changed her form [to get this name]. She seems to appear in the middle of the day as people offer sacrifices to those who have died. Others claim that she is Hekate. There is also the name Onokôle because she has a donkey leg which they refer to as bolitinon because that is donkey-manure. Bolitos is the specific name for donkey feces.

Ἔμπουσα: φάντασμα δαιμονιῶδες ὑπὸ τῆς Ἑκάτης ἐπιπεμπόμενον καὶ φαινόμενον τοῖς δυστυχοῦσιν. ὃ δοκεῖ πολλὰς μορφὰς ἀλλάσσειν. Ἀριστοφάνης Βατράχοις. Ἔμπουσα δὲ παρὰ τὸ ἑνὶ ποδίζειν, ἤγουν τοῦ τὸν ἕτερον πόδα χαλκοῦν ἔχειν. ἢ ὅτι ἀπὸ σκοτεινῶν τόπων ἐφαίνετο τοῖς μυουμένοις. ἐκαλεῖτο δὲ αὕτη καὶ Οἰνοπώλη. οἱ δέ, ὅτι ἐξηλλάττετο τὴν μορφήν. δοκεῖ δὲ καὶ ταῖς μεσημβρίαις φαντάζεσθαι, ὅταν τοῖς κατοιχομένοις ἐναγίζωσιν. ἔνιοι δὲ τὴν αὐτὴν τῇ Ἑκάτῃ. Ὀνοκώλη δέ, ὅτι ὄνου πόδα ἔχει: ὃ λέγουσι βολίτινον, τουτέστιν ὄνειον. βόλιτος γὰρ κυρίως τῶν ὄνων τὸ ἀποπάτημα.

Cf. Aristoph. Frogs 285-295; Assemblywomen 1056.

Beekes on the uncertain etymology of both Empousa and Lamia:

Empousa

Lamia is associated more frequently with attacking children. This, of course, merits a separate post.

Lamia

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Lamia, carrying off infant

We get by with a little help from our friends

Drinking with Roman Usurpers

Firmus was, according to the HA, a usurper. The historical record is less clear.

Historia Augusta 29.IV

“Firmus was nevertheless of huge stature with prominent eyes, curly hair, a scarred forehead, a darker complexion on his face while most of his body was white, although it was tough and hairy, so that many used to call him a Cyclops. He used to eat a lot of meat and allegedly ate an ostrich in a day. He drank some wine and a lot of water. He was extremely strong in mind, most robust in nerves to the extent that he overcame Tritannus, whom Varro mentions. For he endured an anvil placed on his chest and struck constantly while he seemed to be rising up rather than lying down because he was face up supporting himself on his hands.

Yet, [Firmus] had a drinking competition with Aurelian’s generals when they wanted to test him. For, when a certain Burburus, one of the standard-bearers and a notable drinker, challenged him to a drinking context, he sucked down two pails of wine but was still sober after the banquet. When Burburus asked him, “Why didn’t you drink the dregs?” he responded “Fool, the earth is not drunk.” We are pursuing lighter notes here, we must speak of more important ones.”

Fuit tamen Firmus statura ingenti, oculis foris eminentibus, capillo crispo, fronte vulnerata, vultu nigriore, reliqua parte corporis candidus sed pilosus atque hispidus, ita ut eum plerique Cyclopem vocarent. 2carne multa vescebatur, struthionem ad diem comedisse fertur. vini non multum bibit, aquae plurimum. mente firmissimus, nervis robustissimus, ita ut Tritannum vinceret, cuius Varro meminit. 3nam et incudem superpositam pectori constanter aliis tundentibus pertulit, cum ipse reclinis ac resupinus et curvatus in manus penderet potius quam iaceret.  fuit tamen ei contentio cum Aureliani ducibus ad bibendum, si quando eum temptare voluissent. nam quidam Burburus nomine de numero vexillariorum, notissimus potator, cum ad bibendum eundem provocasset, situlas duas plenas mero duxit et toto postea convivio sobrius fuit; et cum ei Burburus diceret, “Quare non faeces bibisti?” respondit ille, “Stulte, terra non bibitur.” levia persequimur, cum maiora dicenda sint.

 

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“The Things I Would do For Socrates…”

Another Letter from Libanius

Ep. 80: To Maximus

“The things I would do for Socrates, if I had lived at his time when those beasts were upon him—those three sycophants—I think it is right that I do thse very things for one who is a follower of Socrates now.

And I would have done those things and these which I am doing now not because I was afraid that they would suffer anything terrible because of those charges—for it is not terrible for a philosopher to be freed from his body, but instead the greatest good—but because I know that a man dedicated to philosophy is the greatest advantage to humanity no less than if the goods were to return to spend time with men in counseling and helping us—the kinds of things we have heard poets speak of.

For these reasons, I hate Anytos* and his kind. I was beseeching the gods for you—this is my kind of alliance—I was not seeking a favor with this, but instead returning one.”

  1. Ἃ ἐποίουν ἂν περὶ Σωκράτην, εἰ κατὰ Σωκράτην ἐγεγόνειν, ὅτε αὐτῷ τὰ θηρία ἐπέκειτο, συκοφάνται τρεῖς, ταῦτ᾿ ᾤμην δεῖν καὶ νῦν ποιεῖν περὶ τὸν τὰ Σωκράτους ἐζηλωκότα.
  2. ἔπραττον δ᾿ ἂν ταῦτά τε κἀκεῖνα ἂν ἐποίουν οὐχ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐν ταῖς αἰτίαις δεδοικὼς μὴ δεινόν τι πάθωσιν—οὐδὲν γὰρ δεινὸν φιλοσόφοις ἐκλυθῆναι σώματος, μέγιστον μὲν οὖν ἀγαθόν—ἀλλ᾿ εἰδὼς ὅτι πάμμεγα κέρδος ἀνθρώποις ἀνὴρ φιλοσοφῶν καὶ οὐ πολὺ τοῦτ᾿ ἔλαττον τοῦ τοὺς θεοὺς ἀναμεμίχθαι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις καὶ συμβουλεύειν καὶ συμπράττειν, οἷα τῶν ποιητῶν λεγόντων ἀκούομεν.
  3. διὰ δὴ ταῦτα μισῶ μὲν τοὺς περὶ Ἄνυτον· ὑπὲρ δὲ σοῦ τοὺς θεοὺς ἐκάλουν, τουτὶ γὰρ ἡ παρ᾿ ἐμοῦ συμμαχία, καὶ οὐκ ἦρχόν γε χάριτος ἐκείναις ταῖς φροντίσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἠμειβόμην.

 

*Anytos is one of Socrates’ recorded accusers in his trial of 399 BCE

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An Awkward Letter about Not Getting Letters

In this day and age, this might instead be a text message or a tweet to someone in a position of authority. But this letter is from Libanius to Julian the Apostate, Roman Emperor and our personal (anti-?)hero:

Ep. 86

“Even if you don’t send me letters, I still dine on your words. For whenever someone else gets one, we hear about it and immediately read it, either by persuading or overpowering the unwilling recipient. So, my profit is no less than theirs even though it is only their right to be honored. I would also ask for honor, for some love-token from you. For, clearly, if you would honor me in any way, you wouldn’t do it without love.”

Ἀλλ᾿ εἰ καὶ μὴ πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἐπιστέλλεις, ἡμεῖς γε τοῖς σοῖς ἑστιώμεθα γράμμασιν. ὅταν γὰρ ὅτι τις ἔλαβε μάθωμεν, εὐθὺς ἡμεῖς πλησίον καὶ ἢ πείσαντες ἢ κρατήσαντες ἀκόντων ἀνέγνωμεν.τὸ μὲν οὖν κέρδος οὐχ ἧττον ἡμῶν ἢ ᾿κείνων, τὸ τετιμῆσθαι δὲ παρ᾿ ἐκείνοις μόνοις. ἐρῶμεν δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ τιμῆς, ἐπειδὴ καὶ φίλτρου τοῦ παρὰ σοί. δῆλον γὰρ ὡς, εἴ τι τιμήσεις, οὐκ ἄνευ γε τοῦ φιλεῖν τοῦτο ποιήσεις.

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Letters Like Thersites’ Speech: Libanius Throws Some Epistolary Shade

Libanius, Letter 81

To Anatolios

“You used to insist that I be free in my speech because you would endure whatever might come from my mouth. But Aeschylus has changed my mind by saying that it is not right for lesser men to speak boldly. But Euripides also says that powerful men take the words of their inferiors badly. But, still, since you ask for responses, I will accede both to you and the poets by not revealing everything to them nor hiding everything from you.

First,  I have this to say about the length of our letters. You are angry about the brevity of mine, and I despise the length of yours. Sparta inspires mine, and you have called it the “Laconic letter”. But, remind me of the models for your nonsense. You have none but that unmeasured man* who bawled during the Achaeans’ assembly.”

Ἀνατολίῳ

Σὺ μὲν παρεκάλεις με πρὸς παρρησίαν ὡς πᾶν οἴσων ὅ τι ἂν ἐξ ἐμοῦ λέγηται, Αἰσχύλος δὲ ἀποτρέπει λέγων μὴ δεῖν τοὺς ἥττους θρασυστομεῖν. ἀλλὰ καὶ Εὐριπίδης φησίν, ὡς οἱ μεγάλα πνέοντες, περὶ ὑμῶν δή που λέγων, πικρῶς φέρουσι λόγους παρ᾿ ἐλαττόνων κρείσσονας. ὅμως φέρουσι λόγους παρ’ ἐλαττόνων κρείσσονας. ὅμως δέ, ἐπειδὴ τῶν ἀμοιβαίων ἐπιθυμεῖς, σοί τε χαριοῦμαι καὶ τοῖν ποιηταῖν, τοῖς μὲν οὐ πάντα εἰπών, σοὶ δὲ οὐ πάντα κρύψας.

πρῶτον μὲν οὖν περὶ τοῦ μέτρου τῶν γραμμάτων ἐκεῖνο λέγω, ὅτι σὺ μὲν τῶν ἐμῶν τὴν βραχύτητα δυσχεραίνεις, ἐγὼ δὲ τῶν σῶν τὸ μῆκος. τὸ μὲν οὖν ἐμὸν ἡ Σπάρτη παραμυθεῖται, καὶ σὺ προσείρηκας Λακωνικὴν τὴν ἐπιστολήν, τῆς δὲ σῆς φλυαρίας εἰπὲ τοὺς ἡγεμόνας· ἀλλ᾿ οὐκ ἂν ἔχοις πλὴν εἰ τὸν ἀκριτόμυθον τὸν ἐπὶ τῆς ἐκκλησίας τῶν Ἀχαιῶν κλάοντα.

*Thersites; an allusion to Il. 2.246 Θερσῖτ’ ἀκριτόμυθε, λιγύς περ ἐὼν ἀγορητής.

 

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A Letter To a Miserly Father on Learning and Books

Libanius, Letter 428

To Heortios

“I am probably intervening by telling a father to care for a son he has decided to ignore, but after I saw Themistius crying I welcomed seeming like this rather than neglecting it. He was saying nothing harsh, but that some amnesia regarding him had overcome you. If you were not well off, I would think it proper for you to gather money from your friends to help your son. But since you do well and are among the wealthiest men, I am advising you to spend some of your wealth on your most worthy possession.  Poverty, perhaps, is also not completely useful to a young man. But now this argument is not about his stomach, but how he will get books: without them, he will be like someone trying to learn archery without a bow.”

Ἑορτίῳ

Περιεργάζομαι μὲν ἴσως πατέρα παρακαλῶν ἐπιμελεῖσθαι παιδὸς ἀμελεῖν ἐγνωκότα, δακρύοντα δὲ ἰδὼν Θεμίστιον μᾶλλον ἐδεξάμην ἐκεῖνο δόξαι ἢ τοῦτο παριδεῖν.

ἔλεγε τοίνυν τραχὺ μὲν οὐδέν, ὡς δὲ λήθη σέ τις αὑτοῦ λάβοι, ἐγὼ δέ, εἰ μὲν ἠπόρεις, ἠξίουν ἄν σε παρὰ τῶν φίλων ἀγείροντα τῷ παιδὶ βοηθεῖν· ἐπεὶ δὲ εὖ ποιῶν ἐν πρώτοις εἶ τῶν εὐπόρων, παραινῶ τι τῶν ὄντων εἰς τὸ τῶν ὄντων σοι τιμιώτατον ἀναλῶσαι.

ἴσως μὲν γὰρ οὐδὲ πεῖνα σφόδρα νέῳ χρήσιμον, ἔστι δὲ νῦν οὐ περὶ τῆς γαστρὸς ὁ λόγος, ἀλλ᾿ ὅπως ᾖ τῷ νεανίσκῳ βιβλία· ὧν ἀπόντων ὅμοιος ἔσται τῷ πειρωμένῳ τοξεύειν ἄνευ τόξου μανθάνειν.

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