I am afraid that my work too is a camel in Egypt and people admire its bridle and its sea-purple, since even the combination of those two very fine creations, dialogue and comedy, is not enough for beauty of form if the blending lacks harmony and symmetry.
The synthesis of two fine things can be a freak—the hippocentaur is an obvious example: you would not call this creature charming, rather a monstrosity, to go by the paintings of their drunken orgies and murders. Well then, can nothing beautiful come from the synthesis of two things of high quality, as the mixture of wine and honey is exceedingly pleasant? Yes, certainly. But I cannot maintain that this is the case with my two: I’m afraid that the beauty of each has been lost in the blending.
Dialogue and comedy were not entirely friendly and compatible from the beginning.
The Lamia (or, just Lamia to her friends) is one of the figures from Greek myth who seems like a frightening monster but really is a particular distillation of misogyny. She is often called a Greek ‘vampire’ along with Empousa. Unlike the latter, however, Lamia is specifically associated with killing children.
Diodorus Siculus, 20.40
“At the rock’s root there was a very large cave which was roofed with ivy and bryony in which the myths say the queen Lamia, exceptional for her beauty, was born. But, because of the beastliness of her soul, they say that her appearance has become more monstrous in the time since then.
For, when all her children who were born died, she was overwhelmed by her suffering and envied all the women who were luckier with their children. So she ordered that the infants be snatched from their arms and killed immediately. For this reason, even in our lifetime, the story of that women has lingered among children and the mention of her name is most horrifying to them.
But, whenever she was getting drunk, she would allow people to do whatever pleased them without observation. Because she was not closely watching everything at that time, the people in that land imagined that she could not see. This is why the myth developed that she put her eyes into a bottle, using this story a metaphor for the carelessness she enacted in wine, since that deprived her of sight.”
The story of why Lamia killed children gets a little more depressing in the Fragments of the Greek Historians
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.”
Elsewhere, the evidence of narratives about Lamia are rather limited. She becomes just another negative, female monster.
Suda, Lambda 85
“Lamia: a monster. The name comes from having a gaping throat, laimia and lamia. Aristophanes: “It has the smell of a seal, the unwashed balls of a Lamia.” For testicles are active—and he is making a fantasy image of Lamia’s balls, since she is female.”
“There is a crag rising up over the ground on which the Delphians claim that a woman stood singing oracles, named Hêrophilê but known as Sibyl. There is the earlier Sibyl, the one I have found to be equally as old as the others, whom the Greeks claim is the daughter of Zeus and Lamia, the daughter of Poseidon. She was the first woman to sing oracles and they say that she was named Sibyl by the Libyans. Hêrophilê was younger than here, but she was obviously born before the Trojan War since she predicted Helen in her oracles, that was raised up in Sparta as the destruction for Asia and Europe and that Troy would be taken by the Greeks because of her.”
“Foremost he differed from previous authors in this, by which I mean how he took on a subject that was not a single thread nor one divided in many different and also disconnected parts. And then, because did not include mythical material in his work and he did not use his writing for the deception and bewitchment of many, as every author before him did when they told the stories of certain Lamiai rising up from the earth in groves and glens and of amphibious Naiads rushing out of Tartaros, half-beasts swimming through the seas and then joining together in groups among humans, and producing offspring of mortals and gods, demigods—and other stories which seem extremely unbelievable and untrustworthy to us now.”
Mormô, in the genitive Mormous, declined like Sappho. There is also the form Mormôn, genitive Mormonos. Aristophanes says “I ask you, take this Mormo away from me”. This meant to dispel frightening things. For Mormo is frightening. And again in Aristophanes: “A Mormo for courage”. There is also a mormalukeion which they also call a Lamia. They were also saying frightening things like this.”
Plutarch, De Curiositate [On Being a Busybody] 516a
“Now, just as in the myth they say that Lamia sleeps at home, putting her eyes set aside in some jar, but when she goes out she puts them back in and peers around, in the same way each of us puts his curiosity, as if fitting in an eye, into meanness towards others. But we often stumble over our own mistakes and faults because of ignorance, since we fail to secure sight or light for them.
For this reason, a busybody is rather useful to his enemies, since he rebukes and emphasizes their faults and shows them what they should guard and correct, even as he overlooks most of his own issues thanks to his obsession with everyone else. This is why Odysseus did not stop to speak with his mother before he inquired from the seer about those things for which he had come to Hades. Once he had made his inquiry, he turned to his own mother and also the other women, asking who Tyro was, who beautiful Khloris was, and why Epikaste had died.”
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.
“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”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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….”
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.
From Porphyry’s essay, On the Cave of the Nymphs 35
“In Plato, the water, the sea and the storm are material matter. For this reason, I think, Homer named the harbor “Phorkus’” (“and this is the harbor of Phorkus”) after the sea-god whose daughter, Thoôsa, he genealogized in the first book of the Odyssey. The Kyklôps is her son whose eye Odysseus blinded. [Homer named the harbor thus] so that right before his home [Odysseus] would receive a reminder of his mistakes. For this reason, the location under the olive tree is also fitting for Odysseus as a suppliant of the god who might win over his native deity through suppliancy.
For it would not be easy for one who has blinded [the spirit] and rushed to quell his energy to escape this life of the senses; no, the rage of the sea and the material gods pursues anyone who has dared these things. It is right first to appease these gods with sacrifices, the labors of a beggar, and endurance followed by battling through sufferings, deploying spells and enchantments and changing oneself through them in every way in order that, once he has been stripped of the rags he might restore everything. And thus one may not escape from his toils, but when he has emerged from the sea altogether that his thoughts are so untouched of the sea and material matters, that he believes that an oar is a winnowing fan because of his total inexperience of the tools and affairs of the sea.”
Robert Lamberton 1986, 131 [Homer the Theologian]: “The bungling, dimwitted, sensual giant of book 9 is, then, a projection into the myth of the life of the senses—specifically Odysseus’ own life in this physical universe. The blinding of Polyphemus is a metaphor for suicide…The cyclops becomes a part of Odysseus—a part he wants desperately to escape—but his ineptitude in handling his escape at that early point in his career involves him in an arduous spiritual journey.”
According to the following account, Hesiod died for another man’s crimes. His corpse was moved by dolphins.
Plutarch, Dinner of the Seven Wise Men 19 (= Moralia 162d-e)
“Hesiod’s misfortune was rather human and like our own—you have probably heard the story”
‘No, I have not’, I said.
‘Well, it is really worth hearing. It seems that Hesiod was sharing hospitality and a place with a man from Miletus when they were in Lokris. When the other guy was secretly having sex with their host’s daughter and was caught, he had suspicion that Hesiod knew from the beginning and conspired to hide the offense—even though he was responsible for nothing, he wrongly encountered untimely rage and slander. For the brothers of the girl killed him after they ambushed him near the Nemeion in Lokris, and they killed his servant, named Troilos, too.
After the bodies were pushed out into the river Daphnos, Troilos’ was carried to a boulder washed by water, positioned a little bit out into the sea. And to this day the boulder is called Troilos. A pod of dolphins took Hesiod’s body right away and conveyed it first to Rhion and Molykria. It just happened that the Lokrian sacrifice at Rhion and their assembly, which they hold occasionally even to our time in that place, was in progress at that time. When the body showed up, carried as it was, they were amazed at the chance and they ran down and, when they recognized the corpse since it was still rather fresh, they considered everything secondary to investigating the murder, all because of Hesiod’s fame
They accomplished this quickly by discovering the murderers [a dog went barking and hunting the murderers with a shout]. They put them still alive in the sea and destroyed their homes. Hesiod was then buried near Nemeia. Many people foreign to the region do not know where the grave is. It is hidden because, as they claim, it was sought by the people of Orkhomenos who wanted to transfer the remains to their vicinity in accordance with an oracle.”
The Certamen of Homer and Hesiod has a similar account but with some differences
“After the contest [with Homer] was over, Hesiod went to Delphi to get an oracle and to make a thanks-offering for the victory to the god. When he arrived at the shrine, people claim that the prophetess was inspired and said:
“This lucky man who travels to my home
Is Hesiod, honored by the divine Muses.
His fame will spread as far as the sun shines.
But guard against the gorgeous grove of Nemeian Zeus.
It is there where your fated death will come.”
Hesiod, after he heard this oracle, went retreating from the Peloponnese because he believed that the god meant the oracle there. He went to Oinoê in Lokris and rested with Amphiphanes and Ganuktôr, the children of Phêgeus, and he really did not understand the oracle. For this place was called the shrine of Zeus Nemeios. After he spent a period of time with the Oineans, the youths, because they suspected that Hesiod fornicated with their sister, killed him and through hem into the sea between Euboia and Lokris.
When the abandoned corpse was carried by dolphins to land, there was some local festival happening and everyone ran to the shore. Once they recognized who this was, they grieved and buried him—and then they began to seek his murderers. The brothers, because they feared the rage of the citizens, made off with a fishing skiff and sailed toward Krêtê. Zeus struck that vessel in the middle with lightening and submerged them in the sea, as Alkidamas says in the Mouseion.
Eratosthenes says in his epode that Ktimenos and Antiphon, the sons of Ganuktôr, were arrested for the aforementioned reason and sacrificed to the gods of hospitality by Eurukles the prophet. According to the same author, The virgin sister of these men hanged herself after she was raped—and Eratosthenes says she was raped by some stranger on the road who was named Hesiod, the son of Dêmades. He was also killed by the same men. Later, the Orkhomenians, in accordance with an oracle, transferred Hesiod and buried them in their land….”
Cert. Hom. et Hes. v. 214 West. (unde eadem Tzetzes
“Constant, loud laughter is worse than anger. This is why it reaches a peak among prostitutes and rather foolish children. Personally, I think that a face is decorated better by tears than laughter. I think this because, generally, some kind of learning accompanies tears; while a lack of control comes with laughter. No one encourages an arrogant person by weeping; but laughter builds up his hopes.”
The following essay by Dio Chrysostom is fragmentary. I can imagine where it goes from where it starts, but I might be wrong. One of the seductive things about fragments is their lure to be ‘completed’ or ‘restored’. Here’s one about happiness–a topic perhaps profitably left unfinished for each of us to write our own endings.
Dio Chrysostom, 24 Discourse on Happiness
“The majority of people have generally given no thought regarding what kind of people they should be nor what at all is best for a person, nor what it is right to do in all other things. Instead, they have spent their lives in private pursuits—some dedicate themselves to horses; others to military leadership; others to athletic competition. Some are devoted to music; while others look to farming; and others to being able to speak well. But they neither know nor try to figure out what use each of these pursuits has for them or what profit might come from it.
As a result, while some people do become good horsemen—the kinds of people who love to work at it and care about it completely—and while others are better than some at wrestling and boxing, and running, and the rest of the athletic games, or in not screwing up planting, or sailing without ruining a ship, and some know the matters of the art of better than others—it is not possible to find among them a good and prudent man who also knows what makes a good and intelligent person.
Start first with the example of oratory—there are many people altogether of noble families who also seem to be ambitious who are dedicated to it so much that they compete in public courts, even speaking to the people and because of this have gained more than others and can do what they want while others [endeavor] so that they might be considered clever on account of the fame of their field.
But there are some people who say that they want what they get from experience, and some of these are speakers some are only writers, people whom someone of former times said were on the border of philosophy and politics. Whatever advantage their work brings them or what use their reputation is or what the profit of their experience might be, they do not examine.
But I claim that all the rest is worthless without this kind of care and examination For the person who has considered and understood this, it is clear that the advantage of public speaking or military leadership or any other thing we do comes when it it directed towards good.
For being praised by ignorant people in itself—for most people are like that—or having power among them or living pleasurably will not bring any more happiness than being rebuked by these people, having no power among them, or living a hard life.”