Lamia (mythology)

Lamia (mythology)

Infobox Paranormalcreatures
Creature_Name = Lamia

Image_Caption = The "Lamia" (painting by Herbert James Draper, 1909)
Grouping = Legendary Creature
Sub_Grouping = Daimon
Similar_creatures = Empusa, Mormo
Mythology = Greek
Country = Libya
Region =
Habitat =
In Greek mythology, Lamia was a Queen of Libya who became a child-murdering daemon. In later writings she is pluralized into many lamiae (Greek "lamiai"). [The Roman equestrian "gens" of the Lamiae, allied with the Aeliae )Horace, "Odes" 3.17, addressed to Aelius Lamia) and linked with Formiae bore no connection with the mythic Greek bogey. The French World War II agent Philippe Thyraud de Vosjoli, on whose exploits the 1969 film "Topaz" was based, used "Lamia" as his code name (P.L. Thyraud de Vosjoli, "Lamia" [Boston: Little, Brown] 1970).] Similar in type to other female monsters from Greco-Roman myth, such as the empuses and the mormolyces, she is distinguished from them by her description as half-woman and half-serpent. [ [ Theoi Project: "Lamia"] ] Her name comes from the "gullet" ( _el. Laimos), thus she devoured human children. [Aristophanes, "The Wasps", 1177.]


Lamia was the daughter of Poseidon and Lybie [Diodorus Siculus, "Library of History" xx.41.] , a personification of the country of Libya and a queen of Libya herself, whom Zeus loved. [Aristophanes, "Peace".] Hera discovered the affair and stole away Lamia's children, where upon Lamia in her grief became a monster and began murdering children. Zeus granted her the power of prophecy as an attempt at appeasement, as well as the related ability to temporarily remove her eyes. [Bell, "Women of Classical Mythology", drawing upon Diodorus Siculus 22.41; Suidas 'Lamia'; Plutarch 'On Being a Busy-Body' 2; Scholiast on Aristophanes' "Peace" 757; Eustathius on "Odyssey" 1714) (Mythology dictionary C20th)] Either Hera turned her into a monster; the grief from Hera killing all her children, save Scylla, made her monstrous; or she was already one of Hecate's brood ["Odyssey"12.124 and scholia, noted by Karl Kerenyi, "Gods of the Greeks" 1951:38 note 71.] . Plutarch [Plutarch, "De curiositate", 2.] heard that Lamia had the gift to be able to take her eyes out and then put them back in. A later embroidery on this archaic mytheme is that this gift was the gift of ZeusFact|date=August 2007, and by a further explanatory improvisation, that Lamia was "cursed" with the inability to close her eyes so that she would always obsess over the image of her dead children.

Horace, in "Ars Poetica" (l.340) imagined the impossibility of retrieving the living children she had engulfed:

:"Neu pranse Lamiae vivum puerum extrabat alvo."

Alexander Pope translates the line:Shall Lamia in our sight her sons devour,:and give them back alive the self-same hour?

Apuleius, in "The Golden Ass", describes the witch Meroe and her sister as "Lamiae": [ The Elizabethan translator William Adlington rendered "lamiae" as "hags", obscuring the reference for generations of readers. ( [Apuleius] , "Metamorphoses" [Harvard University Press] 1989 ("Metamorphoses" is more familiar to English-language readers as "The Golden Ass".).] "The three major enchantresses of the novel—Meroe, Panthia and Pamphylia—also reveal many vampiric qualities generally associated with Lamiae," David Walter Leinweber has noticed. [Leinweber, "Witchcraft and Lamiae in 'The Golden Ass'" "Folklore" 105 (1994:77–82).] . Stesichorus identifies Lamia as the mother of Scylla [Stesichorus Frag 220, Eustathius on Homer's Odyssey 1714.] , by Triton. Further passing references to Lamia were made by Strabo (i.II.8) and Aristotle ("Ethics" vii.5). In the Vulgate Jerome translated Lilith, the spirit in Isaiah 34:14 who conceived by Adam a brood of monsters, as "lamia", thus sealing Lamia's image as a seductress in the Christian imagination.


Mothers used to threaten their children with the story of Lamia. [Tertullian, "Against Valentinius" (ch.iii)] Leinweber states, "She became a kind of fairy-tale figure, used by mothers and nannies to induce good behavior among children" [Leinweber 1994:77.] .

Many lurid details were conjured up by later writers, assembled in the "Suda", expanded upon in Renaissance poetry and collected in Bulfinch and in Brewer's "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable": Lamia was envious of other mothers and ate their children. She was usually female, but Aristophanes suggests a hermaphroditic phallus, perhaps simply for monstrosity's sake [Aristophanes, "Peace", l..758] . Leinweber notes [Leinweber 1994:78] , adding "By the time of Apuleius, not only were Lamia characteristics liberally mixed into popular notions of sorcery, but at some level the very names were interchangeable." Nicolas K. Kiessling compared the lamia with the medieval succubus and Grendel in "Beowulf". [See Nicolas K. Kiessling, "Grendel: A New Aspect" "Modern Philology" 65.3 (February 1968:191–201.]

One interpretation posits that the Lamia may have been a seductress, as in Philostratus' "Life of Apollonius of Tyana", where the philosopher Apollonius reveals to the young bridegroom, Menippus, that his hastily-married wife is really a lamia, planning to devour him. [ Leinweber 1994:77f] Some harlots were named "Lamia". [Kerényi 1951 p 40.] The connection between Demetrius Poliorcetes and the courtesan Lamia was notorious. [See Plutarch, "Life of Demetrius" xxv.9] [See Aelian, "Varia Historia" XII.xvii.1] [See Athenaeus, "Deipnosophistae" III.lix.29.] In the painting by Herbert James Draper (1909, "illustration above"), the Lamia who moodily watches the serpent on her forearm appears to represent a "hetaira". Though the lower body of Draper's Lamia is human, he alludes to her serpentine history by draping a shed snake skin about her waist.

In Renaissance emblems, Lamia has the body of a serpent and the breasts and head of a woman, like the image of hypocrisyFact|date=August 2007.

John Keats described the Lamia in "Lamia and Other Poems", presenting a description of the various colors of Lamia that was based on Burton's, in "The Anatomy of Melancholy". [Keats made a note to this effect at the end of the first page in the fair copy he made: see William E. Harrold, "Keats's 'Lamia' and Peacock's 'Rhododaphne'" "The Modern Language Review" 61.4 (October 1966:579–584) p 579 and note with bibliography on this point. ]

Modern folk traditions

In the modern Greek folk tradition, the Lamia has survived and retained many of her traditional attributes. [Lamia receives a section in Georgios Megas and Helen Colaclides, "Folktales of Greece" (Folktales of the World) (University of Chicago Prtes) 1970.] John Cuthbert Lawson remarks that "....the chief characteristics of the Lamiae, apart from their thirst for blood, are their uncleanliness, their gluttony, and their stupidity". [Lawson, "Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion: A Study in Survivals" {Cambridge University Press)) 1910:175ff.] The contemporary Greek proverb, "της Λάμιας τα σαρώματα" ("the Lamia's sweeping"), epitomises slovenlinessFact|date=August 2007; and the common expression, "τό παιδί τό 'πνιξε η Λάμια" ("the child has been strangled by the Lamia")Fact|date=August 2007, explains the sudden death of young children (ibid). As in Bulgarian folklore and Basque legends, the Lamia in Greece is often associated with caves and damp places.

In modern Greek folk tales, Lamia is an ogress similar to Baba-Yaga.Fact|date=August 2007 She lives in a remote house or tower, eats human flesh, has magical abilities, keeps magical objects, or knows information crucial to the hero of the tale's quest. The hero must avoid her, trick her, or gain her favour in order to obtain one of those. In some tales, the lamia has a daughter who is also a magician and helps the hero, eventually falling in love with him.

A creature with particularities slightly "Lamian" appears in the movie "Pan's Labyrinth", complete with a hunger for children and eyes that are not in its sockets. The figure of Aughra, a character in "The Dark Crystal", while not carnivorous, shares with her the latter characteristic.

ee also

*La Llorona



*cite book |last=Graves |first=R |authorlink=Robert Graves |title=Greek Myths |year=1955|publisher=Penguin |location=London |isbn=0-14-001026-2|pages=205-06 |chapter=Lamia
*Karl Kerényi, 1951. "The Gods of the Greeks" pp 38–40. Edition currently in print is Thames & Hudson reissue, February 1980, ISBN 0-500-27048-1.

External links

* [ Theoi Project - Lamia]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно сделать НИР?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lamia — may refer to: * Lamia (mythology), a Greek mythological female Daemon * Lamia (Dungeons Dragons), a magical beast in Dungeons Dragons * Lamia (city), a city in Greece * Lamia (animal), a mouse like animal in New Guinea * Lamia (poem), a poem by… …   Wikipedia

  • Lamia (Stardust) — Infobox character colour = green name = Lamia first = Stardust (2007) last = Stardust (2007) alias = The Witch Queen Morwanneg species = Sorceress gender = Female age = Five Thousand Years born = Birth of the Planet Earth death = End of Stardust… …   Wikipedia

  • lamia — /lay mee euh/, n., pl. lamias, lamiae / mee ee / for 1, 2. 1. Class. Myth. one of a class of fabulous monsters, commonly represented with the head and breast of a woman and the body of a serpent, said to allure youths and children in order to… …   Universalium

  • lamia — n. mythological monster having a woman s head and torso and a snake s body (Classical Mythology); vampire, female demon …   English contemporary dictionary

  • lamia — /ˈleɪmiə/ (say laymeeuh) noun (plural lamias or lamiae /ˈleɪmii/ (say laymeeee)) (in classical mythology) a vampire; a female demon who stole children. {Middle English, from Latin, from Greek} …  

  • Shapeshifter (Anita Blake mythology) — Numerous different types of shapeshifters exist in the universe, including werewolves and wererats. Anita distinguishes between lycanthropes, which includes solely persons infected by contact with another lycanthrope s bodily fluids, and… …   Wikipedia

  • Drakaina (mythology) — In Greek mythology, a drakaina (Greek: δράκαινα) is a female dragon, sometimes with human like features. Examples included Campe, Ceto, Delphyne, Echidna, Scylla, Lamia (or Sybaris), Poine, and Python (when represented as female). Python, slain… …   Wikipedia

  • List of vampires in folklore and mythology — This list covers the many types of vampires or vampire like legendary creatures of global folklore and mythology. It does not include any vampire that originates in a work of fiction.A*Adze Ghana and Togo *Alp Germany *Aluka Syria and Israel… …   Wikipedia

  • Echidna (mythology) — In the most ancient layers of Greek mythology Echidna (Greek: Ἔχιδνα) ( ekhis (ἔχις), meaning she viper ) was called the Mother of All Monsters . Echidna was described by Hesiod as a female monster spawned in a cave, who mothered with her mate… …   Wikipedia

  • Berber mythology — Berber beliefs or Amazigh beliefs are the beliefs of the indigenous Berber people of North Africa (not to be confused with the Ancient Egyptians or the Nubians). These beliefs were influenced primarily by the beliefs of the Berbers Egyptian… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”