LAMIA — EMPUSA (Empousa) — Vampiric Monsters of Ancient Greek Legend

EMPOUSA & LAMIA

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Spelling
Translation

Moves on One-Leg

Large Shark (lamia)

THE EMPOUSAI (Empusae), LAMIAI (Lamiae) and MORMOLYKEIAI (Mormolyceae) were fearsome daimones which assumed the forms of beautiful women to lure young men to their beds to feed on their flesh and blood. Behind the illusory facade the creatures were truly demonic—the Lamia had the tail of a serpent in place of legs, while the Empousa had flaming hair and two mismatched legs, one of brass, one of an ass.

Later authors describe the Lamiai as ghosts (phasma) which used illusion to seduce young men. They were companions of the goddess Hekate which followed her to earth from the depths of the underworld.

The Empousai and Lamiai were the ancient equivalent of vampires and succubi—vampiric ghosts and demons.

FAMILY OF EMPUSAE & LAMIAE

PARENTS OF EMPOUSAI AND LAMIAI

[1] Perhaps HEKATE
[2] Some were ghosts of dead women

PARENTS OF ONOSKELIS

[1] ARISTONYMOS & AN ASS (Aristocles Frag, Plutarch Greek & Roman Parallel Stories 29)

LIST OF NAMED LAMIAI

LAMIA KORINTHIA (Corinthian Lamia) A demon which haunted the city of Korinthos (Corinth), seducing and feeding upon handsome young men.

LAMIA LIBYS (Libyan Lamia) A Libyan queen loved by Zeus. When her children were stolen by the goddess Hera, she fell into a crazed, child-murdering frenzy and was transformed into a demon.

LAMIA PHILINNION The ghost of a Makedonian woman who returned from the dead to seduce a young man.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

EMPU′SA (Empousa), a monstrous spectre, which was believed to devour human beings. It could assume different forms, and was sent out by Hecate to frighten travellers. It was believed usually to appear with one leg of brass and the other of an ass. (Aristoph Ran. 294, Eccles. 1094.) Whenever a traveller addressed the monster with insulting words, it used to flee and utter a shrill sound. (Philostr Vit. Apoll. ii. 4.) The Lamiae and Mormolyceia, who assumed the form of handsome women for the purpose of attracting young men, and then sucked their blood like vampyrs and ate their flesh, were reckoned among the Empusae. (Philostr Vit. Apoll. iv. 25; Suid. s. v.)

LA′MIA (Lamia). In later times Lamiae were conceived as handsome ghostly women, who by voluptuous artifices attracted young men, in order to enjoy their fresh, youthful, and pure flesh and blood. They were thus in ancient times what the vampires are in modern legends. [p. 714] (Philostr. Vit. Apollon. iv. 25; Horat. de Art. Poet. 340; Isidor. Orig. viii. 11; Apulei. Met. i. p. 57; comp. Spanheim, ad Callim. Hymn. in Dian. 67.)

MORMO (Mormô), a female spectre, with which the Greeks used to frighten little children. (Aristoph. Acharn. 582, Pax, 474.) Mormo was one of the same class of bugbears as Empusa and Lamia.

MORMO′LYCE or MORMOLYCEION (Mormolukê, Mormolukeion), the same phantom or bugbear as Mormo, and also used for the same purpose. (Philostr. V’it. Apollon. iv. 25; Menandr. Reliq. p. 145, ed. Meineke; Aristoph. Thesin. 417 Strab. i. p. 19; Stob. Ecloq. p. 1010.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.

ALTERNATE NAMES

Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Spelling
Translation
Greek Name
Transliteration
Latin Spelling
Translation

To be scared by Mormo

With an Ass’s Leg

CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES

Erinna, The Distaff (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 120) (Greek poetry C6th B.C.) :
«We clung to our dolls in our chambers when we were girls . . . Oh, what a trembling the Mormo brought us then, when we were little ones!—On its head were huge ears, and it walked on all fours, and changed from one face to another!»

Aristophanes, Frogs 288 ff (trans. O’Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
«[Comedy in which the god Dionysos travels to the underworld. He and his slave Xanthias encounter and Empousa amongst the guardians of Haides after crossing Lake Akheron :]
Xanthias : We’d best be moving on. This is the spot where Herakles declared those savage monsters dwell . . . Hallo! I hear a noise.
Dionysos : Where? what?
Xanthias : Behind us, there.
Dionysos : Get you behind.
Xanthias : No, it’s in front.
Dionysos : Get you in front directly.
Xanthias : And now I see the most ferocious monster.
Dionysos : O, what’s it like?
Xanthias : Like everything by turns. Now it’s a bull: now it’s a mule : and now the loveliest girl.
Dionysos : O, where? I’ll go and meet her.
Xanthias : It’s ceased to be a girl: it’s a dog now.
Dionysos : It is Empousa!
Xanthias : Well, its face is all ablaze with fire.
Dionysos : Has it a copper leg?
Xanthias : A copper leg? yes, one; and one of cow dung.
Dionysos : O, whither shall I flee?
Xanthias : O, whither I?
Dionysos : My priest, protect me, and we’ll sup together.
Xanthias : King Herakles [Dionysos is dressed up as Herakles], we’re done for.
Dionysos : O, forbear, Good fellow, call me anything but that.
Xanthias : Well then, Dionysos.
Dionysos : O, that’s worse again,
Xanthias (to the Spectre) : Aye, go thy way. O master, here, come here.
Dionysos : O, what’s up now?
Xanthias : Take courage; all’s serene. And, like Hegelokhos, we now may say ‘Out of the storm there comes a new weather.’ Empousa’s gone.
Dionysos : Swear it.
Xanthias : By Zeus she is.
Dionysos : Swear it again.
Xanthias : By Zeus.
Dionysos : Again.
Xanthias : By Zeus. O dear, O dear, how pale I grew to see her, but he, from fright has yellowed me all over.»

Aristophanes, Ecclesiazusae 1057 :
«[A young man disparages an old woman who had tried to seduce him :] It is an Empousa with a body covered with blemishes and blotches.»

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Aristophanes, Acharnians 582 ff :
«Your terrifying armor makes me dizzy. I beg you, take away that Mormo (Bogy-Monster)!»

Aristophanes, Peace 474 ff :
«This is terrible! You are in the way, sitting there. We have no use for your Mormo’s (Bogy-Like) head, friend.»

Plato, Crito 46c (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
«Children are frightened with bogeys (mormolyttomai).»

Plato, Phaedo 77e :
«Try to persuade him not to fear death as if it were a Mormolykeion (Hobgoblin).»

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2. 2 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
«Where can you find an old wife senseless enough to be afraid of the monsters of the lower world [presumably Empousai, et. al.] that were once believed in? The years obliterate the inventions of the imagination, but confirm the judgements of nature.»

Suidas s.v. Empuosa (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.) :
«Empousa (Empusa). A demonic ghost (phantasma daimonios) sent by Hekate and appearing to the ill-fated. [Something] which seems to change into many forms. Aristophanes in Frogs [indicates this]. [It is called] Empousa from the fact that it moves on one leg (heni podizein), i.e. that its other leg is bronze. Or because it used to appear from dark places to the initiated. She was also called Oinopole. But others say [that it bore this name] because it changed form. It also seems to appear in the light of day, when they are offering sacrifices to the dead. Some say that she is the same as Hekate. But [another name for her is] Onokole, because she has an ass’s leg; which they call manure (bolitinon), that is donkey manure. For bolitos [is] the proper word for donkey excrement. Aristophanes in Frogs [says] : ‘by Zeus, I see a huge wild beast.—What kind?—Terrible. It appears to be everywhere at once : at times it is a cow, then a mule, then again a most beautiful woman.—Where is she? I’m heading towards her.—She is no longer a woman, but a dog now.—It is Empousa, then.—At any rate the whole face is glowing with fire and she has a bronze leg.’»

Bell, Women of Classical Mythology (sourced from Aristophanes Frogs 294; Aristophanes Ecclesiazusae 1094; Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana 2.4 & 4.25; Suidas s.v. Empusa) :
«EMPUSA was yet another female monster. She was in the train of Hecate and originally was sent out to frighten travellers. She was supposed to have on leg of brass and one of an ass. This absurd combination lends a certain comical effect rather than one of horror. Moreover, a traveller could rout the monster with insulting words, causing her to flee with a shrill shrieking. Naughty children were threatened with visits from this awkward creature. But the Empusae (plural for Empusa) were not comical at all when it came to their real design—luring men, especially young ones, to bed. For this purpose they could turn themselves into beautiful women, in which shape they sucked the blood from their victims and ate their flesh. In this respect they were related to the Lamiae and Mormolyceia.»

Bell, Women of Classical Mythology (sourced from Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4.25; Horace Ars Poetica 340; Apuleias Golden Ass 1.57) :
«LAMIAE, obviously related to the persona of Lamia, the fearful child-snatcher, were handsome, ghostly women who by various sensuous means lured young men to their beds. There they enjoyed the fresh, youthful energy of their victims, then drank their blood and ate their flesh. They were in ancient times the equivalent of vampires in modern legends.»

Bell, Women of Classical Mythology (sourced from Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4.25; Aristophanes Archanians 582; Aristophanes Peace 474) :
«MORMO was a female spectre that the Greeks used to frighten little children. She was one of the same class of frightful creatures as Empusa and Lamia. The Mormolyceia further were said to be able to assume the form of beautiful women for the purpose of luring young men to bed, where they sucked their blood and consumed their flesh.»

ONOSCELIS THE ASS-LEGGED MAIDEN

APOLLONIUS OF TYANA & THE EMPUSA

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 2. 4 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
«[The C1st A.D. pagan prophet Apollonios of Tyana and his companion Damis :] They were travelling by bright moonlight [across Mount Kaukasos (Caucasus)], when the figure of an Empousa appeared to them, that changed from one form to another, until finally it vanished into nothing. And Apollonios realised what it was, and himself heaped abuse on the Empousa and instructed his party to do the same, saying that this was the right remedy for such a visitation. And the phantasm (phasma) fled away shrieking even as ghosts do.»

Eusebius, Treatise Against Hierocles 13 (trans. Jones) (Greek rhetorician C4th A.D.) :
«He [Philostratos relates how] Apollonios and his companions saw [in Persia on their way to India] some sort of Daimon, to which he gives the name Empousa, along the road, and of how they drove it away by dint of abuse and bad words.»

SOURCES

GREEK

  • Greek Papyri III Erinna, The Distaff — Greek Poetry C6th B.C.
  • Aristophanes, Acharnians — Greek Comedy C5th — 4th B.C.
  • Aristophanes, Ecclesiazusae — Greek Comedy C5th — 4th B.C.
  • Aristophanes, Frogs — Greek Comedy C5th — 4th B.C.
  • Aristophanes, Peace — Greek Comedy C5th — 4th B.C.
  • Plato, Crito — Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
  • Plato, Phaedo — Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
  • Plutarch, Moralia — Greek Historian C1st — 2nd A.D.
  • Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana — Greek Biography C2nd A.D.
  • Eusebius, Treatise Against Hierocles — Greek Rhetoric C4th A.D.

ROMAN

  • Cicero, De Natura Deorum — Latin Rhetoric C1st B.C.

BYZANTINE

  • Suidas, The Suda — Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.

MODERN

  • Women of Classical Mythology — English Encyclopedia of Mythology C20th A.D.

OTHER SOURCES

Other references not currently quoted here: Horace Ars Poetica 340 [Lamiai].

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15 Compelling Facts That Are Very Hard to Believe

Among the huge number of pseudofacts, there still are some that are both true and very hard to believe. We at Bright Side decided to take things seriously and check some of them thoroughly. We bet you’ve never heard about these 15 facts!

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Life Cycle of a Praying Mantis And Other Intriguing Facts

The praying mantis got its name because of its unique style of resting with the forelegs joined together, as if in a state of deep thought or praying in front of a deity. Like its interesting style of resting, a praying mantis’ life cycle is also unique.

The praying mantis got its name because of its unique style of resting with the forelegs joined together, as if in a state of deep thought or praying in front of a deity. Like its interesting style of resting, a praying mantis’ life cycle is also unique.

Praying mantis is a carnivorous insect notorious for eating almost any living thing that comes its way. The body structure of a praying mantis is like that of most insects, which is divided into three parts―abdomen, head and thorax, and the antennae that are used for smelling.

Life Cycle

Life cycle of praying mantis starts with a unique, infamous and interesting method that is known as, ‘sexual cannibalism’. In this method, the female kills or feeds herself on the male after mating. In some species of praying mantis, females eat the head of their mate after copulation. This is actually a topic of debate though many researchers deny the hypothesis. It is said that only 15% of praying mantis females consume a male after mating. Praying mantis lifespan varies with respect to different species, but the average lifespan of a praying mantis is almost one year. In most of the species of praying mantis, they live only 6 months as an adult. Summer season is the breeding season of the praying mantis. There are three stages in the life cycle of a praying mantis.

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Eggs: After fertilization, the female lays 10 to 400 eggs in the autumn season. These eggs are secured on leaves, stems or any other safe surface. The egg houses are interesting, frothy, liquid-like structures present in their abdomen, called ootheca. It has a compartment-like special formation for every single egg. These compartments have a small one-way, valve-like structures that helps the insects to hatch with minimum efforts. These ‘oothecas’ are meant to protect the baby mantis during the cold weather.

Nymphs: The developed small-sized mantis come out of the oothecas in the spring season. The first meal of these small praying mantis is surprisingly, their siblings! These nymphs also eat flies, aphids, and small grasshoppers. These nymphs take the whole summer season to grow up to adulthood.

Adults: On reaching adulthood, the small praying mantis shed many layers of their exoskeleton, which is called molting. Below their exoskeleton are their growing wings.

Anatomy

The abdomen of the praying mantis is elongated. In adults, this area is covered with wings. The head is triangular with mounted compound eyes. The size and the color of the praying mantis varies according to its species. The colors range from faint green to faint pink, but most commonly, they are pea green or brown in color. Some praying mantis are pink in color, especially the species found on similarly-shaded flowers found in tropical regions. Praying mantis have very sensitive eyes that move in a 180 0 angle, which enables them to see predators from a distance of 60 feet.

Habitat

The praying mantis likes to stay in warm and humid regions. Hence, various species of praying mantis are found in North and South America, Europe, Southern Asia, Australia, and South Africa. There are more than 2000 species of praying mantises, with the smallest being 2/5 part of an inch and the biggest being 12 inch long. Most species are found in Asia, whereas about 20 species are native to the United States. Most of the species of flower mantis―a species of praying mantis―can make a perfect illusion of a flower, which confuses their prey which sometimes land on the back of the insect to collect the nectar. Camouflaging also helps the praying mantis to stay safe from numerous predators, like birds and bats.

The humble forelegs that gave this name to the praying mantis are actually extremely well equipped, with sharp spine like rows that help them to catch their prey. The praying mantis mimics the leaves and stems in a way which makes them almost invisible to their prey. When the prey is within the reach, they put their pincer-like foreleg forward and grab it. Most often, they start eating their prey when it is still alive. The prey of the praying mantises are usually fellow mantises, butterflies, beetles, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and almost all other invertebrates. Some species of praying mantis eat vertebrates like small frogs, mice, lizards and even hummingbirds.

Praying Mantis Facts

Praying mantises are diurnal insects, which means they work and hunt only during the day time.

They shed their exoskeleton (outer skin layer) for a record 12 times, before growing into a complete adult.

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Praying mantises are useful insects for gardeners and farmers as natural insecticides. Hence, it is legal in the US to sell and keep only native praying mantis species.

When threatened by predators, the praying mantis stands tall with an open mouth, fanning wings and spreads out it forelegs to look bigger than their actual size in order to scare the opponents.

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Praying mantises shed their exoskeleton (outer skin layer) for a record 12 times, before growing into a complete adult.

Some species of praying mantis never grow wings at all and those who have the wings fly only when the female mantis spreads the pheromones (chemical signals) to attract the male.

An interesting fact, the praying mantis has only one ear, that uses the same ultrasonic frequency that the bats use, which are by far their biggest predators.

The praying mantis name is often misspelled as ‘preying’ mantis which is possibly because of their significant preying characteristics. It is always a fun to observe an insect and especially when it is the ‘alien-like’ triangular headed praying mantis.

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10 Fascinating Praying Mantis Facts

Praying Mantids Hear With Their Bellies (And Other Fun Facts)

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

The word mantis comes from the Greek mantikos, for soothsayer or prophet. Indeed, these insects do seem spiritual, especially when their forelegs are clasped together as if they’re in prayer. Learn more about these mysterious insects with these 10 fascinating facts about praying mantids.

1. Most Praying Mantids Live in the Tropics

Of approximately 2,000 species of mantids described to date, almost all are tropical creatures. Just 18 native species are known from the entire North American continent. About 80% of all members of the order Mantodea belong to a single family, the Mantidae.

2. The Mantids We See Most Often in the U.S. Are Exotic Species

You’re more likely to find an introduced mantid species than you are to find a native praying mantis. The Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia) was introduced near Philadelphia, PA about 80 years ago. This large mantid can measure up to 100 mm in length. The European mantid, Mantis religiosa, is pale green and about half the size of the Chinese mantid. European mantids were introduced near Rochester, NY nearly a century ago. Both the Chinese and European mantids are common in the northeastern U.S. today.

3. Mantids Can Turn Their Heads a Full 180 Degrees

Try to sneak up on a praying mantis, and you may be startled when it looks over its shoulder at you. No other insect can do so. Praying mantids have a flexible joint between the head and prothorax that enables them to swivel their heads. This ability, along with their rather humanoid faces and long, grasping forelegs, endears them to even the most entomophobic people among us.

4. Mantids Are Closely Related to Cockroaches and Termites

These three seemingly different insects – mantids, termites, and cockroaches – are believed to descend from a common ancestor. In fact, some entomologists group these insects in a superorder (Dictyoptera), due to their close evolutionary relationships.

5. Praying Mantids Overwinter as Eggs in Temperate Regions

The female praying mantis deposits her eggs on a twig or stem in the fall ​and then protects them with a Styrofoam-like substance she secretes from her body. This forms a protective egg case, or ootheca, in which her offspring will develop over the winter. Mantid egg cases are easy to spot in the winter when leaves have fallen from shrubs and trees. But be forewarned! If you bring an overwintering ootheca into your warm home, you may find your house teeming with tiny mantids.

6. Female Mantids Sometimes Eat Their Mates

Yes, it’s true, female praying mantids do cannibalize their sex partners. In some instances, she’ll even behead the poor chap before they’ve consummated their relationship. As it turns out, a male mantid is an even better lover when his brain, which controls inhibition, is detached from his abdominal ganglion, which controls the actual act of copulation. Cannibalism is variable across the different mantid species, with estimates ranging from about 46% of all sexual encounters to none at all.   It occurs among praying mantids between 13–28% of natural encounters in the field.

7. Mantids Use Specialized Front Legs to Capture Prey

The praying mantis is so named because when waiting for prey, it holds its front legs in an upright position as if they are folded in prayer. Don’t be fooled by its angelic pose, however, because the mantid is a deadly predator. If a bee or fly happens to land within its reach, the praying mantis will extend its arms with lightning quick speed, and grab the hapless insect. Sharp spines line the mantid’s raptorial forelegs, enabling it to grasp the prey tightly as it eats. Some larger mantids catch and eat lizards, frogs, and even birds. Who says bugs are at the bottom of the food chain?! The praying mantis would better be called the preying mantis.

8. Mantids Are Relatively Young Compared to Other Ancient Insects

The earliest fossil mantids date from the Cretaceous Period and are between 146-66 million years old. These primitive mantid specimens lack certain traits found in the mantids that live today. They don’t have the elongate pronotum, or extended neck, of modern-day mantids and they lack spines on their forelegs.

9. Praying Mantids Are Not Necessarily Beneficial Insects

Praying mantids can and will consume lots of other invertebrates in your garden, so they’re often considered beneficial predators. It’s important to note, however, that mantids don’t discriminate between good bugs and bad bugs when looking for meals. A praying mantis is just as likely to eat a native bee that’s pollinating your plants as it is to eat a caterpillar pest. Garden supply companies often sell the egg cases of Chinese mantids, touting them as a biological control for your garden, but these predators may do as much harm as good in the end.

10. Mantids Have Two Eyes, but Only One Ear

A praying mantis has two large, compound eyes that work together to help it decipher visual cues. But strangely, the praying mantis has just a single ear, located on the underside of its belly, just forward of its hind legs. This means the mantid cannot discriminate the direction of a sound, nor its frequency. What it can do is detect ultrasound, or sound produced by echolocating bats. Studies have shown that praying mantids are quite good at evading bats. A mantis in flight will essentially stop, drop, and roll in midair, dive bombing away from the hungry predator. Not all mantids have an ear, and those that don’t are typically flightless, so they don’t have to flee flying predators like bats.

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