ABSTRACT

Did the classical world know of vampires? No. This piece asks instead what phenomenon of the classical world most closely anticipates the modern conceptualization of the vampire—a conceptualization extracted from the two classics of Victorian vampire fiction, Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Consideration is given first to a series of ancient entities in later Greek literature that approach a simplistic definition of “returning from the dead and eating people”: Phlegon’s Philinnion and Polycritus, Pausanias’s Hero of Temesa, and Philostratus’s Lamia and Achilles. But it is then contended that if one considers the full sweep of motifs associated with the modern vampire in the round, a better overall alignment is to be found for it with the Roman figure of the strix-witch, as described by Ovid and Petronius and later on by John Damascene and Burchard of Worms, for all that she is not actually dead.

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