One tale about her involved Menippus, a 25-year-old male student of the famed philosopher Apollonius of Tyana. As Menippus headed for school on a lonely Greek road outside Corinth, a dainty woman with exotic looks intercepted him, professed her love, and invited him to her home nearby. "I'll sing, there'll be wine--you'll be the only guy there," she enticed. Ditching his studies, Menippus kept the date; after a rapturous evening, the two became an item.
At length Menippus' philosophical guru, noticing the pale, baggy-eyed state of his pupil, warned him about the girl, throwing broad hints about the high failure rate among vampire marriages. Being in the throes of young lust, however, Menippus went ahead with plans to tie the knot.
At the breakfast before the wedding, a worried Apollonius showed up, determined to carry out an Empusa intervention. Once he started challenging the reality of the golden goblets on the table and the servants serving the meal, sure enough, they began fluttering away, like bats in a bad Bela Lugosi movie. Empusa finally admitted she had the love-sick Menippus on a high-carb regimen in order to devour his body--and not in an X-rated way. As she put it, "My delicate constitution requires a strict diet of pure-blooded young hunks."
Harpies from Hell
Evidently, the ancient Greeks could not get enough of scary female spirits of one sort or another. Way back in the poet Homer's day, he wrote about harpies, mythological winged maidens who would swoop down and snatch away mortals. Thanks to his gifted imagination, all unknowingly Homer had created a dandy way to account for the mysterious disappearance of husbands.
Later writers, such as the Greek playwright
Aeschylus, amped up the horror factor of harpies. He and others described them
as bird monsters with sharp talons, bare
breasts, and human faces who tormented evildoers and stole their food, leaving
a disgusting smell in its place. Harpy mythology has had real staying power. A
favorite subject for writers and artists during the Middle Ages, they continue
to be popular in modern times, especially as a term of derision.
Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters B.C.
One question has haunted humankind for millennia: what does a restless ghost need to achieve peace? The Greeks thought they had the answer: the art of necromancy. By it, they meant learning secrets from the dead, although nowadays the term is more loosely tossed around as black magic involving ghosts or demons.