Lamia in Greek Mythology

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In Greek mythology, Lamia was the daughter of Libya and Belus. According to the legend, Zeus engaged in an affair with Lamia. Hera, furious that her husband had cheated on her yet again, punished the unfortunate Lamia. As a result of Hera’s wrath, Lamia was compelled to eat her own offspring. The story takes an even uglier turn when we learn that the crazed Lamia then developed a taste for children.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Lamia is usually described as a sort of bogey-woman. Her story was chilling and more than a bit macabre - perfect for frightening small children. It is said that Greek mothers sometimes told their children this tale in order to make them behave.

However, the legend of the Lamia inspired more than fear, for the poet John Keats took up the subject in his poem entitled simply Lamia. An excerpt from the poet’s description of Lamia follows:

“She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue,
Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue;
Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard,
Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr’d;
And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed,
Dissolv’d, or brighter shone, or interwreathed
Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries-
So rainbow-sided, touch’d with miseries,
She seem’d, at once, some penanced lady elf,
Some demon’s mistress, or the demon’s self.
Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne’s tiar:
Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter-sweet!
She had a woman’s mouth with all its pearls complete:
And for her eyes: what could such eyes do there
But weep, and weep, that they were born so fair?”

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