One of the earliest beings to show some serious vampire-like characteristics is the ancient lamia, a usually female or hermaphroditic demon that prowled the night looking for tasty humans. She’s described as having the head and breasts of a woman, but the lower body of a snake. Her favorite snack was sleeping babies whom she stole and brought to her lair, where she drank their blood. Gotta love those Greek monsters, eh?
The Greek legend says that Lamia was once a gorgeous Libyan princess, with whom Zeus, the big bad ruler of gods, fell in lust with and seduced, later having many children with her. If you know your Greek mythology then you’ll remember that Zeus’ wife Hera is a jealous bitch, so when she learned of Zeus and Lamia, she flew into a jealous rage and murdered all of Lamia’s children. The poor princess ran away to a remote cave in the desert, but Hera found her and transformed her into a hideous, predatory monster, a monster that preyed upon children due to the loss of her own.
In some versions of the myth, Lamia had the ability to temporarily alter her appearance into something a bit more pleasing, a form that didn’t make you run away screaming, something like that of a beautiful young woman. In this form she was able to lure men into her clutches, so that she could drink down every drop of their blood.
An ancient legend recorded in the Life of Appolonus tells of how a student of magician and philosopher Apollonius of Tyana, named Menippus fell for a wealthy and lovely noblewoman and proposed marriage to her. But Apollonius was able to see beyond the disguise and warned Menippus that his fiancé was actually the bloodthirsty lamia. The love-struck student didn’t believe him, thus Apollonius was forced to face the lamia in order to reveal her for what she truly was.
In later years, the Lamia myth morphed and mixed with other ancient legends, thus creating multiple variations of vengeful blood-sucking demon ladies.