Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece

Lamia, the cannibalistic serpent

Last update: 2016-02-19

Lamia, the beautiful queen of Libya

In Greek mythology, Lamia was a queen of Libya who became a frustrated cannibalistic demon. Taking the form of a serpent-like monster, Lamia used to grab children and devour them. Lamia was an offspring of Poseidon, the Greek god of the seas. Famous for her beauty, Lamia was admired by Zeus, the king of the gods and from their union many children were born.

The curse of Hera

When Hera, the wife of Zeus, found out, she became outraged and killed all children full of envy.

the monster lamia by Edward Topsell(1607)Heartbroken, Lamia transformed herself into a monster with a snake body below the waist that chased children and sucked their blood.

Full of anger, the vengeful Hera cursed Lamia never to sleep again. However Zeus, who took pity on Lamia, decided to put her out of her misery. So he gave her the opportunity to take off her eyes and to put them back whenever she wanted so that she could rest.

Meaning of Lamia's name

According to Aristophanes, Ancient Greece's "Father of Comedy", Lamia's name derives from the Greek word "Laimos" ("throat"), relating to the manner in which she killed her victims.

Lamia in modern Greek tradition

Lamia has survived in modern, Greek tradition through various proverbs.

"Watch out or else Lamia will eat you!"
Many parents use Lamia's story until nowadays to threaten their children and encourage good behavior

"She is eating like a Lamia"
An expression used to describe voracious women