Lamia (Λάμια), in Greek mythology, was a queen of Libya who, after the death of her children, become a child-eating dæmon, a kind of spirit neither mortal nor god. Her name, claimed Aristophanes, was derived from laimos - gullet - in reference to her dietary practices. In some versions of her legend, she fell in love with Zeus, whose jealous wife Hera murdered her children and transformed her into a snake-like monster (when she is depicted in art, she is often wrapped in some kind of snakeskin, as seen above); consumed by grief, Lamia assuaged her own pain at the loss of her children by stealing the children of other women and consuming them. Like Lilith, who also served as an inspiration for Pre-Raphaelite artists, Lamia was used by mothers as a kind of bogeyman figure to scare children into obedience. According to some versions of her legend, she could not close her eyes and the image of her dead children constantly haunted her as long as her eyes remained open, until Zeus took pity on her and granted her the ability to remove her eyes. 

In a Roman account of the Lamia myth (found in Flavius Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana), she is described as a kind of vampire who, instead of eating children, seduced and “devoured good-looking young men”. This version referred not to one individual Lamia but a kind of species of succubi, a depiction that inspired John Keats in writing his own Lamia tale - a narrative poem that described her appearance in rich detail:

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.

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