Greek Mythology >> Bestiary >> Phasma >> Philinnion


Greek Name

Φασμα Φιλιννιον


Phasma Philinnion

Latin Spelling

Phasma Philinnion


Ghost of Philinnion

PHILINNION was an unwed maiden who died prematurely and returning as a ghost-inhabited corpse consorted with a handsome youth named Makhates, a guest in her parents' home. When her mother discovered the undead girl, she collapsed back into death and was burned by the terrified townsfolk beyond the boundaries of the town.

The story of Philinnion was set in C4th B.C. Macedonia--the king referred to by Phlegon being Phillip of Makedon. Phlegon did not invent story for Proclus mentions other, older sources of the tale.

Philinnion's appearance in the story appears relatively benign, but the reaction of the townsfolk suggest something more sinister. Indeed her rendeavous with the young man recalls visitations by the ghostly vampiric Lamiai. Presumably, if Philinnion's affair had continued, she would have drained his blood--the ancient Greeks believed that ghosts craved blood. The story is therefore regarded as one of the earliest vampire-myths, especially when read in conjunction with the tale of the Lamia of Corinth. In the early Christian era the Greeks coined the term Vrykolakas to describe these vampiric ghosts.


DEMOSTRATOS & KHARITO (Phlegon of Tralles 2.1)


Phlegon of Tralles, Book of Marvels 2. 1 (trans. Hansen) (Greek Paradoxography C2nd A.D.) :
"[The beginning of the story is missing from the manuscript.] The nurse went to the door of the guest room, and in the light of the burning lamp she saw the girl [Philinnion who died and had been entombed many months before] sitting beside Makhates. Because of the extraordinary nature of the sight, she did not wait there any longer but ran to the girl's mother screaming, ‘Kharito! Demostratos!’ She said they should get up and come with her to their daughter, who was alive and by some divine will was with the guest in the guest room.
When Kharito heard this astonishing report, the immensity of the message and the nurse's excitement made her frightened and faint. But after a short time the memory of her daughter came to her, and she began to weep; in the end she accused the old woman of being mad and told her to leave her presence immediately. But the nurse replied boldly and reproachfully that she herself was rational and sound of mind, unlike her mistress, who was reluctant to see her own daughter. With some hesitation Kharito went to the door of the guest room, partly coerced by the nurse and partly wanting to know what really had happened. Since considerable time--about two hours--had now passed since the nurse's original message, it was somewhat late when Kharito went to the door and the occupants were already asleep. She peered in and though she recognised her daughter's clothes and features, but inasmuch as she could not determine the truth of the matter she decided to do nothing further that night. She planned to get up in the morning and confront the girl, or if she should be tool ate for that she intended to question Makhates thoroughly about everything. He would not, she thought, lie if asked about so important a matter. And so she said nothing and left.
At dawn, however, it turned out that by divine will or chance the girl had left unnoticed. When Kharito came to the room she was upset with the young man because of the girl's departure. She asked him to relate everything to her from the beginning, telling the truth and concealing nothing.
The youth was anxious and confused at first, but hesitantly revealed the girl's name was Philinnion. He told how her visits began, how great her desire for him was, and that she said she came to him without her parents' knowledge. Wishing to make the matter credible he opened his coffer and took out the items the girl had left behind--the golden ring he had obtained from her and the breast-band she had left the night before.
When Kharito saw this evidence she uttered a cry, tore her clothes, cast her headdress from her head and fell to the ground, throwing herself upon the tokens and beginning her grief anew. As the guest observed what was happening, how all were grieving and wailing as if they were about to lay the girl into her grave, he became upset and called upon them to stop, promising to show them the girl if she came again. Kharito accepted this and bade him carefully keep his promise to her.
Night came on and now it was the hour when Philinnion was accustomed to come to him. The household kept watch wanting to know of her arrival. She entered at the usual time and sat down on the bed. Makhates pretended that nothing was wrong, since he wished to investigate the whole incredible matter to find out if the girl he was consorting with, who took care to come to him at the same hour, was actually dead. As she ate and drank with him, he simply could not believe what the others had told him, and he supposed that some grave-robbers had dug into the tomb and sold the clothes and gold to her father. But in his wish to learn exactly what the case was, he secretly sent his slaves to summon Demostratos and Kharito.
They came quickly. When they first saw her they were speechless and panic-stricken by the amazing sight, but after that they cried aloud and embraced their daughter. Then Philinnion said to them : ‘Mother and father, how unfairly you have grudged my being with the guest for three days in my father's house, since I have caused no one any pain. For this reason, on account of your meddling, you shall grieve all over again, and I shall return to the place appointed for me. For it was not without divine will that I came here.’ Immediately upon speaking these words she was dead, and her body lay stretched visibly on the bed. Her father and mother threw themselves upon her, and there was much confusion and wailing in the house because of the calamity. The misfortune was unbearable and the sight incredible.
The event was quickly heard through the city and was reported to me. Accordingly, during the night I kept in check the crowds that gathered at the house, since, with news like this going from mouth to mouth, I wanted to make sure there would be no trouble.
By early dawn the town assembly was full. After the particulars had been explained, it was decided that we should first go to the tomb, open it, and see whether the body lay on its bier or whether we would find the place empty. A half-year had not yet passed since the death of the girl. When we opened the chamber into which all deceased members of the family were placed, we saw bodies lying on biers, or bones in the case of those who had died long ago, but on the bier onto which Philinnion had been placed we found only the iron ring that belonged to the guest and the gilded wine cup, objects that she had obtained from Makhates on the first day.
Astonished and frightened, we proceeded immediately to Demostratos's house to see if the corpse was truly to be seen in the guest room. After we saw the dead girl lying there on the ground, we gathered at the place of assembly, since the evens were serious and incredible.
There was considerable confusion in the assembly and almost no one was able to form a judgment on the events. The first to stand up was Hyllos, who is considered to be not only the best seer among us but also a fine augur; in general, he has shown remarkable perception in his craft. He said we should burn the girl outside the boundaries of the city, since nothing would be gained by burying her in the ground within its boundaries, and perform an apotropaic sacrifice to Hermes Khthonios (of the Underworld) and the Eumenides [Erinyes]. Then he prescribed that everyone purify himself completely, cleanse the temples and perform all the customary rites to the Khthonion (Underworld) Gods. He spoke to me also in private about he king and the events, telling me to sacrifice to Hermes, Zeus Xenios and Ares, and to perform these rites with care. When he had maide this known to us, we undertook to do what he had prescribed. Makhates, the guest whom the ghost had visited, became despondent and killed himself.
If you decide to write about this to the king, send word to me also in order that I may dispatch to you one of the persons who examined the affair in detail. Farewell."

Proclus, Platonis Rem Publicam Commentarii 2 (Roman philosopher C5th A.D.) :
"Persons who died and returned to life . . . The case par excellence is Philinnion, during the reign of Philip [of Makedon]. The daughter of the Amphipolitans Demostratos and Charito, she died as a newly-wed. Her husband had been Krateros. In the sixth month after her death she returned to life and for many nights in a row secretly consorted with a young man, Makhates, because of her love for him. He had come to Demostratos from his native city of Pella. She was detected and died again after proclaiming that what she had done was done in accord with the will of the Khthonion (Underworld) Gods. Her corpse was seen by everyone as it lay in state in her father's house. In their disbelief at what had happened the members of her family went to the place that had earlier received her body, dug the place up and found it to be empty. The events are described in a number of letters, some written by Hipparchos and some written by Arrhidaios (who was in charge of Amphipolis) to Philip."





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