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Title: Greek and Roman Ghost Stories
Author: Collison-Morley, Lacy, 1875-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Formerly Scholar of St. John's College, Oxford

Author of "Giuseppe Baretti and His Friends," "Modern Italian

B. H. Blackwell, Broad Street
Simpkin, Marshall & Co., Limited


This collection was originally begun at the suggestion of Mr. Marion
Crawford, whose wide and continual reading of the classics supplied more
than one of the stories. They were put together during a number of years
of casual browsing among the classics, and will perhaps interest others
who indulge in similar amusements.





  III. STORIES OF HAUNTING                          19

   IV. NECROMANCY                                   33

    V. VISIONS OF THE DEAD IN SLEEP                 45

   VI. APPARITIONS OF THE DEAD                      54

  VII. WARNING APPARITIONS                          72



Though there is no period at which the ancients do not seem to have
believed in a future life, continual confusion prevails when they come
to picture the existence led by man in the other world, as we see from
the sixth book of the _Æneid_. Combined with the elaborate mythology of
Greece, we are confronted with the primitive belief of Italy, and
doubtless of Greece too--a belief supported by all the religious rites
in connection with the dead--that the spirits of the departed lived on
in the tomb with the body. As cremation gradually superseded burial, the
idea took shape that the soul might have an existence of its own,
altogether independent of the body, and a place of abode was assigned to
it in a hole in the centre of the earth, where it lived on in eternity
with other souls.

This latter view seems to have become the official theory, at least in
Italy, in classical days. In the gloomy, horrible Etruscan religion, the
shades were supposed to be in charge of the Conductor of the Dead--a
repulsive figure, always represented with wings and long, matted hair
and a hammer, whose appearance was afterwards imitated in the dress of
the man who removed the dead from the arena. Surely something may be
said for Gaston Boissier's suggestion that Dante's Tuscan blood may
account to some extent for the gruesome imagery of the _Inferno_.

Cicero[1] tells us that it was generally believed that the dead lived on
beneath the earth, and special provision was made for them in every
Latin town in the "mundus," a deep trench which was dug before the
"pomerium" was traced, and regarded as the particular entrance to the
lower world for the dead of the town in question. The trench was vaulted
over, so that it might correspond more or less with the sky, a gap being
left in the vault which was closed with the stone of the departed--the
"lapis manalis." Corn was thrown into the trench, which was filled up
with earth, and an altar erected over it. On three solemn days in the
year--August 25, October 5, and November 8--the trench was opened and
the stone removed, the dead thus once more having free access to the
world above, where the usual offerings were made to them.[2]

These provisions clearly show an official belief that death did not
create an impassable barrier between the dead and the living. The
spirits of the departed still belonged to the city of their birth, and
took an interest in their old home. They could even return to it on the
days when "the trench of the gods of gloom lies open and the very jaws
of hell yawn wide."[3] Their rights must be respected, if evil was to be
averted from the State. In fact, the dead were gods with altars of their
own,[4] and Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, could write to her
sons, "You will make offerings to me and invoke your parent as a
god."[5] Their cult was closely connected with that of the Lares--the
gods of the hearth, which symbolized a fixed abode in contrast with the
early nomad life. Indeed, there is practically no distinction between
the Lares and the Manes, the souls of the good dead. But the dead had
their own festival, the "Dies Parentales," held from the 13th to the
21st of February, in Rome;[6] and in Greece the "Genesia," celebrated on
the 5th of Boedromion, towards the end of September, about which we
know very little.[7]

There is nothing more characteristic of paganism than the passionate
longing of the average man to perpetuate his memory after death in the
world round which all his hopes and aspirations clung. Cicero uses it as
an argument for immortality.[8]

Many men left large sums to found colleges to celebrate their memories
and feast at their tombs on stated occasions.[9] Lucian laughs at this
custom when he represents the soul of the ordinary man in the next world
as a mere bodiless shade that vanishes at a touch like smoke. It
subsists on the libations and offerings it receives from the living, and
those who have no friends or relatives on earth are starving and
famished.[10] Violators of tombs were threatened with the curse of dying
the last of their race--a curse which Macaulay, with his intense family
affection, considered the most awful that could be devised by man; and
the fact that the tombs were built by the high road, so that the dead
might be cheered by the greeting of the passer-by, lends an additional
touch of sadness to a walk among the crumbling ruins that line the Latin
or the Appian Way outside Rome to-day.

No one of the moderns has caught the pagan feeling towards death better
than Giosuè Carducci, a true spiritual descendant of the great Romans of
old, if ever there was one. He tells how, one glorious June day, he was
sitting in school, listening to the priest outraging the verb "amo,"
when his eyes wandered to the window and lighted on a cherry-tree, red
with fruit, and then strayed away to the hills and the sky and the
distant curve of the sea-shore. All Nature was teeming with life, and he
felt an answering thrill, when suddenly, as if from the very fountains
of being within him, there welled up a consciousness of death, and with
it the formless nothing, and a vision of himself lying cold, motionless,
dumb in the black earth, while above him the birds sang, the trees
rustled in the wind, the rivers ran on in their course, and the living
revelled in the warm sun, bathed in its divine light. This first vision
of death often haunted him in later years;[11] and one realizes that
such must often have been the feelings of the Romans, and still more
often of the Greeks, for the joy of the Greek in life was far greater
than that of the Roman. Peace was the only boon that death could bring
to a pagan, and "Pax tecum æterna" is among the commonest of the
inscriptions. The life beyond the grave was at best an unreal and
joyless copy of an earthly existence, and Achilles told Odysseus that he
would rather be the serf of a poor man upon earth than Achilles among
the shades.

When we come to inquire into the appearance of ghosts revisiting the
glimpses of the moon, we find, as we should expect, that they are a
vague, unsubstantial copy of their former selves on earth. In Homer[12]
the shade of Patroclus, which visited Achilles in a vision as he slept
by the sea-shore, looks exactly as Patroclus had looked on earth, even
down to the clothes. Hadrian's famous "animula vagula blandula" gives
the same idea, and it would be difficult to imagine a disembodied spirit
which retains its personality and returns to earth again except as a
kind of immaterial likeness of its earthly self. We often hear of the
extreme pallor of ghosts, which was doubtless due to their being
bloodless and to the pallor of death itself. Propertius conceived of
them as skeletons;[13] but the unsubstantial, shadowy aspect is by far
the commonest, and best harmonizes with the life they were supposed to

Hitherto we have been dealing with the spirits of the dead who have been
duly buried and are at rest, making their appearance among men only at
stated intervals, regulated by the religion of the State. The lot of the
dead who have not been vouchsafed the trifling boon of a handful of
earth cast upon their bones was very different. They had not yet been
admitted to the world below, and were forced to wander for a hundred
years before they might enter Charon's boat. Æneas beheld them on the
banks of the Styx, stretching out their hands "ripæ ulterioris amore."
The shade of Patroclus describes its hapless state to Achilles, as does
that of Elpenor to Odysseus, when they meet in the lower world. It is
not surprising that the ancients attached the highest importance to the
duty of burying the dead, and that Pausanias blames Lysander for not
burying the bodies of Philocles and the four thousand slain at
Ægospotami, seeing that the Athenians even buried the Persian dead after

The spirits of the unburied were usually held to be bound, more or less,
to the spot where their bodies lay, and to be able to enter into
communication with the living with comparative ease, even if they did
not actually haunt them. They were, in fact, evil spirits which had to
be propitiated and honoured in special rites. Their appearances among
the living were not regulated by religion. They wandered at will over
the earth, belonging neither to this world nor to the next, restless and
malignant, unable to escape from the trammels of mortal life, in the
joys of which they had no part. Thus, in the _Phædo_[15] we read of
souls "prowling about tombs and sepulchres, near which, as they tell us,
are seen certain ghostly apparitions of souls which have not departed
pure ... These must be the souls, not of the good, but of the evil,
which are compelled to wander about such places in payment of the
penalty of their former evil way of life."

Apuleius[16] classifies the spirits of the departed for us. The Manes
are the good people, not to be feared so long as their rites are duly
performed, as we have already seen; Lemures are disembodied spirits;
while Larvæ are the ghosts that haunt houses. Apuleius, however, is
wholly uncritical, and the distinction between Larvæ and Lemures is
certainly not borne out by facts.

The Larvæ had distinct attributes, and were thought to cause epilepsy or
madness. They were generally treated more or less as a joke,[17] and are
spoken of much as we speak of a bogey. They appear to have been
entrusted with the torturing of the dead, as we see from the saying,
"Only the Larvæ war with the dead."[18] In Seneca's _Apocolocyntosis_,[19]
when the question of the deification of the late Emperor Claudius
is laid before a meeting of the gods, Father Janus gives it as his
opinion that no more mortals should be treated in this way, and that
"anyone who, contrary to this decree, shall hereafter be made,
addressed, or painted as a god, should be delivered over to the
Larvæ" and flogged at the next games.

Larva also means a skeleton, and Trimalchio, following the Egyptian
custom, has one brought in and placed on the table during his famous
feast. It is, as one would expect, of silver, and the millionaire
freedman points the usual moral--"Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for
to-morrow we die."[20]

The Larvæ were regular characters in the Atellane farces at Rome, where
they performed various "danses macabres." Can these possibly be the
prototypes of the Dances of Death so popular in the Middle Ages? We find
something very similar on the well-known silver cups discovered at Bosco
Reale, though Death itself does not seem to have been represented in
this way. Some of the designs in the medieval series would certainly
have appealed to the average bourgeois Roman of the Trimalchio
type--e.g., "Les Trois Vifs et les Trois Morts," the three men riding
gaily out hunting and meeting their own skeletons. Such crude contrasts
are just what one would expect to find at Pompeii.

Lemures and Larvæ are often confused, but Lemures is the regular word
for the dead not at rest--the "Lemuri," or spirits of the churchyard, of
some parts of modern Italy. They were evil spirits, propitiated in early
days with blood. Hence the first gladiatorial games were given in
connection with funerals. Both in Greece and in Rome there were special
festivals for appeasing these restless spirits. Originally they were of
a public character, for murder was common in primitive times, and such
spirits would be numerous, as is proved by the festival lasting three

In Athens the Nemesia were held during Anthesterion (February-March). As
in Rome, the days were unlucky. Temples were closed and business was
suspended, for the dead were abroad. In the morning the doors were
smeared with pitch, and those in the house chewed whitethorn to keep off
the evil spirits. On the last day of the festival offerings were made
to Hermes, and the dead were formally bidden to depart.[21]

Ovid describes the Lemuria or Lemuralia.[22] They took place in May,
which was consequently regarded as an unlucky month for marriages, and
is still so regarded almost as universally in England to-day as it was
in Rome during the principate of Augustus. The name of the festival Ovid
derives from Remus, as the ghost of his murdered brother was said to
have appeared to Romulus in his sleep and to have demanded burial. Hence
the institution of the Lemuria.

The head of the family walked through the house with bare feet at dead
of night, making the mystic sign with his first and fourth fingers
extended, the other fingers being turned inwards and the thumb crossed
over them, in case he might run against an unsubstantial spirit as he
moved noiselessly along. This is the sign of "le corna," held to be
infallible against the Evil Eye in modern Italy. After solemnly washing
his hands, he places black beans in his mouth, and throws others over
his shoulders, saying, "With these beans do I redeem me and mine." He
repeats this ceremony nine times without looking round, and the spirits
are thought to follow unseen and pick up the beans. Then he purifies
himself once more and clashes brass, and bids the demons
leave his house. When he has repeated nine times "Manes exite paterni,"
he looks round, and the ceremony is over, and the restless ghosts have
been duly laid for a year.

Lamiæ haunted rooms, which had to be fumigated with sulphur, while some
mystic rites were performed with eggs before they could be expelled.

The dead not yet at rest were divided into three classes--those who had
died before their time, the [Greek: aôroi], who had to wander till the
span of their natural life was completed;[23] those who had met with
violent deaths, the [Greek: biaiothanatoi]; and the unburied, the
[Greek: ataphoi]. In the Hymn to Hecate, to whom they were especially
attached, they are represented as following in her train and taking part
in her nightly revels in human shape. The lot of the murdered is no
better, and executed criminals belong to the same class.

Spirits of this kind were supposed to haunt the place where their bodies
lay. Hence they were regarded as demons, and were frequently entrusted
with the carrying out of the strange curses, which have been found in
their tombs, or in wells where a man had been drowned, or even in the
sea, written on leaden tablets, often from right to left, or in queer
characters, so as to be illegible, with another tablet fastened over
them by means of a nail, symbolizing the binding effect it was hoped
they would have--the "Defixiones," to give them their Latin name, which
are very numerous among the inscriptions. So real was the belief in
these curses that the elder Pliny says that everyone is afraid of being
placed under evil spells;[24] and they are frequently referred to in


[Footnote 1: _Tusc. Disp._, i. 16.]

[Footnote 2: Ov., _Fast._, iv. 821; Fowler, _Roman Festivals_, p. 211.]

[Footnote 3: Macrob., _Sat._, i. 16.]

[Footnote 4: Cic., _De Leg._, ii. 22.]

[Footnote 5: "Deum parentem" (Corn. Nep., _Fragm._, 12).]

[Footnote 6: Cp. Fowler, _Rom._ _Fest._]

[Footnote 7: Rohde, _Psyche_, p. 216. Cp. Herod., iv. 26.]

[Footnote 8: _Tusc._ _Disp._, i. 12, 27.]

[Footnote 9: Dill, _Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius_, p. 259

[Footnote 10: _De Luctu_, 9.]

[Footnote 11: Carducci, "Rimembranze di Scuola," in _Rime Nuove_.]

[Footnote 12: _Il._, 23. 64.]

[Footnote 13: "Turpia ossa," 4. 5. 4.]

[Footnote 14: Paus., 9. 32.]

[Footnote 15: 81 D.]

[Footnote 16: _De Genio Socratis_, 15.]

[Footnote 17: Cp. Plautus, _Cas._, iii. 4. 2; _Amphitr._, ii. 2. 145;
_Rudens_, v. 3. 67, etc.; and the use of the word "larvatus."]

[Footnote 18: Pliny, _N.H._, 1, Proef. 31: "Cum mortuis non nisi
Larvas luctari."]

[Footnote 19: Seneca, _Apocol._, 9. At the risk of irrelevance, I cannot
refrain from pointing out the enduring nature of proverbs as exemplified
in this section. Hercules grows more and more anxious at the turn the
debate is taking, and hastens from one god to another, saying: "Don't
grudge me this favour; the case concerns me closely. I shan't forget you
when the time comes. One good turn deserves another" (Manus manum
lavat). This is exactly the Neapolitan proverb, "One hand washes the
other, and both together wash the face." "Una mano lava l'altra e tutt'e
due si lavano la faccia," is more or less the modern version. In chapter
vii. we have also "gallum in suo sterquilino plurimum posse," which
corresponds to our own, "Every cock crows best on its own dunghill."]

[Footnote 20: Petr., _Sat._, 34.]

[Footnote 21: [Greek: thhyraze, kêres, oukhet Anthestêria.] Cp. Rohde,
_Psyche_, 217.]

[Footnote 22: _Fast._, v. 419 _ff._]

[Footnote 23: Tertull., _De An._, 56.]

[Footnote 24: _N.H._, 28. 2. 19.]



Ghost stories play a very subordinate part in classical literature, as
is only to be expected. The religion of the hard-headed, practical Roman
was essentially formal, and consisted largely in the exact performance
of an elaborate ritual. His relations with the dead were regulated with
a care that might satisfy the most litigious of ghosts, and once a man
had carried out his part of the bargain, he did not trouble his head
further about his deceased ancestors, so long as he felt that they, in
their turn, were not neglecting his interests. Yet the average man in
Rome was glad to free himself from burdensome and expensive duties
towards the dead that had come down to him from past generations, and
the ingenuity of the lawyers soon devised a system of sham sales by
which this could be successfully and honourably accomplished.[25]

Greek religion, it is true, found expression to a large extent in
mythology; but the sanity of the Greek genius in its best days kept it
free from excessive superstition. Not till the invasion of the
West by the cults of the East do we find ghosts and spirits at all
common in literature.

The belief in apparitions existed, however, at all times, even among
educated people. The younger Pliny, for instance, writes to ask his
friend Sura for his opinion as to whether ghosts have a real existence,
with a form of their own, and are of divine origin, or whether they are
merely empty air, owing their definite shape to our superstitious fears.

We must not forget that Suetonius, whose superstition has become
proverbial, was a friend of Pliny, and wrote to him on one occasion,
begging him to procure the postponement of a case in which he was
engaged, as he had been frightened by a dream. Though Pliny certainly
did not possess his friend's amazing credulity, he takes the request
with becoming seriousness, and promises to do his best; but he adds that
the real question is whether Suetonius's dreams are usually true or not.
He then relates how he himself once had a vision of his mother-in-law,
of all people, appearing to him and begging him to abandon a case he had
undertaken. In spite of this awful warning he persevered, however, and
it was well that he did so, for the case proved the beginning of his
successful career at the Bar.[26] His uncle, the elder Pliny, seems to
have placed more faith in his dreams, and wrote his account of the
German wars entirely because he dreamt that Drusus appeared to him and
implored him to preserve his name from oblivion.[27]

The Plinies were undoubtedly two of the ablest and most enlightened men
of their time; and the belief in the value of dreams is certainly not
extinct among us yet. If we possess Artemidorus's book on the subject
for the ancient world, we have also the "Smorfia" of to-day, so dear to
the heart of the lotto-playing Neapolitan, which assigns a special
number to every conceivable subject that can possibly occur in a
dream--not excluding "u murtu che parl'" (the dead man that speaks)--for
the guidance of the believing gambler in selecting the numbers he is to
play for the week.

Plutarch placed great faith in ghosts and visions. In his Life of
Dion[28] he notes the singular fact that both Dion and Brutus were
warned of their approaching deaths by a frightful spectre. "It has been
maintained," he adds, "that no man in his senses ever saw a ghost: that
these are the delusive visions of women and children, or of men whose
intellects are impaired by some physical infirmity, and who believe that
their diseased imaginations are of divine origin. But if Dion and
Brutus, men of strong and philosophic minds, whose understandings were
not affected by any constitutional infirmity--if such men could place so
much faith in the appearance of spectres as to give an account of them
to their friends, I see no reason why we should depart from the opinion
of the ancients that men had their evil genii, who disturbed them with
fears and distressed their virtues ..."

In the opening of the _Philopseudus_, Lucian asks what it is that makes
men so fond of a lie, and comments on their delight in romancing
themselves, which is only equalled by the earnest attention with which
they receive other people's efforts in the same direction. Tychiades
goes on to describe his visit to Eucrates, a distinguished philosopher,
who was ill in bed. With him were a Stoic, a Peripatetic, a Pythagorean,
a Platonist, and a doctor, who began to tell stories so absurd and
abounding in such monstrous superstition that he ended by leaving them
in disgust. None of us have, of course, ever been present at similar
gatherings, where, after starting with the inevitable Glamis mystery,
everybody in the room has set to work to outdo his neighbour in
marvellous yarns, drawing on his imagination for additional material,
and, like Eucrates, being ready to stake the lives of his children on
his veracity.

Another scoffer was Democritus of Abdera, who was so firmly convinced of
the non-existence of ghosts that he took up his abode in a tomb and
lived there night and day for a long time. Classical ghosts seem to have
affected black rather than white as their favourite colour. Among the
features of the gruesome entertainments with which Domitian loved to
terrify his Senators were handsome boys, who appeared naked with their
bodies painted black, like ghosts, and performed a wild dance.[29] On
the following day one of them was generally sent as a present to each
Senator. Some boys in the neighbourhood wished to shake Democritus's
unbelief, so they dressed themselves in black with masks like skulls
upon their heads and danced round the tomb where he lived. But, to their
annoyance, he only put his head out and told them to go away and stop
playing the fool.

The Greek and Roman stories hardly come up to the standards required by
the Society for Psychical Research. They are purely popular, and the
ghost is regarded as the deceased person, permitted or condemned by the
powers of the lower world to hold communication with survivors on earth.
Naturally, they were never submitted to critical inquiry, and there is
no foreshadowing of any of the modern theories, that the phenomenon, if
caused by the deceased, is not necessarily the deceased, though it may
be an indication that "some kind of force is being exercised after death
which is in some way connected with a person previously known on earth,"
or that the apparitions may be purely local, or due entirely to
subjective hallucination on the part of the person beholding them.
Strangely enough, we rarely find any of those interesting cases,
everywhere so well attested, of people appearing just about the time of
their death to friends or relatives to whom they are particularly
attached, or with whom they have made a compact that they will appear,
should they die first, if it is possible. The classical instance of this
is the well-known story of Lord Brougham who, while taking a warm bath
in Sweden, saw a school friend whom he had not met for many years, but
with whom he had long ago "committed the folly of drawing up an
agreement written with our blood, to the effect that whichever of us
died first should appear to the other, and thus solve any doubts we had
entertained of the life after death." There are, however, a number of
stories of the passing of souls, which are curiously like some of those
collected by the Society for Psychical Research, in the Fourth Book of
Gregory the Great's Dialogues.

Another noticeable difference is that apparitions in most
well-authenticated modern ghost stories are of a comforting character,
whereas those in the ancient world are nearly all the reverse. This
difference we may attribute to the entire change in the aspect of the
future life which we owe to modern Christianity. As we have seen, there
was little that was comforting in the life after death as conceived by
the old pagan religions, while in medieval times the horrors of hell
were painted in the most lurid colours, and were emphasized more than
the joys of heaven.


[Footnote 25: Cic., _Murena_, 27.]

[Footnote 26: _Ep._, i. 18.]

[Footnote 27: _Ibid._, 3. 5. 4.]

[Footnote 28: Chap. II]

[Footnote 29: Dio Cass., _Domitian_, 9.]



In a letter to Sura[30] the younger Pliny gives us what may be taken as
a prototype of all later haunted-house stories. At one time in Athens
there was a roomy old house where nobody could be induced to live. In
the dead of night the sound of clanking chains would be heard, distant
at first, proceeding doubtless from the garden behind or the inner court
of the house, then gradually drawing nearer and nearer, till at last
there appeared the figure of an old man with a long beard, thin and
emaciated, with chains on his hands and feet. The house was finally
abandoned, and advertised to be let or sold at an absurdly low price.
The philosopher Athenodorus read the notice on his arrival in Athens,
but the smallness of the sum asked aroused his suspicions. However, as
soon as he heard the story he took the house. He had his bed placed in
the front court, close to the main door, dismissed his slaves, and
prepared to pass the night there, reading and writing, in order to
prevent his thoughts from wandering to the ghost. He worked on for some
time without anything happening; but at last the clanking of chains was
heard in the distance. Athenodorus did not raise his eyes or stop his
work, but kept his attention fixed and listened. The sounds gradually
drew nearer, and finally entered the room where he was sitting. Then he
turned round and saw the apparition. It beckoned him to follow, but he
signed to it to wait and went on with his work. Not till it came and
clanked its chains over his very head would he take up a lamp and follow
it. The figure moved slowly forward, seemingly weighed down with its
heavy chains, until it reached an open space in the courtyard. There it
vanished. Athenodorus marked the spot with leaves and grass, and on the
next day the ground was dug up in the presence of a magistrate, when the
skeleton of a man with some rusty chains was discovered. The remains
were buried with all ceremony, and the apparition was no more seen.

Lucian tells the same story in the _Philopseudus_, with some ridiculous
additions, thoroughly in keeping with the surroundings.

An almost exactly similar story has been preserved by Robert Wodrow, the
indefatigable collector, in a notebook which he appears to have intended
to be the foundation of a scientific collection of marvellous tales.
Wodrow died early in the eighteenth century. Gilbert Rule, the founder
and first Principal of Edinburgh University, once reached a desolate inn
in a lonely spot on the Grampians. The inn was full, and they were
obliged to make him up a bed in a house near-by that had been vacant for
thirty years. "He walked some time in the room," says Wodrow,[31] "and
committed himself to God's protection, and went to bed. There were two
candles left on the table, and these he put out. There was a large
bright fire remaining. He had not been long in bed till the room door is
opened and an apparition in shape of a country tradesman came in, and
opened the curtains without speaking a word. Mr. Rule was resolved to do
nothing till it should speak or attack him, but lay still with full
composure, committing himself to the Divine protection and conduct. The
apparition went to the table, lighted the two candles, brought them to
the bedside, and made some steps toward the door, looking still to the
bed, as if he would have Mr. Rule rising and following. Mr. Rule still
lay still, till he should see his way further cleared. Then the
apparition, who the whole time spoke none, took an effectual way to
raise the doctor. He carried back the candles to the table and went to
the fire, and with the tongs took down the kindled coals, and laid them
on the deal chamber floor. The doctor then thought it time to rise and
put on his clothes, in the time of which the spectre laid up the coals
again in the chimney, and, going to the table, lifted the candles and
went to the door, opened it, still looking to the Principal, as he would
have him following the candles, which he now, thinking there was
something extraordinary in the case, after looking to God for direction,
inclined to do. The apparition went down some steps with the candles,
and carried them into a long trance, at the end of which there was a
stair which carried down to a low room. This the spectre went down, and
stooped, and set down the lights on the lowest step of the stair, and
straight disappears."

"The learned Principal," continues Burton, "whose courage and coolness
deserve the highest commendation, lighted himself back to bed with the
candles, and took the remainder of his rest undisturbed. Being a man of
great sagacity, on ruminating over his adventure, he informed the
Sheriff of the county 'that he was much of the mind there was murder in
the case.' The stone whereon the candles were placed was raised, and
there 'the plain remains of a human body were found, and bones, to the
conviction of all.' It was supposed to be an old affair, however, and no
traces could be got of the murderer. Rule undertook the functions of the
detective, and pressed into the service the influence of his own
profession. He preached a great sermon on the occasion, to which all the
neighbouring people were summoned; and behold in the time of his sermon,
an old man near eighty years was awakened, and fell a-weeping, and
before the whole company acknowledged that at the building of that
house, he was the murderer."

The main features of the story have changed very little in the course of
ages, except in the important point of the conviction of the murderer,
which would have been effected in a very different way in a Greek story.
Doubtless a similar tale could be found in the folk-lore of almost any

Plutarch[32] relates how, in his native city of Chæronæa, a certain
Damon had been murdered in some baths. Ghosts continued to haunt the
spot ever afterwards, and mysterious groans were heard, so that at last
the doors were walled up. "And to this very day," he continues, "those
who live in the neighbourhood imagine that they see strange sights and
are terrified with cries of sorrow."

It is quite clear from Plautus that ghost stories, even if not taken
very seriously, aroused a wide-spread interest in the average Roman of
his day, just as they do in the average Briton of our own. They were
doubtless discussed in a half-joking way. The apparitions were generally
believed to frighten people, just as they are at present, though the
well-authenticated stories of such occurrences would seem to show that
genuine ghosts, or whatever one likes to call them, have the power of
paralyzing fear.

In the _Mostellaria_,[33] Plautus uses a ghost as a recognized piece of
supernatural machinery. The regulation father of Roman comedy has gone
away on a journey, and in the meantime the son has, as usual, almost
reached the end of his father's fortune. The father comes back
unexpectedly, and the son turns in despair to his faithful slave,
Tranio, for help. Tranio is equal to the occasion, and undertakes to
frighten the inconvenient parent away again. He gives an account of an
apparition that has been seen, and has announced that it is the ghost of
a stranger from over-seas, who has been dead for six years.

"Here must I dwell," it had declared, "for the gods of the lower world
will not receive me, seeing that I died before my time. My host murdered
me, his guest, villain that he was, for the gold that I carried, and
secretly buried me, without funeral rites, in this house. Be gone hence,
therefore, for it is accursed and unholy ground." This story is enough
for the father. He takes the advice, and does not return till Tranio and
his dutiful son are quite ready for him.

Great battlefields are everywhere believed to be haunted. Tacitus[34]
relates how, when Titus was besieging Jerusalem, armies were seen
fighting in the sky; and at a much later date, after a great battle
against Attila and the Huns, under the walls of Rome, the ghosts of the
dead fought for three days and three nights, and the clash of their arms
was distinctly heard.[35] Marathon is no exception to the rule.
Pausanias[36] says that any night you may hear horses neighing and men
fighting there. To go on purpose to see the sight never brought good to
any man; but with him who unwittingly lights upon it the spirits are not
angry. He adds that the people of Marathon worship the men who fell in
the battle as heroes; and who could be more worthy of such honour than
they? The battle itself was not without its marvellous side. Epizelus,
the Athenian, used to relate how a huge hoplite, whose beard
over-shadowed all his shield, stood over against him in the thick of the
fight. The apparition passed him by and killed the man next him, but
Epizelus came out of the battle blind, and remained so for the rest of
his life.[37] Plutarch[38] also relates of a place in Boeotia where a
battle had been fought, that there is a stream running by, and that
people imagine that they hear panting horses in the roaring waters.

But the strangest account of the habitual haunting of great battlefields
is to be found in Philostratus's _Heroica_, which represents the spirits
of the Homeric heroes as still closely connected with Troy and its
neighbourhood. How far the stories are based on local tradition it is
impossible to say; they are told by a vine-dresser, who declares that he
lives under the protection of Protesilaus. At one time he was in danger
of being violently ousted from all his property, when the ghost of
Protesilaus appeared to the would-be despoiler in a vision, and struck
him blind. The great man was so terrified at this event that he carried
his depredations no further; and the vine-dresser has since continued to
cultivate what remained of his property under the protection of the
hero, with whom he lives on most intimate terms. Protesilaus often
appears to him while he is at work and has long talks with him, and he
keeps off wild beasts and disease from the land.

Not only Protesilaus, but also his men, and, in fact, virtually all of
the "giants of the mighty bone and bold emprise" who fought round Troy,
can be seen on the plain at night, clad like warriors, with nodding
plumes. The inhabitants are keenly interested in these apparitions, and
well they may be, as so much depends upon them. If the heroes are
covered with dust, a drought is impending; if with sweat, they
foreshadow rain. Blood upon their arms means a plague; but if they show
themselves without any distinguishing mark, all will be well.

Though the heroes are dead, they cannot be insulted with impunity. Ajax
was popularly believed, owing to the form taken by his madness, to be
especially responsible for any misfortune that might befall flocks and
herds. On one occasion some shepherds, who had had bad luck with their
cattle, surrounded his tomb and abused him, bringing up all the weak
points in his earthly career recorded by Homer. At last they went too
far for his patience, and a terrible voice was heard in the tomb and the
clash of armour. The offenders fled in terror, but came to no harm.

On another occasion some strangers were playing at draughts near his
shrine, when Ajax appeared and begged them to stop, as the game reminded
him of Palamedes.

Hector was a far more dangerous person. Maximus of Tyre[39] says that
the people of Ilium often see him bounding over the plain at dead of
night in flashing armour--a truly Homeric picture. Maximus cannot,
indeed, boast of having seen Hector, though he also has had his visions
vouchsafed him. He had seen Castor and Pollux, like twin stars, above
his ship, steering it through a storm. Æsculapius also he has
seen--not in a dream, by Hercules, but with his waking eyes. But to
return to Hector. Philostratus says that one day an unfortunate boy
insulted him in the same way in which the shepherds had treated Ajax.
Homer, however, did not satisfy this boy, and as a parting shaft he
declared that the statue in Ilium did not really represent Hector, but
Achilles. Nothing happened immediately, but not long afterwards, while
the boy was driving a team of ponies, Hector appeared in the form of a
warrior in a brook which was, as a rule, so small as not even to have a
name. He was heard shouting in a foreign tongue as he pursued the boy in
the stream, finally overtaking and drowning him with his ponies. The
bodies were never afterwards recovered.

Philostratus gives us a quantity of details about the Homeric heroes,
which the vine-dresser has picked up in his talks with Protesilaus. Most
of the heroes can be easily recognized. Achilles, for instance, enters
into conversation with various people, and goes out hunting. He can be
recognized by his height and his beauty and his bright armour; and as he
rushes past he is usually accompanied by a whirlwind--[Greek: podarkês,
dios], even after death.

Then we hear the story of the White Isle. Helen and Achilles fell in
love with one another, though they had never met--the one hidden in
Egypt, the other fighting before Troy. There was no place near Troy
suited for their eternal life together, so Thetis appealed to Poseidon
to give them an island home of their own. Poseidon consented, and the
White Isle rose up in the Black Sea, near the mouth of the Danube. There
Achilles and Helen, the manliest of men and the most feminine of women,
first met and first embraced; and Poseidon himself, and Amphitrite, and
all the Nereids, and as many river gods and spirits as dwell near the
Euxine and Mæotis, came to the wedding. The island is thickly covered
with white trees and with elms, which grow in regular order round the
shrine; and on it there dwell certain white birds, fragrant of the salt
sea, which Achilles is said to have tamed to his will, so that they keep
the glades cool, fanning them with their wings and scattering spray as
they fly along the ground, scarce rising above it. To men sailing over
the broad bosom of the sea the island is holy when they disembark, for
it lies like a hospitable home to their ships. But neither those who
sail thither, nor the Greeks and barbarians living round the Black Sea,
may build a house upon it; and all who anchor and sacrifice there must
go on board at sunset. No man may pass the night upon the isle, and no
woman may even land there. If the wind is favourable, ships must sail
away; if not, they must put out and anchor in the bay and sleep on
board. For at night men say that Achilles and Helen drink together, and
sing of each other's love, and of the war, and of Homer. Now that his
battles are over, Achilles cultivates the gift of song he had received
from Calliope. Their voices ring out clear and godlike over the water,
and the sailors sit trembling with emotion as they listen. Those who
had anchored there declared that they had heard the neighing of horses,
and the clash of arms, and shouts such as are raised in battle.

Maximus of Tyre[40] also describes the island, and tells how sailors
have often seen a fair-haired youth dancing a war-dance in golden armour
upon it; and how once, when one of them unwittingly slept there,
Achilles woke him, and took him to his tent and entertained him.
Patroclus poured the wine and Achilles played the lyre, while Thetis
herself is said to have been present with a choir of other deities.

If they anchor to the north or the south of the island, and a breeze
springs up that makes the harbours dangerous, Achilles warns them, and
bids them change their anchorage and avoid the wind. Sailors relate how,
"when they first behold the island, they embrace each other and burst
into tears of joy. Then they put in and kiss the land, and go to the
temple to pray and to sacrifice to Achilles." Victims stand ready of
their own accord at the altar, according to the size of the ship and the
number of those on board.

Pausanias also mentions the White Isle.[41] On one occasion, Leonymus,
while leading the people of Croton against the Italian Locrians,
attacked the spot where he was informed that Ajax Oïleus, on whom the
people of Locris had called for help, was posted in the van. According
to Conon,[42] who, by the way, calls the hero Autoleon, when the people
of Croton went to war, they also left a vacant space for Ajax in the
forefront of their line. However this may be, Leonymus was wounded in
the breast, and as the wound refused to heal and weakened him
considerably, he applied to Delphi for advice. The god told him to sail
to the White Isle, where Ajax would heal him of his wound. Thither,
therefore, he went, and was duly healed. On his return he described what
he had seen--how that Achilles was now married to Helen; and it was
Leonymus who told Stesichorus that his blindness was due to Helen's
wrath, and thus induced him to write the _Palinode_.

Achilles himself is once said to have appeared to a trader who
frequently visited the island. They talked of Troy, and then the hero
gave him wine, and bade him sail away and fetch him a certain Trojan
maiden who was the slave of a citizen of Ilium. The trader was surprised
at the request, and ventured to ask why he wanted a Trojan slave.
Achilles replied that it was because she was of the same race as Hector
and his ancestors, and of the blood of the sons of Priam and Dardanus.
The trader thought that Achilles was in love with the girl, whom he duly
brought with him on his next visit to the island. Achilles thanked him,
and bade him keep her on board the ship, doubtless because women were
not allowed to land. In the evening he was entertained by Achilles and
Helen, and his host gave him a large sum of money, promising to make
him his guest-friend and to bring luck to his ship and his business. At
daybreak Achilles dismissed him, telling him to leave the girl on the
shore. When they had gone about a furlong from the island, a horrible
cry from the maiden reached their ears, and they saw Achilles tearing
her to pieces, rending her limb from limb.

In this brutal savage it is impossible to recognize Homer's chivalrous
hero, who sacrificed the success of a ten years' war, fought originally
for the recovery of one woman, to his grief at the loss of another, and
has thus made it possible to describe the _Iliad_ as the greatest
love-poem ever written. One cannot help feeling that Pindar's Isle of
the Blest, whither he was brought by Thetis, whose mother's prayer had
moved the Heart of Zeus, to dwell with Cadmus and Peleus, is Achilles'
true home; or the isle of the heroes of all time, described by Carducci,
where King Lear sits telling OEdipus of his sufferings, and Cordelia
calls to Antigone, "Come, my Greek sister! We will sing of peace to our
fathers." Helen and Iseult, silent and thoughtful, roam under the shade
of the myrtles, while the setting sun kisses their golden hair with its
reddening rays. Helen gazes across the sea, but King Mark opens his arms
to Iseult, and the fair head sinks on the mighty beard. Clytemnestra
stands by the shore with the Queen of Scots. They bathe their white arms
in the waves, but the waves recoil swollen with red blood, while the
wailing of the hapless women echoes along the rocky strand. Among these
heroic souls Shelley alone of modern poets--that Titan spirit in a
maiden's form--may find a place, according to Carducci, caught up by
Sophocles from the living embrace of Thetis.[43]


[Footnote 30: _Ep._, vii. 27.]

[Footnote 31: Burton's _The Book-Hunter: Robert Wodrow_.]

[Footnote 32: _Cimon_, i.]

[Footnote 33: II. 5. 67.]

[Footnote 34: _Hist._, v. 13.]

[Footnote 35: Damascius, _Vita Isidori_, 63.]

[Footnote 36: I. 32. 4.]

[Footnote 37: Herod., vi. 117.]

[Footnote 38: _Parallel_, 7.]

[Footnote 39: _Dissert._, 15. 7.]

[Footnote 40: _Dissert._, 15. 7.]

[Footnote 41: 3. 19. 12.]

[Footnote 42: _Narr._, 18.]

[Footnote 43: G. Carducci, "Presso l'urna di P.B. Shelley," in the _Odi



The belief that it was possible to call up the souls of the dead by
means of spells was almost universal in antiquity. We know that even
Saul, who had himself cut off those that had familiar spirits and the
wizards out of the land, disguised himself and went with two others to
consult the witch of En-dor; that she called up the spirit of Samuel at
his request; that Samuel asked Saul, "Why hast thou disquieted me, to
bring me up?" and then prophesied his ruin and death at the hands of the
Philistines at Mount Gilboa. We find frequent references to the practice
in classical literature. The elder Pliny[44] gives us the interesting
information that spirits refuse to obey people afflicted with freckles.

There were always certain spots hallowed by tradition as particularly
favourable to intercourse with the dead, or even as being actual
entrances to the lower world. For instance, at Heraclea in Pontus there
was a famous [Greek: psychomanteion], or place where the souls of the
dead could be conjured up and consulted, as Hercules was believed to
have dragged Cerberus up to earth here. Other places supposed to be
connected with this myth had a similar legend attached to them, as also
did all places where Pluto was thought to have carried off Persephone.
Thus we hear of entrances to Hades at Eleusis,[45] at Colonus,[46] at
Enna in Sicily,[47] and finally at the lovely pool of Cyane, up the
Anapus River, near Syracuse, one of the few streams in which the papyrus
still flourishes.[48] Lakes and seas also were frequently believed to be
entrances to Hades.[49]

The existence of sulphurous fumes easily gave rise to a belief that
certain places were in direct communication with the lower world. This
was the case at Cumæ where Æneas consulted the Sybil, and at Colonus;
while at Hierapolis in Phrygia there was a famous "Plutonium," which
could only be safely approached by the priests of Cybele.[50] It was
situated under a temple of Apollo, a real entrance to Hades; and it is
doubtless to this that Cicero refers when he speaks of the deadly
"Plutonia" he had seen in Asia.[51] These "Plutonia" or "Charonia" are,
in fact, places where mephitic vapours exist, like the Grotto del Cane
and other spots in the neighbourhood of Naples and Pozzuoli. The priests
must either have become used to the fumes, or have learnt some means of
counteracting them; otherwise their lives can hardly have been more
pleasant than that of the unfortunate dog which used to be exhibited in
the Naples grotto, though the control of these very realistic entrances
to the kingdom of Pluto must have been a very profitable business, well
worth a little personal inconvenience. Others are mentioned by Strabo at
Magnesia and Myus,[52] and there was one at Cyllene, in Arcadia.

In addition to these there were numerous special temples or places where
the souls of the dead, which were universally thought to possess a
knowledge of the future, could be called up and consulted--e.g., the
temple at Phigalia, in Arcadia, used by Pausanias, the Spartan
commander;[53] or the [Greek: nekyomanteion], the oracle of the dead, by
the River Acheron, in Threspotia, to which Periander, the famous tyrant
of Corinth, had recourse;[54] and it was here, according to Pausanias,
that Orpheus went down to the lower world in search of Eurydice.

Lucian[55] tells us that it was only with Pluto's permission that the
dead could return to life, and they were invariably accompanied by
Mercury. Consequently, both these gods were regularly invoked in the
prayers and spells used on such occasions. Only the souls of those
recently dead were, as a rule, called up, for it was naturally held that
they would feel greater interest in the world they had just left, and in
the friends and relations still alive, to whom they were really
attached. Not that it was impossible to evoke the ghosts of those long
dead, if it was desired. Even Orpheus and Cecrops were not beyond reach
of call, and Apollonius of Tyana claimed to have raised the shade of

All oracles were originally sacred to Persephone and Pluto, and relied
largely on necromancy, a snake being the emblem of prophetic power.
Hence, when Apollo, the god of light, claimed possession of the oracles
as the conqueror of darkness, the snake was twined round his tripod as
an emblem, and his priestess was called Pythia. When Alexander set up
his famous oracle, as described by Lucian, the first step taken in
establishing its reputation was the finding of a live snake in an egg in
a lake. The find had, of course, been previously arranged by Alexander
and his confederates.

We still possess accounts of the working of these oracles of the dead,
especially of the one connected with the Lake of Avernus, near Naples.
Cicero[57] describes how, from this lake, "shades, the spirits of the
dead, are summoned in the dense gloom of the mouth of Acheron with salt
blood"; and Strabo quotes the early Greek historian Ephorus as relating
how, even in his day, "the priests that raise the dead from Avernus live
in underground dwellings, communicating with each other by subterranean
passages, through which they led those who wished to consult the oracle
hidden in the bowels of the earth." "Not far from the lake of Avernus,"
says Maximus of Tyre, "was an oracular cave, which took its name from
the calling up of the dead. Those who came to consult the oracle, after
repeating the sacred formula and offering libations and slaying victims,
called upon the spirit of the friend or relation they wished to consult.
Then it appeared, an unsubstantial shade, difficult both to see and to
recognize, yet endowed with a human voice and skilled in prophecy. When
it had answered the questions put to it, it vanished." One is at once
struck with the similarity of this account to those of the
spiritualistic séances of the famous Eusapia in the same part of the
world, not so very long ago. In most cases those consulting the oracle
would probably be satisfied with hearing the voice of the dead man, or
with a vision of him in sleep, so that some knowledge of ventriloquism
or power of hypnotism or suggestion would often be ample stock-in-trade
for those in charge.

This consulting of the dead must have been very common in antiquity.
Both Plato[58] and Euripides[59] mention it; and the belief that the
dead have a knowledge of the future, which seems to be ingrained in
human nature, gave these oracles great power. Thus, Cicero tells[60] us
that Appius often consulted "soul-oracles" (psychomantia), and also
mentions a man having recourse to one when his son was seriously
ill.[61] The poets have, of course, made free use of this supposed
prophetic power of the dead. The shade of Polydorus, for instance,
speaks the prologue of the Hecuba, while the appearance of the dead
Creusa in the _Æneid_ is known to everyone. In the _Persæ_, Æschylus
makes the shade of Darius ignorant of all that has happened since his
death, and is thus able to introduce his famous description of the
battle of Salamis; but Darius, nevertheless, possesses a knowledge of
the future, and can therefore give us an equally vivid account of the
battle of Platæa, which had not yet taken place. The shade of
Clytemnestra in the _Eumenides_, however, does not prophesy.

Pliny mentions the belief that the dead had prophetic powers, but
declares that they could not always be relied on, as the following
instance proves.[62] During the Sicilian war, Gabienus, the bravest man
in Cæsar's fleet, was captured by Sextus Pompeius, and beheaded by his
orders. For a whole day the corpse lay upon the shore, the head almost
severed from the body. Then, towards evening, a large crowd assembled,
attracted by his groans and prayers; and he begged Sextus Pompeius
either to come to him himself or to send some of his friends; for he had
returned from the dead, and had something to tell him. Pompeius sent
friends, and Gabienus informed them that Pompeius's cause found favour
with the gods below, and was the right cause, and that he was bidden to
announce that all would end as he wished. To prove the truth of what he
said, he announced that he would die immediately, as he actually did.

This knowledge of the future by the dead is to be found in more than one
well-authenticated modern ghost story, where the apparition would seem
to have manifested itself for the express purpose of warning those whom
it has loved on earth of approaching danger. We may take, for instance,
the story[63] where a wife, who is lying in bed with her husband,
suddenly sees a gentleman dressed in full naval uniform sitting on the
bed. She was too astonished for fear, and waked her husband, who "for a
second or two lay looking in intense astonishment at the intruder; then,
lifting himself a little, he shouted: 'What on earth are you doing here,
sir?' Meanwhile the form, slowly drawing himself into an upright
position, now said in a commanding, yet reproachful voice, 'Willie!
Willie!' and then vanished." Her husband got up, unlocked the door, and
searched the house, but found nothing. On his return he informed his
wife that the form was that of his father, whom she had never seen. He
had left the navy before this son was born, and the son had, therefore,
only seen his father in uniform a very few times. It afterwards came out
that her husband was about to engage in some speculations which, had he
done so, would have proved his ruin; but, fortunately, this vision of
his father made such an impression on him that he abandoned the idea

Lucan[64] describes how Sextus Pompeius went to consult Erichtho, one of
the famous Thessalian witches, as to the prospects of his father's
success against Cæsar, during the campaign that ended in the disastrous
defeat at Pharsalia. It is decided that a dead man must be called back
to life, and Erichtho goes out to where a recent skirmish has taken
place, and chooses the body of a man whose throat had been cut, which
was lying there unburied. She drags it back to her cave, and fills its
breast with warm blood. She has chosen a man recently dead, because his
words are more likely to be clear and distinct, which might not be the
case with one long accustomed to the world below. She then washes it,
uses various magic herbs and potions, and prays to the gods of the lower
world. At last she sees the shade of the man, whose lifeless body lies
stretched before her, standing close by and gazing upon the limbs it had
left and the hated bonds of its former prison. Furious at the delay and
the slow working of her spells, she seizes a live serpent and lashes the
corpse with it. Even the last boon of death, the power of dying, is
denied the poor wretch. Slowly the life returns to the body, and
Erichtho promises that if the man speaks the truth she will bury him so
effectually that no spells will ever be able to call him back to life
again. He is weak and faint, like a dying man, but finally tells her all
she wishes to know, and dies once again. She fulfills her promise and
burns the body, using every kind of magic spell to make it impossible
for anyone to trouble the shade again. Indeed, it seems to have been
unusual to summon a shade from the lower world more than once, except
in the case of very famous persons. This kind of magic was nearly always
carried on at night. Statius[65] has also given us a long and
characteristically elaborate account of the calling up of the shade of
Laius by Eteocles and Tiresias.

Apuleius,[66] in his truly astounding account of Thessaly in his day,
gives a detailed description of the process of calling back a corpse to
life. "The prophet then took a certain herb and laid it thrice upon the
mouth of the dead man, placing another upon the breast. Then, turning
himself to the east with a silent prayer for the help of the holy sun,
he drew the attention of the audience to the great miracle he was
performing. Gradually the breast of the corpse began to swell in the act
of breathing, the arteries to pulsate, and the body to be filled with
life. Finally the dead man sat up and asked why he had been brought back
to life and not left in peace."

One is reminded of the dead man being carried out to burial who meets
Dionysus in Hades, in Aristophanes' _Frogs_, and expresses the wish that
he may be struck alive again if he does what is requested of him. If
ghosts are often represented as "all loath to leave the body that they
love," they are generally quite as loath to return to it, when once they
have left it, though whether it is the process of returning or the
continuance of a life which they have left that is distasteful to them
is not very clear. The painfulness of the process of restoration to life
after drowning seems to favour the former explanation.

These cases of resurrection are, of course, quite different from
ordinary necromancy--the summoning of the shade of a dead man from the
world below, in order to ask its advice with the help of a professional
diviner. As religious faith decayed and the superstitions of the East
and the belief in magic gained ground, necromancy became more and more
common. Even Cicero charges Vatinius[67] with evoking the souls of the
dead, and with being in the habit of sacrificing the entrails of boys to
the Manes. Tacitus mentions a young man trying to raise the dead by
means of incantations,[68] while Pliny[69] speaks of necromancy as a
recognized branch of magic, and Origen classes it among the crimes of
the magicians in his own day.

After murdering his mother, Nero often declared that he was troubled by
her spirit and by the lashes and blazing torches of the Furies.[70] One
would imagine that the similarity of his crime and his punishment to
those of Orestes would have been singularly gratifying to a man of
Nero's theatrical temperament; yet we are informed that he often tried
to call up her ghost and lay it with the help of magic rites. Nero,
however, took particular pleasure in raising the spirits of the dead,
according to the Elder Pliny,[71] who adds that not even the charms of
his own singing and acting had greater attractions for him.

Caracalla, besides his bodily illnesses, was obviously insane and often
troubled with delusions, imagining that he was being driven out by his
father and also by his brother Geta, whom he had murdered in his
mother's arms, and that they pursued him with drawn swords in their
hands. At last, as a desperate resource, he endeavoured to find a cure
by means of necromancy, and called up, among others, the shade of his
father, Septimius Severus, as well as that of Commodus. But they all
refused to speak to him, with the exception of Commodus; and it was even
rumoured that the shade of Severus was accompanied by that of the
murdered Geta, though it had not been evoked by Caracalla. Nor had
Commodus any comfort for him. He only terrified the suffering Emperor
the more by his ominous words.[72]

Philostratus[73] has described for us a famous interview which
Apollonius of Tyana maintained that he had had with the shade of
Achilles. The philosopher related that it was not by digging a trench
nor by shedding the blood of rams, like Odysseus, that he raised the
ghost of Achilles; but by prayers such as the Indians are said to make
to their heroes. In his prayer to Achilles he said that, unlike most
men, he did not believe that the great warrior was dead, any more than
his master Pythagoras had done; and he begged him to show himself. Then
there was a slight earthquake shock, and a beautiful youth stood before
him, nine feet in height, wearing a Thessalian cloak. He did not look
like a boaster, as some men had thought him, and his expression, if
grim, was not unpleasant. No words could describe his beauty, which
surpassed anything imaginable. Meanwhile he had grown to be twenty feet
high, and his beauty increased in proportion. His hair he had never cut.
Apollonius was allowed to ask him five questions, and accordingly asked
for information on five of the most knotty points in the history of the
Trojan War--whether Helen was really in Troy, why Homer never mentions
Palamedes, etc. Achilles answered him fully and correctly in each
instance. Then suddenly the cock crew, and, like Hamlet's father, he
vanished from Apollonius's sight.


[Footnote 44: _N.H._, 30. 1. 16.]

[Footnote 45: _Hymn. Orph._, 18. 15.]

[Footnote 46: Soph., _O.C._, 1590.]

[Footnote 47: Cic., _Verr._, iv. 107.]

[Footnote 48: Diodor., v. 4. 2.]

[Footnote 49: Cp. Gruppe, _Griechische Mythologie und
Religionsgeschichte_, p. 815, where the whole question is discussed in
great detail.]

[Footnote 50: Strabo, 13. 29, 30; Pliny, _N.H._, 2. 208.]

[Footnote 51: _De Div._, i. 79.]

[Footnote 52: Strabo, 14, 636; 12, 579.]

[Footnote 53: Paus., 3. 17, 19.]

[Footnote 54: Herod., v. 92.]

[Footnote 55: _Dial. Deor._, 7. 4.]

[Footnote 56: Philostr., _Apoll. Tyan._, 4. 16.]

[Footnote 57: _Tusc. Disp._, 1. 16.]

[Footnote 58: _Leg._, x. 909B.]

[Footnote 59: _Alc._, 1128.]

[Footnote 60: _De Div._, 1. 58.]

[Footnote 61: _Tusc._, 1. 48.]

[Footnote 62: Pliny, _N.H._, 7. 52, 178.]

[Footnote 63: Myers, _Human Personality_, ii. 328, 329.]

[Footnote 64: _Pharsal._, vi. _ad fin._]

[Footnote 65: _Theb._, 4. 405 _ff._]

[Footnote 66: _Met._, ii. 28.]

[Footnote 67: _In Vat._, 6.]

[Footnote 68: _An._, ii. 28.]

[Footnote 69: _N.H._, 30. 5.]

[Footnote 70: Suet., _Nero_, 34.]

[Footnote 71: _N.H._, 30. 5]

[Footnote 72: Dio Cassius, 77. 15.]

[Footnote 73: _Apollon. Tyan._, 4. 16.]



In most of the Greek and Roman stories that survive, the wraiths of the
dead are represented as revisiting their friends on earth in sleep.
These instances I have not, as a rule, troubled to collect, for they
cannot strictly be classed as ghost stories; but since the influence of
the dead was generally considered to be exercised in this way, I shall
give a few stories which seem particularly striking. That it was widely
believed that the dead could return at night to those whom they loved is
proved by the touching inscription in which a wife begs that her husband
may sometimes be allowed to revisit her in sleep, and that she may soon
join him.

The most interesting passage that has come down to us, dealing with the
whole question of the power of the dead to appear to those whom they
love in dreams, is undoubtedly Quintilian's Tenth Declamation. The fact
that the greatest teacher of rhetoric of his day actually chose it as a
subject for one of his model speeches shows how important a part it must
have played in the feelings of educated Romans of the time. The story is
as follows.

A mother was plunged in grief at the loss of her favourite son, when,
on the night of the funeral, which had been long delayed at her earnest
request, the boy appeared to her in a vision, and remained with her all
night, kissing her and fondling her as if he were alive. He did not
leave her till daybreak. "All that survives of a son," says Quintilian,
"will remain in close communion with his mother when he dies." In her
unselfishness, she begs her son not to withhold the comfort which he has
brought to her from his father. But the father, when he hears the story,
does not at all relish the idea of a visit from his son's ghost, and is,
in fact, terrified at the prospect. He says nothing to the mother, who
had moved the gods of the world above no less than those of the world
below by the violence of her grief and the importunity of her prayers,
but at once sends for a sorcerer. As soon as he arrives, the sorcerer is
taken to the family tomb, which has its place in the city of the dead
that stretches along the highway from the town gate. The magic spell is
wound about the grave, and the urn is finally sealed with the dread
words, until at last the hapless boy has become, in very truth, a
lifeless shade. Finally, we are told, the sorcerer threw himself upon
the urn itself and breathed his spells into the very bones and ashes.
This at least he admitted, as he looked up: "The spirit resists. Spells
are not enough. We must close the grave completely and bind the stones
together with iron." His suggestions are carried out, and at last he
declares that all has been accomplished successfully. "Now he is really
dead. He cannot appear or come out. This night will prove the truth of
my words." The boy never afterwards appeared, either to his mother or to
anyone else.

The mother is beside herself with grief. Her son's spirit, which had
successfully baffled the gods of the lower world in its desire to visit
her, is now, thanks to these foreign spells, dashing itself against the
top of the grave, unable to understand the weight that has been placed
upon it to keep it from escaping. Not only do the spells shut the boy
in--he might possibly have broken through these--but the iron bands and
solid fastenings have once again brought him face to face with death.
This very realistic, if rather material, picture of a human soul mewed
up for ever in the grave gives us a clear idea of the popular belief in
Rome about the future life, and enables us to realize the full meaning
of the inscription, "Sit tibi terra levis" (May the earth press lightly
upon thee), which is so common upon Roman tombs as often to be
abbreviated to "S.T.T.L."

The speech is supposed to be delivered in an action for cruelty[74]
brought by the wife against her husband, and in the course of it the
father is spoken of as a parricide for what he has done. He defends
himself by saying that he took the steps which are the cause of the
action for his wife's peace of mind. To this plea it is answered that
the ghost of a son could never frighten a mother, though other spirits,
if unknown to her, might conceivably do so.

In the course of the speech we are told that the spirit, when freed
from the body, bathes itself in fire and makes for its home among the
stars, where other fates await it. Then it remembers the body in which
it once dwelt. Hence the dead return to visit those who once were dear
to them on earth, and become oracles, and give us timely warnings, and
are conscious of the victims we offer them, and welcome the honours paid
them at their tombs.

The Declamation ends, like most Roman speeches, with an appeal: in this
case to the sorcerer and the husband to remove the spells; especially to
the sorcerer, who has power to torture the gods above and the spirits of
the dead; who, by the terror of his midnight cries, can move the deepest
caves, can shake the very foundations of the earth. "You are able both
to call up the spirits that serve you and to act as their cruel and
ruthless gaoler. Listen for once to a mother's prayers, and let them
soften your heart."

Then we have the story of Thrasyllus, as told by Apuleius,[75] which is
thoroughly modern in its romantic tone. He was in love with the wife of
his friend, Tlepolemus, whom he treacherously murdered while out
hunting. His crime is not discovered, and he begins to press his suit
for her hand to her parents almost immediately. The widow's grief is
heart-rending. She refuses food and altogether neglects herself, hoping
that the gods will hear her prayer and allow her to rejoin her husband.
At last, however, she is persuaded by her parents, at Thrasyllus's
instance, to give ordinary care to her own health. But she passes her
days before the likeness of the deceased, which she has had made in the
image of that of the god Liber, paying it divine honours and finding her
one comfort in thus fomenting her own sufferings.

When she hears of Thrasyllus's suit, she rejects it with scorn and
horror; and then at night her dead husband appears to her and describes
exactly what happened, and begs her to avenge him. She requires no
urging, and almost immediately decides on the course that her vengeance
shall take. She has Thrasyllus informed that she cannot come to any
definite decision till her year of mourning is over. Meanwhile, however,
she consents to receive his visits at night, and promises to arrange for
her old nurse to let him in. Overjoyed at his success, Thrasyllus comes
at the hour appointed, and is duly admitted by the old nurse. The house
is in complete darkness, but he is given a cup of wine and left to
himself. The wine has been drugged, however, and he sinks into a deep
slumber. Then Tlepolemus's widow comes and triumphs over her enemy, who
has fallen so easily into her hands. She will not kill him as he killed
her husband. "Neither the peace of death nor the joy of life shall be
yours," she exclaims. "You shall wander like a restless shade between
Orcus and the light of day.... The blood of your eyes I shall offer up
at the tomb of my beloved Tlepolemus, and with them I shall propitiate
his blessed spirit." At these words she takes a pin from her hair and
blinds him. Then she rushes through the streets, with a sword in her
hand to frighten anyone who might try to stop her, to her husband's
tomb, where, after telling all her story, she slays herself.

Thither Thrasyllus followed her, declaring that he dedicated himself to
the Manes of his own free-will. He carefully shut the tomb upon himself,
and starved himself to death.

This is by far the best of the stories in which we find a vision of the
dead in sleep playing an important part; but there is also the
well-known tale of the Byzantine maiden Cleonice.[76] She was of high
birth, but had the misfortune to attract the attention of the Spartan
Pausanias, who was in command of the united Greek fleet at the
Hellespont after the battle of Platæa. Like many Spartans, when first
brought into contact with real luxury after his frugal upbringing at
home, he completely lost his mental balance, and grew intoxicated with
the splendour of his position, endeavouring to imitate the Persians in
their manners, and even aspiring, it is said, to become tyrant of the
whole of Greece. Cleonice was brutally torn from her parents and brought
to his room at night. He was asleep at the time, and being awakened by
the noise, he imagined that someone had broken into his room with the
object of murdering him, and snatched up a sword and killed her. After
this her ghost appeared to him every night, bidding him "go to the fate
which pride and lust prepare." He is said to have visited a temple at
Heraclea, where he had her spirit called up and implored her pardon. She
duly appeared, and told him that "he would soon be delivered from all
his troubles after his return to Sparta"--an ambiguous way of
prophesying his death, which occurred soon afterwards. She was certainly
avenged in the manner of it.

Before leaving these stories of visions of the dead, we must not omit to
mention that charming poem of Virgil's younger days, the _Culex_ (The
Gnat). Just as the first sketch of Macaulay's famous character of
William III. is said to be contained in a Cambridge prize essay on the
subject, so the _Culex_ contains the first draft of some of the greatest
passages in Virgil's later works--the beautiful description of the
charms of country life in the _Georgics_, for instance, and the account
of Tartarus in the sixth book of the _Æneid_. The story is slight, as
was usually the case in these little epics, where the purple patches are
more important than the plot. A shepherd falls asleep in the shade by a
cool fountain, just as he would do in Southern Italy to-day, for his
rest after the midday meal. Suddenly a snake, the horrors of which are
described with a vividness that is truly Virgilian, appears upon the
scene and prepares to strike the shepherd. A passing gnat, the hero of
the poem, sees the danger, and wakes the shepherd by stinging him in the
eye. He springs up angrily, brushes it off with his hand, and dashes it
lifeless to the ground. Then, to his horror, he sees the snake, and
promptly kills it with the branch of a tree.

While he lies asleep that night, the ghost of the gnat appears to him in
a dream, and bitterly reproaches him for the cruel death with which it
has been rewarded for its heroic services. Charon has now claimed it for
his own. It goes on to give a lurid description of the horrors of
Tartarus, and contrasts its hard lot with that of the shepherd. When he
wakes, the shepherd is filled with remorse for his conduct and is also,
perhaps, afraid of being continually haunted by the ghost of his tiny
benefactor. He therefore sets to work to raise a mound in honour of the
gnat, facing it with marble. Round it he plants all kinds of flowers,
especially violets and roses, the flowers usually offered to the dead,
and cuts on a marble slab the following inscription: "Little gnat, the
shepherd dedicates to thee thy meed of a tomb in return for the life
thou gavest him."[77]

There is also an interesting story of Pindar, told by Pausanias.[78] In
his old age the great poet dreamt that Persephone appeared to him and
told him that she alone of all the goddesses had not been celebrated in
song by him, but that he should pay the debt when he came to her.
Shortly after this he died. There was, however, a relation of his, a
woman then far advanced in years, who had practised the singing of most
of his hymns. To her Pindar appeared in a dream and sang the hymn to
Proserpine, which she wrote down from memory when she awoke.

I have included one or two stories of apparitions in dreams among those
in the next section, as they seemed to be more in place there.


[Footnote 74: Malæ tractationis.]

[Footnote 75: _Met._, viii. 4.]

[Footnote 76: Plutarch, _Cimon_, Chap. VI.]

[Footnote 77:   "Parve culex, pecudum custos tibi tale merenti
                 Funeris officium vitæ pro munere reddit."]

[Footnote 78: 9. 21. 3.]



Among the tall stories in Lucian's _Philopseudus_[79] is an amusing
account of a man whose wife, whom he loved dearly, appeared to him after
she had been dead for twenty days. He had given her a splendid funeral,
and had burnt everything she possessed with her. One day, as he was
sitting quietly reading the Phædo, she suddenly appeared to him, to the
terror of his son. As soon as he saw her he embraced her tearfully, a
fact which seems to show that she was of a more substantial build than
the large majority of ghosts of the ancient world; but she strictly
forbade him to make any sound whatever. She then explained that she had
come to upbraid the unfortunate man for having neglected to burn one of
her golden slippers with her at the funeral. It had fallen behind the
chest, she explained, and had been forgotten and not placed upon the
pyre with the other. While they were talking, a confounded little
Maltese puppy suddenly began to bark from under the bed, when she
vanished. But the slipper was found exactly where she had described, and
was duly burnt on the following day. The story is refreshingly human.

This question of dress seems to have been a not infrequent source of
anxiety to deceased ladies in the ancient world. Periander,[80] the
tyrant of Corinth, on one occasion wished to consult his wife's spirit
upon a very important matter; but she replied, as she had doubtless
often done when alive, that she would not answer his questions till she
had some decent clothes to wear. Periander waited for a great festival,
when he knew that all the women of Corinth would be assembled in their
best, and then gave orders that they should one and all strip
themselves. He burnt the clothes on a huge pyre in his wife's honour;
and one can imagine his satisfaction at feeling that he had at last
settled the question for ever. He applied to his wife once more with a
clear conscience, when she gave him an unmistakable sign that she was
speaking the truth, and answered his questions as he desired.

That small household matters may weigh heavily upon a woman's
conscience, even nowadays, is shown by the following interesting story,
which may well be compared with the foregoing.[81] In July, 1838, a
Catholic priest, who had gone to Perth to take charge of a mission, was
called upon by a Presbyterian woman. For many weeks past, she explained,
she had been anxious to see a priest. A woman, lately dead, whom she
knew very slightly, had appeared to her during the night for several
nights, urging her to go to a priest and ask him to pay three shillings
and tenpence to a person not specified.

The priest made inquiries, and learnt that the deceased had acted as
washerwoman and followed the regiment. At last, after careful search, he
found a grocer with whom she had dealt, and, on being asked whether a
female of the name owed him anything, the grocer turned up his books and
informed him that she owed him three shillings and tenpence. He paid the
sum. Subsequently the Presbyterian woman came to him, saying that she
was no more troubled.

The spirits of the worst of the Roman Emperors were, as we should
expect, especially restless. Pliny[82] tells us how Fannius, who was
engaged upon a Life of Nero, was warned by him of his approaching death.
He was lying on his couch at dead of night with a writing-desk in front
of him, when Nero came and sat down by his side, took up the first book
he had written on his evil deeds, and read it through to the end; and so
on with the second and the third. Then he vanished. Fannius was
terrified, for he thought the vision implied that he would never get
beyond the third book of his work, and this actually proved to be the

Nero, in fact, had a romantic charm about him, in spite of, or perhaps
because of, the wild recklessness of his life; and he possessed the
redeeming feature of artistic taste. Like Francis I. of France, or our
own Charles II., he was irresistible with the ladies, and must have been
the darling of all the housemaids of Rome. People long refused to
believe in his death, and for many years it was confidently affirmed
that he would appear again. His ghost was long believed to walk in Rome,
and the church of Santa Maria del Popolo is said to have been built as
late as 1099 by Pope Paschalis II. on the site of the tombs of the
Domitii, where Nero was buried, near the modern Porta del Popolo, where
the Via Flaminia entered the city, in order to lay his restless shade.

Caligula also appeared shortly after his death, and frequently disturbed
the keepers of the Lamian Gardens, for his body had been hastily buried
there without due ceremony. Not till his sisters, who really loved him,
in spite of his many faults, had returned from exile were the funeral
rites properly performed, after which his ghost gave no more

On the night of the day of Galba's murder, the Emperor Otho was heard
groaning in his room by his attendants. They rushed in, and found him
lying in front of his bed, endeavouring to propitiate Galba's ghost, by
whom he declared that he saw himself being driven out and expelled.[84]
Otho was a strange mixture of superstition and scepticism, for when he
started on his last fatal expedition he treated the unfavourable omens
with contempt. By this time, however, he may have become desperate.

Moreover, irreligious people are notoriously superstitious, and at this
period it would be very difficult to say just where religion ended and
superstition began.

We have one or two ghost stories connected with early Greek mythology.
Cillas, the charioteer of Pelops, though Troezenius gives his name as
Sphærus, died on the way to Pisa, and appeared to Pelops by night,
begging that he might be duly buried. Pelops took pity on him and
burnt[85] his body with all ceremony, raised a huge mound in his honour,
and built a chapel to the Cillean Apollo near it. He also named a town
after him. Strabo even says that there was a mound in Cillas' honour at
Crisa in the Troad. This dutiful attention did not go unrewarded. Cillas
appeared to Pelops again, and thanked him for all he had done, and to
Cillas also he is said to have owed the information by which he was able
to overthrow OEnomaus in the famous chariot race which won him the
hand of Hippodamia. Pelops' shameless ingratitude to OEnomaus's
charioteer, Myrtilus, who had removed the pin of his master's chariot,
and thus caused his defeat and death in order to help Pelops, on the
promise of the half of the kingdom, is hardly in accordance with his
treatment of Cillas, though it is thoroughly Greek. However, on the
theory that a man who betrays one master will probably betray another,
especially if he is to be rewarded for his treachery with as much as
half a kingdom, Pelops was right in considering that Myrtilus was best
out of the way; and he can hardly have foreseen the curse that was to
fall upon his family in consequence.

With this story we may compare the well-known tale of the poet
Simonides, who found an unknown corpse on the shore, and honoured it
with burial.[86] Soon afterwards he happened to be on the point of
starting on a voyage, when the man whom he had buried appeared to him in
a dream, and warned him on no account to go by the ship he had chosen,
as it would undoubtedly be wrecked. Impressed by the vision, the poet
remained behind, and the ship went down soon afterwards, with all on
board. Simonides expressed his gratitude in a poem describing the event,
and in several epigrams. Libanius even goes so far as to place the scene
of the event at Tarentum, where he was preparing to take ship for

The tale is probably mythical. It belongs to a group of stories of the
grateful dead, which have been the subject of an interesting book
recently published by the Folk-Lore Society.[87] Mr. Gerould doubts
whether it really belongs to the cycle, as it is nearly two centuries
earlier, even in Cicero's version, than any other yet discovered; but it
certainly inspired Chaucer in his Nun's Priest's Tale, and it may well
have influenced other later versions. The Jewish version is closer to
the Simonides story than any of the others, and I will quote it in Mr.
Gerould's words.[88]

"The son of a rich merchant of Jerusalem sets off after his father's
death to see the world. At Stamboul he finds hanging in chains the body
of a Jew, which the Sultan has commanded to be left there till his
co-religionists shall have repaid the sum that the man is suspected of
having stolen from his royal master. The hero pays this sum, and has the
corpse buried. Later, during a storm at sea he is saved by a stone, on
which he is brought to land, whence he is carried by an eagle back to
Jerusalem. There a white-clad man appears to him, explaining that he is
the ghost of the dead, and that he has already appeared as stone and
eagle. The spirit further promises the hero a reward for his good deed
in the present and in the future life."

This is one of the simplest forms in which the story appears. It is
generally found compounded with some other similar tale; but the main
facts are that a man buries a corpse found on the sea-shore from
philanthropic motives. "Later he is met by the ghost of the dead man,
who in many cases promises him help on condition of receiving, in
return, half of whatever he gets. The hero obtains a wife (or some other
reward), and, when called upon, is ready to fulfil his bargain as to
sharing his possessions,"[89] not excepting the wife. Some of the
characteristics of the tale are to be found in the story of Pelops and
Cillas, related above, which Mr. Gerould does not mention.

Pausanias[90] has a story of one of Ulysses' crew. Ulysses' ship was
driven about by the winds from one city to another in Sicily and Italy,
and in the course of these wanderings it touched at Tecmessa. Here one
of the sailors got drunk and ravished a maiden, and was stoned to death
in consequence by the indignant people of the town. Ulysses did not
trouble about what had occurred, and sailed away. Soon, however, the
ghost of the murdered man became a source of serious annoyance to the
people of the place, killing the inhabitants of the town, regardless of
age and sex. Finally, matters came to such a pass that the town was
abandoned. But the Pythian priestess bade the people return to Tecmessa
and appease the hero by building him a temple and precinct of his own,
and giving him every year the fairest maiden of the town to wife. They
took this advice, and there was no more trouble from the ghost. It
chanced, however, that Euthymus came to Tecmessa just when the people
were paying the dead sailor the annual honours. Learning how matters
stood, he asked to be allowed to go into the temple and see the maiden.
At their meeting he was first touched with pity, and then immediately
fell desperately in love with her. The girl swore to be his, if he would
save her. Euthymus put on his armour and awaited the attack of the
monster. He had the best of the fight, and the ghost, driven from its
home, plunged into the sea. The wedding was, of course, celebrated with
great splendour, and nothing more was heard of the spirit of the drunken
sailor. The story is obviously to be classed with that of Ariadne.

The god-fearing Ælian seeks to show that Providence watches over a good
man and brings his murderers to justice by a story taken from
Chrysippus.[91] A traveller put up at an inn in Megara, wearing a belt
full of gold. The innkeeper discovered that he had the money about him,
and murdered him at night, having arranged to carry his body outside the
gates in a dung-cart. But meanwhile the murdered man appeared to a
citizen of the town and told him what had happened. The man was
impressed by the vision. Investigations were made, and the murderer was
caught exactly where the ghost had indicated, and was duly punished.

This is one of the very few stories in which the apparition is seen at
or near the moment of death, as is the case in the vast majority of the
well-authenticated cases collected during recent years.

Aristeas of Proconesus, a man of high birth, died quite suddenly in a
fulling establishment in his native town.[92] The owner locked the
building and went to inform his relatives, when a man from Cyzicus,
hearing the news, denied it, saying that Aristeas had met him on the way
thither and talked to him; and when the relatives came, prepared to
remove the body, they found no Aristeas, either alive or dead.
Altogether, he seems to have been a remarkable person. He disappeared
for seven years, and then appeared in Proconesus and wrote an epic poem
called _Arimispea_, which was well known in Herodotus's day. Two hundred
and forty years later he was seen again, this time at Metapontum, and
bade the citizens build a shrine to Apollo, and near it erect a statue
to himself, as Apollo would come to them alone of the Italian Greeks,
and he would be seen following in the form of a raven. The townsmen were
troubled at the apparition, and consulted the Delphic oracle, which
confirmed all that Aristeas had said; and Apollo received his temple and
Aristeas his statue in the market-place.

Apollonius[93] tells virtually the same story, except that in his
version Aristeas was seen giving a lesson in literature by a number of
persons in Sicily at the very hour he died in Proconesus. He says that
Aristeas appeared at intervals for a number of years after his death.
The elder Pliny[94] also speaks of Aristeas, saying that at Proconesus
his soul was seen to leave his body in the form of a raven, though he
regards the tale as in all probability a fabrication.

The doctor in Lucian's _Philopseudus_ (_c._ 26) declares that he knew a
man who rose from the dead twenty days after he was buried, and that he
attended him after his resurrection. But when asked how it was the body
did not decompose or the man die of hunger, he has no answer to give.

Dio Cassius[95] describes how, when Nero wished to cut a canal through
the Isthmus of Corinth, blood spurted up in front of those who first
touched the earth, groans and cries were heard, and a number of ghosts
appeared. Not till Nero took a pickaxe and began to work himself, to
encourage the men, was any real progress made.

Pliny[96] quotes an interesting account, from Hermotimus of Clazomenæ,
of a man whose soul was in the habit of leaving his body and wandering
abroad, as was proved by the fact that he would often describe events
which had happened at a distance, and could only be known to an actual
eyewitness. His body meanwhile lay like that of a man in a trance or
half dead. One day, however, some enemies of his took the body while in
this state and burnt it, thus, to use Pliny's phrase, leaving the soul
no sheath[97] to which it could return.

No one can help being struck by the bald and meagre character of these
stories as a whole. They possess few of the qualities we expect to find
in a good modern ghost story. None of them can equal in pathetic beauty
many of those to be found in Myers's _Human Personality_. Take, for
example, the story of the lady[98] who was waked in the night by the
sound of moaning and sobbing, as of someone in great distress of mind.
Finding nothing in her room, she went and looked out of the landing
window, "and there, on the grass, was a very beautiful young girl in a
kneeling posture before a soldier, in a General's uniform, clasping her
hands together and entreating for pardon; but, alas! he only waived her
away from him."

The story proved to be true. The youngest daughter of the old and
distinguished family to which the house had belonged had had an
illegitimate child. Her parents and relations refused to have anything
more to do with her, and she died broken-hearted. The lady who relates
the story saw the features so clearly on this occasion that she
afterwards recognized the soldier's portrait some six months later, when
calling at a friend's house, and exclaimed: "Why, look! There is the
General!" as soon as she noticed it.

One really beautiful ghost story has, however, come down to us.[99]
Phlegon of Tralles was a freedman of the Emperor Hadrian. His work is
not of great merit. The following is a favourable specimen of his
stories. A monstrous child was born in Ætolia, after the death of its
father, Polycrates. At a public meeting, where it was proposed to do
away with it, the father suddenly appeared, and begged that the child
might be given him. An attempt was made to seize the father, but he
snatched up the child, tore it to pieces, and devoured all but the head.
When it was proposed to consult the Delphic oracle on the matter, the
head prophesied to the crowd from where it lay on the ground.

Then comes the following story. The early part is missing, but Erwin
Rohde, in an interesting article,[100] has cleared up all the essential
details. Proclus's treatises on Plato's Republic are complete only in
the Vatican manuscripts. Of these Mai only published fragments,[101] but
an English theologian, Alexander Morus, took notes from the manuscript
when it was in Florence, and quoted from it in a commentary on the
Epistle to the Hebrews.[102] One of the treatises is called [Greek: pôs
dei noein eisienai kai exienai psuchên apo sômatos]. The ending in
Phlegon[103] proves that the story was given in the form of a letter,
and we learn that the scene was laid at Amphipolis, on the Strymon, and
that the account was sent by Hipparchus in a letter to Arrhidæus,
half-brother of Alexander the Great, the events occurring during the
reign of Philip II. of Macedon. Proclus says that his information is
derived from letters, "some written by Hipparchus, others by Arrhidæus."

Philinnion was the daughter of Demostratus and Charito. She had been
married to Craterus, Alexander's famous General, but had died six months
after her marriage. As we learn that she was desperately in love with
Machates, a foreign friend from Pella who had come to see Demostratus,
the misery of her position may possibly have caused her death. But her
love conquered death itself, and she returned to life again six months
after she had died, and lived with Machates, visiting him for several
nights. "One day an old nurse went to the guest-chamber, and as the
lamp was burning, she saw a woman sitting by Machates. Scarcely able to
contain herself at this extraordinary occurrence, she ran to the girl's
mother, calling: 'Charito! Demostratus!' and bade them get up and go
with her to their daughter, for by the grace of the gods she had
appeared alive, and was with the stranger in the guest-chamber.

"On hearing this extraordinary story, Charito was at first overcome by
it and by the nurse's excitement; but she soon recovered herself, and
burst into tears at the mention of her daughter, telling the old woman
she was out of her senses, and ordering her out of the room. The nurse
was indignant at this treatment, and boldly declared that she was not
out of her senses, but that Charito was unwilling to see her daughter
because she was afraid. At last Charito consented to go to the door of
the guest-chamber, but as it was now quite two hours since she had heard
the news, she arrived too late, and found them both asleep. The mother
bent over the woman's figure, and thought she recognized her daughter's
features and clothes. Not feeling sure, as it was dark, she decided to
keep quiet for the present, meaning to get up early and catch the woman.
If she failed, she would ask Machates for a full explanation, as he
would never tell her a lie in a case so important. So she left the room
without saying anything.

"But early on the following morning, either because the gods so willed
it or because she was moved by some divine impulse, the woman went away
without being observed. When she came to him, Charito was angry with the
young man in consequence, and clung to his knees, and conjured him to
speak the truth and hide nothing from her. At first he was greatly
distressed, and could hardly be brought to admit that the girl's name
was Philinnion. Then he described her first coming and the violence of
her passion, and told how she had said that she was there without her
parents' knowledge. The better to establish the truth of his story, he
opened a coffer and took out the things she had left behind her--a ring
of gold which she had given him, and a belt which she had left on the
previous night. When Charito beheld all these convincing proofs, she
uttered a piercing cry, and rent her clothes and her cloak, and tore her
coif from her head, and began to mourn for her daughter afresh in the
midst of her friends. Machates was deeply distressed on seeing what had
happened, and how they were all mourning, as if for her second funeral.
He begged them to be comforted, and promised them that they should see
her if she appeared. Charito yielded, but bade him be careful how he
fulfilled his promise.

"When night fell and the hour drew near at which Philinnion usually
appeared, they were on the watch for her. She came, as was her custom,
and sat down upon the bed. Machates made no pretence, for he was
genuinely anxious to sift the matter to the bottom, and secretly sent
some slaves to call her parents. He himself could hardly believe that
the woman who came to him so regularly at the same hour was really dead,
and when she ate and drank with him, he began to suspect what had been
suggested to him--namely, that some grave-robbers had violated the tomb
and sold the clothes and the gold ornaments to her father.

"Demostratus and Charito hastened to come at once, and when they saw
her, they were at first speechless with amazement. Then, with cries of
joy, they threw themselves upon their daughter. But Philinnion remained
cold. 'Father and mother,' she said, 'cruel indeed have ye been in that
ye grudged my living with the stranger for three days in my father's
house, for it brought harm to no one. But ye shall pay for your meddling
with sorrow. I must return to the place appointed for me, though I came
not hither without the will of Heaven.' With these words she fell down
dead, and her body lay stretched upon the bed. Her parents threw
themselves upon her, and the house was filled with confusion and sorrow,
for the blow was heavy indeed; but the event was strange, and soon
became known throughout the town, and finally reached my ears.

"During the night I kept back the crowds that gathered round the house,
taking care that there should be no disturbance as the news spread. At
early dawn the theatre was full. After a long discussion it was decided
that we should go and open the tomb, to see whether the body was still
on the bier, or whether we should find the place empty, for the woman
had hardly been dead six months. When we opened the vault where all her
family was buried, the bodies were seen lying on the other biers; but on
the one where Philinnion had been placed, we found only the iron ring
which had belonged to her lover and the gilt drinking-cup Machates had
given her on the first day. In utter amazement, we went straight to
Demostratus's house to see whether the body was still there. We beheld
it lying on the ground, and then went in a large crowd to the place of
assembly, for the whole event was of great importance and absolutely
past belief. Great was the confusion, and no one could tell what to do,
when Hyllus, who is not only considered the best diviner among us, but
is also a great authority on the interpretation of the flight of birds,
and is generally well versed in his art, got up and said that the woman
must be buried outside the boundaries of the city, for it was unlawful
that she should be laid to rest within them; and that Hermes Chthonius
and the Eumenides should be propitiated, and that all pollution would
thus be removed. He ordered the temples to be re-consecrated and the
usual rites to be performed in honour of the gods below. As for the
King, in this affair, he privately told me to sacrifice to Hermes, and
to Zeus Xenius, and to Ares, and to perform these duties with the utmost
care. We have done as he suggested.

"The stranger Machates, who was visited by the ghost, has committed
suicide in despair.

"Now, if you think it right that I should give the King an account of
all this, let me know, and I will send some of those who gave me the
various details."

The story is particularly interesting, as the source of Goethe's _Braut
von Korinth_. In Goethe's poem the girl is a Christian, while her lover
is a pagan. Their parents are friends, and they have been betrothed in
their youth. He comes to stay with her parents, knowing nothing of her
death, when she appears to him. As in the Greek story, her body is
material, though cold and bloodless, and he thinks her still alive. He
takes her in his arms and kisses her back to life and love, breathing
his own passion into her. Then the mother surprises them, and the
daughter upbraids her for her cruelty, but begs that she and her lover
may be buried together, as he must pay for the life he has given her
with his own.


[Footnote 79: _Philops._, 27.]

[Footnote 80: Herod., v. 92.]

[Footnote 81: _Human Personality_, ii. 348.]

[Footnote 82: _Ep._, v. 5.]

[Footnote 83: Suet., _Gaius_, 59.]

[Footnote 84: Suet., _Otho_, 7.]

[Footnote 85: If that is the meaning of [Greek: exerruparou] in the
Homeric Scholia of Theopompus.]

[Footnote 86: Cic., _De Div._, i. 27, 56. Cp. Val. Max., i. 7; Libanius,
iv. 1101.]

[Footnote 87: _The Grateful Dead_, by G.H. Gerould.]

[Footnote 88: _The Grateful Dead_, p. 27.]

[Footnote 89: _Ibid._, p. 10.]

[Footnote 90: 6. 6. 7.]

[Footnote 91: Ælian, _Fragm._, 82.]

[Footnote 92: Herod., iv. 14, 15.]

[Footnote 93: _Hist. Mir._, 11.]

[Footnote 94: _N.H._, 7. 52. 174.]

[Footnote 95: 67. 16.]

[Footnote 96: _N.H._, 7. 52. 174.]

[Footnote 97: Vagina.]

[Footnote 98: _Human Personality_, ii. 383.]

[Footnote 99: Phlegon of Tralles, _De Rebus Mirabilibus_, _ad fin._]

[Footnote 100: _Rhein. Mus._, vol. xxxii., p. 329.]

[Footnote 101: Mai, _Script. Vet. Nov. Coll._, ii. 671.]

[Footnote 102: London, 1616.]

[Footnote 103: [Greek: errhô]]



As we should expect, there are a number of instances of warning
apparitions in antiquity; and it is interesting to note that the
majority of these are gigantic women endowed with a gift of prophecy.

Thus the younger Pliny[104] tells us how Quintus Curtius Rufus, who was
on the staff of the Governor of Africa, was walking one day in a
colonnade after sunset, when a gigantic woman appeared before him. She
announced that she was Africa, and was able to predict the future, and
told him that he would go to Rome, hold office there, return to the
province with the highest authority, and there die. Her prophecy was
fulfilled to the letter, and as he landed in Africa for the last time
the same figure is reported to have met him.

So, again, at the time of the conspiracy of Callippus, Dion was
meditating one evening before the porch of his house, when he turned
round and saw a gigantic female figure, in the form of a Fury, at the
end of the corridor, sweeping the floor with a broom. The vision
terrified him, and soon afterwards his only son committed suicide and he
himself was murdered by the conspirators.[105]

A similar dramatic story is related of Drusus during his German
campaigns.[106] While engaged in operations against the Alemanni, he was
preparing to cross the Elbe, when a gigantic woman barred the way,
exclaiming, "Insatiate Drusus, whither wilt thou go? Thou art not fated
to see all things. Depart hence, for the end of thy life and of thy
deeds is at hand." Drusus was much troubled by this warning, and
instantly obeyed the words of the apparition; but he died before
reaching the Rhine.

We meet with the same phenomenon again in Dio Cassius, among the
prodigies preceding the death of Macrinus, when "a dreadful gigantic
woman, seen of several, declared that all that had happened was as
nothing compared with what they were soon to endure"--a prophecy which
was amply fulfilled by the reign of Heliogabalus.

But the most gigantic of all these gigantic women was, as we should only
expect from his marvellous power of seeing ghosts, the one who appeared
to Eucrates in the _Philopseudus_.[107] Eucrates has seen over a
thousand ghosts in his time, and is now quite used to them, though at
first he found them rather upsetting; but he had been given a ring and a
charm by an Arab, which enabled him to deal with anything supernatural
that came in his way. The ring was made from the iron of a cross on
which a criminal had been executed, and doubtless had the same value in
Eucrates' eyes that a piece of the rope with which a man has been hung
possesses in the eyes of a gambler to-day. On this particular occasion
he had left his men at work in the vineyard, and was resting quietly at
midday, when his dog began to bark. At first he thought it was only a
favourite boy of his indulging in a little hunting with some friends;
but on looking up he saw in front of him a woman at least three hundred
feet high, with a sword thirty feet long. Her lower extremities were
like those of a dragon, and snakes were coiling round her neck and
shoulders. Eucrates was not in the least alarmed, but turned the seal of
his ring, when a vast chasm opened in the earth, into which she
disappeared. This seems rather to have astonished Eucrates; but he
plucked up courage, caught hold of a tree that stood near the edge, and
looked over, when he saw all the lower world lying spread before him,
including the mead of asphodel, where the shades of the blessed were
reclining at ease with their friends and relations, arranged according
to clans and tribes. Among these he recognized his own father, dressed
in the clothes in which he was buried; and it must have been comforting
to the son to have such good evidence that his parent was safely
installed in the Elysian Fields. In a few moments the chasm closed.

Dio Cassius[108] relates how Trajan was saved in the great earthquake
that destroyed nearly the whole of Antioch by a phantom, which appeared
to him suddenly, and warned him to leave his house by the window. A
similar story is told of the poet Simonides, who was warned by a spectre
that his house was going to fall, and thus enabled to make his escape in

I will include here a couple of stories which, if they cannot exactly be
classed as stories of warning apparitions, are interesting in
themselves, and may at least be considered as ghost stories. Pliny the
Younger[109] tells us how a slave of his, named Marcus, imagined that he
saw someone cutting his hair during the night. When he awoke, the vision
proved to have been a true one, for his hair lay all round him. Soon
afterwards the same thing happened again. His brother, who slept with
him, saw nothing; but Marcus declared that two people came in by the
windows, dressed in white, and, after cutting his hair, disappeared.
"Nothing astonishing happened," adds Pliny, "except that I was not
prosecuted, as I undoubtedly should have been, had Domitian lived; for
this happened during his principate. Perhaps the cutting of my slave's
hair was a sign of my approaching doom, for accused people cut their
hair," as a sign of mourning. One may be allowed to wonder whether,
after all, a fondness for practical joking is not even older than the
age of the younger Pliny.

This story, like nearly every other that we have come across, has a
parallel in the _Philopseudus_. Indeed, Lucian seems to have covered
almost the whole field of the marvellous, as understood at that time, in
his determination to turn it into ridicule in that amusing dialogue. In
this case we are told of a little statue of Æsculapius, which stood in
the house of the narrator of the story, and at the feet of which a
number of pence had been placed as offerings, while other coins, some of
them silver, were fastened to the thighs with wax. There were also
silver plates which had been vowed or offered by those who had been
cured of fever by the god. The offerings and tablets are just such as
might be found in a Catholic church in the South of Europe to-day; but
the coins, in our more practical modern world, would have found their
way into the coffers of the church. One would like to know what was the
ultimate destination of these particular coins--whether they were to be
sent as contributions to one of the temples of Æsculapius, which were
the centre of the medical world at this period, and had elaborate
hospitals attached to them, about which we learn so much from Aristides.

In this case they were merely a source of temptation to an unfortunate
Libyan groom, who stole them one night, intending to make his escape.
But he had not studied the habits of the statue, which, we are told,
habitually got down from its pedestal every night; and in this case such
was the power of the god that he kept the man wandering about all night,
unable to leave the court, where he was found with the money in the
morning, and soundly flogged. The god, however, considered that he had
been let off much too easily; and he was mysteriously flogged every
night, as the weals upon him showed, till he ultimately died of the

Ælian[110] has a charming story of Philemon, the comic poet. He was
still, apparently, in the full vigour of his powers when he had a vision
of nine maidens leaving his house in the Piræus and bidding him
farewell. When he awoke, he told his slave the story, and set to work to
finish a play with which he was then busy. After completing it to his
satisfaction, he wrapped himself in his cloak and lay down upon his bed.
His slave came in, and, thinking he was asleep, went to wake him, when
he found that he was dead. Ælian challenges the unbelieving Epicureans
to deny that the nine maidens were the nine Muses, leaving a house which
was so soon to be polluted by death.

Many stories naturally gather round the great struggle for the final
mastery of the Roman world which ended in the overthrow of the Republic.
Shakespeare has made us familiar with the fate of the poet Cinna, who
was actually mistaken for one of the conspirators against Cæsar and
murdered by the crowd. He dreamt, on the night before he met his death,
that Cæsar invited him to supper, and when he refused the invitation,
took him by the hand and forced him down into a deep, dark abyss, which
he entered with the utmost horror.

But there is a story connected with the crossing of the Rubicon by Cæsar
that certainly deserves to be better known than it is.[111] It is only
fitting that an event fraught with such momentous consequences should
have a supernatural setting of some kind; and Suetonius relates that
while Cæsar was still hesitating whether he should declare himself an
enemy of his country by crossing the little river that bounded his
province at the head of an army, a man of heroic size and beauty
suddenly appeared, playing upon a reed-pipe. Some of the troops, several
trumpeters among them, ran up to listen, when the man seized a trumpet,
blew a loud blast upon it, and began to cross the Rubicon. Cæsar at once
decided to advance, and the men followed him with redoubled enthusiasm
after what they had just seen.

It is to Plutarch that we owe the famous story of the apparition that
visited Brutus in his tent the night before the battle of Philippi, and
again during the battle. Shakespeare represents it to be Cæsar's ghost,
but has otherwise strictly followed Plutarch. It would be absurd to give
the scene in any other words than Shakespeare's.[112]

  BRUTUS. How ill this taper burns! Ha! who comes here?
       I think it is the weakness of mine eyes
       That shapes this monstrous apparition.
       It comes upon me. Art thou any thing?
       Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil,
       That mak'st my blood cold, and my hair to stare?
       Speak to me what thou art!

  GHOST. Thy evil spirit, Brutus.

  BRUTUS.                          Why com'st thou?

  GHOST. To tell thee thou shalt see me at Philippi.

  BRUTUS. Well; then I shall see thee again?

  GHOST.                                  Ay, at Philippi.

  BRUTUS. Why, I will see thee at Philippi, then.
       Now I have taken heart, thou vanishest:
       Ill spirit, I would hold more talk with thee.

But it had already disappeared, only to meet Brutus again on the fatal
day that followed.


[Footnote 104: _Ep._, vii. 27.]

[Footnote 105: Plutarch, _Dion_, ii. 55.]

[Footnote 106: Dio Cassius, 55. 1. Cp. Suet., _Claud._, i.]

[Footnote 107: Lucian, _Philops._, 20.]

[Footnote 108: 68. 25.]

[Footnote 109: _Ep._, vii. 27. 12.]

[Footnote 110: _Fragm._, 84.]

[Footnote 111: Suet., _Julius_, 32.]

[Footnote 112: _Julius Cæsar_, iv. 3.]


Billing and Sons, Ltd., Printers, Guildford

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