Some of the first scary stories were told and recorded in Latin, and while sure there have been scary stories from all cultures and times- we are focusing on Latin and Ancient Rome. The following list is comprised of stories I have read, learned about, or researched that scared me, disturbed me, or simply were applicable for the theme of this post.
HOW ANCIENT ROME INSPIRED OUR MODERN NOTION OF HELL
1. Vergil’s Aeneid Book 6: The hero of the Aeneid, Aeneas, must visit the underworld, and Vergil’s vivid descriptions would later provide Dante with much of his material for the Inferno. Aeneid Book 6 is a classic unto itself, and via Dante, it has become the archetype for western notions of Hell. For the texts: English (here) & Latin (here)
A ROMAN ACCOUNT OF ZOMBIES (FOR GREEK ZOMBIE [HERE]
2. Lucan’s Bellum Civile Book 6: In this book, Pompey the Great’s son Sextus enlists the witch, Erictho, to reanimate the corpse of a slain soldier from the battlefield so that he can issue a prophesy of the future. During the necromancy, the corpse prophesies the defeat of Pompey as well as the assassination of Julius Caesar. English (here) & Latin (here)
THE ROMAN WEREWOLF
3. Petronius’ Satyricon 61-63: During the Cena Trimalchionis (the Dinner of Trimalchio) the guests decide to tell one another some ghost stories. Niceros tells the story of a fellow traveler who shed his clothes, urinates around them, and then turned into a wolf. Trimalchio follows it with a story about witches who turn a boy into straw. LATIN & ENGLISH (here) #61-63 Latin Accompany.
WANTON GORE AND BRUTALITY
4. Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book 6: The Tale of Marsyas: In the contest between Apollo and Marsyas, the terms stated that the winner could treat the defeated party any way he wanted. Since the contest was judged by the Muses, Marsyas naturally lost and was flayed alive in a cave near Celaenae for his hubris to challenge a god. Apollo then nailed Marsyas’ skin to a pine tree, near Lake Aulocrene (the Turkish Karakuyu Gölü), which Strabo noted was full of the reeds from which the pipes were fashioned. English (here) & Latin ( 382-400) (here).
5. Pliny the Younger’s Epistle 83: In this letter, Pliny inquires of Sura whether he believes in ghosts, and then relays a ghost story he himself heard: a house in Athens which was beset by a phantom that rattled its chains at night. A particularly brave and logical philosopher decides to purchase the house and stays there. When the ghost appears, he follows it to a patch of ground, where later some bones are found wrapped in chains. When the skeletal remains are buried properly with the chains removed, the ghost goes away. LATIN (here) #27 & ENGLISH (here)
ROMAN WITCHES & CURSES
6. Apuleius’ Golden Ass, Books 1-3: Lucius visiting Thessaly, he ends up staying in the home of a witch and accidentally gets turned into an ass. This condition from which he spends the rest of the story trying to cure himself. . English (here) & Latin (here)
Suggestions for more stories? Feel free to leave them in the comments!