History of Vampires
History of Vampires. Most people today see vampires as civilized, sophisticated, aristocratic, charismatic and often sympathetic immortal or undead persons cursed to drink the blood of the living.
Confirming this line of thinking, if you ask any person on the street the first word that comes to mind when you mention history of vampires. Most adults would say, Dracula. Adolescent girls might say, Edward Cullen or Robert Pattinson.
Vampires are the most well-known and even envied of all supernatural creatures due to this modern concept. This modern concept has also been copied and adapted by other cultures to the point of obscuring their own vampiric legends. Most of the world’s population is unaware of the true history of vampires.
Vampire History BD (Before Dracula)
Basically, a vampire is defined as a supernatural creature that feeds on the life essence of living beings to survive or maintain its existence.
Life essence can either be the person’s soul, heart, brain; and according to many cultures, blood. The term vampire thus takes on a broader meaning and thus includes many supernatural creatures from Western and non-Western cultures.
The history of vampires goes back several thousands of years in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, the jungles of Asia and Africa and the wilderness of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.
Back then, the term ‘vampire’ wasn’t invented yet but creatures that follow the definition of a vampire have been around since ancient times.
Persians and Babylonians have legends of a blood-drinking demoness called Lilitu. The more familiar Hebrew name for Lilitu is Lilith, known as a night demon of the desert who feasts on the blood of newborns but also of the blood of men.
The Romans and Greeks have the Lamia, another creature that preys on children and men often described as a woman with a serpentine lower half. Both lamia and Lilith have seductive, sexual natures that may have influenced more recent folklore regarding vampiric sexuality.
Before the Victorian era, ancient vampires were regarded as hideous, grotesque blood-sucking, entrail- eating monsters with deformed bodies, many pointed teeth, claws and even wings.
Medieval Europe has many stories of revenants, deceased persons who have come back to life to feed on the blood of the living.
These revenants were grotesque in appearance having bloated bodies, discolored eyes and skin, long nails and exposed teeth--a far cry from Angel, the Vampire Lestat and Count Dracula.
Modern vampiric concepts like garlic, decapitation and dismemberment, sleeping in graves are derived from Medieval European beliefs but many authors familiar with the true history of vampires managed to include characteristics of other vampiric creatures.
Vampire History AD (After Dracula)
The history of vampires we are most familiar with started in the 19th century. It all started in the 1819 novel The Vampyre by John Polidori featuring a vampire disguised as a sophisticated nobleman.
Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula came much later in 1897. Such stories have humanized the formerly grotesque, demonic creatures and turned them into tragic, romantic and intriguing humanlike beings that walk among the people possessing the concept of immortality that most people crave for.
But it was the story of Count Dracula that ultimately changed and influenced the history of vampires until now.
Bram Stoker’s novel became a sensation because of its great, unique storytelling, the title itself was catchy, it clearly described the era’s atmosphere and it integrated many vampire superstitions.
Later in the 20th century, Dracula’s influence only increased because of its theatrical adaptations and the image of the vampire was forever changed.
The history of vampires continues into the 21st century and the popularity of vampire-related media has only increased. People continue to thirst for vampire-related comics, novels, movies and television shows.
Notable modern works include:
- The 1992 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula
- The movie adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire
- The television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel
- Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles
- Marvel’s Blade movie series
- The Underworld movie series
- And more recently, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga in both theater and print
Other Vampires in History Pages You May Enjoy:
Also, be sure to sign up for our VE newsletter and get first look at all the new fine vampire art pieces added.
Please feel free to email us with suggestions and comments. We are always looking for ways to improve the 'Empire' and put in information that would help our fellow enthusiasts!
The work contained here is copyrighted. All rights reserved. It may not be reproduced, copied, edited, published, transmitted or uploaded in any way without written permission.
Return to Vampire Empire Home from History of Vampires