Aristaeus (ca. sixth century B.C.E.)
A charlatan who lived in the time of Croesus (sixth century
B.C.E.). He claimed that his soul could leave his body whenever
he wished and then return to it. Some maintain that it escaped
in the sight of his wife and children in the figure of a stag.
Johan Weyer stated that it took the shape of a crow.
According to Herodotus, in his fourth book, Aristaeus fell
dead upon entering a fuller’s shop, and the fuller ran to break
the news to his parents. When they came to bury him, no corpse
could be found. The whole town was astonished. Then some
men returning from a voyage assured them that they had met
Aristaeus on the way to Crotona and that he appeared to be a
species of vampire. Herodotus added that Aristaeus reappeared
at the end of seven years, composed a poem, and died
again.
Leloyer, who regarded Aristaeus as a sorcerer or ecstatic,
quoted a certain Apollonius, who said that at the same hour as
the vampire disappeared for the second time, he was transported
to Sicily, where he became a school master.
Aristaeus is again heard of 340 years later in the town of
Metapontus, where he caused certain monuments to be raised
that were to be seen in the time of Herodotus. So many wonderful
happenings inspired the Sicilians with awe, that they raised
a temple to him and worshipped him as a demigod.
Sources
Herodotus. The Histories of Herodotus of Halicarnassus. London
Oxford University Press, 1962.
Weyer, Johannes. Witches, Devils, and Doctors in the Renaissance
Johann Weyer, De Praestigiis. Edited by George Mora.
Binghamton, N.Y. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and
Studies, 1991.

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