Strix (mythology)

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"Stryx" redirects here. This is also an incorrect spelling of the true owl genus Strix.
The appearance and calls of owls, such as the Eurasian scops owl, may have influenced Roman ideas of the blood-drinking strix.
"Le Stryge" Chimera overlooks Paris from atop Notre-Dame de Paris.

Strix (pl. striges or strixes), in the mythology of classical antiquity, was a bird of ill omen, the product of metamorphosis, that fed on human flesh and blood. It also referred to witches and related maleficent folkloric beings.


They are birds with long golden beaks and wings, and black talons. Their eyes are yellow and round.

Classical stories[edit]

The earliest recorded tale of the strix is from the lost Ornithologia of the Greek author Boios, which is partially preserved in Antoninus Liberalis's Metamorphoses. This tells the story of Polyphonte and her two sons Agrios and Oreios, who were punished for their cannibalism. Polyphonte became a strix "that cries by night, without food or drink, with head below and tips of feet above, a harbinger of war and civil strife to men".[1] The first Latin allusion is in Plautus's Pseudolus,[2] dated to 191 BC, in which a cook, describing the cuisine of his inferiors, compares its action to that of the disemboweling a hapless victim. Horace, in his Epodes, makes the strix's magical properties clear: its feathers are an ingredient in a love potion. Seneca the Younger, in his Hercules Furens, shows the striges dwelling on the outskirts of Tartarus. Ovid tells the story of striges attacking the legendary king Procas in his cradle, and how they were warded off with arbutus and placated with the meat of pigs, as an explanation for the custom of eating beans and bacon on the Kalends of June.[3]

Though descriptions abound, the concept of the strix was nonetheless vague. Pliny, in his Natural History,[4] confesses little knowledge of them; he knows that their name was once used as a curse, but beyond that he can only aver that the tales of them nursing their young must be false, since no bird except the bat[5] suckled its children.


The legend of the strix survived into the Middle Ages, as recorded in Isidore's Etymologiae,[6] and gave both name and attributes to the being referred to as striga in Latin throughout central and eastern Europe. In Romanian, strigăt means 'scream',[7] strigoaică is the name of the Romanian feminine vampire,[8] and strigoi is the Romanian male vampire.[9] Both can scream loudly, especially when they become poltergeists - a trait they have in common with the banshees.[citation needed] Strigăt is also the Romanian name of the barn owl and of the death's-head hawkmoth.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Translation by Oliphant, pp. 133–134.
  2. ^ Pseudolus 819
  3. ^ Fasti, vi.101 ff.
  4. ^ Natural History xi.232
  5. ^ In the ancient world the bat was commonly classified as a bird; only Aristotle differed, considering it halfway between bird and land animal. See Oliphant, p. 134 n. 4.
  6. ^ Etymologiae book 12, ch. 7.42.
  7. ^ DEX Online
  8. ^ DEX Online
  9. ^ DEX Online


  • Oliphant, Samuel Grant (1913). "The Story of the Strix: Ancient". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 44: 133–49. doi:10.2307/282549. JSTOR 282549. 
  • "Carna, Proca and the Strix on the Kalends of June", by Christopher Michael McDonough, in Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974–), Vol. 127. (1997), pp. 315–344.