Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Ghost of Philinnion

Go To
Illustration for "The Bride of Corinth", by Johannes Gehrts (1881)

"The Ghost of Philinnion" (Φασμα Φιλιννιον) is a ghost story from Ancient Greece, passed around as a "true" story which supposedly took place during the reign of King Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great).

Philinnion is the beautiful daughter of Demostratos, a citizen of Amphipolis in Macedon. At a young age, she is married to the general Krateros, but unfortunately she dies soon after the wedding, and is buried in the family crypt.

Machates, a young man from Pella, knows nothing of this when he visits Amphipolis and is hosted in the house of Demostratos. Machates has retired for the night when a beautiful girl turns up in his room: She is Philinnion, daughter of Demostratos, who has fallen in love with him and wants to spend the night with him. Machates does not say no.

"The Ghost of Philinnion" is found in the Book of Marvels by Phlegon of Tralles (2nd century CE), although the beginning of the story is missing from the manuscript. A short summary by Proclus (5th century CE) provides some of the missing information, and also hints that the story may have been current in several variants.

The story has been adapted into a ballad as "Die Braut von Korinth" ("The Bride of Corinth"; 1797) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Apart from shifting the scene from Amphipolis to Corinth (and also moving it a few centuries forwards in time), Goethe gave the story an entirely new twist: The girl (no personal names are given) has earlier been promised to the young man, until her parents converted to Christianity, called off the engagement and sent their daughter to a monastery to become a nun.

The tale of Philinnion can be read online here, as can "The Bride of Corinth" in the original language and in English translation.

Tropes in "The Ghost of Philinnion":

  • Arranged Marriage: Philinnion dies shortly after her wedding to Craterus (a historical Macedonian general). The fact that later, as a revenant, she seduces Machates, and also that she returns to her old room in the house of her parents (as opposed to Craterus' house), strongly suggests that she did not love Craterus, and that the marriage to him was decided by others against her own wish.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: Philinnion seeks out Machates because she loves him, and the two have an affair without Machates realizing that Philinnion is an undead.
  • Burn the Undead: On advice of a seer, the citizens of Amphipolis resolve to burn Philinnion's body to prevent her from coming to life again.
  • Dead All Along: Machates has no clue that Philinnion is dead until her mother tells him. Even then he cannot believe his visitor is a ghost, and prefers to believe that some other girl is impersonating the dead Philinnion.

Tropes in "The Bride of Corinth"

  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: The undead daughter herself advises her mother to burn her body on a pyre, because she knows otherwise she will return to kill more young men, and she does not want that.
  • Together in Death: The undead daughter reveals to her lover that he will die, and asks from her mother that they will be burnt together on a pyre.

Alternative Title(s): The Bride Of Corinth