Arguably predating Slavic vampire lore, the Greek revenant ( also known as vrykólakas , broukolakos, or katakhánas (Crete) ) is the reanimated corpse of a person that refuses to properly decompose. While the name vrykolakas is considered more common, folklorists such as J. du Boulay make distinctions between the traditional revenent, who is pitiable or, at worst, an annoying creature whose soul has returned to its dead flesh, and the more violent and bloodthirsty vrykolakas. Some folklorists go so far as to call this creature the original template for the undead monsters we would commonly recognize as vampires.
Revenants are further defined, in some cases, as tympanaíoi ("Drum-like"), where the exhumed corpse is swollen tight like a drum but is otherwise uncorrupted.
According to John Cuthbert Lawson , a renowned Greek folklorist, revenant and vrykolakas creatures are created in nine distinct types:
- Those who were improperly buried
- Those who met with a sudden death, suicieds, and unavenged murders
- Stillborn infants or children concieved or birthed on important Church holidays
- Those who die cursed
- The excommunicated dead
- The unbaptised or apostate dead
- Those who ate the meat of a sheep who had been killed by a wolf
- Those whose bodies were passed by a cat or other animal
- In the folktale The Young Man and His Vampire Brother (folk tale), the 'vampire' brother is less like the traditional slavic vampire and more like the Greek revenent, returning to his dead body to benignly assist the Young Man.
- The Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (1261-1282) was denied a Christian burial and, according to local lore, turned into a tympanaioi.
Boulay, Juliet Du. "The Greek Vampire: A Study of Cyclic Symbolism in Marriage and Death." Man 17.2 (1982): 219-38. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.
Lawson, John Cuthbert. Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion: A Study in Survivals. New York: University, 1964. Print. Rpt. n.p. (1910).
McClelland, Bruce. Slayers and Their Vampires: A Cultural History of Killing The Dead. University of Michigan Press. 2010.
Spelleri, Maria. "The Phenomenon of the Greek Revenant: Background and Annotated Bibliography." Academia.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2017. <http://www.academia.edu/5573700/The_Phenomenon_of_the_Greek_Revenant_Background_and_Annotated_Bibliography>.