Who was Lyssa?
Lyssa was one of the primeval gods who was a daughter of Nyx, the goddess of night, who was believed to be the mother of everything mysterious and anything that was inexplicable and unpleasant, such as death, disease, sleep, ghosts, dreams, witchcraft and enchantments. Her father was Erebus, who reigned in a palace in the dark regions of the Underworld. As the sister of the many of the dark gods of death, night and the Underworld, Lyssa personified mad rage and frenzy. Lyssa represented temporary madness and violent mental agitation involving sudden frantic, wild, extreme emotion or or mania that was uncontrolled by reason. In ancient Greek mythology she was strongly associated with the Maniae. The Maniae were evil spirits personifying Insanity, madness and crazed frenzy, the goddess of insanity was called Insania or Mania meaning madness. Insania and the Maniae were companions of both Lyssa and her infernal sisters, the Furies (Erinyes), the goddesses of Vengeance & Retribution.
Lyssa, the Greek goddess of mad rage and frenzy
From left to right the picture depicts Zeus, Lyssa, Actaeon and Artemis
Lyssa, the spirit of Rabies
Lyssa was held to be the spirit of rabies. Rabies is the terrifying, contagious and fatal disease of dogs and other small mammals, such as foxes, bats, and rodents, that causes madness and convulsions. Rabies is transmissible through the saliva of these animals to humans. Lyssa is therefore depicted in ancient Greek mythology as the companion of dogs. She is also associated with myths relating to the frenzied behavoiur of dogs such as the Myth of Diana (Artemis) & Actaeon, in which the hunter Actaeon is killed by his own hounds. In the above picture, taken from a Greek vase-painting Lyssa is depicted as a woman wearing in a short hunting skirt and is crowned with a dog's head representing the madness of rabies.
Lyssa (Roman Counterpart was Furor)
When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC, the Romans assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods and goddesses that were worshipped by the Ancient Greeks. Many of the Greek gods and goddesses, such as Lyssa, were therefore adopted by the Romans but were given Latin names. The Roman counterpart of Lyssa was Furor. She was sometimes pluralized into a group of Furores. In Roman mythology, Mania was the goddess of insanity and madness, a powerful goddess of the dead who ruled the underworld along with Mantus. She was believed to be the mother of ghosts, the undead, and other spirits of the night, the Manes.