Werewolves are ancient beings, they may not have always gone by that name but they have for sure been around for a long while. But what was the first fictional story of man turning into beast? That would be the tale of Niciros. Now, many scholars argue that Gilgamesh is the first werewolf story, but since there was no actual transformation in that story some don’t count it. Instead they believe the first werewolf story came from the Satyricon, a work written by the Roman writer Petronius (AD 27-66), a scribe at the court of the Emperor Nero and like many writings of the time it is a humorous discussion of philosophy in alternating prose and verse. The work was written around AD 61 but wasn’t actually published until 1664, maaaaaaany years later.
The Satyricon is a collection of stories that follows the travels and tales of two friends – Encolpius and Gita – but also contains the story of Niciros, a soldier that traveled to a distant city with an acquaintance. While on their way, they stop at a graveyard to relieve themselves (why a graveyard, I have no idea). To poor Niciros’ horror, his companion then laughs wickedly, makes a circle of urine around himself (ew), rips off his clothes, then transforms into a wolf, howls and runs off towards the nearby town, leaving a very stunned Niciros behind. Niciros then goes over to the man’s discarded clothes only to discover that they have been turned to stone (crazy right? Those Romans and their weird stories). It doesn’t end there though, poor frightened Niciros walks to town, so afraid that he attacks every shadow with his sword. When he gets there he is told by a woman that a horrifying wolf killed off a handful of farm animals but was then speared in the throat by a servant, putting an end to the wolf-man.
There are, of course, many underlying meanings hidden in this tale. Like, urinating in a graveyard was an insult to the dead and would cause supernatural punishment. Either way it was a humorous and strange ancient story. The first werewolf tale of its kind.