A Lycanthrope or Lycan was someone who suffered from a terrible condition by which they turned into a wolf-man by night and hunted humans and animals as prey.
It was thought that in ancient Greece, if someone were to eat the flesh of a wolf that had been mixed with a human, the person would become a Lycanthrope of which the process could not be reversed. In medieval Europe the source of Lycanthropy was caused by witchcraft. Anyone accused of being a Lycanthrope was put to death.
The word originates form the Greek ‘lykos’ meaning wolf and ‘anthropos’ meaning man. This implies that the belief in Werewolves dates back to ancient Greece but historian s predict that the belief goes back to pre historic times and was infused into Olympian belief. The belief can be traced further back to the wolf cult that lived in the ancient region of Arcadia (a secluded mountainous region in Greece). Arcadia had many wolves that lived in the region that gave rise to the wolf cult called Wolf-Zeus. Every year, the people would sacrifice a wolf to the god Zeus on mount Lycaeus. A feast of wolf and human flesh would then be made. According to legend, whoever ate the meat wold be turned into a wolf and would remain so unless they abstained from human flesh for 9 years.
This superstition was carried over into Roman culture. They believed that anyone who had been transformed into a wolf by means of a curse or herbs was called Versipellis which means ‘turnskin’.
Today the word lycanthropy is used to describe a mental disorder where someone believes that they have the ability to transform into an animal or that they are an animal.