The femme fatale archetype exists, in the folklore and myth of nearly every culture in every century. (Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony, La Belle Dame sans Merci The early examples are Ishtar, the Sumerian goddess, and Eve, Lilith, Delilah, and Salome from the Judaeo-Christian Bible. In ancient Greek literature, the femme fatale is incarnated by Aphrodite, the Siren, the Sphinx, the empusa, Scylla, Circe, Lamia (mythology), Helen of Troy, and Clytemnestra. Beside them is the historical figure Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, with her ability to seduce the powerful men of Rome. Roman propaganda attacked Cleopatra as a femme fatale; as a result, she became the legendary archetype of the attractions and the dangers inherent to the powerful, exotic woman.
The femme fatale as an archetypal character also existed in Chinese myths, stories and history, certain concubines (such as the historical Yang Guifei) have been accused of being responsible in part for the weakening and downfall of dynasties, by seducing her lover into neglecting his duties or twisting him to her will.