Ancient Greek Dream History

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Morpheus, the son of Hypnus, was the god of Dreams. He is always represented winged, and appears sometimes as a youth, sometimes as an old man. In his hand he bears a cluster of poppies, and as he steps with noiseless footsteps over the earth, he gently scatters the seeds of this sleep-producing plant over the eyes of weary mortals." -E.M. Berens, The myths and legends of ancient Greece and Rome.

Dream interpretation throughout the various historical periods carries such influence as it is often spoken about in literatures of the time. In ancient Greece, the major influence in dream interpretation came from the Egyptians.

The Egyptians thought of dreams as a message from gods that might carry warnings, advice or prophecy. They also knew ways to differentiate between "good" and "bad" dreams. One method was that if the dream took place in a polished ivory gate then it was false, but if it took place in a polished horn gate, then it was true.


"Dreams surely are difficult, confusing, and not everything in them is brought to pass for mankind. For fleeting dreams have two gates: one is fashioned of horn and one of ivory. Those which pass through the one of sawn ivory are deceptive, bringing tidings which come to nought, but those which issue from the one of polished horn bring true results when a mortal sees them." -Homer, The Odyssey.

In the Greek literature about dreams, traces of the Egyptians' influences are present as such that dreams are thought of to be carrying divine messages or prophecies.

Dream interpretation in Greek literature relies on the Homeric view that "the dream was not conceived as internal experience, a state of mind or a message from the irrational unconscious to the conscious ego. Rather, it was an objectified messenger, a supernatural agent sent by deity" (Parman 1991).


A practice that falls perfectly under this view is called dream incubation as the Greeks use sleep and dreaming to establish contact with their divine deities. They believed that the gods spoke through the dreams that they had.

Incubation practices were typically performed in temples or on remote hills, usually involving drug-induced sleep, which then was followed by dream reading/interpretation by an oracle or a priest.


Dream interpretation was so important in the Greek Era that dream interpreters joined in military leaders as they go into warfare!

Image Credit:
Morpheus - universalheretic.wordpress.com
Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus Homer Odyssey - Joseph Mallord William Turner
Dreaming Lady - thegrimoire.tumblr.com
Ancient Greek Warfare,Soldiers in a Phalanx- karenswhimsy.com


shanaz@RS | 11:28 PM | Labels:

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