Dream History In Roman Times

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Oneirocritica or The Interpretation of Dreams by the Roman Artemidorus (AD 150) is the first detailed book about dream interpretation, although the Egyptians created one of the earliest documents about dreams (Chester Beatty papyrus).

A brilliant man of his time, he introduced a rich written tradition and the basis of his method is firmly analogical. The material of his book was gathered as he travelled to cities in Greece, Italy and its larger islands and Asia Minor where he reviewed all dream literatures available and consulted with various oral interpreters.

In his five-volume book on Oneirocriticon, he wrote that dream interpretation is "nothing other than the juxtoposition of similarities". According to his method of reading a dream, the content or symbols appearing in a person's dream is affected by the person's social status, health and occupation. In other words, dreams are unique to every individual and that the person's waking life have significant influence on the dreams he has.

Volume one is about the dream meanings associated with the anatomy and activity of the human body. Volume two relates to objects and events in the natural world, such as animals, weather, and the gods. Volume three is on a variety of subjects.

In one memorable passage of his book, Artemidorus deciphered the meaning of the dream that involved intercouse with one's mother. The mere act itself -he wrote in a passage - is not enough to show the dream's significance but that one has to take into account of the specific kinds of positions involved. I chuckled on this one.

Brilliant as he was, some of the interpretation on dreams are pretty skewed. A few outrageous ideas he'd written included:

"To wear a purple robe threatens a long disease."
"To hold or eat eggs symbolizes vexation."

Artemidorus stressed that dream interpretation cannot be done without reference to the dreamer. The intepreter should find out how the subject truly feels regarding each aspect of the dream.

Regarding the nature of his dream research - he stated that "I did not rely upon any simple theory of probabilities but rather on experience and the testimony of actual dream-fulfillments".

The remaining two volumes of Oneirocritica were written for the use of his son, a novice dream interpreter.

Image Credit:
Dreams Beyond at theodoraroman.com
Cover of Oneirocritica at openlibrary.org
Painting by Paolo Veronese at studiacartesianaestonica.wordpress.com

shanaz@RS | 2:18 AM | Labels:

You Might Also Like