Dreams in Late Antiquity: Studies in the Imagination of a Culture (Mythos: the Princeton/Bollingen in World Mythology)

October 30, 2020
Dreams in Late Antiquity: Studies in the Imagination of a Culture (Mythos: the Princeton/Bollingen in World Mythology)

Dream interpretation was a prominent feature of the intellectualand imaginative world of late antiquity, for martyrs and magicians,philosophers and theologians, polytheists and monotheists alike.Finding it difficult to account for the prevalence ofdream-divination, modern scholarship has often condemned it as acultural weakness, a mass lapse into mere superstition. In thisbook, Patricia Cox Miller draws on pagan, Jewish, and Christiansources and modern semiotic theory to demonstrate the integralimportance of dreams in late-antique thought and life. She arguesthat Graeco-Roman dream literature functioned as a language ofsigns that formed a personal and cultural pattern of imaginationand gave tangible substance to ideas such as time, cosmic history,and the self.Miller first discusses late-antique theories of dreaming, withemphasis on theological, philosophical, and hermeneutical methodsof deciphering dreams as well as the practical uses of dreams,especially in magic and the cult of Asclepius. She then considersthe cases of six Graeco-Roman dreamers: Hermas, Perpetua, AeliusAristides, Jerome, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianus. Herdetailed readings illuminate the ways in which dreams providedsolutions to ethical and religious problems, allowed for thereconfiguration of gender and identity, provided occasions for thearticulation of ethical ideas, and altogether served as a means ofmaking sense and order of the world.