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Transferts culturels et droits dans le monde grec et hellénistique

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Bernard Legras

Transferts culturels en Grèce d’Europe et en Asie Mineure durant l’époque hellénistique et romaine

Transfers and tensions in the dreams of Graeco-Roman antiquity. Imperial appearances in Artemidorus Daldianus and Aelius Aristides

Dimitris Karambélas

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  • 1 The study of Roman History is symbolically linked to the prophetic function of a dream: Cassius Di (...)
  • 2 These dreams do not constitute poetic, philosophical or fictional constructs. For Homeric dreams, (...)
  • 3 Use of symbol in Freud 1900 (on Aristotle and Artemidorus, see the preface on Chapter 1: The Scien (...)
  • 4 General methodological discussion in Price 1986.

1A fertile way of approaching the transfers and tensions between different cultural and legal systems during Greco-roman antiquity is by studying the recording of dreams extant in a good number of primary sources and in the oneirocritic tradition.1 Dreaming is itself a form of transfer, from the world of light, knowledge and consciousness, to the forces of the night, the unknown and the unconscious – and also a transfer between different psychic agencies. Furthermore, a series of indirect testimonies on the functioning of legal institutions during the imperial period are provided by the dreams which were indeed dreamed, at one point or another in time, and which were subsequently recorded by dreamers.2 In these dreams, legal institutions (magistrates, judges, synegoroi, or, in the age of Principatus, the emperor himself, consuls, praetors etc.), appear as symbols which reflect the relationship between the dreaming subject and these institutions, but also reveal, in all probability, various ideas, desires, needs and conflicts, conscious or unconscious, originating from equally varied sources.3 We are called upon to explore the ways in which the dreamer introjects and experiences the power and imperative nature of the institutions, as well as their role in regulating his behaviour within the framework of a specific social structure; at the same time, we are also in a position to examine the inner correspondences between the dream symbols originating in the domain of the law and the conscious or unconscious entities symbolized. Moreover, we have to point out the differing mental representations of institutions and the interpretations given by the oneirocritic tradition during antiquity to the symbols coming from law – dependent on the gender, origin, or the legal, social or economic position of the dreamer in question.4 In the present paper, the hypothesis that appearances of the Roman emperor in dreams of the imperial age, reflect the reception and transformation of Roman institutions in the inner life of Greeks under Roman rule, is investigated. The dreams examined are recorded and found in two groups of sources: on the one hand, in the oneirocritic tradition, as codified in the Oneirocritica by Artemidorus of Daldis, on the other hand in the collection of dreams included in the Sacred Tales by the orator Aelius Aristides, both dating from the second half of the 2nd century AD.

  • 5 History of dream-interpretation: Bouché-Leclercq 1879: 277-329; Del Corno 1969. For the tradition (...)
  • 6 Blum 1936; Pack 1955, 1957, 1963; Festugière 1975; White 1975; Miller 1994; Harris 2003, 2009; Bowe (...)
  • 7 Oneirocritica 1.2.
  • 8 Note also the remark of S.R.F. Price, “The Future of Dreams : From Freud to Artemidorus”, p. 13 : (...)

2In his Oneirocritica, Artemidorus includes, in five separate books, an extensive thematic system of presentation of dream symbols and their interpretations,5 depending on the specific dreamer in each case, as well as descriptions of complete, unedited dreams, collected by the author during his travels in the Eastern Mediterranean.6 Given the fact that Artemidorus is in essence interested only in allegorical dreams and does not include in his work the interpretation of common, everyday minor dreams (enhypnia),7 in which one would expect to find, centre-stage, the worries and fears for the personal and financial situation of the subject, and which, therefore, would be expected to provide testimonies on the function of legal institutions, the participation in legal proceedings etc.8 — it is, still, impressive what a wealth of related information is contained in dreams of prophetic pretensions.

  • 9 Oneirocritica 4.31.

3The appearance of the emperor inside the dream framework and its subsequent interpretation are included in Book IV of the Oneirocritica9 Artemidorus initially points out that the emperor, the temple, the soldier, the emperor’s letter, the coins and all other similar things symbolize one another. It is clear that this common group of symbols comprises all the vehicles representing the power of Rome in the mind of an inhabitant of the Roman provinces. The temple symbolizes the practice of worshiping the emperor ; the Roman soldier symbolizes military domination ; the imperial letter (rescriptum), the equivalent imperial legal power ; the figure of the emperor on the coin, his supremacy. These are the most common symbols of imperial power in the everyday life of the average person in a Greek city under Roman rule, a person not appearing to have any direct links with the Roman administration, since we do not find in the group pf symbols the Roman governor of the province or any official of his consilium, these officials usually staying in the capital of the province and visiting the seats of the conventus once a year, in order to try legal cases. Furthermore, if these interpretations concerned dreams belonging to the inhabitants of Rome or Italy, it is certain that they would include symbols originating in Roman institutions. However, it should be pointed out that the dream-interpreter does not interpret the temple, the soldier or the coin only in one direction, i.e. as symbols of the emperor, but also “in reverse”: the emperor as symbolizing the money or the letters. In order to corroborate his interpretations, Artemidorus cites relevant dreams. To begin with, he mentions that a certain Stratonicus dreamt that he was kicking the emperor; as he was leaving his house, he happened to step on a gold coin. The author notes that it is in no way different to kick or step on the emperor or his likeness. A certain Zeno dreamt that he had become a centurion; upon leaving his house, he received a hundred letters from the emperor. A certain Cratinus, whom Artemidorus refers to as “our” Cratinus (in all likelihood one of his fellow-citizens), received in his sleep some coins; he later became collector of revenues of an imperial temple. A certain Zoilus dreamed that he was a foreman of public works; he then became treasurer of the imperial fiscus.

  • 10 Cf. also Oneirocritica 4.51; 4.80.
  • 11 Oneirocritica 4.32.
  • 12 Lane Fox 1986: 157: “In all their interpretations, there are only two or three examples of the Emp (...)

4The above examples show, first of all, that the “imperial symbols” symbolize Roman domination, in the most common ways in which the average inhabitant of a Greek city came into contact with this domination. The dreaming subject dreams of the emperor himself, or that he becomes centurion or foreman of public works. Roman power is perceived as a total whole; it is not symbolized exclusively by the figure of the emperor. In addition, it does not appear to be connected with negative emotions, of aggression or anxiety in particular. Zeno dreams that he has a career in the Roman army and the very next day he receives a hundred imperial letters, presumably in his capacity as a Roman administrative official. Similarly, the outcome of the two subsequent dreams is related to climbing up the Roman administrative hierarchy: Cratinus takes up the post of revenue-collector in an imperial temple, Zoilus becomes treasurer of the imperial fiscus. Besides, all of the dreaming subjects are Greeks (as indicated by their names) and Roman citizens at the same time. An exception to the above is provided by the first dream, in which a certain Stratonicus, as already mentioned, dreams that he is kicking the emperor. The outcome of this dream is also positive: Stratonicus finds a gold coin. The Oneirocritica also include certain dreams relating to trials in the imperial court, in front of the emperor and the consilium principis.10 However, the symbol of the emperor does not appear to play an important role here: these dreams usually reflect the dreamers’ anxiety about the outcome of the trial. Chrysippus of Corinth dreamt that he extracted teeth from the emperor’s mouth and that he won a trial in which he was the defendant, by imperial decree.11 Such dreams do not reveal sentiments of aggression towards Rome, in fact the dreamers mentioned by Artemidorus – Greeks and Roman citizens at the same time – form part of the Roman administrative hierarchy or expect to reach its higher offices.12

  • 13 Important works on Aelius Aristides: Boulanger 1923; Behr 1968. See also: Oliver 1953 and 1968; Qu (...)
  • 14 For the nature of Aristides’ disease: Festugière 1960: 86; Behr 1968: 23-40, 116; Michenaud and Di (...)
  • 15 Behr 1968: 116-130. Recent studies exploring the emperor-figure in Aelius Aristides’ dreams: Flint (...)
  • 16 Sacred Tales 1.23. However, see Pernot 2008: 178, who identifies the emperor of the dream with Ant (...)

5The Sacred Tales by Aelius Aristides (117-circa 180-185 AD) include a detailed record of one hundred and thirty dreams which the orator dreamed over a period of roughly a decade. Aristides, himself a worshipper of Asclepius, suffered throughout his life from a variety of diseases, and Asclepius was his protector and doctor.13 As we learn from his Sacred Tales, God gave him detailed instructions for his health through Aristides’ dreams.14 The emperor makes his presence felt in Aristides’ dreams, particularly in the ones contained in the First Sacred Tale, which was written in 171 AD and based on extensive diary notes of the period between the 4th of January and the 15th of February of the year 166 AD, during the joint reign of emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus (161-169 AD).15 In his first dream (January 17th), Aristides dreams that he is arriving at the imperial palace in Rome, together with his teacher Alexander of Cotiaeum, who had also been a paedagogue to both Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. Alexander precedes Aristides in greeting the emperor. Aristides follows but refuses to kiss the emperor, who is puzzled by this behaviour. Presenting himself, Aristides confines himself to mentioning that he is the healer of Asclepius and adds that his God has forbidden him to kiss in this way. In response, Marcus Aurelius says that, of all the gods, Asclepius is the best one to worship.16

  • 17 Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 582-583; Pack 1947.

6In 166 AD, when Aristides has this first dream, he has not yet met Marcus Aurelius in person; their first meeting takes place a full decade later, during the emperor’s visit to Smyrna (176 AD), and marks the beginning of a close friendship.17 In the first dream, as well as in the ones that follow, always featuring Marcus Aurelius, Aristides always dreams of “the Roman emperor”, rather than of the real person “Marcus Aurelius” (in fact, there is no record of Aristides’ meeting Lucius Verus, who has a more or less important presence in other dreams to follow). Concerning this dream’s interpretation, it is clear that, at a basic level, Aristides is expressing his desire to enter the imperial palace and meet the emperor ; he may be feeling that his real place is by the seat of ultimate power. On the other hand, Aristides refuses to follow the ritual of the imperial salutation (salutatio), in other words he refuses to acknowledge the imperial power and his position as its subject, a refusal which is not censored in his dream, perhaps because Aristides feels that he is under divine protection. In fact, the rhetor dreams that Marcus Aurelius recognizes his right not to follow the ritual of salutation and also recognizes the ultimate authority of Asclepius. The dream depicts the conflict taking place within the mental life of the orator: on the one hand he is drawn to imperial power, perhaps because of his need to be acknowledged by the Emperor or to be named as his pedagogue (Alexander of Cotiaeum may well be nothing more than a dream persona of Aristides); on the other hand, Aristides refuses the reality of Roman domination and of the obligation to honour it.

  • 18 Sacred Tales 1.34.
  • 19 Cassius Dio, 71.1-2; Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Marcus Aurelius 8.6-14.

7In the second relevant dream (January 28th),18 Aristides dreams that he is praying to the gods, to some jointly, to others separately, for example to Zeus, Mars and to the Syrian gods. Immediately afterwards, he takes part in a trial in the presence of the emperor, who – quoting Aristides – “was in Syria at the time”, and his legal claims are successful. The emperor in this dream must be Lucius Verus and not Marcus Aurelius. Already by 161 AD, Rome was at war with the Parthians, the war ending later that year. Marcus Aurelius had sent Lucius Verus himself to command the Roman armies, from the very beginning of hostilities.19 Therefore, the dream must be referring to Lucius Verus. One has to underline the coexistence inside the dream of the “Syrian gods” and of the emperor “who is in Syria”; the figure of the emperor is associated with divine attributes, and he is the representative of a power whose favour Aristides must win.

  • 20 Sacred Tales 1.36-39.

8In the third dream (February 2nd), Aristides dreams that Marcus Aurelius and the Parthian king Vologeses III have signed a treaty of peace and friendship.20 Following this, Vologeses’ companions approach and Aristides forms the impression that the Parthians are speaking in Greek. Marcus Aurelius sits on the throne, whereas the Parthian king sits close to Aristides; the latter in fact has the impression that Vologeses possesses also a knowledge of medicine. The Parthian greets Aristides and asks him when he will be giving a rhetorical demonstration for them. Aristides is pleased by the request and delivers an introductory speech (prologue), while at the same time wondering whether he ought to divide his speech equally between the two emperors or should, instead, dedicate a greater part to “our emperor” and turn to the other king after that. In the end, he decides to pick one of his books and to have, at a later time, the emperors themselves choose out of a case or chest which one of his works they would have.

  • 21 Swain 1996: 263.
  • 22 Sacred Tales 1.10.

9Given that Lucius Verus – and not Marcus Aurelius – was at the battlefront and in negotiations with the Parthians, his absence from the dream and his replacement by Marcus must be interpreted. It may be that Aristides is simply dreaming of the “emperor”. Or again, this may be connected with his desire to be in the presence of Marcus Aurelius on his own, however this could not then account for the presence of the Parthian king. Be that as it may, one could point out that Aristides sees two emperors in his dream.21 The most interesting part of the dream has to do with the traits attributed by Aristides to the Parthian king and his companions. These are a hostile people trying to negotiate peace with Rome; in Aristides’ dream they speak Greek and their ruler appears to be well-versed in medicine. On the other hand, Marcus Aurelius may be sitting on the throne, in contrast to Vologeses, but he does not really make his presence felt in the dream. Of course, it is once more obvious how much Aristides desires to connect himself with the imperial power and cause an impression with his rhetorical skill; he craves, no doubt, for admiration; in point of fact, he challenges the emperors to choose for themselves whichever of his works they wish, and his skill at oratory is so great that he could then easily deliver the speech chosen. In a previous dream, however,22 the rhetor had dreamt that he was under the power of some Parthians. One of them stuck his finger down Aristides’ throat, causing him to throw up; he then ordered him to refrain from washing himself — instructions similar to the ones Asclepius usually gives him during his dreams healings.

  • 23 Sacred Tales 1.46-50.

10In the fourth related dream (February 11th), Aristides dreams that he is a resident of the palace in Rome, and that the emperors (jointly, this time) bestow on him care and honour, as well as full participation in all imperial functions.23 These honours have only been accorded to Aristides, and it is only he who shares the imperial roof. He later accompanies the kings in inspecting public works in Rome; both emperors treat him with admiration, throughout their journey. In fact, most of the time Aristides stands between the two emperors, and whenever he tries to move to one side, so that Marcus Aurelius will take up the position in the middle, Lucius Verus (who seems to have the same age as a child) moves as well, so that Aristides cannot but remain in the middle position. Following this, both emperors help him climb a ladder, and Aristides, wishing to leave, thanks them for all the care and honours they have accorded him. The emperors, though, answer that it is they who thank the gods for having met such a man, and that he is a great orator and a good man in equal measure.

11An overall evaluation of the dreams which feature Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, requires a co-examination of all recurrent elements in this material. Aristides’ ambition that he be recognized for his rhetorical skills is obvious – his dreams express very clearly his need for praise and honour beyond the ordinary, a need which becomes (in freudian terms) narcissistic, with such narcissism, however, serving only as a thin veil for his fragile self-esteem. The symbolic importance of the approbation and commendations by the emperor (by Roman power – and by power in general) is also clear. His relationship to Rome is one of dependence: the sanction given by the Roman “provincial governor” leads to a manifestation of life, such as the one signified by the light and torches in a dream of January the 16th. In addition, the display of gratitude on the part of Aristides for the honours accorded to him, and especially the identification of the emperor with the “Syrian gods” (through the imperial divine powers) reveal very clearly a worshipping of power. At a secondary level, however, his feelings towards Rome prove to be much more complex: an equally strong aggressiveness on the orator’s part manifests itself, already recognizable in Aristides’ refusal to pay his respects to Marcus Aurelius. His deeper opposition to Rome is expressed mainly through the symbolic dream function of the Parthians. Their dream characteristics are particularly revealing: they speak Greek, have a knowledge of medicine, just like Asclepius, they give orders identical to the god’s orders, and they are regarded or experienced by the rhetor as enemies of his very own Rome-worshipping side. In the third dream, where only Marcus Aurelius, symbolizing Roman authority, sits on a throne, the role played by the Parthian king, who in his turn symbolizes the rhetor’s feelings of aggression, is equivalent and antagonistic towards that of Marcus. Consequently, Aristides’ wondering as to whether he should divide the duration of his delivery equally between the two kings, or start instead with “our” emperor, can be interpreted in very different ways: despite the literal interpretation, Aristides’ anxiety has to do with whether or not he will be able to control his destructive tendencies, and what part he ought to reserve for such tendencies in his psychological make-up.

12Can we describe the fundamental conflict inside Aristides as a conflict between Rome and Greece? On the one hand, Aristides is dependent on, or worships even, Rome and the embodiment of absolute authority in the figure of the emperor: he needs approval and honour by that authority, he desires to live, only he and no-one else, by its side, savouring the pleasures of the imperial palace, but unable still to live and to escape the unknown forces threatening him without imperial permission. On the other hand, he feels he belongs with Greece, with the Greek language and oratory, and with the god Asclepius; he thus refuses to submit to Roman power, he questions and challenges it – or rather, he feels that he belongs with another authority, the « Greek » religious and cultural authority, the Greek power, which in turn wishes to attack and destroy the superior authority of Rome. Aristides finds himself between two “kings” and experiences their relationship to each other as warfare: his aggressive emotions control and keep him under their sway. It is likely that the total faith and obedience to the commands of Asclepius, on the one hand reveal Aristides’ submission to his destructive instincts, which have turned into neurotic self-destruction – monotonously recurring so long as it goes unperceived by his own self – and, on the other hand, indicate his need to have his dependence on and worship of authority, as symbolized by the Roman emperor, addressed and treated. The close examination of the dream material provided by the First Sacred Tale of Aelius Aristides reveals a fundamental ambivalence – need/worship against an attempt for independence/aggression – and a split between two opposing poles of power – Rome and Greece, emperor and Asclepius – which are fighting against each other, at the expense of the psychic health of the subject, who always finds himself “between them” (as in the dream of February the 11th), at the centre of this painful conflict. In this context, there does not seem to be any space left for personal freedom. In Artemidorus’ dreams, the incorporation into the Roman administrative system would appease, perhaps, a hypothetical analogous tension on his dreaming subjects’ part. The fate of Aristides proved to be a lot more cruel: his ambivalence remained trapped in the unconscious, giving rise to neurotic symptoms which would besiege his bodily and psychic well-being throughout his life.

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Notes

1 The study of Roman History is symbolically linked to the prophetic function of a dream: Cassius Dio was the author of a book of dream-interpretation, and his Roman History was inspired by a dream. Cassius Dio, 78.23.1-4. See also: Bowersock 1994: 77-78, 97-98. For the influence of Stoicism, see Lewis 1976: 53.

2 These dreams do not constitute poetic, philosophical or fictional constructs. For Homeric dreams, see, in general, Dodds 1951, Chapter 1. Dreams in Greek Tragedy: Devereux 1976. Dreams in Plato: Rotondaro 1988. Dreams in Hellenistic and Roman Novel: Bowersock 1994: 77-98.

3 Use of symbol in Freud 1900 (on Aristotle and Artemidorus, see the preface on Chapter 1: The Scientific Literature Dealing with the Problems of Dreams). Symbol in Jung 1978. See also: Hall 1953 (unreliable, however, on Artemidorus’ testimonies).

4 General methodological discussion in Price 1986.

5 History of dream-interpretation: Bouché-Leclercq 1879: 277-329; Del Corno 1969. For the tradition of Antiphon as a dream-interpreter, see Gagarin 2002: 99-101.

6 Blum 1936; Pack 1955, 1957, 1963; Festugière 1975; White 1975; Miller 1994; Harris 2003, 2009; Bowersock 2004.

7 Oneirocritica 1.2.

8 Note also the remark of S.R.F. Price, “The Future of Dreams : From Freud to Artemidorus”, p. 13 : “A web of metaphor connects dream imagery and the real world. The interpretation of dreams was based on normative assumptions widespread in Artemidorus’ day, and dreams thus belonged not to a baffling private universe but to the public sphere.”

9 Oneirocritica 4.31.

10 Cf. also Oneirocritica 4.51; 4.80.

11 Oneirocritica 4.32.

12 Lane Fox 1986: 157: “In all their interpretations, there are only two or three examples of the Emperor in a client’s dream: one man dreamed that he had pulled teeth from the ‘king’s’ mouth, foretelling victory in a lawsuit in his presence; another dreamed of ‘King Agamemnon’, a Homeric image of the ‘Emperor’ in Greek eyes. As the Emperors’ subjects petitioned them on such a huge range of topics, this relative silence in the evidence is unexpected. The energy which modern English people now divert into dreams of their royal family went in the Antonine era elsewhere, to dreams of extreme sexual detail and to dreams of the gods.”

13 Important works on Aelius Aristides: Boulanger 1923; Behr 1968. See also: Oliver 1953 and 1968; Quet 1992a and 1992b.

14 For the nature of Aristides’ disease: Festugière 1960: 86; Behr 1968: 23-40, 116; Michenaud and Dierkens 1972: 99-111; Gourevitch 1984: 22-47; Andersson and Roos 1997.

15 Behr 1968: 116-130. Recent studies exploring the emperor-figure in Aelius Aristides’ dreams: Flinterman 2004; Pernot 2008.

16 Sacred Tales 1.23. However, see Pernot 2008: 178, who identifies the emperor of the dream with Antoninus Pius, by referring to Aristides’ journey in Rome in 144 AD, where he also met his former professor, the grammarian Alexander of Cotiaeum.

17 Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 582-583; Pack 1947.

18 Sacred Tales 1.34.

19 Cassius Dio, 71.1-2; Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Marcus Aurelius 8.6-14.

20 Sacred Tales 1.36-39.

21 Swain 1996: 263.

22 Sacred Tales 1.10.

23 Sacred Tales 1.46-50.

© Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2012

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