Why Dreams are Unreliable

Euripides. Iphigenia Among the Taurians. 1259-1280.

When displaced Themis, Earth’s daughter,
From the sacred seat of oracles,
Earth begat nightly sleep-apparitions
Which showed the mass of men, asleep in darkened beds,
What has been and what’s later destined to be.
And so Earth, sore about her daughter,
Robbed Phoebus of oracular authority.

The fleet-footed lord rushed to Olympus
And reached his youthful arm ‘round Zeus’s throne:
Would Zeus lift the chthonian goddess’s wrath
from the Pythian temple? Zeus laughed:
His son had come in a hurry, eager
For gold piled on gold in worship of him.

Nonetheless Zeus shook his locks: he put an end
To the night-time voices, and he deprived mortals
Of truthful night-time visions. He had restored
Loxias’s old authority.

Θέμιν δʼ ἐπεὶ Γαῖαν
παῖδʼ ἀπενάσσατο < > ἀπὸ ζαθέων
χρηστηρίων, νύχια
Χθὼν ἐτεκνώσατο φάσματʼ ὀνείρων,
οἳ πολέσιν μερόπων τά τε πρῶτα
τά τʼ ἔπειθʼ ὅσ’ ἔμελλε τυχεῖν
ὕπνῳ κατὰ δνοφερὰς χαμεὐ-
νὰς ἔφραζον· Γαῖα δὲ τὰν
μαντεῖον ἀφείλετο τι-
μὰν Φοῖβον, φθόνῳ θυγατρός.
ταχύπους δʼ ἐς Ὄλυμπον ὁρμαθεὶς ἄναξ
χέρα παιδνὸν ἕλιξεν ἐκ Διὸς θρόνων,
Πυθίων δόμων χθονίαν ἀφελεῖν μῆνιν θεᾶς.
γέλασε δʼ ὅτι τέκος ἄφαρ ἔβα
πολύχρυσα θέλων λατρεύματα σχεῖν·
ἐπὶ δʼ ἔσεισεν κόμαν παῦσαι νυχίους ἐνοπάς,
ύπὸ δʼ ἀλαθοσύναν νυκτωπὸν ἐξεῖλεν βροτῶν,
καὶ τιμὰς πάλιν θῆκε Λοξίᾳ.

Image of oil painting: brown-haired woman sleeping on side
Man Ray. Woman Asleep. 1913.
Whitney Museum of American Art.

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