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.
“As I slept through the night
Under sea-purple blankets,
Stretched out, drunk,
I was dreaming I stretched out
Mid-run on a fast course,
On the very tips of my toes.
I was enjoying myself with the girls
But some boys younger
Than Luaios were mocking me,
Teasing me harshly,
Because of those pretty girls.
Then, they all ran away from my dream
When I reached out to kiss them.
They left me alone and poor me,
I only wanted to sleep again.”
“Once, in the middle of the night,
At that time when the bear
Is already turning round the Plowman’s hand,
And all mortal peoples lie
Overcome by exhaustion,
Love stationed himself outside
The bolts of my doors and was knocking.
I said, “who’s knocking at my door?
You’ve broken up my dreams!”
And Love said, “Open up!
I am just a baby, don’t be afraid.
I am getting damp as I wander
Through this moonless night.”
I felt pity when I heard this
And immediately grabbed my lamp.
I opened the door and saw
Baby there, wearing a quiver
With arrows and a bow.
I sat him down near my hearth
And I warmed his hands with mine
And pressed the gold water from his hair.
Once he shrugged off his shivers,
He said, “Come on, let’s try this bow,
Whether its string has been ruined from getting wet.
He drew and shot true,
In the middle of my heart, like a mosquito.
He jumped up and laughed out with a smile,
“Friend, celebrate with me!
My bow is unharmed,
Although your heart will hurt for a while!
“But it is not completely illogical to imagine that some of the fantasies that arise during sleep are to blame for deeds that are related to them.
For just as when we are about to do something or in the middle of some action or have just finished it, we are deeply engaged with those deeds and we also carry them out in a dream–and this is because the inspiration that comes from the events of the day has made space for it–so too the stimulus that arises in sleep may be the initial cause of daytime deeds, because the possibility of doing these things found its own space at night.
This is why dreams can be both indications of things and the causes of them as well.”
“However many strange bodies appear in dreams and frighten a person signal an excess of uncustomary food, a secretion, bile, and a dangerous sickness. An emetic is required followed by the increase over five days of extremely light food–not too much of it or too sharp, nor too dry or hot, along with the kinds of exercises that are natural except for walking after dinner. This really asks for warm baths and relaxation and you need to guard against the sun and the cold.
Whenever someone imagines they are eating or drinking customary food or drink while sleeping, it means a lack of food and depression in the soul. Really strong meats are a sign of excess; when they are weaker, there’s less. Just as eating is good, so too is dreaming about it! So, in the case of excess, it is useful to reduce the quantity of food, since excessive consumption is indicated. The dreaming of bread made with cheese and honey means the same thing. There’s no sign of harm in dreaming of water. But drinking other things is a bad sign.
When someone dreams about everyday objects, it signals a dream of the soul. A dream of running away in fear shows that the blood is fixed by dryness. It is advantageous then to cool and moisten the body.”
“Alexander fell into a deep sleep while sitting near his friend. The story is that the snake his mother raised appeared to him while he was sleeping carrying a root in its mouth and somehow revealing the name of the place where the root grew nearby.
The snake claimed that the root had so much power that it could easily heal Ptolomaeus. Once Alexander woke up, he told his friends the dream and sent people to find the root. When it was found, it didn’t cure only Ptolomaeus, but many of the soldiers who had been wounded by the same type of arrow.”
Alexander assidens somno est consopitus. Tum secundum quietem visus ei dicitur draco is, quem mater Olympias alebat, radiculam ore ferre et simul dicere, quo illa loci nasceretur (neque is longe aberat ab eo loco), eius autem esse vim tantam, ut Ptolomaeum facile sanaret. Cum Alexander experrectus narrasset amicis somnium, emissi sunt, qui illam radiculam quaererent; qua inventa et Ptolomaeus sanatus dicitur et multi milites, qui erant eodem genere teli vulnerati.
Aristotle, On Marvellous things heard, 86 [=837a]
“People claim that among the Celts there is a drug which they call the “arrow” [toxikon]. They report that it induces so quick a death that the Celts’ hunters, whenever they have shot a deer or some other animal, rush ahead to cut off its flesh before it is penetrated completely by the drug both for the sake of using the meat and so that the animal might not rot.
They also claim that the oak tree’s bark has been found to be an antidote for the poison. But others claim that there is a leaf which that call “raven’s leaf” because they have seen ravens, once they taste the poison mentioned before and start to feel the drug’s effect, rush to this leaf and stop their suffering by eating it.”
“I have a wound from love: from it pours not blood
But tears and a scar will never close it.
I am undone by this evil and not even Makhaon
Could heal me by applying his gentle drugs.
I am Telephos, girl—be my faithful Achilles:
Stop this longing you caused with your beauty.”
A few notes to make this make sense: In the IliadMakhaon is a healer who ministers to the wounded captains. In myth, Telephos, a son of Herakles, is wounded by Achilles’ spear and can only be healed by the man who hurt him. Achilles encounters Telephos at the beginning of the war when the Greeks mistakenly attack Mysia (believing it to be Troy!). He is later healed in exchange for leading the Greeks to Troy.
So, this odd epigram becomes a tad bit odder thanks to knowing the references. It is ascribed to a poet named Macedonius and is in book 5 of The Greek Anthology (the Erotic Epigrams).
“I am sailing from Egypt and Phoenicia for twenty-five days at this point, somehow. As the ship was drawing up into Elaious, I dreamed I was reading the words of Homer when he describes the catalog of the Achaeans and that I was inviting all the Achaeans to get on to my ship as if it were large enough to hold them all!
When I was waking from the dream because some shiver had spread over me, I supposed that it prophesied a slow and long journey. For visions of the dead are bad signs for eager people.”
“And when sleep has bound our limbs with sweet
slumber and the whole body lies in deep repose,
we still seem to ourselves to be awake and to move
our limbs—in the obscure darkness of night.
We think that we see the sun and the light of day;
we seem to trade a closed room or the sky, sea,
rivers and mountains—-we cross fields on our feet.
We hear sounds when the heavy quiet of night
hangs over everything; we utter words while staying silent.”
Denique cum suavi devinxit membra sopore
somnus et in summa corpus iacet omne quiete,
tum vigilare tamen nobis et membra movere
nostra videmur, et in noctis caligine caeca
cernere censemus solem lumenque diurnum,
conclusoque loco caelum mare flumina montis
mutare et campos pedibus transire videmur,
et sonitus audire, severa silentia noctis
undique cum constent, et reddere dicta tacentes.
“The first dream proper to this category is the one which appeared to the dreamer on the stairway to heaven.”
ὄναρ δ᾿ ἐστὶ πρῶτον οἰκεῖον εἴδει τῷ σημαινομένῳ τὸ φανὲν ἐπὶ τῆς οὐρανοῦ κλίμακος τόδε. [the dream he discusses is Gen. xxviii. 12–15]
“And I, when I am just a little free of my drunkenness, I am so allied with those men that I share the same enemy and friend. And even now I reject and hate the dreamer no less because those people hate him. No one who is reasonable can fault me for this because the opinions and the votes of the majority always prevail.”
ὀνειρόπληκτος: “dream-struck” (“frightened by dreams”)
ὀνειροπόλος: “dreamer, dream interpreter”
ὀνειρόσοφος: “wise in dreams”
ὀνειροφαντασία: “dream illusion”
Note ancient Greek does not have:
ὀνειροφόνος: “dream slayer”
ὀνειροκτόνος: “dream killer”
Aelian, Varia Historia 3.1
“The Peripatetics say that at day the soul is a slave encased by the body and it is not able to see the truth clearly. At night, it is freed from its service and, after takes the shape of a sphere in the area around the chest, it becomes somewhat prophetic: this is where dreams come from.”