Byzantine expert publishes new book – Dreams and Divination from Byzantium to Baghdad, 400-1000 CE

Jul 6, 2021 | Fellows, IAS News, Publication, Transformations (Issue 3)

Professor of Ancient History at Macquarie University, and member of the Macquarie University Ancient Cultures Research Centre, and former Fellow of the IAS during early 2020,  Bronwen Neil, FAHA has published her latest book with Oxford University Press. An expert on Byzantine Greek and medieval literature, early Christianity, and ancient letter collections in Greek and Latin, Professor Neil asks why did dreams matter to Jews, Byzantine Christians, and Muslims in the first millennium?

This book shows how the ability to interpret dreams universally attracted power and influence in the first millennium. In a time when prophetic dreams were viewed as God’s intervention in human history, male and female prophets wielded unparalleled power in imperial courts, military camps, and religious gatherings. The three faiths drew on the ancient Near Eastern tradition of dream key manuals, which offer readers a rare insight into the hopes and fears of ordinary people. They melded pagan dream divination with their own scriptural traditions to produce a novel and rich culture of dream interpretation. Prophetic dreams enabled communities to understand their past and present circumstances as divinely ordained and helped to bolster the spiritual authority of dreamers and those who had the gift of interpreting their dreams. The book takes a gendered approach to the analysis of the common culture of dream interpretation across late antique Jewish, Byzantine, and Islamic sources to 1000 CE, in order to expose the ways in which dreams offered women a unique opportunity to exercise influence. The epilogue reveals why dreams still matter today to many men and women of the monotheist traditions.

Full book details and ordering information can be located here.


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