Cultural memory and imagination: dreams and dreaming in the Roman Empire 31 BC – AD 200

Harrisson, Juliette Grace (2010). Cultural memory and imagination: dreams and dreaming in the Roman Empire 31 BC – AD 200. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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This thesis takes Assmann’s theory of cultural memory and applies it to an exploration of conceptualisations of dreams and dreaming in the early Roman Empire (31 BC – AD 200). Background information on dreams in different cultures, especially those closest to Rome (the ancient Near East, Egypt and Greece) is provided, and dream reports in Greco-Roman historical and imaginative literature are analysed. The thesis concludes that dreams were considered to offer a possible connection with the divine within the cultural imagination in the early Empire, but that the people of the second century AD, which has sometimes been called an ‘age of anxiety’, were no more interested in dreams or dream revelation than Greeks and Romans of other periods. This thesis outlines, defines and applies the newly developed concept of cultural imagination, developed from cultural memory, to its examination of dreams and dream reports in Greco-Roman literature. Using the concept of cultural imagination in preference to discussing ‘belief’ is shown to have advantages for the study of ancient religion, as it allows the historian to discuss religious ideas that may or may not have been widely ‘believed’ but which were present within the imagination of the members of a particular society.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology (CAHA)
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization


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