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An Homeric Dream Oracle from Termessos
Filiz Cluzeau
The article presents a new dream inscription found in the urban area of Termessos. The inscription is the first Termessian example containing an explicit dream term such as onar, oneiros or enhypnion. However, its different form sets it apart from other dream inscriptions. The first line of the inscription engraved on a block of limestone contains only the word onar meaning “dream” as a heading of the text; the four lines below quote a distich from Homer (Il. 11.163-164).

Firstly, the contrast between onar and hypar are briefly discussed in the article, in order to clarify the distinction between the two concepts and to emphasize the daytime visions in the cultural imagination of the ancient Greeks, which we would consider today as nocturnal visions. Then, warned by Artemidoros who states that dreams of a literary sort including verses from poets could never be seen by the uneducated masses but only by the pepaideumenoi, the article handles the influence of the Second Sophistic phenomenon in Termessos and that the way to being pepaideumenos passed through Homer. In the unusual text of the inscription neither its dreamer is known nor any deity; in addition, it is not common to find the content of a dream in inscriptions of this sort. Giving the content of the dream with Homeric verses also completely distinguishes the inscription from others of this group; thus its content instead recalls oracular responses.

Similar texts quoting Homeric verses are found especially among oracular responses in all kind of ancient sources. Therefore, the author seeks to understand the inscription through the rich literary sources by quoting verses from Homer and drawing attention to the fact that almost all of these dreams were divinations. The most important example is the dream of Dio Cassius, who dreamt the same dream as the one in this Termessos inscription. While trying to interpret Dio’s dream, the term ek beleōn is encountered in the works of some ancient paroemiographers working during the reign of Hadrian. It was also observed that this term was used in daily life as a proverb in a slightly changed form eksō belōn, which means “out of danger”.

Eustathius, the 12th-century commentator on Homer, points out that the term ek beleōn, or its other version eksō belōn used as an adverb after Homer, is understood more clearly in the context of the same Homeric verse (Il. 11.163) as in our inscription, although Homer used it several times in the Iliad as a war term. This is followed by an investigation into the meaning of these verses to ancient Greeks and how this proverb was used by other authors. That some oracles are found as proverbs in the works of ancient paroemiographers supports the hypothesis that this Homeric distich must have been used in oracles as a formulaic saying with its plain meaning.

After a review of all the divinatory and magical examples that quoted Homeric verses, it is concluded that the words of Homer, to whom some holy buildings are devoted already in the Hellenistic period, are regarded as a divine words bringing remedies to all sorts of problems. That this inscription must have been part of Temple N3, in the near vicinity of which dice-oracles were found previously, suggests that this temple must have been used for divination. So, Heberdey’s opinion regarding the dedication of the temple to the Muses may be strengthened because of this Homeric dream oracle since Homer’s astonishing knowledge, which is believed to be divine, came from the Muses led by Apollo.

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