Mittwoch, 3. Januar 2018

A report of a presentation entitled “Artemidorus of Daldis: The Oneirokritikà in light of Freud’s Traumdeutung” by Antonio Puleri

A weblog entry by Aleksandar Milenković.

At the last plenary session of the year, held on December 14th 2017, we witnessed two rather different but nonetheless interesting topics. You can read all about Prof. Dr. Detlef Gronenborn's presentation in Katharina's blogpost. On the other hand, we were given a quite intriguing presentation by our guest researcher Antonio Puleri. Antonio has joined the Graduiertenkolleg for one semester after having obtained his Master's degree in Classics at the University of Palermo. His thesis was titled "Oneiron krinein. Il metodo oniromatico di Artemidoro alla luce della psicoanalisi freudiana" (in English: "Oneiron krinein. The oneirocritic method of Artemidorus in light of Freudian psychoanalysis"), and he was eager and kind enough to share with us some of the most important aspects of it.

Artemidorus Daldianus and his work

Who is Artemidorus Daldianus then? As Antonio informed us, not that many facts concerning his life have come down to us, except a few vague ones given by Artemidorus himself in his own writings. We do know that he was an author originally from Ephesos, although the name Daldianus implies a different birthplace. He lived in the II century AD and wrote extensively about dreams and their interpretation.

His work was well known to a more famous dream interpreter, Sigmund Freud. It is most likely that Freud read a translation of Artemidorus' work, more precisely Symbolik der Träume by Friedrich Salomon Krauss, published in 1881. In his Die Traumdeutung Freud wrote: "Artemidorus of Daldis, who was probably born at the beginning of the second century A.D., has left us the most complete and painstaking study of dream-interpretation as practised in the Graeco-Roman world."

In his five volumes of Oneirokritika, Artemidorus presented both theoretical and practical aspects of his dream-research. He gave definitions of dreams together with descriptions and outcomes, their detailed classification and, lastly, many examples. His methodology shows a threefold system. First, the crucial point of his research is his personal experience, i.e. empirical approach in a modern sense. Secondly, he interviewed people of different gender, age, social and political backgrounds to gain a more colourful insight. Lastly, he was closely familiar with most of the previously written oneiromantic literature, even with those writings very unlikely to access, as he points out. As Antonio explained, the purpose of the Oneirokritika was not only to support the plausibility of dream interpretation, but also to defend it in the face of scepticism.

Dream classification

Artemidorus believed there are five different kinds of dreams and he classified them into two main categories: non-prophetic (phàntasma, enýpnion) and prophetic ones (hòrama, chrematismòs and òneiros). Since he was interested in prophetic aspects of dreams, most of these categories were irrelevant for him, and therefore òneiros was his main focus. He regarded this kind of dream to be a window into the future, and he recognized two types of it: theorematikòs is the dream which gives a clear and direct prediction of the future, while a dream which is allegorikòs, as the name implies, is shrouded in allegory and needs further deciphering through symbols and analogies. In figure 1, you can see the complete classification of dreams in Artemidorus' Oneirokritika as presented by Antonio Puleri. 

Figure 1. Dream classification in Artemidorus' Oneirokritika. Credits: Antonio Puleri.

Between Artemidorus and Freud 

There is, as Antonio emphasized, a critical distinction between Artemidorus' and Freud's purpose of dream interpretation. Freud believes that dreams offer us valuable information about a person's past, and therefore, being introspective tools, they are crucial for psychoanalysis. On the other hand, Artemidorus is not concerned with the past or a person’s psyche, but rather the opposite – he focuses on the prophetic aspects of dreams. Nevertheless, there is a coinciding notion in both authors': what Artemidorus calls theorematikòs, Freud calls manifest dream content (clear meaning), and in Artemidorus' allegorikòs type of dream we can recognize Freud's latent dream content (symbolic meaning). The common thread between them is the notion of a certain kind of dreams. Among the above-mentioned five kinds of dreams, Artemidorus says that enýpnia show a person's fears, hopes, desires, etc. Since they don’t address the future, Artemidorus doesn't dwell on them for too long. He says, if a person dreams about snow or being cold during winter, it is because he or she is affected by the current weather conditions, and there is nothing more to it. But for Freud, this kind of dream is connected to the subconscious, having much more value in the context of his interests.

Here lies another distinction between them. For Freud, it is necessary to analyse the dreams in order to realize the personality of the dreamer, while Artemidorus needs to do exactly the opposite – he collects data on the dreamer and learns about their personality in order to interpret the dreams. 

Regarding the origin of dreams, they have different views as well. According to Freud, a dream is "a psychical structure which has a meaning." According to Artemidorus, on the other hand, the answer is not nearly that simple. He tends to be rather ambiguous and unclear, and sometimes understands dreams as "movements of the mind (psyche)", sometimes as being "god-sent", and yet at another instance he says dreams are caused by "god or whatever". He later concludes that dreams must be products of the mind, because an uneducated person cannot have dreams of literary nature, therefore dreams are not caused by outside influences. 

In the final part of his presentation, Antonio pointed out some interesting characteristics concerning the methods of dream interpretation in both authors. Freud discerns two main methods: the symbolic method which works by replacing the contents of the dream as a whole with a more intelligible content. This method is rather intuitive, and it is mostly used for simpler dreams. Using the decoding method, each sign can be translated into another sign with a specific meaning, following an established key, which is why this method is more mechanical. Freud noticed that Artemidorus used a modified decoding method, taking into account more pieces of information about the dreamer. 

Freud's method of anagrams was used by Artemidorus as well, but also by other dream interpreters in antiquity. Antonio showed us some amusing examples of this method in Aristander's interpretation recorded by Artemidorus. In this instance, the night before conquering the city of Tyre, Alexander the Great dreamt a satyr dancing on his shield. Aristander's interpretation was a positive one: he said Alexander the Great will take Tyre because of an anagram hidden in this dream: sàtyros ('satyr') = [estì] Tyros ('yours [is] Tyre'). 

In a similar fashion, Freud's interpretation of a woman's dream about going to Italy showed shocking results. According to him, this dream clearly shows her erotic desires, since "towards Italy" in German sounds like "gen Italien", which sounds much like "Genitalien" (genitals). 

Naturally, there was a rich discussion afterwards, and probably many of us wanted to hear more about dream interpretation, especially those that can reveal our future. Antonio's presentation gave us insight into the topic he is working on, and we can expect more results from him in the future. 

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