1st Edition

Sleep and Dreams in Early Greek Thought Presocratic and Hippocratic Approaches

By Stephanie Holton Copyright 2022

    This book examines how sleep and dreams were approached in early Greek thought, highlighting the theories of the Presocratic and Hippocratic writers on both phenomena as more varied, complex, and substantial than is usually credited.

    It explores how the Presocratic natural philosophers and early Hippocratic medical writers developed theories which drew from wider investigations into physiology and psychology, the natural world and the self, while also engaging with wider literary depictions and established cultural beliefs. Although the focus is predominantly on Presocratic and Hippocratic ideas, this is not exclusive: attention is devoted from the outset to sleep and dreams in Homer and the mythic tradition, as well as to depictions across lyric, drama, and historiography.

    Sleep and Dreams in Early Greek Thought provides a fascinating study of this topic which will be of interest to students and scholars of ancient medicine and the history of science, Greek philosophy, and classical culture more broadly. It is accessible to students with or without knowledge of the classical languages, and also to anyone with a general interest in the beliefs of the classical world.

    Introduction;  1. Sleep and Dreams in Context;  2. Sleep, Dreams, and Heraclitus;  3. Sleep, Dreams, and the Body;  4. Sleep, Dreams, and the Soul;  5. Interpretation of Dreams;  Conclusion


    Stephanie Holton is a Lecturer in Classics at Newcastle University UK, where she teaches a variety of Ancient Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies modules across all levels. She also works on widening access to Classics across the North East and beyond as an academic lead for the charity Classics for All.


    "[Holton's] decision to look at the physiological and psychological dimensions of sleep alongside dreams adds a new dimension to discussions of Greek dreaming. The practical organization of this book and the range of passages that it discusses guarantee that anyone interested in Greek dreams and their interpretations will return to it again and again. Holton’s attempt to trace the origins and development of Greek ideas about dreams before Plato, Aristotle, and Artemidorus has produced a clear, useful map for future explorers of the Greek dream-world. It remains true, I think, that Aristotle is the first Greek author to advance a comprehensive and physiological theory of sleeping and dreaming, but Holton shows that a rich tradition of speculation on these topics existed more than a century earlier." - Bryn Mawr Classical Review