Affiliation: University of Michigan
Gil H. Renberg is with the University of Michigan, and has taught at several universities including Harvard and Johns Hopkins. He holds his degrees from Duke University (Ph.D.) and the University of Michigan, and has been a Member at the Institute of Advanced Study and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow. His areas of specialization are Greek, Roman, and Greco-Egyptian religion, Greek and Latin epigraphy, and Greek and Roman social history. Dr. Renberg’s 2017 book on Where Dreams May Come: Incubation Sanctuaries in the Greco-Roman World (2 volumes, Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 184) received the 2018 Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit from the Society of Classical Studies.
Like reliefs, sculptures and statuettes, paintings were commonly given as gifts to the gods, but since these usually employed more perishable materials – primarily wood or terracotta plaques – relatively few have survived, and thus dedicatory paintings have not received nearly as much attention from scholars as the far more abundant gifts carved out of stone or molded from metal. This lecture explores the full range of evidence for private and public dedications of paintings to the gods: both the extant examples from various parts of the Mediterranean world and the disparate written sources, in order to provide a full picture of this generally overlooked religious phenomenon that once was quite visible at sanctuaries and shrines but now is almost completely lost.
Going back to Homer and Hesiod, dreams and visions of the gods had a special place in ancient religion, as would be seen repeatedly in the works of dozens of other Greek and Latin authors in later centuries. Our knowledge of this phenomenon, primarily literary, is supplemented by hundreds of Greek and Latin inscriptions – a few of great significance and well known to scholars, but most quite obscure. This inscribed evidence for dreams is first found during the Classical Period and continues into Late Antiquity, from as far east as Syria and as far west as Portugal, and on objects ranging from small plaques to steles and columns. Collectively, these documents provide essential evidence for the role of dreams in the religious lives of the Greeks and Romans, but numerous individual texts can raise questions about or provide insights into the multifaceted subject of dreams and religion. This lecture will first survey the epigraphical evidence for dreams and then focus on a number of the more interesting examples and the interpretive issues associated with them.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Harris, William V., Dreams and Experience in the Classical World (Cambridge, Mass., 2009)