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ï~~ Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 48 (2011) 113-130 Dreams in Bilingual Papyri from the Ptolemaic Period Stephen Kidd New York University Abstract This article analyses a group of bilingual papyri from the Ptolemaic period concerning dreams and argues that these papyri show an in terest in the language (and not just the "message") of dreams. After relating this phenomenon to ancient linguistic dream interpretation, consideration is given to the preponderance of Demotic (not Greek) dream-books, and the suggestion is made that Egyptian may have been the preferred language of dream interpretation in Greco-Roman Egypt. The long-held belief that dreams contain "messages,' whether from gods above or from unconscious drives within, has provided much discursive material for generations of god-fearers and atheists. Although the nature of these messages seems to have evolved since antiquity, it is clear that for many ancient dreamers, the awaited, divine message itself rendered dreams valuable.1 Yet no message can exist apart from the language which conveys it, and this aspect of dream-messages will be the subject of this paper. I will ask whether the language of a dream (not just the dream's message) held some value, and approach this question through a group of bilingual Ptolemaic papyri where it appears that the language itself is an indispensable element in the message's conveyance. I will argue first that these Ptolemaic papyri are examples of a single phenomenon, namely, an urge to relate a dream in a dream's proper language. Then, I will locate the reason for this linguistic choice in dreaminterpretation manuals where dreams are often interpreted linguistically, not just symbolically (e.g., if you dream of a "bear" it means you cannot "bear" ' A central thesis of WV. Harris, Dreams and Experience in Classical Antiquity (Cambridge, MA 2009), is that while the ancients often had "epiphany" dreams, in which divine beings provide instruction, modernity has witnessed a near extinction of this oneiric genre, favoring instead the "episodic" dream.
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