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Use of dreams in medicine

June 9, 2013

David Allsop Classics

Oberhelman concludes in Dreams in Graeco-Roman Medicine that ‘While the dream as such may have been in origin and conceptualization a cultural artefact, it became in function an integral part of the Graeco-Roman physician’s practice’ (1993:156). In considering this conclusion, whilst undertaking research into the topic of miracle cures, I believe I would take this view a step further; in respect of the patient not the physician. Given the lack of understanding regarding the nature of illness in antiquity I am of the view that dreams gave hope to patients. Having a belief that the gods were watching over you and were able to send cures via dreams provided comfort to individuals. This is in part supported by the assertion of Jounanna (1999:200) who observes that where some physicians would refuse to treat a patient, as they considered the illness incurable, the Sanctuary of Asklepios would welcome all suppliants. Through incubation they…

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