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Seventeenth Annual Graduate Student Colloquium, Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday, March 23, 2011.

Light My Fire: And Overview, Typology, and Analysis of Erotic Roman Lamps | Dreaming of Amor: Ovid's Error in Epistulae ex Ponto 3.3 | Can you hear me now? Rome's Nocturnal Soundscape | Dueling Dreamers: Divine Dreams as Propaganda During the Second Punic War | A Light in the Dark: Redefining the Function of the Lighthouses in the Adriatic Sea During the Roman Age, in Light of the Archaeological Research | Counteracting Night's Song: Image, Sound, and Theology in Iliad 5 |

Dueling Dreamers: Divine Dreams as Propaganda During the Second Punic War

Brittany Lauber, Department of Classics, Ohio State University
 

        Classical authors - including Cicero, Livy, and Polybius - report that both Hannibal and Scipio Africanus claimed divinely-sent dreams during the Second Punic War. The specific details of the dreams vary, but Scipio and Hannibal use them in parallel and, indeed, agonistic ways. Their emphatic association with both generals on opposite sides, moreover, argues against simple coincidence. In this paper I discuss and compare these dreams, first examining the literary sources that relate them and how they function in context. From there, I seek to address why the generals claimed divine dreams. I consider how the dreams fit within the religious and political frameworks of Carthage and Rome. The intrinsically private and unverifiable nature of dreams makes them a uniquely potent source for charismatic self-promotion. As a result, I suggest, the Carthaginian and Roman systems tended to frown upon public use of private dreams, viewing them as a potential threat. The generals' use of dreams, therefore, breaks with their respective traditions and appeals to an outside precedent: Alexander the Great. I argue that Hannibal and Scipio used divine dreams as political propaganda to frame themselves within this tradition: each aimed to claim himself as the rightful heir to Alexander the Great's legacy.