Two Dream Tales from Cicero
Excerpt from On Divination, Book I
And who, pray, can make light of the two following dreams which are so often recounted by Stoic writers? The first one is about Simonides, who once saw the dead body of some unknown man lying exposed and buried it. Later, when he had it in mind to go on board a ship he was warned in a vision by the person to whom he had given burial not to do so and that if he did he would perish in a shipwreck. Therefore he turned back and all the others who sailed were lost.
The second dream is very well known and is to this effect: Two friends from Arcadia who were taking a journey together came to Megara, and one traveller put up at an inn and the second went to the home of a friend. After they had eaten supper and retired, the second traveller, in the dead of the night, dreamed that his companion was imploring him to come to his aid, as the innkeeper was planning to kill him. Greatly frightened at first by the dream he arose, and later, regaining his composure, decided that there was nothing to worry about and went back to bed.
When he had gone to sleep the same person appeared to him and said: ‘Since you would not help me when I was alive, I beg that you will not allow my dead body to remain unburied. I have been killed by the innkeeper, who has thrown my body into a cart and covered it with dung. I pray you to be at the city gate in the morning before the cart leaves the town,’ Thoroughly convinced by the second dream he met the cart-driver at the gate in the morning, and, when he asked what he had in the cart, the driver fled in terror. The Arcadian then removed his friend’s dead body from the cart, made complaint of the crime to the authorities, and the innkeeper was punished. What stronger proof of a divinely inspired dream than this can be given?
A Similar Tale, from Aelian
When good people die, God sets his providence and concern, and takes vengeance for those who have been killed unjustly. Indeed Chrysippus says that someone went down to Megara carrying a belt full of gold. Then, the innkeeper who had welcomed him when he arrived late, after casting longing glances at the gold, killed [the visitor]. And then the innkeeper was about to take him out on the wagon carrying the ordure, having hidden the murdered man in it. Then the soul of the dead appeared to a Megarian man and told him not only what had happened to him, but also who was responsible for it and how he was carried out and through which gates. The Megarian man, however, did not hear the [dead man’s] words with equanimity, but rose early in the morning and, on his guard, took hold of the yoke [of oxen] and tracked the corpse. And then the assassinated had his burial, and the murderer his punishment.
Cicero excerpt from On Divination, Book 1, Verse 27. Published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1923; translated by William Armistead Falconer. Reparagraphed for legibility.
Aelian excerpt is Fragment 81 as numbered in Rudolf Hercher’s 1864 edition of Aelian’s works. It is from the Suda. Translated by Marcelo Boeri in 2003 for the Suda Online under a Creative Commons license.