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Temple Sleep from Antiquity to Byzantium: Healing, Dreaming, and Storytelling

Ildiko Csepregi, University of Reading, United Kingdom, Fellow 2010/11

My research at Dumbarton Oaks focused on the transition of Greek temple sleep into Christian incubation ritual: sleeping in a sacred space to obtain healing through the dream-appearance of the healer (a god like Asclepius or later a physician saint). My sources were the miracles of Thekla, the two versions of Kosmas and Damian's miracles, the collection of Cyrus and John, and the corpus of St Artemios and Dometios, Therapon, Isaiah, Demetrios and St Michael. These collections, from the fifth to seventh centuries, from the eastern Mediterranean, together constitute a well-defined group, differing in kind from other contemporary Byzantine hagiographical records. I examined the transformation of the cult place, the cult function (healing) and the technique of healing as well as the ritual (temple sleep) and the medium (dream). My major interests were

  1. to detect the formation of such miracle stories,
  2. to analyze such issues as the compositional history of the tales,
  3. the figure of the hagiographer,
  4. the role of telling and listening to the miracles in the ritual experience,
  5. the tenacity of the cultic and narrative patterns, and
  6. the finality of the recording of these miracles

Thanks to the wonderfully easy access to both primary and secondary scholarship, some new ideas also emerged from this project that I plan to develop into three conference papers before integrating them into the monograph. While previously I concentrated mostly on the texts of incubation miracles, the resources and the archaeologists and art historians in Dumbarton Oaks provided invaluable help for broadening my perspective towards archaeological and pictorial sources. And I saw the gardens in their autumn splendor every day…

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