The logo of the Melammu Project

The Melammu Project

The Heritage of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East

  The Melammu Project
   General description
   Search string
   Browse by topic
   Search keyword
   Submit entry
   Open search
   Thematic search
   Digital Library
   Submit item
   Ancient texts
   Submit link
  Contact us

  The Newsletter
  To Project Information >


Talmudic and Mesopotamian dream omens (1)

Printable view
Topics (move over topic to see place in topic list)

05 Scientific knowledge and scholarly lore

05 Scientific knowledge and scholarly lore

2nd century CE
Old Assyrian and Old Babylonian Empires
Roman Empire
Greek philosophers and scholars
Jewish philosophers and scholars
Old Assyrian and Old Babylonian texts

A popular type of omens known in both Akkadian and Talmudic Aramaic were dream omens, and in fact both literatures include lists of dream omens which have independently been described as dream books. The usual starting point for discussing ancient dream books is the Oneirocritica of Artemidorus, although the eclectic collections of second century omens in Greek may have been drawn originally from a wide range of sources, including Semitic ones. One interesting comment in Artemidorus Book 1 refers to the textual composition and sequence of dream omens, which Artemidorus describes as being organized from birth to death. It has escaped notice that Mesopotamian omens followed just this sequence.

Although most of the Akkadian corpus of dream omens, known as saqiqu, is too broken to determine any specific order, nevetheless one early collection of Akkadian omens is relatively complete. An Old Babylonian omen text from Susa is difficult to read and interpret, but the tablet clearly commences with dream omens regarding birth and ends with omens referring to death (Oppenheim 1956: 256-259). There are few important parallels between Talmudic dream omens and Artemidorus, but of the hundreds of Greek omens in Artemidorus and the dozens recorded in the Talmud, only a few can be considered as comparable. The Akkadian omens, on the other hand, offer a rich basis for comparison with the Talmud. For one thing, the thematic order of Talmud omens is typically Mesopotamian. Omens are listed in the Talmud, for example, as being derived from various types of plants, such as reed, gourd, or palm tree, or from seeing animals in a dream, such as an ox, ass, or elephant. Such lists are characteristic of Akkadian dream omens. To counteract such dreams, the Akkadian text recommended the use of a ritual to be carried out “before he has placed his foot on the ground.” The Talmud recommends something similar: if one has various types of dreams, he is repeatedly advised that “he should rise early” and recite an appropriate biblical verse to counteract any bad effects of the dream (Berakhot 56b).

Source (list of abbreviations) (source links will open in a new browser window)
Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 56b


Geller 2000, 5Geller, Mark J. “The Survival of Babylonian Wissenschaft in Later Tradition.” In: S. Aro and R. M. Whiting (eds.). The Heirs of Assyria. Melammu Symposia 1. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project 2000, 1-6. [PDF]
Oppenheim 1956Oppenheim, A. Leo. The Interpretation of Dreams in the Ancient Near East. With Translation of an Assyrian Dream-Book. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society 1956.

Mark Geller

URL for this entry:

No pictures