In this book, Gil H. Renberg examines the ancient religious phenomenon of “incubation", the ritual of sleeping at a divinity’s sanctuary in order to obtain a prophetic or therapeutic dream. Most prominently associated with the Panhellenic healing god Asklepios, incubation was also practiced at the cult sites of numerous other divinities throughout the Greek world, but it is first known from ancient Near Eastern sources and was established in Pharaonic Egypt by the time of the Macedonian conquest; later, Christian worship came to include similar practices. Renberg’s exhaustive study represents the first attempt to collect and analyze the evidence for incubation from Sumerian to Byzantine and Merovingian times, thus making an important contribution to religious history.
Gil H. Renberg, Ph.D. (2003), who has taught at Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Washington University in St. Louis, is an American ancient historian and classicist whose work primarily focuses on the religious beliefs and practices of the Greeks and Romans, especially those revealed by material culture.
"The discovery of inscriptions at Epidauros containing dream narratives and healing miracles and their publication in 1883 drew the attention of historians of religion to the ancient practice of incubation and exercised significant influence on early psychoanalysis. Although the importance of incubation has often been studied in connection with the cult of Asklepios, no comprehensive study of this phenomenon in the Greek and Roman world had ever been attempted. Gil H. Renberg’s book not only fills this gap but also presents a comparison with other early cultures in the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East, as well as the early Christians. The systematic collection of the textual and archaeological sources and their thorough analysis make this book an indispensable reading for scholars working on ancient religious experience, religious healing, dreams, and divination."
Professor, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study
"The book is a wonderful presentation and analysis of a vast material, providing a solid basis for further studies on Greco-Roman, as well as Egyptian, healing cults and divinatory techniques, not only incubation."
Hedvig von Ehrenheim, Uppsala University,
Opuscula: Annual of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome 10 (2017)
"(...) this is an extremely useful and comprehensive study and will be a must-read for those interested in incubation in the ancient world. The author should be applauded for producing an exhaustive treatment of an important religious phenomenon in the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean, which discusses and evaluates evidence ranging from the third millennium BC until late antiquity."
Ivana Petrovic, University of Virginia,
Greece & Rome 65.1 (2018).
"Het tweeledige boekwerk van Renberg is (...) zeer bruikbaar als naslagwerk, omdat Renberg zowat alle bronnen kritisch heeft beschouwd."
Mark Beumer, Kleio-Historia, March 2018.
"This impressive book provides an encyclopaedic discussion of mantic and therapeutic dreams (...) Many of the chapters supply insights not available elsewhere (...). An extensive index caps this
Markham J. Geller,
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 42.5, 2018
"This book, like the phenomenon of incubation itself, is rich and dense, capturing great variation across time and geographic space... None will deny the value and magnitude of this study."
- Jessica L. Lamont, Yale University,
The Classical Review, 2018.
Primarily specialists in Greek and Greco-Egyptian religion, but also experts in the Ancient Near East, Pharaonic Egypt, and early Judaic and Christian studies. University and seminary libraries.