Macrobius

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Macrobius

(məkrō`bēəs), fl. c.430, Latin writer and philosopher. His Saturnalia, a dialogue in seven books chiefly concerned with a literary evaluation of Vergil, incorporates valuable quotations from other writers. He also wrote a commentary on Cicero's Dream of Scipio, which was popular in the Middle Ages and influenced Chaucer.

Macrobius

(dreams)

Ambrosias Theodosius Macrobius was a Christian author of the late fourth century. His work Commentary on the Dream of Scipio is one of the most influential dream books of the Latin Middle Ages. There were over thirty-seven editions printed before 1700. When compared to his contemporaries, Macrobius is considered negative and superstitious. His book clearly derived inspiration from the Oneirocritia, the great dream book of Artemidorus. It covers five different classes of dreams, including material on apparitions and nightmares that Artemidorus did not cover explicitly.

Macrobius applied the Platonic hierarchy to his dream classification, the top three classes being the most significant for they had divine purposes of inspiration. Ghostly apparitions (phantasma), enigmatic dreams (somnium), and oracular dreams (oraculum) are at the top of the hierarchy, and are thus the most divine. Nightmares (insomnium) and prophetic visions (visio) are the two classes that Macrobius thought to be inconsequential. He determined that prophetic visions that appear in the state between waking and sleeping are of no consequence because they are not actual dreams and therefore cannot be of divine inspiration.

The Commentary on the Dream of Scipio covers three different causes of nightmares. These are: troubles of the body, such as hunger or gluttony; troubles of the soul, such as love or loss; and issues relating to one’s profession. Macrobius also included information on incubi, sexual male demons, and made mention of succubi, the female version of the incubi. These were the first references made to these demons in the literature of the Christian faith. Although there are many stories about the incubi and succubi in early Jewish folklore, their inclusion by Macrobius played a significant role in the development of the demonic paranoia evident in later centuries.

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Features in Saturnalia, by Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius around 63 BC).