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The Battle of Philippi

Dreamed 42 BC by a friend of Caesar Augustus

from The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

Warnings conveyed in dreams, either his own or those of others, were not lost on him [Augustus]; for example, before the Battle of Philippi, when so ill that he decided not to leave his tent, he changed his mind on account of a friend's dream--most fortunately too, as it proved. The camp was captured, and a party of the enemy, breaking into the tent, plunged their swords through and through his camp bed under the impression that he was still in it, tearing the bedclothes to ribbons.

Every spring he had a series of ugly dreams, but none of the horrid visions seen in them came true, whereas the few dreams he had at other seasons were more reliable.



Maddeningly short--Suetonius doesn't tell us the dream, or name the dreamer--yet his dream changed history. Consider: just two years earlier, Julius Caesar ignored his wife Calpurnia's dream of him bleeding to death in her arms, and went off to the Senate to die... They're the same killers, in fact--Brutus's faction. But Augustus listens, and so survives to become the first real Roman emperor. Without him what would Rome have become?

A second curiosity. I sympathize with Augustus's seasonal-nightmare problem, for I share it. When the pollen count is high (both spring and fall where I live) just before waking I tend to get nightmares--brief and unrealistic ones. Yet outside hay-fever season my dreams offer reliable advice. Mediterranean climates are hell on allergies, so it's possible that was the cause of Augustus's spring barrage too.

--Chris Wayan

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