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Enter, Nero!

Dreamed c. AD 58 by Emperor Nero... maybe.

The implications of auspices, of omens old and new, and of his own dreams, began to terrify Nero. In the past he had never known what it was to dream, but after killing his mother he dreamed that he was steering a ship and that someone tore the tiller from his hands. Next, his wife Octavia pulled him down into thick darkness, where hordes of winged ants swarmed over him. Then, the statues of the nations, which had been dedicated in the Theatre of Pompey, began to hem him in and prevent him from getting away; while his favourite Asturian horse turned into an ape, or all except the head, which whinnied a tune. Finally the doors of the Mausoleum opened by themselves and a voice from inside called: 'Enter, Nero!'



This is from Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, quoted in The Oxford Book of Dreams (ed. Stephen Brook, 1983). Suetonius, who loathes Nero, is perhaps not the most reliable narrator of second-hand dreams. But one should never underestimate the power of palace gossip to preserve for the ages the juicy, pointless details--like that song-whinnying horse-headed ape. It's certainly Nero's style...

--Chris Wayan

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