Dreams Through Time: A Compendium

The story goes that sometime around the turn of the 15th century BC, Pharaoh Thutmose IV falls asleep near the Sphinx and dreams of the sand-swept beast speaking to him, telling him to free it from the sand that has been smothering it for centuries and promising him the throne of Egypt in return.

Thutmose heeds the unconscious order, gathering a team to excavate the weather-beaten lion, much of it still buried in the timeless Sahara.

Thutmose isn’t just uncovering an ancient statue, he’s claiming destiny (to be dramatic) and catalyzing a purpose rooted in the subsurface states of his conscious creativity — much like the many names detailed below.

This is about dreams, and the strange ways they can steer the course of a waking life.


Frederick the Great

Dream: Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia, had a dream in which he saw a large army of skeletons marching past him. This occurred shortly before the Battle of Leuthen in 1757.

Interpretation: This dream was interpreted as an omen of the upcoming battle and the loss of life it would entail. Despite this premonition, Frederick's army won a decisive victory against the Austrians at Leuthen, showcasing his military prowess.


King Croesus (Lydian King)

Dream: Herodotus recounts that King Croesus of Lydia had a dream in which his son Atys was killed by a spear.

Interpretation: Taking the dream as an ominous warning, Croesus took measures to protect his son, forbidding him from participating in any military activities. Despite his efforts, Atys was accidentally killed in a hunting accident, fulfilling the dream's prophecy. This dream highlighted the inescapable nature of fate as believed in ancient times.


Scipio Africanus (Roman General)

Dream: According to Livy, the Roman general Scipio Africanus had a dream in which he was visited by the spirit of the deceased general, Publius Cornelius Scipio, who told him he was destined for great things.

Interpretation: Scipio Africanus went on to achieve significant military successes, including defeating Hannibal at the Battle of Zama in 202 BCE, which effectively ended the Second Punic War in favor of Rome.

As Jung once said:

“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.”

We don’t exactly know why we dream.

We have some ideas —the most prominent of which relates to some neuro-cleansing function that our psyche demands after a waking-day’s events — and we chuckle at the insistence of ancient cultures that swear by the prophetic or guiding nature of the dream world, but the simple truth of the matter is that we just don’t know.

And so in an effort to try and carve out some semblance of an answer — one that proves more filling than the lackluster conclusions floating around academic journals)— I’ve assembled a compendium of all historical accounts, including the context of the dreams experienced by the individuals below along with their respectively vague interpretation.

GPT 4.0 has been used to retrieve the results, which I’ve sparsely cross-verified to be accurate.

Hannibal Barca (Carthaginian General)

Dream: According to ancient sources, Hannibal had a dream in which he saw a young man, claiming to be the spirit of his father Hamilcar, who led him to the Alps and told him to conquer Italy.

Interpretation: This dream inspired Hannibal to undertake his famous journey across the Alps with his army, leading to his successful campaigns against Rome during the Second Punic War.


Catherine de' Medici (Queen of France)

Dream: Catherine de' Medici is reported to have had a dream in which she saw her husband, King Henry II, wounded in a jousting match. She warned him not to participate, but he did anyway.

Interpretation: Henry II was indeed mortally wounded in a jousting match in 1559, fulfilling Catherine’s prophetic dream and cementing her reputation as someone with premonitory abilities.


Alexander the Great

Dream: Alexander the Great dreamt of seeing a satyr (nature spirit) dancing on his shield.

Interpretation: His seers interpreted this dream by breaking down the word "satyr" into "sa" and "tyr," which sounded like "Sa Tyros," meaning "Tyre is yours." This was taken as a sign that he would successfully conquer the city of Tyre, which he did after a long siege.


Abraham Lincoln

Dream: Abraham Lincoln famously recounted a dream to his wife and friends a few days before his assassination. In the dream, he walked into the East Room of the White House to find a covered corpse guarded by soldiers. When he asked who was dead, a soldier replied, "The President; he was killed by an assassin."

Interpretation: While this dream was eerily prophetic, foretelling Lincoln's own assassination, it could also be taken as his fear of being assassinated.


Julius Caesar

Dream: Before the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BCE, Caesar reportedly dreamed of having sexual relations with his mother.

Interpretation: This dream has been interpreted as symbolic of his eventual conquest of the Earth ("Mother Earth") and the power he would achieve. Ancient interpretations often saw such dreams as omens of greatness and domination.


Napoleon Bonaparte

Dream: On the night before the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, Napoleon dreamt of a black cat crossing his path.

Interpretation: Napoleon, who believed in omens, took this as a bad sign. Despite his superstition, he went on to win one of his greatest victories at Austerlitz.


Joseph Stalin

Dream: Stalin dreamt of a lion, symbolizing strength and power, which he often associated with his leadership and authority.

Interpretation: This dream was interpreted as reflecting his internal view of himself as a powerful and dominant leader.


Nikola Tesla

Dream: Nikola Tesla often had vivid dreams about complex machines and inventions. One notable dream involved seeing the complete design of an alternating current motor, which he later built and patented.

Interpretation: Tesla's dreams were directly tied to his inventive mind, often providing him with insights and solutions to engineering problems. This particular dream led to one of his most significant contributions to electrical engineering.


Gilgamesh (Sumerian King)

Dream: In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the protagonist, King Gilgamesh, has a series of prophetic dreams. In one dream, he sees a meteorite falling from the sky, which he is unable to lift despite his great strength.

Interpretation: His mother, the goddess Ninsun, interprets the dream as a sign that a powerful companion (Enkidu) will soon arrive, someone who will be a match for Gilgamesh in strength and spirit. This dream foreshadows the arrival of Enkidu, who becomes Gilgamesh's close friend and ally.


Pharaoh Thutmose III (Egyptian Pharaoh)

Dream: One of ancient Egypt's greatest pharaohs, had a dream in which the god Amun appeared to him and promised him victory over his enemies.

Interpretation: This dream was seen as divine support for Thutmose III's military campaigns. He led numerous successful military expeditions, expanding Egypt's empire to its greatest extent.


Emperor Constantine the Great (Roman Emperor)

Dream: Before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 CE, Constantine the Great reportedly had a dream in which he saw a cross of light in the sky along with the words "In this sign, you will conquer".

Interpretation: Taking this as a divine sign, Constantine instructed his soldiers to paint the Christian symbol of the Chi-Rho on their shields. He won the battle and attributed his victory to the Christian God. This dream marked a significant moment in history, leading to Constantine's conversion to Christianity and the subsequent Christianization of the Roman Empire.


Joseph (Biblical Figure)

Dream: In the Book of Genesis, Joseph, the son of Jacob, had several significant dreams. In one dream, he saw himself and his brothers binding sheaves of grain in the field. His sheaf stood upright while the others' sheaves gathered around and bowed down to his sheaf.

Interpretation: Joseph interpreted this dream as a sign that he would one day rule over his brothers. This interpretation, and his subsequent sharing of the dream, caused jealousy and animosity among his brothers, leading them to sell him into slavery. However, the dream ultimately came true when Joseph rose to become a powerful leader in Egypt and his brothers came to him for aid during a famine.


King Nebuchadnezzar II (Babylonian King)

Dream: In the Book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar II had a troubling dream that none of his wise men could interpret. In the dream, he saw a great statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet partly of iron and partly of clay. A stone cut without hands struck the statue on its feet, breaking it to pieces, and the stone grew into a great mountain that filled the whole earth.

Interpretation: The prophet Daniel interpreted the dream as a prophecy of successive kingdoms that would rise and fall. The gold head represented Nebuchadnezzar's own Babylonian Empire, which would be followed by inferior kingdoms (represented by the other metals). The final kingdom, represented by the stone, symbolized an everlasting divine kingdom. This dream was a profound revelation of future events and the transient nature of earthly empires.

After holding up his end of the bargain, Thutmose ascends to the throne of Egypt. His reign is marked by prosperity and a newfound reverence for the Sphinx, now a symbol of divine favor and a reminder of the mysteries that lie hidden beneath the surface of consciousness.

The dreams above are documented for a reason, so it’s a given that they’ll relate to the grand narratives of their owners; in other words, there’s obviously a reporting bias at play. Much of the time too, they’re interpreted with the luxury of retrospect and hindsight.

Nonetheless, they tell us a lot about the potential function of our subconscious mind.

Whether manipulating nature or succeeding in conquest, the context of any given dream would certainly depend on the role undertaken by the dreamer - politicians fear assassinations, conquerors fear failure and loved ones fear losing one another.

Evidently, the dream state functions as some kind of self-reflective mechanism - one that assesses risk, worth, ability, or accomplishment.

Nature (or the manipulation of nature) as a motif is also worth noting — from the dreamer being unable to move mountains or lift meteors to moving sand or harvesting grain — there’s an element of our relationship with nature that speaks to our level of self confidence and self perceived ability.

And then there’s the variable of prophecy.

In the most pragmatic of terms, we can see how the dream state serves to address the kind of internal grapples that one would have with their own destiny, spelling out the insecurities and fears that undoubtedly occupy the minds of anyone in a position of power.

But there seems to be more to it - something more mystical in how the subconscious navigates the avenues of possibility, rendering potentiality into actuality through the guidance that’s cultivated, allowing for the defeat of rival armies or the innovation of new modes of energy.

Regardless, there’s a deeply creative element of deeper consciousness at play.

The artful implementation of fate, symbolism, meaning and of motivation; of the [un]conscious mind’s ability to inject our pursuit of possibility with and indescribable tapestry of not only meaning and possibility, but also of a potent form of guidance.

All this while we’re sleeping.