Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



This thesis is an analysis of the dreams in Lucan's poem Pharsalia (De Bello Civili; Bellum Civile) at the intersection of epic and historiography. I focus primarily on the dream and vision scenes of the two main characters, Caesar and Pompey: Caesar’s vision of Roma (1.183–227), Pompey’s dream of Julia (3.1–45), Pompey’s dream of his theater before the battle of Pharsalus (7.7–27), and Caesar’s dream of dead spirits after the battle (7.771–96). I take as background the epic and philosophical frameworks by which dreams were understood in antiquity. I conclude that a characteristic feature of Lucan's epic (namely the absence of the gods or divine forces) precludes the Pharsalia's dreams from being understood by either an epic or philosophical framework. Dreams then become, both for Lucan and for the characters of his epic, tools for historical engagement and argument rather than vectors of unambiguous messages or devices to move the plot forward.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Cathy Keane

Committee Members

Tom Keeline, Tim Moore


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