Aelius Aristides’ Sacred Tales

Reading, Simulation, and Priming of Readers’ Oneiric Experiences


  • Olympia Panagiotidou Aristotle University of Thessaloniki



Aelius Aristides, Sacred Tales, embodied cognition, narrative, priming, dreaming


Aelius Aristides’ Sacred Tales, composed in the 2nd century CE, is considered a unique literary work, in which the author claimed to have recorded the dreams he had received from Asclepius over a long period of time. Modern historians explore the value of the Sacred Tales both as a literary work and as a personal oneiric record of actual dreaming experiences. In this article, I take into account the modern insights offered by the embodied human cognition paradigm in order explore the possible long-term influence and repercussions of the Sacred Tales on the readers’ imagination and dreaming experiences. In particular, I suggest that Aristides’ oneiric descriptions would have been meta-represented in the readers’ minds upon reading the text, priming specific images, representations, mental, and emotional states as well as expectations about potential divine revelations during the ritual of incubation. Later, those readers who would find themselves in similar bodily, mental, and emotional conditions like the ones experienced and described by Aristides, could have implicitly used the primed representations for meta-representing a personal epiphany of Asclepius. Thereby, the Sacred Tales would have provided the raw material to feed the readers’ imaginative simulations and to elicit a personally meaningful divine revelation.

Author Biography

Olympia Panagiotidou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Olympia Panagiotidou is an IKY Postdoctoral Fellow at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. She holds a BA in History and Archaeology, an MA in Cognitive Science of Religion, and a PhD in Religious Studies. She is the author (with Roger Beck) of The Roman Mithras Cult: A Cognitive Approach (Bloomsbury, 2017). This work expands an original postdoctoral research project supported by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Research Committee.


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How to Cite

Panagiotidou, O. . (2022). Aelius Aristides’ Sacred Tales: Reading, Simulation, and Priming of Readers’ Oneiric Experiences. Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 6(1-2), 22–40.