Data from Dead Minds? Dream and Healing in the Isis / Sarapis Cult During the Graeco-Roman Age


  • Panayotis Pachis Aristotle University of Thessaloniki



Asklepios, dream, healing, Hygieia cognition, hypoxia, Imouthis-Asklepios, incubation, Isis-Sarapis cult, placebo, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, ventrolateral preoptic nucleus (VLPO)


During the Graeco-Roman Age there were a great many testimonies from sick and physically disabled people who sought healing in the sanctuaries of the Egyptian deities, Isis and Sarapis. The most popular kind of healing which was practised in those sanctuaries was that of incubation (incubatio), during which the adherents – after following certain rules of diet, hygiene and purification – slept in the temple until they received a therapeutic dream or vision from the god(s). The research frame of this paper will be on the one hand the study of specific historical, cultural and social context of the cult of the Egyptian deities, and on the other cognitive structures and abilities. The importance of using the methods of the cognitive sciences to study religiosity in antiquity indicates that these practices are not data coming just from “dead minds” but from human minds generally. They acquire a particular meaning and may encourage us in our effort to propose new research projects. It should not escape us that the student of antiquity acts like a detective while using these methods in examining modes of religious behaviours, which belong to the framework of universals

Author Biography

Panayotis Pachis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Panayotis Pachis is Professor at the Faculty of Theology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. He teaches History of Religions (Religions and Cults of Graeco-Roman Age) and Method and Theory at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. He is co-editor, with Luther H. Martin of Theoretical Frameworks for the Study of Graeco-Roman Religions (Thessaloniki:University Studio Press, 2002), Hellenisation, Empire and Globalisation: Lessons from Antiquity (Thessaloniki: Vanias Publications, 2004), Imaginistic Traditions in the Graeco-Roman World: A Cognitive Modeling of History of Religious Research (Thessaloniki: Vanias Publications, 2009), and co-editor with Donald Wiebe of In the Sights of History and the Cognitive Sciences: Essays in Honor of Luther H. Martin (Thessaloniki: Barbounakis Publications, 2010), He is also author of Religion and Politics in the Graeco-Roman World. Redescribing The Isis-Sarapis Cult (Thessaloniki: Barbounakis Publications, 2010).


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How to Cite

Pachis, P. (2014). Data from Dead Minds? Dream and Healing in the Isis / Sarapis Cult During the Graeco-Roman Age. Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 1(1), 52–71.