On Tuesday, March 1st, Professor Peter Struck, Associate Professor of Classical Studies at of the University Pennsylvania presented a lecture entitled “Penelope’s Dream: Homer’s Odyssey and the Language of Divine Signs”.

One of Professor Struck’s primary research interests is in divination through oracles, omens, and dreams and his talk on the reunion of Odysseus and Penelope as one that was both on the conscious level of awareness, as well as one that was in large part about the unselfconscious intuition of the two was delivered to a standing-room only Auriana Auditorium.

Professor Struck first engaged the audience in the understanding of the difference between magic and divination in the Ancient world. He asked the audience to imagine if their child came home and said they were going to become an augur – it would be fantastic, what honor it would bring to the family.  On the other hand, if their child came home and said they were going to become an augur, they would be disowned and banished.  It is in this context that we can better understand the ancients’ reliance on divination through dreams, oracles, and omens, and therefore the “knowing” that transpired between Odysseus and Penelope before Odysseus finally reveals himself as having returned home.

Professor Struck encouraged the audience to consider our own “unselfconscious intuition” that we turn to on a daily basis – for example “divination by taking a shower”.  While quite different from the practices of the ancients looking for signs and omens from the divine by which they could move forward in their lives, still today we have similar practices of relying on the wisdom of our own inner voices.

The AUR audience thoroughly enjoyed Professor Struck’s lecture and look forward to another opportunity to have him present more lectures on Divine Signs in ancient texts.

Author: Shawna Hyland