A Gift from the Gods
The prince harbors great ambitions to rule Egypt. He is not the first-born son of the pharaoh, however, which means his older brother will inherit the throne when their father dies.
Thutmose rests in the shadow of the Sphinx’s head, falls asleep, and dreams. In his dream the sun god, who is embodied by the Sphinx, named Horemakhet-Khepri-Ra-Atum, comes to him and complains that his body is covered by sand. The god tells Thutmose that if he will clear away the sand so that the limbs and health of the Sphinx can be restored, he will be rewarded with the kingship of Egypt. When the prince awakens, he is excited. He does as the dream instructs. In 1419 BcE, after casting his older brother out of power, he becomes pharaoh, the eighth ruler of the 18th Dynasty. He becomes Thutmose IV, and takes the throne name of Men-kheperu-re, mean-ing “Everlasting are the Manifestations of Re.”
In gratitude of the dream, Thutmose IV records the story of his dream in hieroglyphics on a stele—a carved slab of limestone—and plants it between the uncovered lion paws of the Sphinx.
Some historians dispute this story, arguing that Thutmose grabbed power and then made up a dream to justify his actions. No one could fault him if the gods had directed him to a certain course of action. Either way, the stele, which still exists today, is a testimony to the power of dreams in changing the course of history.
Dreaming may seem an ordinary part of life today, but in ancient times dreams were considered gifts of the gods. They revealed the future, were important in healing, and were used magically to influence the thoughts and actions of others. People did not “have” dreams; they were “given” or “sent” dreams. Good dreams were sent by gods and bad dreams, which were believed to cause illness, were sent by demons.
The Western tradition of beliefs about dreams and their meanings dates to the Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians. Professional dream interpreters studied dreams for information of state and political importance and for solutions to community disputes and problems. People practiced dream incubation. That is the practice of instructing dreams to answer specific questions or to become avenues of healing.
The oldest dream book in existence comes from Assyria. The Assyrian Dream Book is actually a collection of clay cylinders. They were found at Nineveh in the library of the famous Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, who ruled from 669–626 BcE. The cylinders show that Assyrian dream interpretation relied heavily upon contraries, or opposites. For example, to dream of being blessed by a god actually meant one would be punished by a god.