Pausanias (/pɔːˈseɪniəs/; Greek: Παυσανίας Pausanías;
c. AD 110 – c. 180) was a Greek traveler and geographer of the
second century AD, who lived in the time of Roman emperors Hadrian,
Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. He is famous for his Description
of Greece (Ancient Greek: Ἑλλάδος Περιήγησις,
Hellados Periegesis), a lengthy work that describes ancient Greece
from his first-hand observations. This work provides crucial
information for making links between classical literature and modern
archaeology. Andrew Stewart assesses him as:
A careful, pedestrian writer...interested not only in the grandiose or
the exquisite but in unusual sights and obscure ritual. He is
occasionally careless or makes unwarranted inferences, and his guides
or even his own notes sometimes mislead him, yet his honesty is
unquestionable, and his value without par.
3 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
Pausanias was born in 110 AD into a Greek family  and was probably
a native of Lydia; he was certainly familiar with the western coast of
Asia Minor, but his travels extended far beyond the limits of Ionia.
Before visiting Greece, he had been to Antioch, Joppa, and Jerusalem,
and to the banks of the River Jordan. In Egypt, he had seen the
pyramids. While at the temple of Ammon, he had been shown the hymn
once sent to that shrine by Pindar. In Macedonia, he appears to have
seen the tomb said to be that of
Leivithra). Crossing over to Italy, he had seen something of the
Campania and of the wonders of Rome. He was one of the first
known to write of seeing the ruins of Troy, Alexandria Troas, and
Pausanias' Description of Greece is in ten books, each dedicated to
some portion of Greece. He begins his tour in
where the city of Athens and its demes dominate the discussion.
Subsequent books describe Corinthia (Κορινθιακά) (second
book), Laconia (Λακωνικά) (third), Messenia
Elis (Ἠλιακῶν) (fifth and
sixth), Achaea (Ἀχαικά) (seventh),
(eighth), Boetia (Βοιωτικά) (ninth), Phocis (Φωκικά) and
Ozolian Locris (Λοκρῶν Ὀζόλων) (tenth). The project is
more than topographical; it is a cultural geography. Pausanias
digresses from the description of architectural and artistic objects
to review the mythological and historical underpinnings of the society
that produced them. As a Greek writing under the auspices of the Roman
empire, he was in an awkward cultural space, between the glories of
the Greek past he was so keen to describe and the realities of a
Greece beholden to
Rome as a dominating imperial force. His work bears
the marks of his attempt to navigate that space and establish an
identity for Roman Greece.
He is not a naturalist by any means, although from time to time, he
does comment on the physical realities of the Greek landscape. He
notices the pine trees on the sandy coast of Elis, the deer and the
wild boars in the oak woods of Phelloe, and the crows amid the giant
oak trees of Alalcomenae. It is mainly in the last section that
Pausanias touches on the products of nature, such as the wild
strawberries of Helicon, the date palms of Aulis, and the olive oil of
Tithorea, as well as the tortoises of
Arcadia and the "white
blackbirds" of Cyllene.
Pausanias is most at home in describing the religious art and
architecture of Olympia and of Delphi. Yet, even in the most secluded
regions of Greece, he is fascinated by all kinds of depictions of
deities, holy relics, and many other sacred and mysterious objects. At
Thebes he views the shields of those who died at the Battle of
Leuctra, the ruins of the house of Pindar, and the statues of Hesiod,
Arion, Thamyris, and
Orpheus in the grove of the Muses on Helicon, as
well as the portraits of
Tanagra and of
Polybius in the
cities of Arcadia.
Pausanias has the instincts of an antiquary. As his modern editor,
Christian Habicht, has said,
In general, he prefers the old to the new, the sacred to the profane;
there is much more about classical than about contemporary Greek art,
more about temples, altars and images of the gods, than about public
buildings and statues of politicians. Some magnificent and dominating
structures, such as the Stoa of King Attalus in the Athenian Agora
(rebuilt by Homer Thompson) or the Exedra of
Herodes Atticus at
Olympia are not even mentioned.
Baedeker guide, in Periegesis Pausanias stops for a brief
excursus on a point of ancient ritual or to tell an apposite myth, in
a genre that would not become popular again until the early nineteenth
century. In the topographical part of his work, Pausanias is fond of
digressions on the wonders of nature, the signs that herald the
approach of an earthquake, the phenomena of the tides, the ice-bound
seas of the north, and the noonday sun that at the summer solstice,
casts no shadow at Syene (Aswan). While he never doubts the existence
of the deities and heroes, he sometimes criticizes the myths and
legends relating to them. His descriptions of monuments of art are
plain and unadorned. They bear the impression of reality, and their
accuracy is confirmed by the extant remains. He is perfectly frank in
his confessions of ignorance. When he quotes a book at second hand he
takes pains to say so.
The work left faint traces in the known Greek corpus. "It was not
read", Habicht relates; "there is not a single mention of the author,
not a single quotation from it, not a whisper before Stephanus
Byzantius in the sixth century, and only two or three references to it
throughout the Middle Ages." The only manuscripts of Pausanias are
three fifteenth-century copies, full of errors and lacunae, which all
appear to depend on a single manuscript that survived to be copied.
Niccolò Niccoli had this archetype in Florence in 1418. At his death
in 1437, it went to the library of San Marco, Florence, then it
disappeared after 1500.
Until twentieth-century archaeologists concluded that Pausanias was a
reliable guide to the sites they were excavating, Pausanias was
largely dismissed by nineteenth- and early twentieth-century
classicists of a purely literary bent: they tended to follow the
usually authoritative Wilamowitz in regarding him as little more than
a purveyor of second-hand accounts, who, it was suggested, had not
visited most of the places he described. Habicht (1985) describes an
episode in which Wilamowitz was led astray by his misreading of
Pausanias in front of an august party of travellers in 1873, and
attributes to it Wilamowitz's lifelong antipathy and distrust of
Pausanias. Modern archaeological research, however, has tended to
James George Frazer
^ Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece, Aristéa Papanicolaou
Christensen, The Panathenaic Stadium – Its History Over the
Centuries (2003), p. 162
^ Also known in
Latin as Graecae descriptio; see Pereira, Maria Helena
Rocha (ed.), Graecae descriptio, B. G. Teubner, 1829.
^ One Hundred Greek Sculptors: Their Careers and Extant Works,
^ Howard, Michael C (2012). Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval
Societies: The Role of Cross-Border Trade and Travel. McFarland.
p. 178. ISBN 9780786490332. Pausanias was a 2nd century
ethnic Greek geographer who wrote a description of Greece that is
often described as being the world’s first travel guide.
^ Pausanias, Description of Greece: Boeotia, 9.30.7: "Going from Dium
along the road to the mountain, and advancing twenty stades, you come
to a pillar on the right surmounted by a stone urn, which according to
the natives contains the bones of Orpheus."
^ Christian Habicht, "An Ancient
Baedeker and His Critics: Pausanias'
'Guide to Greece'" Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
129.2 (June 1985:220–224) p. 220.
^ Habicht 1985:220.
^ Aubrey Diller, "The Manuscripts of Pausanias The Manuscripts of
Pausanias" Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological
Association 88 (1957):169–188.
^ In this,
Heinrich Schliemann was a maverick and forerunner: a close
reading of Pausanias guided him to the royal tombs at Mycenae.
Description of Greece, tr. W.H.S. Jones and H.A. Ormerod (1918)
Description of Greece, Jones translation at Theoi Project
Bibliography (in French)
"The Oldest Guide-Book in the World",
Charles Whibley in Macmillan's
Magazine, Vol. LXXVII, Nov. 1897 to Apr. 1898, pp. 415–421.
Andrew Stewart, One Hundred Greek Sculptors, Their Careers and Extant
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pausanias
(traveller)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 20 (11th ed.). Cambridge
G. Hawes, Rationalizing myth in antiquity. Oxford: OUP, 2013
Template:ISBN: 9780199672776 contains much discussion of Pausanias’
sceptical approaches to myth.
Akujärvi, Johanna 2005, Researcher, Traveller, Narrator: Studies in
Pausanias' Periegesis (Stockholm). ISBN 91-22-02134-5.
Alcock, S.E., J.F. Cherry, and J. Elsner 2001, Pausanias: Travel and
Roman Greece (Oxford). ISBN 0-19-517132-2.
Arafat, Karim W. 1996, Pausanias' Greece: Ancient Artists and Roman
Rulers (Cambridge). ISBN 0-521-60418-4.
Frateantonio, Christa, Religion und Städtekonkurrenz: zum politischen
und kulturellen Kontext von Pausanias' Periegese (Berlin; New York:
Walter de Gruyter, 2007) (Millennium-Studien, 23).
Habicht, Christian 1985, Pausanias' Guide to Ancient Greece
(Berkeley). ISBN 0-520-06170-5.
Hutton, William 2005, Describing Greece: Landscape and Literature in
the Periegesis of Pausanias (Cambridge). ISBN 0-521-84720-6.
Levi, Peter (tr.) 1984a, 1984b, Pausanias: Guide to Greece, 2 vols.
(Penguin). Vol. 1 Central Greece ISBN 0-14-044225-1; vol. 2
Southern Greece ISBN 0-14-044226-X.
Pirenne-Delforge, Vincia, Retour à la source. Pausanias et la
religion grecque (Liège: Centre international d’Étude de la
religion Grecque Ancienne, 2008) (Kernos Suppléments, 20).
Pretzler, Maria. 2004, "Turning Travel into Text: Pausanias at work",
Greece & Rome, Vol. 51, Issue 2, pp. 199–216.
Pretzler, Maria. 2007, Pausanias. Travel Writing in Ancient Greece
(London). ISBN 978-0-7156-3496-7.
An audio recording of this article
Problems playing this file? See media help.
Works written by or about Pausanias at Wikisource
Quotations related to
Pausanias (geographer) at Wikiquote
Media related to
Pausanias (geographer) at Wikimedia Commons
Pausanias Description of Greece, tr. with a commentary by J.G. Frazer
(1898) Volume 1 (also at the Internet Archive)
Pausanias at the Perseus Project: Greek; English
ISNI: 0000 0003 7437 6038
BNF: cb11918834h (data)