1902 Encyclopedia > Pausanias

Anicent Greek traveller, geographer, and writer (Description of Greece)
(2nd century AD)

PAUSANIAS, a prose-writer (____) of Greek traditions, mythical and historical, and a critic of Greek art. His important work, in ten books, called _____, usually known as Pausaniae Descriptio Graeciae, has come down to us entire. It is strictly an itinerary through the Peloponnesus, including Attica, Bceotia, and Phocis, with a rather slight mention of the adjacent islands and some of the principal towns on the Asiatic coast. It was evidently compiled by one whose interest was mainly centred in making notes of art-collections as they existed in the Greek temples and public places in the time of the Antonines. In connexion with these he expatiates on the myths and legends locally preserved, and thus he has handed down to us much valuable mythological material which would otherwise have been lost. A large portion of his work, however, is devoted to Greek history, properly so called, though, after the manner of Herodotus and the early logographers, he draws no distinction between legend and history. In a general sense he may be styled an antiquary rather than an art-critic, a man of industry rather than of genius, and one who deserves praise more from the matter of his work than for the manner of it. Of the personal history of Pausanias nothing is recorded. He lived during the prosperous times of the Boman empire under Hadrian, whom he often mentions by name, and his successors An-toninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, the latter of whom be-came emperor in 161 A.D. His wars against the German Marcomanni are alluded to, and Antoninus Pius is also named in reference to his successful contest with the Moors. Mention is also made of the " wall " raised be-tween the Forth and the Clyde by the elder Antonine to keep off the assaults of the Brigantes. About himself and his birthplace the author is singularly reticent. Nor has his work any formal introduction or conclusion. He com-mences abruptly with a description of Attica : " The mainland of Hellas off the Cyclades and opposite the /Egean Sea is called Attica, the jutting headland of which is Sunium. There is a harbour when you have sailed past this foreland, and a temple of Athena the Sunian goddess on the height." He goes on to describe Athens at consi-derable length, and gives a valuable though too brief account of the Parthenon and the great bronze statue of the goddess on the Acropolis, the work of Phidias, the spear and helm of which were visible to those sailing into the harbour from Sunium. On the ivory and gold statue of the goddess in the Parthenon (c. 24) he writes very briefly; on the Erechtheum and its antiquities he expa-tiates more largely. The great temple of Ephesus, the very site of which was lost till Mr Wood's explorations between 1863 and 1874, appears to have been perfect in his time, but he does not describe it; he merely says that "Ionia contains temples such as are not elsewhere to be seen, and first of all that of the Ephesian goddess, remarkable for its size and its wealth in general."

Like Herodotus and Strabo, Pausanias was a traveller and an inquirer. In some respects it is probable that he imitates the manner of Herodotus, as in his credulity and the affectation of reserve in sacred matters. But, while geography and ethnology chiefly engaged the atten-tion of Strabo, art and antiquities generally form the staple of Pausanias's work. The passion of the Bomans for securing specimens of Greek art had long been fed by the plunder of temples and the removal of statues from the towns of the Greek provinces, so graphically described in the orations against Verres. Pausanias comments on the great antiquity of this kind of sacrilege. "It is clear," he remarks, "that Augustus was not the first who estab-lished the custom of carrying away offerings from the temples of conquered nations, but that he merely followed a very old precedent." And he quotes many examples of statues removed by right of conquest, as from Troy, from Brauron and Branchids by Xerxes, from Tiryns by the Argives, &c.

In the age of the Antonines special attention was directed to the works of art still remaining in the Greek cities. The work known as Antonine's Itinerary, which is a kind of handbook of the whole Roman empire and its complex system of roads and colonies, may have suggested to Pausanias a " Description of Greece," on the lines laid down by Herodotus and Strabo ; but we have no exact date of the composition of either work. Leland compiled his Itinerary or tour through Britain on much the same principles, and his record of churches and castles as they remained in the later years of Henry VIII. is a survey of mediaeval art wdiich resembles the notes of Pausanias formed from his own inquiry and observation.
The vast wealth of the Greek cities in statuary and sculpture, which had been accumulating from the 5th century B.o. till the capture of Corinth by Mummius, may be judged of by the records of the plunderings of Verres and the costly purchases of Cicero and his successors to the time of Nero, and even of Hadrian, which are matters of history. Nevertheless, after the drain of more than three centuries, "Pausanias," says Mr Westropp, "was able to describe 2827 statues."

Whether Pausanias had any real taste or enthusiasm for or judgment of fine art does not appear from his somewhat matter-of-fact accounts. He reminds us of a catalogue of goods made with the view of a sale, minus the auctioneer's " puffing." Nor is his motive much more apparent; he may have written to let connoisseurs know what was yet to be had, or to put on record existing works, with the names of the artists, as a protest against further spoliation, or he may have been commissioned by imperial authority to make a list of the art-treasures still exhibited to travellers in the Roman provinces. In the century from Augustus to Trajan Greek education in art, literature, and philosophy was much affected by the rich and well-born Romans, and collections of .Greek bronzes and real or spurious articles of antiquity were keenly competed for, as we know from many of the epigrams of Martial. 4 vii. (Aehaica), 5, 2.

Pausanias does not usually say that an object is beautiful; he tells us what it is, where it is, and who executed it; that is generally all. Occasionally he remarks that a statue is "worth looking at," 6Vas cSfioc, but criticism, in the true sense of the word, is hardly ever attempted. In ii. 27, 5 he speaks highly of Polyclitus as an architect, and says that none can rival him for beauty or proportion. In vii. 5, 2 he says the temples of Hera in Samos and of Athena at Phocsea "were objects of admiration," though they had been burned and greatly injured by the Persians. Occasionally (as vii. 5, 4 ; 26, 6) he guesses the name of an un-known artist from the style of a sculpture; in vii. 25, 4 he describes some marble statues of women as showing a good style of art, f^outrcu ri%vns eC His descriptions of a series of designs, like those painted by Polygnotus in the Lesche at Delphi, are dry and without a glimpse of discrimination,—mere lists of names and sub-jects, like modern " guides " to a gallery or museum of art. At the same time the minuteness of observation and the careful record of all the inscribed names are most commendable, and the value of the account to us from a literary point of view, as showing what subjects were regarded as "Homeric" in the time of Polygnotus, a contemporary of Pericles, cannot be overrated. The same re-marks apply to the account of the famous "chest of Cypselus," preserved at Olympia, and claiming a great antiquity from the inscriptions being written ftovarpocpwSov, alternately from left to right and right to left. He ends his description of scenes chiefly taken from the Troica with these words: " "Who the maker of this chest was we had no means of forming any conjecture. The inscriptions upon it may perhaps be by another hand; but our general impression was that the designer was Eumelus of Corinth, mainly on account of the processional hymn wdiich he composed for Delos." This Eumelus is believed to have flourished about 750 B.C. The suspicion of Pausanias that the inscriptions were later make it probable that the whole design and workmanship were imitative on an archaic model.

Recent explorations, especially those at Olympia, are largely indebted to the careful and detailed accounts of Pausanias. The temples at Ephesus, Branchiche, Claros, Samos, and Phocaea he merely mentions, his researches being limited to the cities of western Greece. His notes on the topography of Athens, though he passes over several of the more important buildings, as the great theatre and the Odeum, with little more than a mere reference, are still the principal authority confirming the allusions in early writers. He seems, indeed, to have admired objects more for their antiquity than for their beauty. He often diverges into long details of his-tory, largely mixed with legend, as in his long account of the Mes-senian wars in book iv. ; indeed, mythology and history proper stand with Pausanias in precisely the same category. He does not show any great advance in this respect from the times of Hecatajus or Pherecydes of Syros.

The style of Pausanias is simple and easy, but it is wanting in the quaintness and vivacity of Herodotus, and it has not the florid eloquence of Plato or Lucian. The simple and genuine credulity of Herodotus seems foolish or affected in a writer who lived in a much more advanced period of human knowledge. Thus he gravely tells us that the water of the Styx will break crystal and precious stones and vessels of clay, and cause metals, even gold, to decay, and can only be kept in a horse's hoof.

The titles of the several books are taken from the divisions of the Peloponnesus, together with the three lying immediately north of the isthmus ; the first book being devoted to Attica, the ninth to Bceotia, and the tenth to Phocis. The remainder are (ii.) Cor-inthiaca, (iii.) Laconica, (iv.) Messeniaca, (v. and vi.) Eliaca, (vii.) Achaica, (viii.) Arcadica. In adopting this nomenclature he probably followed the Troica, Persica, &c., of Hellanicus. A vast mass of information is contained in these several books, which may be closely compared in their treatment and in the great variety of subjects with English "county histories."

Without the sustained interest and the genial humour which characterize the work of Herodotus, composed as it evidently was for recital and not for private reading, Pausanias is an accurate and diligent recorder of wdiat he saw and knew. He copied inscriptions, and, like Herodotus, he often quotes oracles ; in ascertaining the names of artists he is particularly careful. That he had made great research into the history and topography of Greece is abundantly shown ; but he is rather chary in his reference to previous authors. Of Herodotus he makes mention in eight or nine places, of Plutarch in one (i. 36, 4), of Plato in four. Thucydides is referred to once (vi. 19, 5), Acnsilaus once (ii. 16, 4), Hellanicus twice, Hecatseus four times, Strabo nowhere. Of the poets, epic, lyric, and dramatic, he displays a good knowledge, as well as of Pindar, whom he frequently quotes. It is clear, therefore, that Pausanias was a literary man, and perhaps it is more an idiosyn-crasy than a fault that he is cold and prosaic in his descriptions. Of the author's birth, family, or country there are no indications. The name is Doric, but the style is the Attic of Plutarch, Strabo, and Lucian.

The best editions of Pausanias are those of Siebelis (5 vols. Svo, Leipsic, 1822-28), and of Selmbart and Walz (3 vols. Svo, Leipsic, 1838-40). Schubart's text was reprinted in the Triibner series (2 vols. 12mo, Leipsic, 1802), with brief introductory critical notes and a very careful and complete index. This is an excellent and accurate edition, and one which leaves nothing to be de



Descr. Gr., viii. (Arcadica), 43, 6.
viii. 43, 5, rovrov Eùaefiij TÒV fSaffikéa iKÓXeaav oi 'Pw/uuot, OLÒTL rri és rò deiov Tifirj fmKtara èfpaivero XP^M6^05- The epithet is usually attributed to the affection shown to the memory of Hadrian, by whom he had been adopted.
i. 28, 2. This statue is referred to by Aristophanes (Eq., 1172)
and Euripides (Here. Fur., 1003).
As when he says, as if seriously (viii. 2, 4), that it seems to him quite credible that Lycaon was changed into a wolf and Niobe into a stone in the good old times when the gods conversed with men on earth. 6 viii. 46, 2.
Often referred to in his letters to Atticus.
The Cycle of Development of the Art of Sculpture in Greece and Rome, lect. v. p. 166.
Propertius has a curious critique on the relative merits of the Greek sculptors and painters (iv. 8, 9-16). In elegy 4 of the same book, ver. 6, he disclaims the character of a wealthy collector, " nec
I miser aera paro clade, Corinthe, tua-"

x. (Phocica), 25-31. 2 v. (Eliaca), 17-19. 3 19, 2, p. 427.
5 vii. 5, 4. Here occurs one of the few faint expressions of pleasure or praise that the writer indulges in. " You would be pleased," he says, " also with the temple of Hercules at Erythrae, and that of Athena at Priene, the latter on account of the statue, the Heracleum for its antiquity." These remarks show that he had visited and knew
5 vii. 5, 4. Here occurs one of the few faint expressions of pleasure or praise that the writer indulges in. " You would be pleased," he says, " also with the temple of Hercules at Erythrae, and that of Athena at Priene, the latter on account of the statue, the Heracleum for its antiquity." These remarks show that he had visited and knew
something of the temples in Ionia. The tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus he mentions in terms approaching to praise, viii. 16, 4.

viii. (Arcadica), 18, 5.

The above article was written by: F.A. Paley, M.A., LL.D.

Search the Encyclopedia:

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries