Pausanias (Παυσανίας), a Greek traveller and geographer of the 2nd century AD, who lived in the times of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He is famous for his Description of Greece, a lengthy work that describes ancient Greece from firsthand observations, and is a crucial link between classical literature and modern archaeology.

He 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 had almost certainly viewed the traditional tomb of Orpheus. Crossing over to Italy, he had seen something of the cities of Campania, and of the wonders of Rome.

His Description of Greece takes the form of a tour in the Peloponnesus and in part of northern Greece. He is constantly describing ceremonial rites or superstitious customs. He frequently introduces narratives from the domain of history and of legend and folklore; and it is only rarely that he allows us to see something of the scenery. But, happily, 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 he touches on the products of nature, 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.

He is most at home in describing the religious art and architecture of Olympia and of Delphi; but, even in the most secluded regions of Greece, he is fascinated by all kinds of quaint and primitive images of the gods, by holy relics and many other sacred and mysterious things. At Thebes itself he views the shields of those who died at the Battle of Leuctra, and the ruins of the house of Pindar; the statues of Hesiod and Arion, of Thamyris and Orpheus, in the grove of the Muses on Helicon; the portrait of Corinna at Tanagra, and of Polybius in the cities of Arcadia.

In the topographical part of his work, he 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 which at the summer solstice casts no shadow at Syene. While he never doubts the existence of the gods and heroes, he sometimes criticizes the myths and legends relating to them. His descriptions of the monuments of art are plain and unadorned; they bear the impress 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.

Pausanias, Description of Greece , Books I (Attica, Corinth), (Loeb Classical Library) translated by W. H. S. Jones; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. (1918) ISBN 0674991044


Pausanias about the elk:

5.12.1 Those who think that the projections from the mouth of an elephant are not horns but teeth of the animal should consider both the elk, a beast of the Celtic land, and also the Aethiopian bull. Male elks have horns on their brows, but the female does not grow them at all....9.21.3 There is also a beast called the elk, in form between a deer and a camel, which breeds in the land of the Celts. Of all the beasts we know it alone cannot be tracked or seen at a distance by man; sometimes, however, when men are out hunting other game they fall in with an elk by luck. Now they say that it smells man even at a great distance, and dashes down into ravines or the deepest caverns. So the hunters surround the plain or mountain in a circuit of at least a thousand stades, and, taking care not to break the circle, they keep on narrowing the area enclosed, and so catch all the beasts inside, the elks included. But if there chance to be no lair within, there is no other way of catching the elk.

Pausanias about the Dead Sea

5.7.5 The Dead Sea has the opposite qualities to those of any other water. Living creatures float in it naturally without swimming; dying creatures sink to the bottom. Hence the lake is barren of fish; their danger stares them in the face, and they flee back to the water which is their native element.

Pausanias , Description of Greece

Greek Text

Ηλιακών Α
Ηλιακών Β
Φωκικά, Λοκρών Οζόλων

English Text

BOOK 1 Attica
BOOK 2 Argolis
BOOK 3 Laconia
BOOK 4 Messenia
BOOK 5 Elis
BOOK 6 Elis
BOOK 7 Achaea
BOOK 8 Arcadia
BOOK 9 Boeotia
BOOK 10 Phocis

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