Greek mythology is the body of myths told by the ancient Greeks. These stories concern the origin and the nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities and mythological creatures, the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths in an attempt to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece and its civilization, to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself; the Greek myths were propagated in an oral-poetic tradition most by Minoan and Mycenaean singers starting in the 18th century BC. Two poems by Homer's near contemporary Hesiod, the Theogony and the Works and Days, contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages, the origin of human woes, the origin of sacrificial practices. Myths are preserved in the Homeric Hymns, in fragments of epic poems of the Epic Cycle, in lyric poems, in the works of the tragedians and comedians of the fifth century BC, in writings of scholars and poets of the Hellenistic Age, in texts from the time of the Roman Empire by writers such as Plutarch and Pausanias.
Aside from this narrative deposit in ancient Greek literature, pictorial representations of gods and mythic episodes featured prominently in ancient vase-paintings and the decoration of votive gifts and many other artifacts. Geometric designs on pottery of the eighth century BC depict scenes from the Trojan cycle as well as the adventures of Heracles. In the succeeding Archaic and Hellenistic periods and various other mythological scenes appear, supplementing the existing literary evidence. Greek mythology has had an extensive influence on the culture and literature of Western civilization and remains part of Western heritage and language. Poets and artists from ancient times to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary significance and relevance in the themes. Greek mythology is known today from Greek literature and representations on visual media dating from the Geometric period from c. 900 BC to c. 800 BC onward. In fact and archaeological sources integrate, sometimes mutually supportive and sometimes in conflict.
Mythical narration plays an important role in nearly every genre of Greek literature. The only general mythographical handbook to survive from Greek antiquity was the Library of Pseudo-Apollodorus; this work attempts to reconcile the contradictory tales of the poets and provides a grand summary of traditional Greek mythology and heroic legends. Apollodorus of Athens wrote on many of these topics, his writings may have formed the basis for the collection. Among the earliest literary sources are the Iliad and the Odyssey. Other poets completed the "epic cycle", but these and lesser poems now are lost entirely. Despite their traditional name, the "Homeric Hymns" have no direct connection with Homer, they are choral hymns from the earlier part of the so-called Lyric age. Hesiod, a possible contemporary with Homer, offers in his Theogony the fullest account of the earliest Greek myths, dealing with the creation of the world. Hesiod's Works and Days, a didactic poem about farming life includes the myths of Prometheus and the Five Ages.
The poet gives advice on the best way to succeed in a dangerous world, rendered yet more dangerous by its gods. Lyrical poets took their subjects from myth, but their treatment became less narrative and more allusive. Greek lyric poets, including Pindar and Simonides, bucolic poets such as Theocritus and Bion, relate individual mythological incidents. Additionally, myth was central to classical Athenian drama; the tragic playwrights Aeschylus and Euripides took most of their plots from myths of the age of heroes and the Trojan War. Many of the great tragic stories took on their classic form in these tragedies; the comic playwright Aristophanes used myths, in The Birds and The Frogs. Historians Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, geographers Pausanias and Strabo, who traveled throughout the Greek world and noted the stories they heard, supplied numerous local myths and legends giving little-known alternative versions. Herodotus in particular, searched the various traditions presented him and found the historical or mythological roots in the confrontation between Greece and the East.
Herodotus attempted to reconcile the blending of differing cultural concepts. The poetry of the Hellenistic and Roman ages was composed as a literary rather than cultic exercise, it contains many important details that would otherwise be lost. This category includes the works of: The Roman poets Ovid, Valerius Flaccus and Virgil with Servius's commentary; the Greek poets of the Late Antique period: Nonnus, Antoninus Liberalis, Quintus Smyrnaeus. The Greek poets of the Hellenistic period: Apollonius of Rhodes, Pseudo-Eratosthenes, Parthenius. Prose writers from the same periods who make reference to myths includ
Harvard University Press
Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, focused on academic publishing. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. After the retirement of William P. Sisler in 2017, the university appointed as Director George Andreou; the press maintains offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts near Harvard Square, in London, England. The press co-founded the distributor TriLiteral LLC with Yale University Press. TriLiteral was sold to LSC Communications in 2018. Notable authors published by HUP include Eudora Welty, Walter Benjamin, E. O. Wilson, John Rawls, Emily Dickinson, Stephen Jay Gould, Helen Vendler, Carol Gilligan, Amartya Sen, David Blight, Martha Nussbaum, Thomas Piketty; the Display Room in Harvard Square, dedicated to selling HUP publications, closed on June 17, 2009. HUP owns the Belknap Press imprint, which it inaugurated in May 1954 with the publication of the Harvard Guide to American History; the John Harvard Library book series is published under the Belknap imprint.
Harvard University Press distributes the Loeb Classical Library and is the publisher of the I Tatti Renaissance Library, the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, the Murty Classical Library of India. It is distinct from Harvard Business Press, part of Harvard Business Publishing, the independent Harvard Common Press, its 2011 publication Listed: Dispatches from America's Endangered Species Act by Joe Roman received the 2012 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award from the Society of Environmental Journalists. Hall, Max. Harvard University Press: A History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-38080-6. Official website Blog of Harvard University Press
Nestor of Gerenia was the wise King of Pylos described in Homer's Odyssey. Excavations from 1939 revealed his palace and excavations have resumed at the site. Nestor was the son of Chloris, his wife was either Anaxibia. In late accounts, Nestor had a daughter Epicaste. Nestor was an Argonaut, helped fight the centaurs, participated in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar, he became the King of Pylos after Heracles killed all of Nestor's siblings. He was from Gerena, he and his sons and Thrasymedes, fought on the side of the Achaeans in the Trojan War. Though Nestor was very old when the war began, he was noted for his bravery and speaking abilities. In the Iliad, he gives advice to the younger warriors and advises Agamemnon and Achilles to reconcile, he is too old to engage in combat himself, but he leads the Pylian troops, riding his chariot, one of his horses is killed by an arrow shot by Paris. He had a solid gold shield. Homer calls him by the epithet "the Gerenian horseman." At the funeral games of Patroclus, Nestor advises Antilochus on.
Antilochus was killed in battle by Memnon. In the Odyssey and those who were part of his army had safely returned to Pylos since they did not take part in the looting of Troy upon the Greeks' victory in the Trojan War. Odysseus's son Telemachus travels to Pylos to inquire about the fate of his father. Nestor receives his friend's son, Telemachus kindly and entertains him lavishly but is unable to furnish any information on his father's fate. Appearing in the Odyssey are Nestor's wife Eurydice and their remaining living sons: Echephron, Aretus and Peisistratus. Nestor had two daughters named Pisidice and Polycaste. Nestor's advice in the Iliad, while always respected by his listeners due to his age and experience, is always tempered with a sub-text of humor at his expense due to his boastfulness, as he is never able to dispense the advice without first spending several paragraphs recounting his own heroic actions in the past when faced with similar circumstances. In the Odyssey, Homer's admiration of Nestor is tempered by some humor at his expense: Telemachus, having returned to Nestor's home from a visit to Helen of Troy and Menelaus, urges Peisistratus to let him board his vessel to return home rather than being subjected to a further dose of Nestor's rather overwhelming sense of hospitality.
Peisistratus agrees, although ruefully stating that his father is bound to be furious when he learns of Telemachus's departure. Nestor's advice in the Iliad has been interpreted to have sinister undertones. For example, when Patroclus comes to Nestor for advice in Book 11, Nestor persuades him that it is urgent for him to disguise himself as Achilles. Karl Reinhardt argues that this is contrary to what Patroclus originally wanted – in fact, he is only there to receive information on behalf of Achilles about the wounded Machaon. Reinhardt notes that an "unimportant errand left behind by an all-important one... Patroclus' role as messenger is crucial and an ironic purpose permeates the encounter."Homer offers contradictory portrayals of Nestor as a source of advice. On one hand, Homer describes him as a wise man, yet at the same time Nestor's advice is ineffective. Some examples include Nestor accepting without question the dream Zeus plants in Agamemnon in Book 2 and urging the Achaeans to battle, instructing the Achaeans in Book 4 to use spear techniques that in actuality would be disastrous, in Book 11 giving advice to Patroclus that leads to his death.
Yet Nestor is never questioned and instead is praised. Hanna Roisman explains that the characters in the Iliad ignore the discrepancy between the quality of Nestor's advice and its outcomes because, in the world of the Iliad, "outcomes are in the hands of the arbitrary and fickle gods... heroes are not viewed as responsible when things go awry." In the Iliad, people are judged not in the modern view of results, but as people. Therefore Nestor should be viewed as a good counselor because of the qualities he possesses as described in his introduction in Book 1 – as a man of "sweet words," a "clear-voiced orator," and whose voice "flows sweeter than honey." These are elements that make up Nestor, they parallel the elements that Homer describes as part of a good counselor at Iliad 3.150–152. Therefore, "the definition tells us that Nestor, as a good advisor, possesses the three features... that it designates." Nestor is a good counselor inherently, the consequences of his advice have no bearing on that, a view that differs from how good counselors are viewed today.
Homer, The Iliad with an English Translation by A. T. Murray, Ph. D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library. Homer, Homeri Opera in five volumes. Oxford, Oxford University Press. 1920. Greek text available at the Perseus Digital Library. Homer, The Odyssey with an English Translation by A. T. Murray, PH. D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library. Greek text available from the same w
In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the personification of death. He was a minor figure in Greek mythology referred to but appearing in person, his name is transliterated in Latin as Thanatus, but his equivalent in Roman mythology is Mors or Letum. Mors is sometimes erroneously identified with Orcus, whose Greek equivalent was Horkos, God of the Oath; the Greek poet Hesiod established in his Theogony that Thánatos is a son of Nyx and Erebos and twin of Hypnos. Homer confirmed Hypnos and Thanatos as twin brothers in his epic poem, the Iliad, where they were charged by Zeus via Apollo with the swift delivery of the slain hero Sarpedon to his homeland of Lycia. "Then gave him into the charge of swift messengers to carry him, of Hypnos and Thanatos, who are twin brothers, these two presently laid him down within the rich countryside of broad Lycia." Counted among Thanatos' siblings were other negative personifications such as Geras, Moros, Momus, Eris and the Acherousian/Stygian boatman Charon. Thanatos was loosely associated with the three Moirai Atropos, a goddess of death in her own right.
He is occasionally specified as being exclusive to peaceful death, while the bloodthirsty Keres embodied violent death. His duties as a Guide of the Dead were sometimes superseded by Hermes Psychopompos. Conversely, Thanatos may have originated as a mere aspect of Hermes before becoming distinct from him; the god's character is established by Hesiod in the following passage of the Theogony: And there the children of dark Night have their dwellings and Death, awful gods. The glowing Sun never looks upon them with his beams, neither as he goes up into heaven, nor as he comes down from heaven, and the former of them roams peacefully over the earth and the sea's broad back and is kindly to men. Thanatos was thus regarded as merciless and indiscriminate, hated by – and hateful towards — mortals and gods alike, but in myths which feature him, Thanatos could be outwitted, a feat that the sly King Sisyphus of Korinth twice accomplished. When it came time for Sisyphus to die, Zeus ordered Thanatos to chain Sisyphus up in Tartarus.
Sisyphus cheated death by tricking Thanatos into his own shackles, thereby prohibiting the demise of any mortal while Thanatos was so enchained. Ares, the bloodthirsty god of war, grew frustrated with the battles he incited since neither side suffered any casualties, he handed his captor over to the god. Sisyphus would evade Death a second time by convincing Persephone to allow him to return to his wife stating that she never gave him a proper funeral; this time, Sisyphus was forcefully dragged back to the Underworld by Hermes when Sisyphus refused to accept his death. Sisyphus was sentenced to an eternity of frustration in Tartarus where he rolled a boulder up a hill and it would roll back down when he got close to the top. A fragment of Alcaeus, a Greek lyric poet of the 6th century BC, refers to this episode: "King Sisyphos, son of Aiolos, wisest of men, supposed that he was master of Thanatos. Sisyphus, son of Aiolos was a more than mortal figure: for mortals Thanatos presents an inexorable fate, but he was only once overpowered, by the mythical hero Heracles.
Thanatos was consigned to take the soul of Alkestis, who had offered her life in exchange for the continued life of her husband, King Admetos of Pherai. Heracles was an honored guest in the House of Admetos at the time, he offered to repay the king's hospitality by contending with Death itself for Alkestis' life; when Thanatos ascended from Hades to claim Alkestis, Heracles sprung upon the god and overpowered him, winning the right to have Alkestis revived. Thanatos cheated of his quarry. Euripides, in Alcestis: "Thanatos: Much talk. Talking will win you nothing. All the same, the woman goes with me to Hades' house. I go to take her now, dedicate her with my sword, for all whose hair is cut in consecration by this blade's edge are devoted to the gods below." An Orphic Hymn that invoked Thanatos, here given in late 18th century translation: "To Death, Fumigation from Manna. Hear me, O Death, whose empire unconfin'd extends to mortal tribes of ev'ry kind. On thee, the portion of our time depends. Thy sleep perpetual bursts the vivid folds by which the soul, attracting body holds: common to all, of ev'ry sex and age, for nought escapes thy all-destructive rage.
Not youth itself thy clemency can gain and strong, by thee untimely slain. In thee the end of nature's works is known, in thee. No suppliant arts thy dreadful rage controul. O blessed power, regard my ardent prayer, human life to age abundant spare." In eras, as the transition from life to death in Elysium became a more attractive option, Thanatos came to be seen as a beautiful Ephebe. He became associated more with a gentle passing than a woeful demise. Many Roman sarcophagi depict him as a winged boy much akin to Cupid: "Eros with crossed legs and torch reversed became the commonest of all symbols for Death", observes Arthur Bernard Cook. Thanatos has been portrayed as a slumbering infant in the arms of his mother Nyx, or as a youth c
Loeb Classical Library
The Loeb Classical Library is a series of books published by Heinemann in Londen, today by Harvard University Press, which presents important works of ancient Greek and Latin literature in a way designed to make the text accessible to the broadest possible audience, by presenting the original Greek or Latin text on each left-hand page, a literal translation on the facing page. The General Editor is Jeffrey Henderson, holder of the William Goodwin Aurelio Professorship of Greek Language and Literature at Boston University; the Loeb Classical Library was conceived and funded by the Jewish-German-American banker and philanthropist James Loeb. The first volumes were edited by T. E. Page, W. H. D. Rouse, Edward Capps, published by William Heinemann, Ltd. in 1912 in their distinctive green and red hardcover bindings. Since scores of new titles have been added, the earliest translations have been revised several times. In recent years, this has included the removal of earlier editions' bowdlerization, which habitually extended to reversal of gender to disguise homosexual references or translated sexually explicit passages into Latin, rather than English.
Since 1934, it has been co-published with Harvard University. Profit from the editions continues to fund graduate student fellowships at Harvard University; the Loebs have only a minimal critical apparatus. They are intended for the amateur reader of Greek or Latin, are so nearly ubiquitous as to be recognizable. In 1917 Virginia Woolf wrote: The Loeb Library, with its Greek or Latin on one side of the page and its English on the other, came as a gift of freedom.... The existence of the amateur was recognised by the publication of this Library, to a great extent made respectable.... The difficulty of Greek is not sufficiently dwelt upon, chiefly because the sirens who lure us to these perilous waters are scholars have forgotten... What those difficulties are, but for the ordinary amateur they are real and great. Harvard University assumed complete responsibility for the series in 1989 and in recent years four or five new or re-edited volumes have been published annually. In 2001, Harvard University Press began issuing a second series of books with a similar format.
The I Tatti Renaissance Library presents key Renaissance works in Latin with a facing English translation. A third series, the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, was introduced in 2010 covering works in Byzantine Greek, Medieval Latin, Old English. Volumes with a brown cover; the Clay Sanskrit Library, bound in teal cloth, was modeled on the Loeb Classical Library. As the command of Latin among generalist historians and archaeologists shrank in the course of the 20th century, professionals came to rely on these texts designed for amateurs; as Birgitta Hoffmann remarked in 2001 of Tacitus' Agricola, "Unfortunately the first thing that happens in bilingual versions like the Loebs is that most of this apparatus vanishes and, if you use a translation, there is no way of knowing that there were problems with the text in the first place."In 2014, the Loeb Classical Library Foundation and Harvard University Press launched the digital Loeb Classical Library, described as "an interconnected searchable, perpetually growing, virtual library of all, important in Greek and Latin literature."
The listings of Loeb volumes at online bookstores and library catalogues vary and are best navigated via ISBN numbers. L170N) Iliad, Second Edition: Volume I. Books 1–12 L171N) Iliad: Volume II. Books 13–24 L104) Odyssey: Volume I. Books 1–12 L105) Odyssey: Volume II. Books 13–24 L057N) Volume I. Theogony. Works and Days. Testimonia L503) Volume II; the Shield. Catalogue of Women. Other Fragments L344) Dionysiaca: Volume I. Books 1–15 L354) Dionysiaca: Volume II. Books 16–35 L356) Dionysiaca: Volume III. Books 36–48 L496) Homeric Hymns. Homeric Apocrypha. Lives of Homer L497) Greek Epic Fragments L001) Apollonius Rhodius: Argonautica L019N) Quintus Smyrnaeus: Posthomerica L219) Oppian and Tryphiodorus L142) Greek Lyric Poetry: Volume I. Sappho and Alcaeus L143) Greek Lyric Poetry: Volume II. Anacreon, Choral Lyric from Olympus to Alcman L476) Greek Lyric Poetry: Volume III. Stesichorus, Ibycus and Others L461) Greek Lyric Poetry: Volume IV. Bacchylides and Others L144) Greek Lyric Poetry: Volume V; the New School of Poetry and Anonymous Songs and Hymns L258N) Greek Elegiac Poetry: From the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC.
Tyrtaeus, Solon and Others L259N) Greek Iambic Poetry: From the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC. Archilochus, Semonides and Others L056) Pindar: Volume I. Olympian Odes. Pythian Odes L485) Pindar: Volume II. Nemean Odes. Isthmian Odes. Fragments L129) Callimachus: Hymns, Epigrams. Phaenomena. Alexandra L421) Callimachus: Aetia, Iambi and Other Fragments. Hero and Leander L028) Greek Bucolic Poets: Theocritus. Bion. Moschus L508) Hellenistic Collection: Philitas. Alexander of Aetolia. Hermesianax. Euphorion. Parthenius L067) Volume I. Book 1: Christian Epigrams. Book 2: Christodorus of Thebes in Egypt. Book 3: The Cyzicene Epigrams. Book 4: The Proems of the Different Anthologies. Book 5: The Amatory Epigrams. Book 6: The Dedicatory Epigrams L068
Publius Ovidius Naso, known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom he is ranked as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature; the Imperial scholar Quintilian considered him the last of the Latin love elegists. He enjoyed enormous popularity, but, in one of the mysteries of literary history, was sent by Augustus into exile in a remote province on the Black Sea, where he remained until his death. Ovid himself attributes his exile to carmen et error, "a poem and a mistake", but his discretion in discussing the causes has resulted in much speculation among scholars; the first major Roman poet to begin his career during the reign of Augustus, Ovid is today best known for the Metamorphoses, a 15-book continuous mythological narrative written in the meter of epic, for works in elegiac couplets such as Ars Amatoria and Fasti. His poetry was much imitated during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, influenced Western art and literature.
The Metamorphoses remains one of the most important sources of classical mythology. Ovid talks more about his own life than most other Roman poets. Information about his biography is drawn from his poetry Tristia 4.10, which gives a long autobiographical account of his life. Other sources include Seneca the Quintilian. Ovid was born in Sulmo, in an Apennine valley east of Rome, to an important equestrian family, on 20 March, 43 BC; that was a significant year in Roman politics. He was educated in rhetoric in Rome under the teachers Arellius Fuscus and Porcius Latro with his brother who excelled at oratory, his father wanted him to study rhetoric toward the practice of law. According to Seneca the Elder, Ovid tended to not the argumentative pole of rhetoric. After the death of his brother at 20 years of age, Ovid renounced law and began travelling to Athens, Asia Minor, Sicily, he held minor public posts, as one of the tresviri capitales, as a member of the Centumviral court and as one of the decemviri litibus iudicandis, but resigned to pursue poetry around 29–25 BC, a decision his father disapproved of.
Ovid's first recitation has been dated to around 25 BC. He was part of the circle centered on the patron Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, seems to have been a friend of poets in the circle of Maecenas. In Trist. 4.10.41–54, Ovid mentions friendships with Macer, Horace and Bassus. He married three times and divorced twice by the time he was thirty years old, he had one daughter, who bore him grandchildren. His last wife was connected in some way to the influential gens Fabia and would help him during his exile in Tomis; the first 25 years of Ovid's literary career were spent writing poetry in elegiac meter with erotic themes. The chronology of these early works is not secure, his earliest extant work is thought to be the Heroides, letters of mythological heroines to their absent lovers, which may have been published in 19 BC, although the date is uncertain as it depends on a notice in Am. 2.18.19–26 that seems to describe the collection as an early published work. The authenticity of some of these poems has been challenged, but this first edition contained the first 14 poems of the collection.
The first five-book collection of the Amores, a series of erotic poems addressed to a lover, Corinna, is thought to have been published in 16–15 BC. 8–3 BC. Between the publications of the two editions of the Amores can be dated the premiere of his tragedy Medea, admired in antiquity but is no longer extant. Ovid's next poem, the Medicamina Faciei, a fragmentary work on women's beauty treatments, preceded the Ars Amatoria, the Art of Love, a parody of didactic poetry and a three-book manual about seduction and intrigue, dated to AD 2. Ovid may identify this work in his exile poetry as the carmen, or song, one cause of his banishment; the Ars Amatoria was followed by the Remedia Amoris in the same year. This corpus of elegiac, erotic poetry earned Ovid a place among the chief Roman elegists Gallus and Propertius, of whom he saw himself as the fourth member. By AD 8, he had completed his most ambitious work, the Metamorphoses, a hexameter epic poem in 15 books; the work encyclopedically catalogues transformations in Greek and Roman mythology, from the emergence of the cosmos to the apotheosis of Julius Caesar.
The stories follow each other in the telling of human beings transformed to new bodies: trees, animals, constellations etc. At the same time, he worked on the Fasti, a six-book poem in elegiac couplets on the theme of the calendar of Roman festivals and astronomy; the composition of this poem was interrupted by Ovid's exile, it is thought that Ovid abandoned work on the piece in Tomis. It is in this period, if they are indeed by Ovid, that the double letters in the Heroides were composed. In AD 8, Ovid was banished to Tomis, on the Black Sea, by the exclusive intervention of the Emperor Augustus, without any participation of the Senate or of any Roman judge; this event shaped all his following poetry. Ovid wrote that the reason for his exile was carmen et error – "a poem and a mistake", claiming that his crime was
Pausanias was a Greek traveler and geographer of the second-century AD, who lived in the time of Roman emperors Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius. He is famous for his Description of Greece, 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 careless or makes unwarranted inferences, his guides or his own notes sometimes mislead him, yet his honesty is unquestionable, his value without par. Pausanias was born in 110 AD into a Greek family and was a native of Lydia. Before visiting Greece, he had been to Antioch and Jerusalem, 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.
Crossing over to Italy, he had seen something of the wonders of Rome. He was one of the first known to write of seeing the ruins of Troy, Alexandria Troas, Mycenae. Pausanias' Description of Greece is in each dedicated to some portion of Greece, he begins his tour in Attica, where the city of its demes dominate the discussion. Subsequent books describe Corinthia, Messenia, Achaea, Boetia and Ozolian Locris; the project is more than topographical. 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, the crows amid the giant oak trees of Alalcomenae. It is in the last section that Pausanias touches on the products of nature, such as the wild strawberries of Helicon, the date palms of Aulis, the olive oil of Tithorea, as well as the tortoises of Arcadia and the "white blackbirds" of Cyllene. Pausanias is most of Delphi, yet in the most secluded regions of Greece, he is fascinated by all kinds of depictions of deities, holy relics, 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, the statues of Hesiod, Arion and Orpheus in the grove of the Muses on Helicon, as well as the portraits of Corinna at 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.
Some magnificent and dominating structures, such as the Stoa of King Attalus in the Athenian Agora or the Exedra of Herodes Atticus at Olympia are not mentioned. Unlike a 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, the noonday sun that at the summer solstice, casts no shadow at Syene. 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 unadorned. They bear the impression of reality, their accuracy is confirmed by the extant remains, he is 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. 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 it disappeared after 1500; until twentieth-century archaeologists concluded that Pausanias was a reliable guide to the sites they were excavating, Pausanias was la