PAUSANIAS

Born ca. A.D. 100

Greek writer and traveler

Pausanias was a Greek writer best known for his Description of Greece, a ten-volume guide to the places he believed were worth seeing. He was born around A.D. 100 near the city of Smyrna in Asia Minor. Description of Greece was probably written about 50 years later.

Although Pausanias claimed to tell of “all things Greek,” Description of Greece was actually limited to the area of central Greece that included the cities of Athens, Corinth, and Delphi. Pausanias explored the geography, culture, history, legends, and religion of the regions he visited. He was mainly concerned with the monuments and art of the Archaic* and classical* periods of Greece, and he showed little interest in monuments and artworks created after about 150 B.C. He did, however, offer many insights into the historical and religious significance of the objects he admired. Description of Greece shows that Pausanias had extensive knowledge of religious cults, as well as of local rituals and beliefs. In his work, he comments extensively on Greek myths and their local variations.

Although Description of Greece was written long after the periods in Greek history that comprise the book’s focus, the accuracy of Pausanias’s descriptions has been confirmed by modern archaeologists* and historians. For a work that was written almost 2,000 years ago, Description of Greece is still a valuable guide to the region, and it is the only source of information about many Greek statues and paintings that no longer exist. (See also Transportation and Travel.)

* Archaic in Greek history, refers to the period between 750 B.C. and 500 B.C.

* classical in Greek history refers to the period of great political and cultural achievement from about 500 B.C. to 323 B.C.

* archaeologist scientist who studies past human cultures, usually by excavating ruins

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