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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian Myles Slater on A Personal Tour of an Antique Land
Yes, my title alludes to Shelley's poem about ancient Egypt, but the Greece that Pausanias describes has in many ways suffered a collapse as notable as that of Ozymandias. Looted before his time by Macedonians, Romans, and warring Greeks, it has since suffered from religious upheaval, antiquities collectors of various types, and, not least, the demolition of ancient...
Published on September 19, 2003 by Ian M. Slater

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Badly out of date
When we arrived in Athens last summer and checked into the Hilton, I picked up a copy of "Guide to Greece" in the gift shop thinking it would be useful. What a disappointment! No restaurant ratings, bus info, or night life section - to say nothing of the complete absence of photographs. With a bit of luck we made it to the akropolis hoping to catch the sacrifice to...
Published 14 months ago by cordyceps


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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian Myles Slater on A Personal Tour of an Antique Land, September 19, 2003
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This review is from: Guide to Greece, Vol. 1: Central Greece (Paperback)
Yes, my title alludes to Shelley's poem about ancient Egypt, but the Greece that Pausanias describes has in many ways suffered a collapse as notable as that of Ozymandias. Looted before his time by Macedonians, Romans, and warring Greeks, it has since suffered from religious upheaval, antiquities collectors of various types, and, not least, the demolition of ancient structures to obtain building materials and limestone (for fertilizer). The notes to Peter Levi's translation (which is in two volumes -- if you order it, be sure to get both) gives many instances of these loses. This is not for someone planning a visit to Greece in the immediate future, nor easy reading for the curious (although browsing can be fun), but it is a remarkably valuable contribution to modern knowledge of the ancient world.

Sometime during the reign of Hadrian, a very well-read Greek set down a description of the Greek mainland, paying attention mainly to pre-Roman structures and works of art. A long tradition of German scholarship has denied that Pausanias ever left his library, ignoring English "amateurs" who had little trouble following him on the ground. Those interested in this controversy, or uncertain of whether they want to commit themselves to a work of this size, can now turn to Christian Habicht's first-rate introduction to the book and its critical reception, "Pausanias' Guide to Ancient Greece." Habicht also evaluates existing translations, including this one.

There is no substitute, however, for the riches lying within what looks like a dry account of buildings and natural wonders.

First of all, Pausanias had the good sense to avoid retelling the best-known stories and historical episodes, and give space to lesser-known material. It is thanks to manuscripts of his work that we have, for examples, the stories of the Messenian struggles against Sparta (a fascinating mixture of history and patriotic romance), and some of the more obscure episodes of Athenian history under Macedonian rule.

Secondly, Pausanias provides otherwise unknown versions of many classical myths, explaining exactly where they were told, and how they were connected to the local cults. This is an extremely valuable source for Greek mythology as part of a living culture, instead of a literary theme. From time to time we get a glimpse of rituals, and frequently we learn of abandoned cults and forgotten shrines -- it is sometimes hard to remember that the ancient world was subject to profound changes, even before the rise of Christianity or the Barbarian Invasions. (Come to think of it, Pausanias includes interesting details of a Celtic invasion of Greece which is seldom mentioned in modern general histories.)

Finally, if read with great care, Pausanias provides an extraordinary amount of detail about the physical realities of the ancient world. Used with intelligence, it has been of enormous value to archeologists. On the other hand, the descriptions are sometimes extremely obscure, due to unstated assumptions as well as textual corruptions, and the application of Pausanias to the evidence of excavations has often been controversial. (Habicht is, again, a good introduction to the issues.)

Although Levi's translation is not always ideal (the distribution between two volumes is eccentric, and some passages, such as the list of Spartan kings, are shortened) , and the line drawings which illustrate it are sometimes as frustrating as they are helpful, it is a handy, relatively inexpensive, and mostly very reliable, contribution.

[Notes, September 2013: As will be evident to anyone reading this on Amazon, Penguin has since issued the "Guide" in a Kindle edition -- still in two "volumes" (which I find annoying). As for other translations, the bilingual Loeb Classical Library edition is still available in hardcover, and is still -- or, rather, more -- expensive than ten years ago. The excellent, but archeologically very, very dated, six-volume translation-with-commentary by J.G. Frazer (yes, the author of "The Golden Bough," and quite a bit more) has been reprinted, in hardcover and paperback editions. However, it is available *free* as a set of pdf files on Archive.org (a Library of Congress website), along with some translations from the eighteenth- and earlier nineteenth-centuries, which are mainly of curiosity value, unless one is tracing a history of scholarship on some place or topic. Frazer's impressive Classical scholarship still makes his four volumes of commentary (plus a separate index volume) a useful guide to other Classical sources and previous studies. Frazer's translation (in the first volume) is, naturally, rather Victorian-sounding, but not without literary merit.]
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars recommendable book, April 16, 2000
This review is from: Guide to Greece, Vol. 1: Central Greece (Paperback)
One of the most interesting classical Greek texts. If you are interested in ancient Greece, you must read PAUSANIAS ! Of course Pausanias' series in the Loeb classical library are the best. And I don't agree with the policy of Penguin Classic's translator. However I recommend the book for English-speaking people who cannot read Classical Greek.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent source of info on ancient Greece., December 21, 2012
By 
Alan U. Kennington (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Guide to Greece, Vol. 1: Central Greece (Paperback)
I read this two years ago, cover-to-cover. It's an essential source for a very wide range of other books on the classical world. Every book I have read about ancient Greece has references to Pausanias. So it was inevitable that I should read this ancient "tour guide".

The first thing to note is that this work is big. That means that it must have been of importance to the ancient world. Books only survived into the modern world if they were frequently copied, which cost a lot of money for such big works. This book is like an ancient geographical database. There is enough information for us to imagine what that ancient world was like.

Particularly interesting to me was the account on pages 293-295 of the earthquake and tsunami in Helike.

"There was an earthquake in the country that effected the demolition of every constructed thing, until the very foundations of the city were lost beyond the inquisition of future ages."

My interest in this was stimulated by a TV documentary where archaeologists used the clues in Pausanias to locate and excavate Helike. On page 293 is this.

"Further on is the river Selinous, and five miles from Aigion is a place on the coast called Helike. This is where the city of Helike stood and the most holy Ionian sanctuary of Helikonian Poseidon was here."

And on page 295, there is this.

"...the sea flooded in far over the land and overwhelmed the entire circuit of Helike, and the swell of the sea so covered the sacred grove of Poseidon that nothing could be seen but the tops of the trees. There was a sudden shock from the god, and with the earthquake the sea ran back, dragging down Helike in its backwash with every living man. The same happened in a different form at Mount Sipylos when a city disappeared into a chasm, and water gushed out from the crack in the mountain changing the chasm into Lake Saloe: you could see the ruins of the city in the lake, until the torrent covered up even the ruins. And you can see the ruins of Helike, though not so well now, and mutilated by the sea-water."

The honesty and accuracy and level of detail of ancient authors such as Pausanias is astonishing. Even more surprising is the accurate copying of these works for 2000 years.

Sometimes the long lists of descriptions of gods, heroes, statues, shrines, myths and legends become a little tiring. But the overall effect is to communicate in crystal clear terms that the ancient Greek and Roman world had a super-abundance of mythology and superstition. It's no wonder that monotheism was becoming popular as an alternative to the plethora of gods and their silly myths and legends. (See for example "Peeping Aphrodite" on page 209. "In the other part of the enclosure is Hippolytos's stadium; above it is the shrine of Peeping Aphrodite: whenever Hippolytos was exercising, Phaidra would watch him from up here and lust for him.")

If the accounts in Pausanias seem a bit "too much information" sometimes, one should remember that modern tour guides also rabbit on a bit too much in tour buses. I should also mention that Pausanias is very much more enjoyable if you have a good atlas of the ancient world so that you can find all of the place-names. In fact, I often use books such as this to assist reading an atlas. This book gives meaning to the place names.

One of these days, I'll read Volume 2: Southern Greece.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Badly out of date, February 8, 2013
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This review is from: Guide to Greece, Vol. 1: Central Greece (Paperback)
When we arrived in Athens last summer and checked into the Hilton, I picked up a copy of "Guide to Greece" in the gift shop thinking it would be useful. What a disappointment! No restaurant ratings, bus info, or night life section - to say nothing of the complete absence of photographs. With a bit of luck we made it to the akropolis hoping to catch the sacrifice to Erechtheus featuring an oracle, only to find no quaint local rituals, not even a lousy roof on the Parthenon! Well, we made the best of it and "Guide to Greece" became something of a running joke: "Holler when you see the minotaurs!" Yeah, yeah. I gave it three stars just for the gag value, but this Pausanias guy must be a total slacker because this guide feels like it's seriously centuries out of date.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Ancient Version of a Lonely Planet Guide., November 20, 2011
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Put simply, this book is great. It is written in an accessable manner (sometimes ancient authors are difficult to understand). I really love the history of the Greco-Persian wars. Seven hundred Thespian soldiers died with the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. Trying to find any information on Thespiae is almost impossible. Information on Athens and Sparta is easy to find but the rest of ancient Greece is often ignored. This is a sad fact about books on the history of ancient Greece. There is so much more than the history of Sparta and Athens. This book has a lot about Boeotia and Thespiae. It was a God send! If you want to find out more about Greek city states you can't go too far wrong here.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Researched, Good Translation, February 12, 2008
By 
Xenophon (Smithtown, NY, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Guide to Greece, Vol. 1: Central Greece (Paperback)
This edition is a good translation of Pausanias. The placement of the sites in the modern Greek landscape and reality is also accurate, judging from the places that I am familiar with.
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Guide to Greece, Vol. 1: Central Greece
Guide to Greece, Vol. 1: Central Greece by Pausanias (Paperback - August 7, 1984)
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