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Studies in Greek Scenery, Legend and History By James George Frazer

Studies in Greek Scenery, Legend and History

James George Frazer

Available in PDF, epub, and Kindle ebook. This book has 201 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1917.


Studies in Greek Scenery, Legend and History, Selected from James George Frazer's Commentary On Pausanias’ ‘Description Of Greece’. Chapters include: Oropus; Rhamnus; Marathon; Prasiae; Mount Hymettus; Mount Pentelicus; Phyle; The Port of Athens; The Sacred Way; The Hall of Initiation at Eleusis; Eleutherae; Megara; The Scironian Road; The Isthmus of Corinth; The Bath of Aphrodite; The Prospect from Acro-Corinth; The Capture of Corinth by Aratus; Sicyon; Phliasia; Nemea; The Pass of the Tretus; Mycenae; The End of the Mycenaean Age; Mount Arachnaeus; Epidaurus; The Temple in Aegina; The Sanctuary of Poseidon in Calauria; Troezen; From Troezen to Epidaurus; Methana; Nauplia; The Springs of the Erasinus; The Lernean Marsh; The Anigraean Road; The Battlefield of Sellasia; Sparta; Mistra; On the Road from Sparta to Arcadia; Cape Malea; Monemvasia; Maina; Pharae and the Messenian Plain; Messene; On the Road to Olympia; Olympia; Phidias’s Image of Olympian Zeus; The Hermes of Praxiteles; Lasion; The Erymanthus; The Monastery of Megaspeleum; The Gulf of Corinth; On the Coast of Achaia; Pellene; The Road from Argos to Arcadia; Mantinea; The Road to Stymphalus; The Lake and Valley of Stymphalus; The Lake of Pheneus; From Pheneus to Nonacris; The Fall of the Styx; The Valley of the Aroanius; The Springs of the Ladon; The Gorge of the Ladon; Aliphera; Dimitsana; Gortys; The Plain of Megalopolis; The Cave of the Black Demeter; The Temple of Apollo at Bassae; The Temple of Artemis at Aulis; Glaucus’s Leap; Evening on the Euripus; The Copaic Lake; The Great Katavothra; The Vale of the Muses; Hippocrene; Lebadea; The Boeotian Orchomenus; The Plain of Chaeronea; Panopeus; Near Hyampolis; Tithorea; From Amphissa to Gravia; Daulis; The Cleft Way; Delphi; Aeschines at Delphi; The Pythian Tune; The Lacedaemonian Trophy at Delphi; The Gods in Battle; The Sibyl’s Wish; Orpheus in Hell; The Acheron; A Ride across Parnassus; and, Pericles.

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Excerpt from Studies in Greek Scenery, Legend and History

I. Pausanias and his Description of Greece.—It may be reckoned a peculiar piece of good fortune that among the wreckage of classical literature the Description of Greece by Pausanias should have come down to us entire. In this work we possess a plain, unvarnished account by an eye-witness of the state of Greece in the second century of our era. Of no other part of the ancient world has a description at once so minute and so trustworthy survived, and if we had been free to single out one country in one age of which we should wish a record to be preserved, our choice might well have fallen on Greece in the age of the Antonines. No other people has exerted so deep and abiding an influence on the course of modern civilisation as the Greeks, and never could all the monuments of their chequered but glorious history have been studied so fully as in the second century of our era. The great age of the nation, indeed, had long been over, but in the sunshine of peace and imperial favour Greek art and literature had blossomed again. New temples had sprung up; new images had been carved; new theatres and baths and aqueducts ministered to the amusement and luxury of the people. Among the new writers whose works the world will not willingly let die, it is enough to mention the great names of Plutarch and Lucian.

It was in this mellow autumn—perhaps rather the Indian summer—of the ancient world, when the last gleanings of the Greek genius were being gathered in, that Pausanias, a contemporary of Hadrian, of the Antonines, and of Lucian, wrote his description of Greece. He came in time, but just in time. He was able to describe the stately buildings with which in his own lifetime Hadrian had embellished Greece, and the hardly less splendid edifices which, even while he wrote, another munificent patron of art, Herodes Atticus, was rearing at some of the great centres of Greek life and religion. Yet under all this brave show the decline had set in. About a century earlier the emperor Nero, in the speech in which he announced at Corinth the liberation of Greece, lamented that it had not been given him to confer the boon in other and happier days when there would have been more people to profit by it. Some years after this imperial utterance Plutarch declared that the world in general and Greece especially was depopulated by the civil brawls and wars; the whole country, he said, could now hardly put three thousand infantry in the field, the number that formerly Megara alone had sent to face the Persians at Plataea; and in the daytime a solitary shepherd feeding his flock was the only human being to be met with on what had been the site of one of the most renowned oracles in Boeotia. Dio Chrysostom tells us that in his time the greater part of the city of Thebes lay deserted, and that only a single statue stood erect among the ruins of the ancient market-place. The same picturesque writer has sketched for us a provincial town of Euboea, where most of the space within the walls was in pasture or rig and furrow, where the gymnasium was a fruitful field in which the images of Hercules and the rest rose here and there above the waving corn, and where sheep grazed peacefully about the public offices in the grass-grown market-place. In one of his Dialogues of the Dead, Lucian represents the soul of a rich man bitterly reproaching himself for his rashness in having dared to cross Cithaeron with only a couple of men-servants, for he had been set upon and murdered by robbers on the highway at the point where the grey ruins of Eleutherae still look down on the pass; in the time of Lucian the district, laid waste, he tells us, by the old wars, seems to have been even more lonely and deserted than it is now. Of this state of things Pausanias himself is our best witness. Again and again he notices shrunken or ruined cities, deserted villages, roofless temples, shrines without images and pedestals without statues, faint vestiges of places that once had a name and played a part in history. To the site of one famous city he came and found it a vineyard. In one neglected fane he saw a great ivy-tree clinging to the ruined walls and rending the stones asunder. In others nothing but the tall columns standing up against the sky marked the site of a temple. Nor were more sudden and violent forces of destruction wanting to hasten the slow decay wrought by time, by neglect, by political servitude, by all the subtle indefinable agencies that sap a nation’s strength. In Pausanias’s lifetime a horde of northern barbarians, the ominous precursor of many more, carried fire and sword into the heart of Greece, and the Roman world was wasted by that great pestilence which thinned its population, enfeebled its energies, and precipitated the decline of art.

The little we know of the life of Pausanias is gathered entirely from his writings. Antiquity, which barely mentions the writer, is silent as to the man.

Date of Pausanias.

Fortunately his date is certain. At the beginning of his description of Elis he tells us that two hundred and seventeen years had elapsed since the restoration of Corinth. As Corinth was restored in 44 B.C., we see that Pausanias was writing his fifth book in 174 A.D. during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. With this date all the other chronological indications in his book harmonise. Thus he speaks of images which were set up in 125 A.D. as specimens of the art of his day. Again, he gives us to understand that he was a contemporary of Hadrian’s, and he tells us that he never saw Hadrian’s favourite, Antinous, in life. Now Hadrian died in 138 A.D., and the mysterious death of Antinous in Egypt appears to have fallen in 130 A.D. It is natural to infer from Pausanias’s words that though he never saw Antinous in life, he was old enough to have seen him; from which we conclude that our author was born a good many years before 130 A.D., the date of Antinous’s death. The latest historical event mentioned by him is the incursion of the Costobocs into Greece, which seems to have taken place some time between 166 A.D. and 180 A.D., perhaps in 176 A.D.

Dates of the various books.

From these and a few more hints we may draw some conclusions as to the dates when the various books that make up the Description of Greece were written. In the seventh book Pausanias tells us that his description of Athens was finished before Herodes Atticus built the Music Hall in memory of his wife Regilla. As Regilla appears to have died in 160 or 161 A.D. and the Music Hall was probably built soon afterwards, we may suppose that Pausanias had finished his first book by 160 or 161 A.D. at latest. There is, indeed, some ground for holding that both the first and the second book were composed much earlier. For in the second book Pausanias mentions a number of buildings which had been erected in his own lifetime by a Roman senator Antoninus in the sanctuary of Aesculapius at Epidaurus. If, as seems not improbable, the Roman senator was no other than the Antoninus who afterwards reigned as Antoninus Pius, we should naturally infer that the second book was published in the reign of Hadrian, that is, not later than 138 A.D., the year when Hadrian died and Antoninus succeeded him on the throne. With this it would agree that no emperor later than Hadrian is mentioned in the first or second book, or indeed in any book before the eighth. Little weight, however, can be attached to this circumstance, for in the fifth book Hadrian is the last emperor mentioned although that book was written, as we have seen, in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, thirty-six years after Hadrian’s death. A much later date has been assigned to the second book by Mr. W. Gurlitt in his valuable monograph on Pausanias. He points out that when Pausanias wrote it the sanctuary of Aesculapius at Smyrna had already been founded, and that if Masson’s chronology of the life of the rhetorician Aristides is right the sanctuary was still unfinished in 165 A.D. Hence Mr. Gurlitt concludes that the second book of Pausanias was written after 165 A.D. Even the first book, according to him, must be dated not earlier than 143 A.D. His reason is that when Pausanias wrote this book the stadium at Athens had already been rebuilt of white marble by Herodes Atticus, and that the reconstruction cannot, if Professor C. Wachsmuth is right, have been begun before 143 A.D. or a little earlier. With regard to the other books, the evidence, scanty as it is, is less conflicting. The fifth book, as we have seen, was composed in the year 174 A.D. The eighth book, in which mention is made of the victory of Marcus Antoninus over the Germans, must have been written after 166 A.D., the year when the German war broke out, and may have been written in or after 176 A.D., the year in which the emperor celebrated a triumph for his success. In the tenth book occurs the reference to the inroad of the Costobocs; hence the book was written between 166 and 180 A.D. Further, the references which Pausanias makes both forwards and backwards to the several parts of his work show that the books were written in the order in which they now stand. Hence books six to ten cannot have been composed earlier, and may have been composed a good deal later, than 174 A.D., the year in which our author was engaged on his fifth book. Thus the composition of the work extended over a period of at least fourteen years and probably of many more. That Pausanias spent a long time over it might be inferred from a passage in which he explains a change in his religious views. When he began his work, so he tells us, he looked on some Greek myths as little better than foolishness, but when he had got as far as his description of Arcadia he had altered his opinion and had come to believe that they contained a kernel of deep wisdom under a husk of extravagance. Such a total change of attitude towards the religious traditions of his country was more probably an affair of years than of weeks and months.

End of excerpt.

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