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Pausanias composed an extensive guide book of Greece, relating in great (though occasionally inconsistent) detail what he saw as he toured the mainland Greek homeland. As in any guide book, geographical and topographical order organizes his work, for he describes things as they appear to the traveller. The sites and monuments, however, are not merely archaeological or artistic curiosities but focal points which bind together the culture and history of Greece. A tour through Athens, for example, leads to extended discussions of Athenian history and customs. Pausanias’ Guide to Greece gives us an unparalleled overview of how Greece appeared to a sensitive, educated and indefatigable observer in the second century A.D. The work is divided into ten books, which cover the following regions:

Book 1 Athens, Attica, Megara and the Megarid

Book 2 Land of Corinth, the Argolid, and the island of Aigina

Book 3 Laconia

Book 4 Messenia

Book 5 Elis (1)

Book 6 Elis (2)

Book 7 Achaia

Book 8 Arcadia

Book 9 Boeotia

Book 10 Phocis (with Delphi) and sections of Locris

Pausanias does not describe the whole of the Greek world. He does not cover Asia Minor, South Italy or Sicily, much less the settlements in the Black Sea, Cyprus or the Western Mediterranean. He leaves out everything that is not on the Greek mainland, describing Aegina but none of the other numerous Greek islands. He does not even cover all of mainland Greece proper, leaving out sections of Lokris, the whole of Aitolia, Akarnania, Epeiros and Thessaly. As one authority puts it ([Habicht, 1985], 5): “To judge from Pausanias’ work, the northern boundary of Greece would run from Thermopylai to Naupaktos.”

Clearly, Pausanias planned, at least at the beginning, to cover more. He cuts off a digression in book 1 by noting “I must move on in my discussion, since I am going to describe all the circumstances of the Greeks” (Paus. 1.26.4: δεῖ δέ με ἀφικέσθαι τοῦ λόγου πρόσω, πάντα ὁμοίως ἐπεξιόντα τὰ Ἑλληνικά). He seems to have changed his mind during his lengthy work. Although the final book remains apparently unfinished (Pausanias does not seem to fulfill at Paus. 10.38.1 the promise to describe Lokris which he makes at Paus. 9.23.7), more than 100 passages in Pausanias refer to other portions of the text and each of these links matches another passage. Two thirds of these links point forwards in the text, and there are no references to sections of Pausanias that lie outside the range of our ten books. Pausanias, as he wrote, came to envision his Guide to Greece pretty much as we have it.


Birth of Pausanias in Magnesia near Mount Sipylos 115A.D.

Death of Pausanias c. 180 A.D.

We have no firm external evidence of who Pausanias was or where he came from, but he mentions Mount Sipylos and its physical environs ten times and with such precision that he most probably grew up in that region (Paus. 1.21.3, Paus. 2.22.3, Paus. 3.22.4, Paus. 6.22.1, Paus. 7.24.13, Paus. 7.27.12, Paus. 8.2.7, Paus. 8.17.3, Paus. 8.38.10, Paus. 10.4.6). Pausanias clearly had considerable schooling and must, it is argued, have lived near a significant urban site. The most substantial city in that vicinity would be Magnesia, roughly half-way between Sardis and the sea ([Habicht, 1985] 13-15). Pausanias would thus have grown up as part of the Greek world but separated from the mainland Greek homeland which he describes.

At Paus. 8.9.7, Pausanias states that he never saw Antinous, the favorite of the Emperor Hadrian, but only paintings and statues. Pausanias thus seems to imply that he would have been old enough to have seen and remembered Antinous. Since Antinous drowned in Egypt on October 30, 130 A.D., scholars have generally dated Pausanias’ birth to c. 115 A.D.

At Paus. 5.1.2, Pausanias refers to an event which took place 217 years after Julius Caesar refounded Corinth. Since Corinth was refounded in 44 B.C., the date in Paus. 5.1.2 must be 174 A.D. A Roman victory over Germans and Sarmatians cited at Paus. 8.43.6 can be dated to late summer or fall 175. On the other hand, Pausanias mentions every reigning emperor from 98 A.D. onwards, and Marcus Aurelius is the last emperor whom he mentions. Since Aurelius died in 180 A.D., this suggests that Pausanias had stopped work on his history before that time.

If he was still writing after 175, he had been working for many years. At Paus. 7.20.6, he says that the music hall at Patras was the finest in Greece, except for the one in Athens, which Herodes Atticus built for his late wife. Pausanias had thus finished work on Book 1 when Herodes’ wife Regilla died in 160 or 161 A.D. We may guess that he had already begun work in 155 A.D., and this would present us with a picture of Pausanias at work over a greater than twenty-year period.


Pausanias' Guide to Greece draws upon his own extensive travels throughout Greece, but he visited many areas of the Greco-Roman world besides. Like Herodotus, Pausanias travelled extensively outside the traditional Greek world. He had been to Syria (Paus. 5.7.4, Paus. 4.35.9, 11, to Jerusalem (Paus. 8.16.5) and to Antioch (e.g., Paus. 8.33.3), to the Pyramids (Paus. 9.36.5) and to Thebes in Egypt (Paus. 1.42.3) and across the desert to Ammon (Paus. 9.16.1). He had been at least as far north as Byzantium (Paus. 4.31.5), and in the west had travelled both to the cities of Campania (Paus. 5.12.3, Paus. 4.35.12, Paus. 8.7.3) and to Rome itself (Paus. 5.12.6, Paus. 10.5.11, Paus. 5.12.6, Paus. 8.46.4, Paus. 8.46.5, Paus. 4.35.10).

For Pausanias’ life, see [Habicht 1985] 1-18, and [Frazer 1913] vol. 1, xiii-xxii.

    Frazer, J. G. Pausanias' Description of Greece: Translated with a commentary by J. G. Frazer. 6 vols. New York: Biblio and Tannen, 1913. Habicht, Christian. Pausanias' Guide to Ancient Greece. Sather Classical Lectures. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985. 50: xv+205. Pausanias. Guide to Greece, translated and with an introduction. Penguin Classics. 2 vols. New York: Penguin, 1979.
Gregory Crane

Pausanias (2), of Apollonia

Pausanias (3), a Macedonian

Pausanias (4), son of Cleombrotus

Pausanias (5), son of Plistoanax

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