BMCR 2006.05.39

Researcher, Traveller, Narrator: Studies in Pausanias’ Periegesis. Studia Graeca et Latina Lundensia 12

, Researcher, traveller, narrator : studies in Pausanias' Periegesis. Studia Graeca et Latina Lundensia ; 12. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 2005. xxviii, 314 pages ; 23 cm.. ISBN 9122021345 $99.50.

Akujärvi’s monograph appears at a time when studies in Pausanias are flourishing. A quick count of Akujärvi’s bibliography reveals no less than 6 books and 43 papers on Pausanias published since the year 2000 alone. One reason behind much of this recent scholarly activity is that the Periegesis — no mere guidebook — is, like much Greek literature of the second century CE, a textual point of convergence for a number of highly relevant cultural questions, illustrating the complex interrelatedness of landscape, empire, history, memory, war, and freedom. Combining narratology and cultural criticism with a rigorous philological acumen, Akujärvi’s Researcher, Traveller, Narrator is a notable contribution to the field.

In the introduction, Akujärvi (henceforth A.) wisely avoids confusing the Ego of the frame narrative with the author of the text, the man apparently named Pausanias who lived during the second century CE. A. concedes that from the text of the Periegesis we can glean only the barest of facts about the author, namely the general period in which he lived, that he was probably a Lydian by birth, and that he must have had access to a good amount of money to have undertaken his travel(s) around the Greek world. Internal evidence for Pausanias’ Lydian background may be found in passages such as 5.13.7 (not discussed by A.), where Ego states that, “we have a tradition” ( παρειλήφαμεν μνήμῃ) that the statue of Aphrodite at Temnos was dedicated by Pelops so that by the goddess’ aid he might obtain Hippodameia in marriage. Taking the first-person plural in such passages as an indication of the narrator’s cultural identification, Christopher Jones has recently argued for a “Lydian expansionism” (16)1 in the text of the Periegesis, suggesting that Pausanias’ cultural sympathies are not exclusively Greek. A. cites Jones’ paper at least twice (16n37 and 171n4), but a fuller engagement with Jones’ argument would have been enlightening, for despite their methodological differences, A.’s conclusion about Ego’s thoroughgoing objectivity toward inter-Hellenic strife and the myth of Hellenic unity in the face of external threats would seem to bolster Jones’ argument for Pausanias’ Lydian sympathies. Given that Jones’ paper and A.’s monograph were published only a year apart from one another (2004 and 2005 respectively), it is likely that A. was unable to respond to Jones’ argument more fully due to time constraints.

A. divides her study into two halves, in the first of which she identifies and analyzes the various personae of “Ego” and “You” which populate the frame narrative of the Periegesis. These are the personae of “writer,” “dater,” “researcher,” and (least surprisingly) “traveler.” In its function as “writer,” Ego’s presence in the text is felt most when cross-referencing, indicating how the text is generally organized, and indicating when information is intentionally withheld from the reader (“pretermitting”). A.’s most interesting finding in this section is that Ego sometimes appears to cede control of the organization of his text to some mysterious λόγος, as in remarks such as οὐκ ἤπειγεν ὁ λόγος με ἐνταῦθα δηλῶσαι (2.19.1). A. writes that this tendency “probably signifies that the narrator’s presentation of the material is not wholly arbitrary, and that there is some higher authority” (44). This is interesting, but A. goes no further in identifying what this “higher authority” might be. I would have welcomed at this point a digression, however speculative, into how Ego’s text meets or challenges cultural expectations of what a description of Greece should look like. Instead, A.’s conservative (i.e. safe) conclusion here is frustratingly tantalizing. A. furthermore fails to connect the mysterious λόγος which partially dictates Ego’s narrative to her later, more satisfying conclusion regarding the organizing principle of the text. More on this below.

Taking into account more than 400 temporal references in the text, A. concludes that the “dater” function of Ego generally marks continuity and discontinuity over time. There are only five instances in the text when the narrator mentions an event which occurred in his own time.2 A. asserts in the summary of this section that “At most, the narrator was an infant towards the end of Hadrian’s reign” (89). Additionally, “the exact temporal reference of the ‘now’ of which the narrator speaks . . . is impossible to pinpoint, nor is it probably meant to be determinable” (89). A. includes under the role of “researcher” those moments when Ego remarks about his investigative role and comments upon or criticizes the material which he has gathered for his text.

When discussing the “traveler” function of Ego, A. states clearly that she is not interested in the actual journey(s) undertaken by Pausanias, which she takes for granted. A. opts, rather, to focus on “how and under what circumstances the narrator chooses to actually speak about the travels of Ego” (131). Indications in the text of Ego’s movement through the landscape of Hellas are surprisingly few and brief; the traveling subject in the text is far more often an “impersonal, unspecified, traveling persona,” which A. names the “traveling-You” (132). Though the traveling-You is on the one hand a thin disguise for Ego, this narrative strategy has the effect of expanding what could have been Ego’s unique traveling experiences to embrace instead the multiple potential experiences of the second-person subject. In other words, according to A.’s formulation, Ego appears to refuse imposing his own perspective, at least in terms of his role as traveler. The text thereby invites the reader to place him/herself in the position of the traveling-You, though A. cautions that a complete syncrisis is not always possible between the reader and the traveling-You postulated by the text. She shrewdly cites as an example Wilamowitz’s response to Pausanias’ text: attempting to use the Periegesis as a guide, Wilamowitz famously “got lost on the way between Olympia and Heraea in Arcadia” (17-18).3

In the second half of the book, A. moves from the frame to the inserted narratives within the Periegesis to explore the major theme of “Greeks at War.” A. begins this section by demonstrating that the history of Greece in the Periegesis is not presented in a chronologically linear fashion (as in traditional Greek historiography), but in a chronologically disjointed fashion in which space takes precedence over time in the organization of the narrative. An especially curious example is the biography of the third-second century BC statesman and military leader Philopoemen of Megalopolis (8.49.1-52.6). Philopoemen was mentioned by Ego on three earlier occasions in the Periegesis (4.29.12, 7.8.6, and 8.27.16), each of which offered an opportunity for the insertion of Philopoemen’s biography. But the fact that Ego chose a statue-less pedestal in Tegea as the most appropriate point for narrating the statesman’s life is a clear sign that in the Periegesis landscape evokes biography and history, not the other way around.

By this point, A. has intriguingly shown that, “Since the history of Greece is told through local history, the result is that there is not any coherent history of Greece from the beginning to the narrator’s ‘now’, and that a connected chain of events is cut up and spread out throughout the whole work” (200). A further key in deciphering the organizing logic behind Pausanias’ Periegesis comes with A.’s remark that Ego’s choices for inserting narratives from Greek history are “largely associative, within certain limits” (204). Though not articulated by A., there seems to be a connection between this statement and her earlier findings regarding Ego’s obedience to an undefined λόγος (44, 59, 169) and the transference of movement through the Greek landscape from Ego to an indefinite, temporally unlimited traveling-You (145-163). Ultimately, A. appears to suggest that the Periegesis is an associative construction of Greece, the full potential of which is realized not only by Ego’s subjective reading of the Greek landscape, but by a co-operation between Ego and his various readers. Inviting its readers to explore the Greek landscape for themselves, the Periegesis pleads for the cultivation of an Hellenic identity based on contact with the very earth upon which the Greek past was played out. To quote Richard P. Martin in a recent essay on the significance of place in Achilles Tatius and Philostratus: in the Greek imagination, “ground is story. Every rock and tree and hill has the inherent potential to tell a tale, needing only a devoted local exegete to activate the epichoric heroic narrative.”4 Maintaining Hellenic identity and, by extension, Hellenic community means not losing contact with Hellas in all its constitutive parts.

This putative call for community is perhaps all the more poignant when one considers that A. identifies in the Periegesis the consistent presentation not of a unified body of Greeks, but of a fractured people who for the most part think only of their own local concerns. “Warfare between Greeks,” A. writes, “is presented as something natural, and warfare is a more or less normal practice among the Greeks when at liberty to do what they wanted” (231). Even when the text appears to condemn the leading agents of the Peloponnesian war in the strongest possible terms (“one might say that they were murderers and well nigh pirates of Greece,” φαίη τις ἂν αὐτόχειρας καὶ ὅτι ἐγγύτατα καταποντιστὰς εἶναι σφᾶς τῆς Ἑλλάδος, 8.52.3), A. rightly points out that Ego distances himself from this remark by presenting it “as the opinion of an indefinite ‘you.'” (221).

From an analysis of “Greeks against Greeks” in the Periegesis, A. moves to an analysis of “Greeks against Others,” examining specifically the presentation of the Trojan war, the Persian wars, the battle of Chaeronea, the Lamian war of 323/322 BC, and the invasion of the Gauls in 281 BC. A. reveals in this chapter that the notion of Greek unity in the face of barbarian invasion is for the most part little more than wishful thinking. A strong case in point are the notices of Arcadian and Achaean non-participation in the Lamian war (8.6.2, 7.6.5), and the news that the Boeotians actually supported the Macedonians against the Athenians in this conflict (1.25.4). Elsewhere in the text, the narrator speaks of the Lamian war as a conflict that affected the entirety of Greece (1.1.3, 6.5.3, 7.10.4), but in the main narrative of the war (1.25.3f.), this characterization is proven to be false. A.’s take on this potentially confusing inconsistency is ambiguous: Ego may be “thoughtlessly following a tradition favourable to Athens,” or it may be “an ironic twist underlining the demonstrable falseness of his sources” (254-5). Regardless of Pausanias’ intentions, A. shows that even in the face of barbarian invasion and oppression, the Greeks are presented as having failed to unite completely throughout history; inter-Hellenic strife is, on the contrary, the normal state of affairs. Ego’s attitude towards this fact (insofar as an attitude is perceptible) is one of cool objectivity.

In the final chapter, A. tackles the imposing question of “Greeks and Romans”. After a lengthy synopsis of the historical narrative at the beginning of the Achaica, which recounts the history of relations between the Achaean Confederacy and Rome from 281/0 to 146 BC, A. concludes that there is hardly any discernible anti-Roman bias in the Periegesis. In this regard, A.’s findings are consistent with those of Gruen and Lafond;5 she takes issue, however, with Swain, who finds in the Periegesis evidence of Pausanias’ anti-Roman inclinations.6

In the last sections of her study, A. addresses two passages of major significance in any assessment of Pausanias’ alleged pro- or anti-Roman sympathies. The first is 7.17.3-4, on Nero’s liberation of Greece and Vespasian’s subsequent revocation of Greek freedom. In her characteristically sensitive narratological reading, A. parts company with many scholars, who find in Pausanias’ remarks a narrator sympathetic with both Vespasian’s action (revoking freedom) and motivation (“claiming that the Greeks had unlearned their freedom,” ἀπομεμαθηκέναι φήσας τὴν ἐλευθερίαν τὸ Ἑλληνικόν, 7.17.4). Ego unproblematically reports in direct statement that the result of the freedom granted by Nero was Greek civil strife. But A. suggests that by introducing indirect statement ( φήσας), Ego distances himself from Vespasian’s motivation for revoking Greek freedom. A. writes that, “The narrator appears to have easily accepted the ultimate cause behind Vespasian’s revocation of Greek freedom, viz. civil war. He does however not seem to agree with Vespasian’s comment that they had forgotten how to be free” (285). In other words, the Greeks were behaving as they always had behaved when given the opportunity. Once again we are presented with a picture of Greeks as by their nature disinclined to unity and harmony when left to their own rule. But A. is correct to point out that a sober presentation of Greeks as incapable of living together peacefully is not necessarily the same thing as a pro-Roman attitude (305).

The second passage which A. addresses is 8.27.1. She begins by quoting the Loeb translation of W. H. S. Jones: “Megalopolis is the youngest city, not of Arcadia only, but of Greece, with the exception of those whose inhabitants have been removed by the accident of the Roman domination [ κατὰ συμφορὰν ἀρχῆς τῆς Ῥωμαίων ].” A. points out that Jones’ translation would necessitate a definite article in the prepositional phrase κατὰ συμφορὰν. A. is furthermore skeptical of Ego’s apparently “harsh condemnation of the Romans” (286). Rejecting emendations and a strained positive interpretation of συμφορά as “contribution,”7 A. logically compares this passage to Pausanias’ other uses of συμφορά with a genitive elsewhere in the Periegesis. A. finds that in all 9 instances of συμφορά with a genitive, the genitive is objective, indicating the party affected by the συμφορά. A. therefore proposes the following translation: “with the exception of those whose inhabitants have been changed because of an event affecting the Roman government” (289). The “event affecting the Roman government” was of course the transition from republic to empire, a shift in power which enabled Julius Caesar and Augustus to (re)establish Corinth, Patrae, and Nicopolis (290). A.’s reading of 8.27.1, based on a comparative grammatical analysis, removes the need for textual emendation and effectively neutralizes a wrongly perceived anti-Roman bias.

Inevitable, it seems, in any narratological study are at least a few conspicuously poor sentences, and A. is not immune to this tendency. In one noteworthy example, A.’s prose demands several re-readings: “Moreover, by repeatedly introducing Ego the dater, the narrator signals that not only has the research been done by Ego (researcher function) and is the narrating done by Ego (writer function), but also is the material of the narrative repeatedly related to the ‘now’ in which Ego exists (dater function)” (176). But even after several re-readings, I am not sure that sense can be made of this sentence. Nevertheless, the rewards to be found in A.’s monograph far outweigh the odd turns of phrase or infelicities of speech. Given that this is a Swedish publication, we are fortunate to have this monograph in English.

In a footnote late in the book, A. announces that she intends in a future study to turn her analysis to the presentation of Athens and Athenians in the Periegesis. There are important questions to be asked here: what role does Athens play in the recovery of history and the cultivation of Hellenic identity as outlined by Pausanias in his guide to Greece? What might the role of Athens be in a text which, as A. has shown, does not shrink from presenting the Greek world as historically disharmonious? Or, as A. herself puts it, “How philo-Athenian would Ego reveal himself to be?” (251n71). One hopes that this future study will be as engaging and enlightening as Researcher, Traveler, Narrator.


1. Jones, Christopher, “Multiple Identities in the Age of the Second Sophistic,” in B. E. Borg, ed., Paideia: The World of the Second Sophistic, Millennium-Studien 2, Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2004: 13-21.

2. These are 2.1.7f., 2.27.6, 5.20.8, 7.5.9, and 10.34.5.

3. Wilamowitz was following the route described in 6.21.3-5. Cf. “Die Thukydideslegende”, Hermes 12 (1877): 344-347, and Isyllos von Epidauros, Philologische Untersuchungen 9, Berlin, 1886: 184n43.

4. Martin, R., “A Good Place to Talk: Discourse and Topos in Achilles Tatius and Philostratus,” in Michael Paschalis and Stavros Frangoulidis, eds., Space in the Ancient Novel, Ancient Narrative: Supplementum 1, Groningen: Barkhuis Publishing and the University Library Groningen, 2002: 143-160, esp. 158.

5. Gruen, E. S., “The Origins of the Achaean War”, JHS 96 (1976): 46-69. Gruen, E. S., The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome ι Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. Lafond, Y., “Pausanias et l’histoire du Péloponnèse depuis la conquête romain” in J. Bingen, ed., Pausanias Historien. Huit exposés suivis de discussions, Vandoeuvres-Genève 15-19 août 1994, Genève: Fondation Hardt, 1996: 167-205.

6. Swain, S., Hellenism and Empire: Language, Classicism, and Empire in the Greek World, AD 50-250, Oxford: Clarendon Press; Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996: 340.

7. Steinhart, M., “Das Unglück der römischen Herrschaft? Zum Verständnis von Pausanias 8, 27, 1”, WJA 26 (2002): 145-150.