Category: Pausanias reader
|April 5, 2018||By Gregory Nagy listed under By Gregory Nagy, Pausanias commentary, Pausanias reader|
2018.04.05 | By Gregory Nagy
I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.03.01. I will highlight here a ritual noted by Pausanias at 1.27.3 involving two Athenian girls who are selected annually to serve the goddess Athena. The word that refers to these girls in their overall role as servants of Athena is arrhēphoroi, hereafter transcribed as Arrhephoroi. After the annual service of the two Arrhephoroi is concluded, they are replaced by two new Arrhephoroi, and the cycle is repeated, notionally for all time to come. The concluding event of the service performed by these two annually renewed Arrhephoroi is the ritual that I will highlight when I get to my comments on Pausanias 1.27.3. In this ritual, as he describes it, the two Arrhephoroi descend from the top of the Acropolis to a sacred space down below—while carrying on top of their heads containers that contain things that cannot be mentioned. Pausanias is being ostentatiously guarded here about revealing the full significance of the ritual, which as I argue can only be understood by way of correlating it with the myth about the daughters of Kekrops—a myth to which Pausanias himself refers at 1.27.2, and this reference occurs, most pointedly, right before his description of the ritual. The aetiological connection of ritual and myth here, as I also argue, is in some details so old as to reveal traces of a Mycenaean tradition.
|March 1, 2018||By Gregory Nagy listed under By Gregory Nagy, Pausanias commentary, Pausanias reader|
2018.03.01 | By Gregory Nagy
I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.02.21. I picture here a modern version of the face of the goddess of Athens, Athena Parthenos, whose statue was seen by Pausanias, as he says at 1.24.7. This picturing of the statue surely cannot do justice to the “real thing” as seen by Pausanias. The experience of seeing a colossal gold-and-ivory statue of a divinity is comparable to experiencing a Wonder of the World, as Pausanias is moved to say indirectly at a later point, 5.10.1-2, 5.11.9-10, with reference to the statue of Zeus at Olympia. We read there the impression that Pausanias experiences when he sees at Olympia another colossal gold-and-ivory statue that matches in wonder what he saw earlier in Athens. He says that no measurements, no objective descriptions, can come to terms with the infinite grandeur of such absolute divinity.
|February 23, 2018||By Gregory Nagy listed under By Gregory Nagy, Pausanias commentary, Pausanias reader|
2018.02.21 | By Gregory Nagy
I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.02.01. I focus here on a myth, highlighted by Pausanias at 1.21.3, about the eternal weeping of Niobe, petrified in her grief over the killing of her children by the twin divinities Apollo and Artemis. I show here on the cover page a close-up from a modern painting that pictures this Niobe as a towering rock with the craggy face-yes, face-of a grieving woman whose sunken eyes are flooded with tears transformed into an eternal flow of fresh water pouring down from the mountainous heights above. Pausanias at 1.21.3 refers to this myth as he sees it visualized in artwork adorning a grotto embedded in the South Wall of the Acropolis and looming over the Theater of Dionysus. At this point, our traveler pauses for a moment to reminisce about a version of the myth that was local to his own homeland in Asia Minor, at Mount Sipylos near the city of Magnesia. Pausanias tells about a spectacular sight to be seen there: it is a natural rock formation that conjures, he notes guardedly, the sad profile of the eternally weeping Niobe.
|February 1, 2018||By Gregory Nagy listed under By Gregory Nagy, Pausanias commentary, Pausanias reader|
2018.02.01 | By Gregory Nagy
I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.01.25. I focus here on another Athenian myth, as mentioned by Pausanias at 1.20.3, about the abandonment of Ariadne by her lover Theseus and about her seduction or—in terms of the mention made by Pausanias—her abduction by the god Dionysus. Pausanias at 1.20.3 mentions the myth as he sees it represented on a wall painting located inside the sacred precinct of the god Dionysus. According to the myth, Ariadne had slept with Theseus and is still asleep as Theseus quietly leaves her and sails off to Athens. Now Dionysus approaches from afar, preparing to seduce or abduct Ariadne. In the close-up from a modern painting of this myth, we see Ariadne asleep in the foreground, while Theseus is already sailing off in the background.
|January 25, 2018||By Gregory Nagy listed under By Gregory Nagy, Pausanias commentary, Pausanias reader|
2018.01.25 | By Gregory Nagy
I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.01.18. I focus here on an Athenian myth, as narrated by Pausanias at 1.18.2, about the baby Erikhthonios and the young daughters of Kekrops, king of Athens. These girls had been chosen by the goddess Athena to take good care of Erikhthonios—and not to open the box in which the baby was hidden. But two of the girls went ahead and opened the box—and they were instantly driven mad by what they saw. Then, in their madness, they killed themselves by leaping off the steepest part of the Acropolis. In the narrative of Pausanias, the holy mystery of what the girls really saw is left untold. In the narrative that we read in Ovid’s Metamorphoses 2.560–561, on the other hand, the secret is half-revealed: what you see from the poet’s wording, at the same time, is a baby and a snake. Some illustrators of this vision, as we see in the close-up picture on the cover here, press for a full revelation: the baby is really half human, half snake.
|January 18, 2018||By Gregory Nagy listed under By Gregory Nagy, Pausanias commentary, Pausanias reader|
2018.01.18 | By Gregory Nagy
I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.01.11. I focus here on the details given by Pausanias at 1.17.3 describing a monumental wall painting in the sanctuary of Theseus. Depicted on this wall painting is the hero Theseus, who has just emerged from a deep-dive to the bottom of the sea. He is triumphantly holding in one hand the Ring of Minos and, in the other, the Garland of the sea-goddess Amphitrite, bride of Poseidon. The ring had been thrown into the sea by Minos, who challenged Theseus to recover it, while the garland was given to Theseus by Amphitrite, who had saved the hero from drowning and had thus made it possible for him to recover the ring. For the cover illustration, I have chosen a comparable mythological scene that was carved into a gem. It is a modern work of art. At the center is the hero Theseus, who is being carried along the sea-waves on the back of a dolphin and who is holding triumphantly a ring in one hand and a garland in the other—a garland of stars, it seems. This miniaturized scene as carved into a gem is comparable to the monumentalized scene that Pausanias saw painted on a wall in the sanctuary of Theseus.