A sampling of comments on Pausanias: 1.1.1, the first two sentences

2017.10.10 (revised 2017.10.14) | By Gregory Nagy

My set of comments on the first two sentences in the text of Pausanias 1.1.1 is divided into seven paragraphs, §§1–7. Among the many points of interest noted by Pausanias in these two sentences is his mention of a temple of the goddess Athena at the headland of Sounion—a mention that seems to anticipate what he will say at a later point about a colossal bronze statue of the goddess Athena Promakhos (sometimes spelled Promachos) guarding the Acropolis in Athens.

Athena Promachos, Academy of Athens. Image via Flickr user Dimitris Kamaras, reproduced under a CC BY 2.0 license.
Athena Promachos, Academy of Athens. Image via Flickr user Dimitris Kamaras, reproduced under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Before we delve into the first two sentences, however, I offer two preliminary comments about Pausanias and his work:

1. The name of the author, Pausanias, who lived in the second century CE, is known by way of Stephanus of Byzantium (Constantinople), who lived in the sixth century CE. This Stephanus produced a geographical dictionary, and one of his sources was the work of Pausanias. For helpful background, I recommend Habicht 1998:1. [[GN 2017.10.09.]]

2. Stephanus, in his citations of Pausanias, occasionally indicates the number of the scroll from which the given citation is taken. [[GN 2017.10.08 via Habicht 1998:5n28.]]

That said, I proceed to the first two sentences. Here is the Greek text, followed by my own translation:

{1.1.1…}

Τῆς ἠπείρου τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς κατὰ νήσους τὰς Κυκλάδας καὶ πέλαγος τὸ Αἰγαῖον ἄκρα Σούνιον πρόκειται γῆς τῆς Ἀττικῆς· καὶ λιμήν τε παραπλεύσαντι τὴν ἄκραν ἐστὶ καὶ ναὸς Ἀθηνᾶς Σουνιάδος ἐπὶ κορυφῇ τῆς ἄκρας.

{1.1.1…} translation by GN 2017.10.14:

Belonging to the Greek [Hellēnikē] mainland [ēpeiros], facing the Cyclades Islands and the Aegean Sea, is the headland [akrā] named Sounion, jutting out from the land of Attica. When one has rounded the headland [akrā] there is a harbor and a temple [nāos] of Athena of-Sounion [Souniás] on the summit [koruphē] of the headland [akrā].

{1.1.1…} subject heading(s): Hellēnikos/Hellēnikē ‘Greek, Hellenic’; ēpeiros ‘mainland’; Cyclades Islands; Aegean Sea; akrā ‘headland’; Sounion; Attica; nāos ‘temple, shrine’; Souniás ‘Athena-of-Sounion’; koruphē ‘summit’

§1. The first two sentences of the whole narrative, as I have translated them here, are crafted in such a way as to set the trajectory for everything that will be narrated hereafter. In the translation as I have configured it, I have tried to simulate the structure of the Greek text by following as closely as possible the original word order.

§2. Pausanias has been sailing on a westward journey along the Aegean Sea, making his way past the Cycladic Islands and heading toward a magnificent headland named Sounion as his first point of contact with the mainland of Europe. The view of this headland will create for Pausanias, as the viewer, his first impression not only of Europe in general but also of Attica in particular, which was a land-mass dominated by the city of Athens. And, just as the view of Attica is already now emerging as the dominant view of Europe for Pausanias, so also the upcoming view of Athens will dominate his entire narrative. Further, as we will see, the viewer’s first impression of Athens will be linked with Athena, the goddess of Athens.

Athena Promachos, British, Australian and New Zealand WWII soldiers memorial, Pedion tou Areos. Image via Flickr user Dimitris Kamaras, reproduced under a CC BY 2.0 license.
Athena Promachos, British, Australian and New Zealand WWII soldiers memorial, Pedion tou Areos. Image via Flickr user Dimitris Kamaras, reproduced under a CC BY 2.0 license.
View of the statue of Athena in front of the Parliament building in Vienna. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
View of the statue of Athena in front of the Parliament building in Vienna. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

§3. The first two words in the Greek text of 1.1.1 are a noun and an adjective referring to the European mainland of the Greek-speaking world as it existed in the era of Pausanias, and the genitive case of the noun and adjective here anticipates what is about to be highlighted as the subject of the sentence: ‘Belonging to the Greek mainland [ēpeiros] …is…’. And we already know that the very first place that is highlighted as ‘belonging to the Greek mainland’ is the magnificent headland of Sounion.

§4. Here I need to ask a question that turns out to be most relevant: what is the ‘Greek’ mainland? The adjective describing the noun ēpeiros ‘mainland’ in Pausanias 1.1.1 is Hellēnikē, which I translate as ‘Greek’. Here and everywhere in this Reader, ‘Greek’ translates the adjective Hellēnikos/Hellēnikē ‘Hellenic’ as well as the noun Hellēn ‘Hellene’; and ‘Greece’ translates Hellás ‘Hellas, Hellenic land’. On the use of these words in the era of Pausanias, I recommend the observations of Habicht 1998:25–27. I must add as a further observation, however, that the use of these same words Hellēnikos/Hellēnikē and Hellēn and Hellás in earlier eras was more complicated. A case in point is the era marked by the sea battle at Salamis in 480 BCE, where the navies of Athens and of other European Greek city-states defeated the invading naval forces of the Persian Empire: at the time, as I argue in Nagy 2017.06.25 §§43–50 on the basis of what we read in Scroll 8 of Herodotus, the words that I am now translating as ‘Hellenic’ or ‘Greek’ did not apply to all the Greeks involved in that sea battle: besides the Greeks of Europe who fought against the Persian Empire at Salamis, there were Greeks from Asia Minor and from outlying islands such as Samos who were fighting on the other side, and such Asiatic Greeks, who lived under the rule of the Persian Empire, thought of themselves as Ionians, not as Hellenes. More than six centuries later, however, in the era of Pausanias, Asiatic Greeks no longer thought of themselves as non-Hellenes. A case in point is Pausanias, who was a native of the Asiatic Greek mainland but who considered himself to be a Hellene. On Pausanias as a spokesman for Hellenic identity, I refer again to the observations of Habicht 1998:25–27.

§5. But now I need to ask another relevant question: why does Pausanias, who thinks of himself as a Hellene, refer to the mainland of Greek Europe as the ‘Hellenic’ mainland? What seems problematic here is the fact that the mainland of Greek Asia Minor was just as ‘Hellenic’ in the era of Pausanias as was the mainland of Greek Europe. But the problem is solved if we keep in mind the fact that Asiatic Hellenes thought of the European mainland as the homeland from where they had migrated eastward in prehistoric times. There is a multitude of myths centering on the migrations of Greeks from Europe to Asia Minor, and Pausanias himself is a source for some of these myths, as we see for example at 7.2.1, 7.2.4, 7.3.2, 7.3.6. Even many of the place-names in Greek Asia Minor reflect indirectly such myths. I choose here as prominent examples a pair of two cities in Asia Minor that are both named Magnesia: one is Magnesia-at-Sipylos, situated at the foot of a mountain range known as Sipylos and contiguous with the river Hermos, while the other is Magnesia-at-the-Maeander, which was a city further south, contiguous with the river Maeander. Both sites were evidently named after a well-known site in European Thessaly that was likewise named Magnesia. I have chosen as prominent examples these two cities of Magnesia in Asia Minor because Pausanias in his reportage shows an intimate familiarity with both these Magnesias and their environs, and, as I infer from this familiarity, he thought of himself as a Magnesian in origin. A similar inference, again on the grounds of the familiarity shown by Pausanias, has been made by Habicht 1998:14–15—though he is speaking there only about Magnesia-at-Sipylos as the homeland of Pausanias, whereas I include also Magnesia-at-the-Maeander, which the text describes in comparably familiar terms. To justify this inclusion, I refer to my comment at 1.1.2, which can be supplemented by the relevant comments of Habicht 1998:5, 15. In his comments as cited here, as also further at his p. 17, Habicht acknowledges that Pausanias was familiar with both Magnesia-at-Sipylos and Magnesia-on-the-Maeander—as also with practically all of Greek Asia Minor—even though the trajectory of the travels that he narrates in sequence does not include those parts of the Greek-speaking world that are situated on the mainland of Asia Minor: for more on the travels of Pausanias beyond the travels that he narrates in the ten scrolls attributed to him, I recommend the analysis of Habicht 1998:17. To sum up, then, what has been argued so far: in the overall narrative that Pausanias is about to present at the beginning of his work, he will be focusing not on the mainland of Greek Asia Minor, which is his homeland, but on the mainland of Greek Europe, which he is about to highlight at the very beginning of his narrative.

§6. That said, I am ready to take a closer look at the very first place that Pausanias highlights as ‘belonging to the Greek mainland’. This place, as we will now see, is relevant to the European identity of the ‘Greek’ mainland. In the wording that follows the first two words of the Greek text, the very idea of a ‘mainland’ is now highlighted as the magnificent akrā or ‘headland’ named Sounion. As if to intensify the highlighting, Pausanias uses the word akrā three times here at 1.1.1. The view of this headland will give the viewer his first impression not only of the ‘Greek mainland’ in general but also of Attica in particular, which as I have already noted was the name of the land-mass dominated by the city of Athens. Here is Pausanias sailing east to west, from the direction of Asia Minor to Europe, and his first impression of Europe is already becoming an Athenian impression. Just as the view of Attica has already now become the dominant way to view Europe, so also the upcoming view of Athens will become the dominant way to view Attica. Further, as we will see in §7, the viewer’s first impression of Athens will be linked with the goddess of Athens, Athena, who is signaled here as presiding over a temple at Sounion. The presence of the goddess at Sounion anticipates her presence in Athens, which will be the first city to be visited by Pausanias. And, as the first city, Athens will dominate the entire narrative of Pausanias.

View of the Acropolis. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
View of the Acropolis. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

§7. As Pausanias proceeds to sail round the headland of Sounion, now heading toward Athens, he sees a sacred space where the goddess Athena is worshipped. As he notes at a later point, 1.28.2, it is when you round the headland of Sounion that you see from far off in the distance the tip of the spear of Athena Promakhos, a famous outdoors statue of the goddess Athena imagined as fully-armed—hence her epithet promakhos ‘leading the battle’. As we see at 1.28.2, this statue of the goddess Athena was situated in the heights of the Acropolis of Athens, guarding the entrance to the sacred space. The mention of Athena at 1.28.2 can be linked with the context here at 1.1.1, where the goddess is mentioned for the first time by Pausanias. The sacred space of Athena at Sounion, 1.1.1., is mentally connected here with the spear tip of the goddess high up and far away on the Acropolis of Athens. We see here a metonymy. (On the meaning of metonymy, see the Inventory of terms and names.) The metonymy here is relevant to the relationship between the name of the goddess, Athēnē, and the name of the city over which the goddess presides, Athēnai. As I have pointed out in HC 4§117, the Greek language has preserved a most ancient and fundamental connection that exists between the name of Athena and the name of Athens. The singular name of the goddess Athena, Ath, is coextensive with the plural name of her city of Athens, Athênai. This plural name means, elliptically, ‘Athena and everything/everyone connected to her’. In other words, the name of the city of Athens is itself a most ancient metonym that expresses the divine power of integrating and unifying the diversity of all things and all people connected with the city of Athens. From the vantage point of Pausanias, as I infer from what he says at 1.28.2, the metonymy can start at the moment when you see the tip of Athena’s spear as you sail around the headland of Sounion. From the tip of the spear your mental image can work its way down, down, further down, and, the next thing you know, you grasp the totalizing concept of Athens. [[GN 2017.10.14]]

“The Acropolis at Athens” (1846), by Leo von Klenze (German, 1784–1864). Image via Wikimedia Commons.
“The Acropolis at Athens” (1846), by Leo von Klenze (German, 1784–1864). Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Bibliography

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Inventory of terms and names

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