Toward a more extensive commentary, on Pausanias 1.27.4–1.29.1

2018.04.26 | By Gregory Nagy

This posting for 2018.04.26, on Pausanias 1.27.4–1.29.1, is a continuation of the posting for 2018.04.05, on Pausanias 1.24.8–1.27.3, but the format will now change. Besides the more focused comments that have characterized the postings on Pausanias so far, I will start to add some abridged comments that are more tentative, in need of more precision. A case in point, as we will see, is an abridged comment on what Pausanias at 1.28.7 says—and does not say—about the Cave of the Furies, situated at “ground zero” underneath the Areopagus in Athens. A photograph of that cave is shown here at the start of the post. Standing somewhat tentatively in front of that cave is the writer of all the comments that follow.

The author in front of the Cave of the Eumenides. Photo by Olga M. Davidson.
The author in front of the Cave of the Eumenides. Photo by Olga M. Davidson, 2007.

So far, in each posting of my selective commentary on Pausanias, my comments were made in the context of my ongoing revision of the translation produced in 1918, a hundred years ago, by W. H. S. Jones. As I was working my way through Scroll 1, posting after posting, the effort that went into my revising most of the English text of Jones—and thus retranslating much of the original Greek text of Pausanias—often took up far more of my time than the task of actually writing comments on specific details that particularly interested me in the content. The translations posted so far are part of my ongoing project of retranslating all of Pausanias, available online for free in A Pausanias Reader in Progress. As for those parts of this retranslation that I have already posted in Classical Inquiries, I have by now reached a crossroads of sorts. My revised translation of Scroll 1 in its entirety will soon be complete, and, after that, I will temporarily stop posting in Classical Inquiries any further translations extending beyond Scroll 1. And, correspondingly, the translations in the online Pausanias reader in progress will temporarily stop making further progress. Instead, I will backtrack, starting to produce further comments on the overall sequence of content in Scroll 1, from beginning to end, before moving on to further retranslations, which will focus on selected parts of Scrolls, 2, 5 and 10. My upcoming comments on those parts that I have selected from the overall work of Pausanias, following my cumulative comments on Scroll 1, will add up to a more extensive commentary on those aspects of Pausanias where I can say most of the things I want to say. This extended commentary in progress will soon be posted as a self-standing online publication. The publication will feature two different kinds of commentary: besides the more focused comments that have characterized the postings on Pausanias so far, I will start to experiment with additions of some abridged comments that are more tentative, in need of more precision. And, as I indicated in the brief paragraph on the cover of this posting, such experimentation will commence here and now, already in the present posting for 2018.04.26.

{1.27.9} There is another deed [ergon] that they [= the Athenians] have represented-in-the-form-of-a-dedicatory-offering [ana-tithenai], and here is the tale [logos] that pertains to that deed. The land of the Cretans and especially the part that is next to the river Tethris was ravaged by a bull. I say-this-because [gar] beasts [thēria] in ancient times were much more formidable for humans. For example, there is the Nemean lion. And the lion of Parnassus. And so many serpents [drakontes] in many parts of Greece [Hellas]. And then there are the boars of Calydon and Erymanthos.

Also the one from Krommyon in the land of Corinth. It was said that some [of these beasts] were sent up from the earth down below, that others were sacred [hiera] to the gods, while still others had been let loose for the punishment [tīmōriā] of humankind. In the case of this bull as well, the Cretans say that it was sent by Poseidon to their land because, although Minos was ruler [arkhōn] of the Greek [Hellēnikē] Sea [Thalassa], he did not give more honor [tīmē] to Poseidon than to the other gods.

Abridged comment… The tension here between Minos and Poseidon has to do with genealogy: Minos is son of Zeus, while his rival Theseus is son of Poseidon.

{1.28.2} Above and beyond the things that I have so far inventoried [katalegein], there are two tithes [dekatai] dedicated by the Athenians in the aftermath of wars. There is first a bronze statue [agalma] of Athena, tithe [dekatē] from the [victory over the] Persians who landed at Marathon. It is the work [tekhnē] of Pheidias, but the reliefs upon the shield, including the fight between Centaurs and Lapithai, are said to have been metalworked [toreuein] by someone named Mys, for whom they say Parrhasios son of Euenor designed [kata-graphein] this and the rest of his works [erga]. The point of the spear of this Athena and the crest of her helmet are already visible to those sailing to Athens as they pass by Cape Sounion. The other tithe [dekatē] is a bronze chariot, offered by the Boeotians and by the people of Khalkis in Euboea.[1] There are two other offerings [anathēmata], (1) a statue of Pericles, the son of Xanthippos, and (2) the best of those works of Pheidias that are most worthy of viewing [théā], the statue [agalma] of Athena named ‘the one from Lemnos’, since those who dedicated [anatithenai] it were from there.

Abridged comment…The visibility of the spear tip of Athena Promakhos, as noted here by Pausanias, is relevant to Pausanias 1.1.1, as argued at §7 of the comments there.

{1.28.3} All the Acropolis is surrounded by a wall; a part was constructed by Kimon, son of Miltiades, but all the rest is said to have been built round it by the Pelasgians, who once lived under the Acropolis. The builders, they say, were Agrolas and Hyperbios. On inquiring who they were I could discover nothing except that they were Sicilians originally who emigrated to Akarnania.

Abridged comment… The ‘Pelasgian’ Wall as noted by Pausanias here corresponds to what archaeologists today call the ‘Cyclopean’ Wall, traces of which were visible even in the Classical period and beyond.

{1.28.6} Close by is a sanctuary [hieron] of the goddesses [theai] whom the Athenians call the Semnai [‘the august ones’], but Hesiod in the Theogony calls them Erinyes [‘Furies’].[2] It was Aeschylus who first represented them with snakes in their hair. But on the statues [agalmata] neither of these nor of any of the under-earth [hupo-gaioi] deities [theoi] is there anything horrific. There are statues [agalmata] of Pluto [Ploutōn], Hermes, and Earth, in the name of whom sacrifices-are-made [thuein] by those who are acquitted of guilt [aitiā] on the Peak of Ares [Areiopagos]; sacrifices-are-made [thuein] also on other occasions by both city-folk and visitors [xenoi].

Abridged comment… Pausanias does not specifically mention the cave of the Eumenides/Erinyes. Still, the reference here to these deities as hupo-gaioi ‘under-earth’ conveys the idea that they dwell in caves. For references elsewhere in Greek texts, I recommend Henrichs 1994:39. See also H24H 17§§1–3.

{1.28.7} Within the enclosure [peribolos] is a tomb [mnēma] of Oedipus, whose bones, after diligent inquiry, I found were brought [komizein] from Thebes. I am prevented from thinking as trustworthy the things having to do with the death of Oedipus as composed-in-poetry [poieîn] by Sophocles. I am prevented by Homer, who says that, after the death of Oedipus, Mekisteus [of Athens] came to Thebes and participated-in-the-athletic contest [agōnizesthai] at the funeral-compensating-for-his-death [epitaphios].

Pausanias is referring here to Iliad 23.677–679.

{1.28.9} It is said that after the capture of Troy [Ilion] Diomedes was returning-home [komizesthai] with his ships when night overtook them as they sailed near Phaleron. The Argives went ashore, though they thought that they had landed in hostile territory, since the darkness prevented them from seeing that they were in Attica. At that point, they say that Demophon, he too being unaware of the facts and ignorant that those who had landed were Argives, responded-to-the-alarm-and-went-on-the-attack [ek-boētheîn]. He killed a number of the men, seized the Palladium, and rode off with it. An Athenian, however, not seeing in the dark that Demophon, riding his horse, was heading in that direction, was knocked over and trampled to death. So, Demophon was brought to trial, some say by the relatives of the man who was trampled, others say by the community [tò koinon] of the Argives.

Comment… On the Palladium as mentioned here by Pausanias, I offer this epitome from HC 1§§93–94:

{1§93} According to the local mythology of the city of Argos, as we learn at a later point from Pausanias, 2.23.5, it was Diomedes who captured the Palladium from the acropolis of Troy and ultimately brought the sacred object to the city of Argos as its final resting place. There are many variations in telling about how, when, and why Diomedes took the Palladium from the acropolis of Troy, and many of the variant stories involve Odysseus as a partner of Diomedes in the quest to take it. According to some of these variant stories, the partnership modulates into an intense rivalry. There are even versions where Odysseus is represented as scheming to keep the Palladium for himself. The basic idea of a partnership linking Diomedes with Odysseus in capturing the Palladium is attested in the epic Cycle. There is a brief reference in the Proclus plot outline of the Little Iliad that says simply: καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα σὺν Διομήδει τὸ παλλάδιον ἐκκομίζει ἐκ τῆς Ἰλίου ‘and after this [= after Odysseus infiltrates Troy in a previous adventure] he [= Odysseus] along with Diomedes takes out [ek-komizein] the Palladium from Ilion’ (Lesches of Lesbos, Little Iliad 107.7–8). [1§94] According to the local mythology of the city of Athens, which rivals the local mythology of the city of Argos, the final resting place of the Palladium was not Argos but Athens. Here is a summary of this Athenian mythology as reported by a variety of sources besides Pausanias 1.28.8-9 (Polyaenus 1.5, Harpocration under the entry ἐπὶ Παλλαδίῳ, and the Suda under the entry ἐπὶ Παλλαδίῳ):

Diomedes, sailing home from Troy with the Palladium in his possession, happened to stop over at the Athenian seaport of Phaleron. Mistaken for an enemy, Diomedes was attacked by the Athenians, led by a hero called Demophon. The Palladium was taken by mistake from Diomedes, and thus it found its final resting place in Athens. It was housed in the ancient building used for trials involving involuntary homicide; by metonymy, the building itself was called Palladium.

{1.29.1} Near the Peak of Ares [Areiopagos] is shown a ship built for the procession [pompē] of the Panathenaia. This ship, I suppose, has been surpassed in size by others, but I know of no builder who has outdone the vessel at Delos, with its nine banks of oars below the deck.

Abridged comment… On this ship, I epitomize from MoM 2§115 (where I give further references):

On the occasion of the spectacular quadrennial parade known as the Panathenaic Procession, the peplos or ‘robe’ of Athena was displayed as an archetypal Sail rigged to the mast of a float that re-enacted the archetypal Athenian Ship of State; this float was rolled on wheels along the Sacred Way, from the Kerameikos through the Agora, all the way to a sacred space known as the Eleusinion (scholia for Aristophanes Knights 566).



[1] circa 507 BCE.

[2] Hesiod Theogony 185.



See the dynamic Bibliography for APRIP.


Inventory of terms and names

See the dynamic Inventory of terms and names for APRIP.

Annotations loading . . .

We're trying out a new look. 🎉 Let us know what you think! Hide.