Episode 32 (Pausanias, Part I)

PAUSANIAS (II c. AD)
  • PART ONE –

Pausanias is a well-known ancient author. He lived in the II c. His most known work is the “Description of Greece” in which he gave a detailed first-hand review (as a witness)of many of the territories where the Hellens (today known as ancient Greeks) lived. He traveled a lot and visited Egypt (where he saw the pyramids), Jerusalem, the west coast of Asia Minor, Rome and other parts of Italy, and it was written that he also stayed in Macedonia where he visited the grave of the mythic singer Orpheus.

His work “Description of Greece” was written in 10 books. Here we will look at this work from the aspect of the subject we are covering.

We will begin with the general content of “Description of Greece”. In the 10 books (according to their titles), the following areas are described: Attica, Argolis, Laconia, Messenia, Elis, Achaea, Arcadia, Boetia, Phocis and Locris. Even the content itself is a strong enough argument against the present day Greek propaganda. The question is, if Macedonia in antiquity was indeed a “Greek land”, then why did Pausanias (as one of the most known ancient authors, who even lived in Macedonia at one time) not mention Macedonia as such? Even in his capital work, consisting of descriptions of the Greek territories at the time? Andthat is not even all.

While describing Pirea in Athens, Pausanias gave information that there were a lot of portraits of prominent Athenians and gods. Among them was a portrait of a certain Leosthenes, who was known among the Greeks for successfully battling the Macedonians. Here we read:

“Here is a portrait of Leosthenes and of his sons, painted by Arcesilaus. This Leosthenes at the head of the Athenians and the united Greeks defeated the Macedonians in Boeotia and again outside Thermopylae forced them into Lamia over against Oeta, and shut them up there.” (SOURCE: Pausanias, “Description of Greece”, 1,1,3).

This event happened in the middle of the III c. BC, when the Greeks with variable success tried to get rid of the Macedonian slavery. The Macedonians and the Greeks are so clearly distinguished here that no further comment is needed.

Pausanias describes the entering of the Celts in the Balkan Peninsula in the III c. BC. In this part of the description, it is crystal clear that he also separates the Macedonians from the Greeks as two different nations that campaigned against each otherfor centuries, and almost always resulting in a loss for the Greeks. Here we read:

“It was late before the name ‘Gauls’ came into vogue; for anciently they were called Celts both amongst themselves and by others. An army of them mustered and turned towards the Ionian Sea, dispossessed the Illyrian people, all who dwelt as far as Macedonia with the Macedonians themselves, and overran Thessaly. And when they drew near to Thermopylae, the Greeks in general made no move to prevent the inroad of the barbarians, since previously they had been severely defeated by Alexander and Philip. Further, Antipater and Cassander afterwards crushed the Greeks, so that through weakness each state thought no shame of itself taking no part in the defence of the country. But the Athenians, although they were more exhausted than any of the Greeks by the long Macedonian war, and had been generally unsuccessful in their battles, nevertheless set forth to Thermopylae with such Greeks as joined them, having made the Callippus I mentioned their general. Occupying the pass where it was narrowest, they tried to keep the foreigners from entering Greece.”( Pausanias, “Description of Greece, 1,4,1, и 1,4,2).

We cannot understand what will the present day Greek propaganda reply to this quote from the ancient Greek author Pausanias. We can see quite clearly that he mentions the Athenians as members of the ancient Greeks, who campaigned against the Macedonians. For the Macedonian king Cassander (who was heir to Alexander the Great of Macedon) and ruled from 316 – 297 BC, he even writes that the Greeks were so “crushed” after the war against him, that they were unable to prepare their defenses against the Celts, who were penetrating their land.

In the same (First) book Pausanias writes about how Ptolemy took Alexander’s dead body, which was taken to Egypt where it was, quote, “buried with Macedonian rites in Memphis“.

Pausanias also describes the suicide of the famous Athenian orator Demosthenes, who we mentioned already. Because of his anti-Macedonian politic, the government in Athens (which was serving the Macedonians as puppets), exiled Demosthenes, but before he was arrested and handed over to the Macedonians (specifically to Antipater) to be judged, he escaped in Calauria where he committed suicide. Here we read:

“Exiled for the second time Demosthenes crossed once more to Calauria, and committed suicide there by taking poison, being the only Greek exile that Archias failed to bring back to Antipater and the Macedonians. This Archias was a Thurian who undertook the abominable task of bringing to Antipater for punishment those who had opposed the Macedonians before the Greeks met with their defeat in Thessaly. Such was Demosthenes’ reward for his great devotion to Athens.” ( “Description of Greece”, 1,8,3).

No further comment is needed on this extract as well. Here he judges the politics of Athens at the time, which banished one of its greatest orators just so they would not anger the Macedonians.