Book Excerpt


(New Castle, DE): Oak Knoll Press, 2007. 4to. printed paper-covered boards. 253 pages. Following Pausanias: A Quest for Greek Antiquity is a study of Pausanias's ten-book travelogue Hellados Periegesis, which describes Greece as he experienced it in the second century. This multi-faceted academic analysis, sponsored by the National Hellenic Research Foundation and the American School of Classical Studies, considers the significant and long-term impact of this ancient source through its various translations and later editions... READ MORE

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Pausanias and the Collections of the Gennadius Library

The exhibition "Following Pausanias: The Quest for Greek Antiquity" and the volume that accompanies it seek to highlight the dominant role that the Periegesis of Pausanias holds within the canon of travel literature. After placing Pausanias within the larger intellectual and historical framework of the 2nd century AD, the book focuses on the reception of the text ofPausanias in the Middle Ages and the early modem period as it is represented in the collections of the Gennadius Library in Athens. Pausanias served as a point of reference for many travelers who visited Greek lands, but naturally only few of the works that show his influence (about 100 books, engravings, manuscripts, paintings and maps from the Library's fine collections) are included in this volume. These were chosen because the words of their authors, the images that they include or the way in which their material is arranged contain clear (direct or indirect) references to Pausanias. In other words, they represent beyond any doubt the lasting legacy of Pausanias among European scholars and intellectuals in the early modem period.

The Roman Empire, in addition to establishing and maintaining a network of roads, bridges and navigable gateways that facilitated travel and trade, allowed its citizens the luxury to indulge in geographical speculation. Something similar happened in the early modern period when Europeans for the first time after the Fall of the Western Roman Empire had the opportunity to explore the Mediterranean basin and the lands of the Ottoman Empire in order to satisfy their historic or geographic intellectual pursuits. The books, maps, and manuscripts from the collections of the Gennadius Library form a bridge between these two periods, the Roman and the early modem, when the significance of the monuments and the art of classical Greece was considered paramount. They also represent the tradition of traveling, which continued unhindered throughout the early modem period even if modified according to specific cultural currents. This tradition, as exemplified by Pausanias, i.e. paying special attention to detail in the landscape, seeking out every piece of information and having direct contact with the place, gained more and more ground in the 19th and 20th centuries when the Periegesis looms large among travelers' texts and was used as an invaluable aid to archaeological pursuits in Greece.

Pausanias was one among many travelers to the land of Greece but at the same time he was unique. His text is emblematic for its sophistication and has been used by many others who followed in his footsteps. The erudition and attention to detail of the Periegesis of Pausanias assisted like no other text the "discovery" of Greek antiquities. For this reason, the increasing appeal of Pausanias' text to travelers is intimately connected with the rise of antiquarianism and the advent of archaeological exploration in the early modem period but also with the sense of historical perspective and the notion of the past as a distinct moment in the succession of events. For this very reason the Periegesis serves as the inspiration and basis for a large part of the travel literature acquired by the founder of the Gennadius Library, Joannes Gennadius.

A diplomat, bibliophile and lover of Hellenism, the Athenian Ioannis Gennadios (18441932), in the forty years he spent as ambassador and minister to the court of St. James in London, assembled a unique collection of manuscripts, rare books, precious bindings, archives, and works of art about Greece. The driving force behind his collecting practices was his conviction in the unbroken continuity of Greek culture and civilization from Antiquity to the present. Thus, it was important for him to assemble works of the Greek Classics but also of Byzantine and modern Greek literature, as well as historical treatises concerning Greece from the early modern to the contemporary period in all relevant languages. Greek as a spoken language, as a language taught to the humanists and as the language of the Orthodox church was also a major concern of the collector, possibly because he led the life of an expatriot who appreciated the peculiarities of his native tongue. In 1922 he decided to offer his collection of 26,000 titles to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in perpetual trust. The Greek state offered the American School a lot on the slopes of Mount Lykabettus, and the School raised money from the Carnegie Foundation to construct a beautiful Neo-classical building to house the collection. The Library, named the Gennadeion, in honor of the father of the founder, Athenian intellectual George Gennadios, was officially inaugurated on April 23, 1926. Eighty years after its foundation it houses 113,000 titles, archives of major historical and literary figures in the history of Greece, works of art, and a significant collection of maps, as well as numerous scholarly periodicals.

One of the best-known collections of the Library is the so-called Geography and Travel collection. It consists of books, engravings, manuscripts and maps written by travelers who toured Greece and the general area of the Eastern Mediterranean from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Already in the 4th century AD travelers came to the area for religious reasons, primarily to visit the biblical pilgrimage sites in Palestine. Pilgrims' accounts focus on the description of the sites as well as of the places that they visited on their way to the Holy Land. In the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance merchants and traders added their own body of literature with a different set of information of a more practical nature. In the early modern era, with the rise of humanism and antiquarianism, the scope of the travels was modified to serve in addition to personal, religious, economic and political objectives, also intellectual concerns that included more specific details on history and archaeology. In this period Greece becomes a land with a past, indeed a glorious past. This is the time when the text of Pausanias reveals itself as an important document for consultation and inspiration. Like the descriptions of Pausanias, travel literature from the 16th to the 19th centuries records the adventure of traveling per se, details about the places visited but also the wonders that one observes on his way. Joannes Gennadius felt that the accumulation of travel books about Greece was one of the primary ways in which he could gather information about the continuous history of Hellenic culture. The close connection between these early modern books and antiquarianism feeds into another aspect of GennaIdius' collecting interests, the history of archaeology. The illustrated copies of Pausanias merge the theme of travel and archaeology masterfully, as they combine the experience of the passage through the land of Greece - the travel- with detailed (even if at times imaginary) images of its antiquities.

A catalog of the important travel literature of the Gennadius Library was published in two volumes (1952-1953) by Shirley Weber, Director of the Library at the time. The exhibition "Following Pausanias" provides the Gennadius Library with the perfect opportunity to launch its Travelers' Database, a research program based on the Geography and Travel collection. This database, the fruit of the efforts of Ms. Aliki Asvesta, co-curator of this exhibition, indexes historical information from travelers' texts chronologically according to book, place, monument, occupation, etc, and offers scholars a historical panorama of travelliterature. We hope that this program will function as a hub of information for scholars and will eventually be linked with other similar programs of digitization in order to provide the basis for a full indexing of this rich material.

Despite the fact that 1700 years separate Pausanias from Joannes Gennadius, there is an almost uncanny relationship between the two men. Both had an earthly bond with the land of Greece and sought to assemble material that validated their interest in this ancient land. Both had a passion for archaeology and travel; and yet, their curiosity embraced a domain much broader than antiquarianism as it also focused on the mundane, the curiosities, and even the local flora. They both had a perspective that betrays an almost visceral relationship with the place and both had a deeply felt, personal understanding of Hellenism. Both had a sense of history and an eagerness to "read" the past through contemporary eyes. Both sought to present the glories of Greece's achievements and their continuous effect on the life in the region. There is another coincidence that we need to stress: Pausanias' extant text focuses on the Peloponnese and Sterea Hellas, a portion of Greece that coincides with the modern Greek state at the time of Joannes Gennadius' birth. Furthermore, during both their eras, Athens and Greece in general experienced a period of renaissance: the monumentality of Hadrian's Athens can surely be compared with the revival of Neo-classical Athens in the late 19th century. Perhaps these coincidences drove both men to see Greece and Hellenism through a similar lens.

It is my great pleasure that this collaboration with the National Hellenic Research Foundation showcases many of the treasures of the Gennadius Library in a quest that goes beyond the boundaries of the collection assembled by Joannes Gennadius, while illustrating without a doubt the importance of his collection for any kind of scholarly investigation related to the continuity of Hellenism from Antiquity to our times. It is our hope that the program "Following Pausanias: The Quest for Greek Antiquity," which includes in addition to the exhibition a symposium and public lectures, will bring to light more facets of the significance that the text of Pausanias had in the development of travel literature, but also of antiquarianism and archaeology in Greece.

Maria Georgopoulou
Director, The Gennadius Library