Pausanias’ Guide to Greece, Books I-V
Those who value the wisdom which flourished within the ancient Greek culture have much for which to thank Pausanias: without his writings concerning Southern and Central Greece as he found it in the second century C.E. our knowledge of its myths, legends, religion and cult practices would be greatly reduced. Quite justly, J. G. Frazer says (in his introduction to his own translation of him, p. xcvi) of Pausanias that “without him the ruins of Greece would for the most part be a labyrinth without a clue, a riddle without an answer.”
To the treasures preserved by the much-travelled Pausanias we have, in these volumes, a further gift which Thomas Taylor adds in the form of his extensive notes, drawn largely from the writings of the Platonic philosophers of antiquity. The insights offered by these notes are fruits of Taylor’s life-long study of the Platonic tradition, and especially that phase of it commonly called the neoplatonic age in which great efforts were made to unfold the philosophic import of mythology. We may claim with little fear of contradiction that only Thomas Taylor could have added notes of such profundity, and that only Taylor would have transformed what was, we assume, the offer of a straightforward piece of paid employment into a vessel for true wisdom. His translation of Pausanias was the only one of Taylor’s that we know was commissioned by a publisher: he was paid £60 for his labours. He originally produced the translation in 1794, but returned to the work again in 1824, at the age of 66, to add extra notes culled from a further thirty years of study. It is this second edition that we reproduce here.
Peter Levi points out, in his introduction to the Penguin edition of the Guide, that for Pausanias “the collapse of ancient religion or some deeper collapse was the the unspoken object of his studies”—and it is fitting that Taylor, whose object was the renovation of the same religion, should have set his hand to the translation of Pausanias’ surviving writings. For those who wish to learn the wisdom of the age of philosophy, we recommend this book as a refreshment for the spirit.
Pausanias’ Guide to Greece: Volume I, Thomas Taylor, The Prometheus Trust, 2006
Hardback. Decimo. Purple cloth binding. New. 413 pp.