The omens are good. Having arrived in Greece on our Ryanair luxury vehicle piloted by a heroic Hellenic (whose name is so shrouded in mystery the steward was never able to remember it), and after a brief misunderstanding with an abrasive taxi driver; night lights are turning on all over Athens. So begins this trek around Phokis Greece in the footsteps of Pausanias.
A brief note on Pausanias (the writer whose account will be guiding me) to begin: almost nothing is known of a figure who has been used as a monument-identifier, and story-teller from the 16th century CE. Everything the Penguin Classics edition of his work (trans. Peter Levi, 1979), infers about him is exactly that: inference. What can be concretely said is that he wrote in the 250s-270s CE, whether he was a bird-lover, and once a literary critic, as maintained by Levi, is extremely questionable. However, he stands as the first extant travel writer, and it is in this field that I shall attempt to connect (if that is the right word) with Pausanias. To uncover to what extent those monuments he documents survive, and by seeing how he thought and wrote about Greece: its landscapes and its routes. By rediscovering those places themselves a better picture of the man himself could be built up.
Pausanias appears to have been particularly concerned with local traditions and buildings, and so it is on this level that I will engage with him: by taking a small section of his Book X: Phokis (the parts written about the routes around and away from Delphi- his focal point within this region), and attempting to reconstruct his paths around this region.
So without further ado here is the first part of my planned itinerary for Phokis:
Day 1 (3rd September): walk from Delphi to Eptálofos following Pausanias’ route to Lilaia (passing the Korykian cave).
Day 2: Continue into Lilaia and then on towards Amphikleia
Day 3: Explore Tithronion and Elateia from Amphikleia
The rest of the trip will be posted up as I come towards it. In addition, the blog posts will also be leavened out with sketches, pictures, and quotes from Pausanias.
Before I round off for the day I should say that I am being accompanied by two comrades (or minders), Joseph ‘Diogenes’ Gough and David ‘the Emperor’ Klemperer who will fill out my posts with opinions and illuminations on how the grind of the journey is going. I will also be using Levi’s translation of Pausanias throughout so all quotes are taken from his impressive work.
And so all that remains to be said is my fleeting impressions of Athens. The city is large, sprawling, and it is extremely difficult to navigate. It has none of the neatness of the list of monuments Pausanias gives in his Attica: Book I. As this journey is also an attempt to see how local people react to their environment, and to travellers, and so it is in this vein that I can recount the reaction of the taxi driver who we encountered at this start point. He was shocked that three youths would leave Athens (and bypass the islands), to the seeming backwater that Delphi’s nightlife must appear to him. Though we promised we weren’t especially interested in this aspect, he was nonetheless horrified, and his terror of our looming fate prompted him to offer us a ride all the way to Delphi, and to continually express his dismay at our lack of interest in the Greek club scene.
It was an interesting encounter which sheds much light on the normal movements of our peers in this country, and his experience of the routes (when they could be inferred from his winding drive), around the city appears to be less bounded by ancient monuments than the needs of those same peers.
Here also are the impressions of my comrades:
David: “[Greece is] clearly suffering from the effects of austerity”
Joe: “Athens appears to be falling apart”
So as Pausanias took ox-cart and mule, and we bus and foot, we begin. I hope this blog can be an interesting read for all those who stumble upon it in their own pursuit of Hellenism and Pausanias.