In this paper I examine Pausanias’ historiographic motives and methods through a close analysis of the logoi about the Hellenistic kings in Book 1. I propose that we can learn a lot about Pausanias’ self-presentation as an able writer of history, his explicit claims to authority, and his implicit claims to difference, by looking at how these logoi are incorporated into descriptions of the monuments of the Athenian Agora, especially the monument of the eponymous heroes.
The Hellenistic logoi in Book 1 have been examined by several scholars, including Habicht (1985), Bearzot (1992), Ameling (1996), Hutton (2005), and Pretzler (2007), who have generally understood them to be related to Pausanias’ interest in the history of a politically independent Greece. But how the Hellenistic logoi relate to Pausanias’ description of the monuments of the Athenian Agora and how he constructs Athenian civic identity in the 2nd-century CE are yet to be discussed.
The first part of my paper aims to clarify the relationship between Herodotus and Pausanias and argues that Pausanias’ use of Herodotean motifs is not as straightforward as readers have sometimes assumed. When one contextualizes Pausanias’ description of the eponymous heroes and their logoi within the political and cultural environment of 2nd-century CE Athens, the author’s ambivalent and complex attitude toward the Roman present begins to reveal itself. In particular, homing in on the programmatic statements that Herodotus and Pausanias both make in their first books helps us to see where, and how, Pausanias’ philosophy of past and present differs from his predecessor’s. Although Pausanias invokes a certain Herodotean inclusivity in his selection of material (Musti 1996: 12, “equità storiografica,” referring to Herodotus’ inclusion of both the distant and more recent past), the way in which Pausanias gives a fulsome treatment of Hellenistic history at the expense of the Roman present creates a historiographical tension in his relationship with his predecessor.
The second part of my paper discusses how this historiographical tension between past and present is exploited in the context of 2nd-century CE Athens. I argue that Pausanias’ praise of Hadrian’s building activities (1.5.5, 1.18.6–9) frames the Hellenistic narratives in a way that invites us to consider how civic activities had changed under Hadrian specifically and the Romans more generally. For example, Pausanias’ description of activities in the Athenian Agora is strikingly told in the present tense (e.g. βουλεύουσιν, 1.3.5), a narrative decision that suggests continuity but inevitably highlights how these activities had actually shifted away from the Athenian Agora, to the Roman Agora and the area of the Olympieion (Willers 1990). The Athens of Attalus I or Ptolemy II (the stars of the first Hellenistic logos at 1.6.1ff.) was blatantly not the same as Hadrianic or Antonine Athens. Hadrian’s “Pantheon,” a monumental construction just east of the Roman Agora, faced away from “old Athens” towards “New Athens” (CIL III 549), i.e. the “City of Hadrian” (IG II2 5185, Arch of Hadrian). Hadrian’s creation of the Panhellenion, moreover, established an alternate or complementary system of civic activity, one founded by a Roman emperor and intimately linked with Roman imperial cult (e.g. Spawforth and Walker 1985).
Seen in this light, the Hellenistic logoi, which depict a period when Athenian democracy was undergoing great change, assume particular poignancy and lay a framework for the assessment of Roman action. Ultimately, Pausanias looks ahead to his list of famous benefactors of Greece in Book 8 (8.52.1–5) and establishes in Book 1 a hierarchy of Hellenistic euergetism in which Hadrian and the Antonines are implicated and against which they are to be judged. Through the excursus on the Ptolemies and Attalids at 1.6.1ff. Pausanias reflects on the integration of foreign benefactors into Athenian civic life through the reorganization of the tribal system and opens up the question of which Athenian honors were, and should be, deserved (1.9.4).