Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria Ariana (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in the Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Pausanias - Führer durch Olympia

Pausanias was born in Asia Minor in 110 AD and lived during the reign of Emperors Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, i.e. the heydays of the Roman Empire. He travelled extensively and he is the author of the first travel guide ever!

His trips took him to Asia Minor and Greece, including Macedonia and probably Epiros, but also to Syria and Egypt, and even to Rome with the Latium region and Magna Graecia to the south. His travel experiences have been written down in ten books and cover the Greek regions of Attica, Argolis, Laconia, Messenia, Elis, Achaia, Arcadia, Boeotia and Phocis. They are a first-hand testimony of what the world looked like in the second century AD.

The major part of his story is about Olympia which takes about one-fifth of his entire work, a treasure-trove for those who want to drift back in time.

Pausanias, Führer durch Olympia (translated by Ernst Meyer) is thus only a part of Pausanias’ travel guide and it so happened that I came across this German version many years ago. It may only be a pocket book but it does contain Pausanias’ story in full.

It is wonderful to walk with Pausanias through the streets of this famous city where the Olympic Games were held for twelve centuries (from 776 BC until 393 AD). He starts with the city’s origins and myths and soon goes straight to the Temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. He describes the temple in details: the roof, the pediment, the metopes, the grand statue of Zeus by Phidias, the votive offerings, and the altars. He then walks to the workshop of Phidias, the Temple of Heraand the Philippeon built by Philip II and finished under Alexander III. At the Philippeon, he actually witnessed the statues of both Macedonian kings together with those of Amyntas and Eurydike, Philip’s parents and of Olympias, his wife – all executed by Leochares in ivory and gold.

He spends time and effort to describe the unbelievably great number of Zeus statues all over Olympia, including one representing Alexander the Great as Zeus! Then follows a description of the statues erected for the winners at the Olympic Games. In between, he stops at a statue of Anaximenes, who not only wrote a history of the Greeks but also that of Philip II and his son Alexander. It is quite amazing to read that such a large number of these statues were made of bronze, silver, and even electron, and that many of them beside the famous Zeus were also chryselephantine sculptures with their hands and face made of gold or ivory. This is beyond our imagination!

Next, he treats the many Treasury Houses, to end with the renowned Stadium and the adjacent Hippodrome.

Although this book dates from 1971, it contains a very pertinent list of annotations that is still very much up-to-date. To help us in picturing Olympia, there is a clear map locating the city’s main buildings. To complete the story, there is a useful Register of the buildings and memorials, as well as a list of all the Athletes and Artists treated in this book.

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