Friday, July 10, 2009

Where in the World is The Ancient Travel Writer?

If you are ever chiseling marble, remember to either wear a glove or don't grip the chisel too tightly. It is really hard to type right now because my chisel holding hand is tingling more than it did the time I touched the pretty wires behind the tree at Christmas when I was four.

The paonazzo marble I'm carving has been cutting beautifully under the chisel like snow, really really hard crystaline white snow. But, I'm only done with a small part, so today I'll discuss a possible link between an ancient travel guide book writer and ruins I've seen. This is entirely a wild hypothesis and I've not seen it suggested anywhere.

The picture above is a panoramic picture of present day Delos, Greece. It is an island full of ruins and in many ways was the center of the Western world at one point.

Around 150 AD, a Greek named Pausanias (not to be confused with the famous general of the battle of Plataea in 470 BC), was travelling around the Greek mainland and recording various points of interest, rating restaurants with Michelin Stars and that sort of thing. All in all, he made 10 booklets covering the mainland of Greece. He was like the Rick Steves of ancient Greece.

Missing from this travel writer's ancient version of 'Frommers Guide' were the islands and the Southern Italian peninsula. These might be books that were written but will never be found. It would have been odd for him not to write about the islands since he had traveled at least as far East as Judea and West to Italy.

On the island of Delos, in the House of the Trident, there is a mosaic that matches very closely this old woodcut picture which recreates a different older carving. Notice the Latin and Greek inscription has the name of Pausanias and is related to the travel book writer.

The mosaic on Delos above through various scientific techniques is dated at the late first century (when the travel writer lived). Most people think the mosaic is a symbol of the Delian League related to the earlier general from the fifth century BC. Haha, some people will believe anything, huh? But, it's also possible that the travel writer Pausanias had lived on Delos for a time and the mosaic historically places him or family there.

What do you think? Do the symbols look similar enough to raise the question? Here is my copy of the Delos mosaic done in marble if you haven't seen it.

Also, has anyone ever been bored enough to flip through television channels and try to make words on the previous channel match up with the new channel in order to make sense? You aren't doing that game now are you? Well, I'll try to make the next post more interesting then...


  1. AnonymousJuly 10, 2009

    I really admire your sculpting skills you talented freak, you! I like seeing your arty results.

    I especially liked this line though: "If you are ever chiseling marble, remember to either wear a glove or don't grip the chisel too tightly." because it sounds really dirty.

  2. Eric, you never cease to amaze me with your talent and capacity to accidentally educate your readers.

    Who knew that Pausanias' talents also extended to haute cuisine? And here I was, labouring under the misapprehension that Michelin stars were a recent phenomenon! What a moron!

    Also, will be sure to keep your marble chiselling tips in mind to prevent future mishaps. Not only are you a creative chap, you're also the pinup guy of safety-first sculpting.

  3. *archives advise about chiselling as it may be useful one day when I decide to start sculpting*

  4. Those are very similar.

    You're probably right. You should go in search of these possibly missing books. You could be like an artsy Indiana Jones. That's hot.

  5. I think that's a pretty damned solid reasoning.

    Granted, this was before the rise of heraldry, but, if I remember correctly, this was about the same time that mottos were becoming all the rage, and with mottos came symbols, so why not use a symbol for yourself or your family.

    Weren't the Punic wars wrapping up around that time? Maybe he didn't want to get involved in that mess, and stayed clear of the southern Italian peninsula.

  6. Vegetable Assassin, hahaa, thanks, I've never been called a talented freak before.
    ps - I aim to please around here...

    Girl with the pink teacup, thanks for the compliment. Sorry, I had to include more accidental educationy stuff. It's indeed all about the Michelin Stars... :)

    Mo, you should give it a try! It's surprisingly relaxing given all the noise, hammers and sharp flying stone pieces. I thought you were already a master carver because I found your garden statue's toe in the ocean off the coast of France. You know, close to that cafe...

    Otherworldlyone, thanks I'm glad you see the similarity. I mean of the anchor/dolphin images, not me and Indiana Jones, because I clearly don't teach archaeology at Marshall College in Connecticut, lol.

    Mjenks, Thanks and good point about the motto / symbols. I think the Punic wars were over by the time the mosaic was done, since it was the first century AD, not BC. It is odd how close the symbols are, huh?

  7. So who was the Anthony Bourdain of that era, banging his way through the young ladies of the neoclassical world and occasionally stopping for some local cuisine?

  8. A man hammering a chisel would make a great picture for playgirl. You should look into it sometimes :)

    On a much more serious note. Why a dolphin swimming around an anchor? I have seen the same symbol on earrings, pendants and belly button rings.

    Great copy btw.

  9. That mosaic is sensational. You are really talented, as well as bored & neoclassical! :)

  10. Soda, maybe this guy was...
    ps - thanks for the award, I'll be putting it up this weekend.

    Dutch Donut Girl, With stone dust partially powdering my abs, no stone dust, or a mixture of both? lol
    That is a good point, maybe it was just such a common symbol, the one on Delos had nothing to do with Pausanias. Thanks, I like making the mosaics...

    Lidian thanks! It's about 7000 pieces with the border, all hand cut marble and travertine. Yes, I was bored, not enough to do the television game mentioned, but bored enough. :)

  11. No stone dust, please! It's very distracting. But please, for the love of all that is good & holy, don't strike questionable poses. Thank you.

  12. Hahaha, I was joking...

  13. I'd love to be in Greece right now...

    Very cool gig you've got!

  14. Ok, after more researching, the an earlier use of that particular symbol was when issued on a coin of roman emperor Titus Vespasianus back in 79AD, so the particular Delphi mosaic could be anyone that happened to be important at that time. Also, some articles say it's an old Greek saying because the dolphin is fast and the anchor is slow, some nonsense about balancing those two opposing forces...

  15. Oh, Hi there Christina, thanks for stopping by.

    Greece is fun for sure, were you ever there in the military? Just don't drive on Santorini cliffsides and it's all good.
    ps - just stopped by your site and like the Spongebob work, very creative!

  16. "Most people think the mosaic is a symbol of the Delian League related to the earlier general from the fifth century BC"

    Tcha. Honestly. Some people eh?

  17. Sorry you've hurt yourself, but accidents happen to even the most careful of craftsmen.

    Interesting about the dolphin image, is it a common theme in greek mosaic art?

  18. The Jules, 'Tcha', exactly... (I'm thinking about making a Tcha Tshirt. Maybe I'll call it a Tchart.

    Lulu - you are right, since Titus used it, it has been copied a bit. And it is supposed to be a juxtaposition of slow and careful vs. fast accomplishment.

  19. I'm sure your hand is tight b/c of chiseling...

    ha ha, j/k!!! ;o)

  20. Silly girl, it's my left hand, and yes, that is why. lol