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A page from a 1485 manuscript of the Ἑλλάδος περιήγησις (Helládos periḗgēsis; Description of Greece), a periegesis by the Greek traveller and geographer Pausanias (c. 110 – c. 180), from the collection of the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy


Borrowed from Koine Greek περιήγησις (periḗgēsis, the action of being shown around, as by a guide (chiefly in the titles of works)), from Ancient Greek περι- (peri-, peri-, prefix meaning ‘around, surrounding) + ἥγησις (hḗgēsis, command, leading) (from ἡγέομαι (hēgéomai, to lead) + -σῐς (-sis, suffix forming nouns)), from περιηγεῖσθαι (periēgeîsthai, to lead around); compare Late Latin periegesis. Cognate with Greek περιήγηση (periígisi, tour, sightseeing)



periegesis (plural periegeses)

  1. A description of an area or territory.
    a periegesis of Greece
    • 1797, “Dionysius”, in Colin Macfarquhar, editor, Encyclopædia Britannica; or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature; [...] In Eighteen Volumes, Greatly Improved, volume VI (DIA–ETH), 3rd edition, Edinburgh: Printed for A[ndrew] Bell and C[olin] Macfarquhar, OCLC 222789080, page 33, column 1:
      Dionysius, a learned geographer, to whom is attributed a Periegeſis, or Survey of the Earth, in Greek verse.
    • 1843 May, “Art. I.—1. Griechische Heroen Geschichten. Von B. G. Niebuhr an seinen Sohn erzählt. Hamburg, 1842. Grecian Heroic Stories; related by B[arthold] G[eorg] Niebuhr to his Son.”, in The Westminster Review, volume XXXIX, number LXXVII, American edition, New York, N.Y.: Published by Leonard Scott & Co., 112 Fulton Street, OCLC 507147293, page 158:
      [H]ad we been able to obtain a periegesis of Greece for the year 776 b.c., we should have discovered from one end of the country to the other nothing but legends, preached by the men of genius, received both with earnest emotion and with sincere faith by the hearers.
    • 1973, J. Otto [Otto John] Maenchen-Helfen, “Early Huns in Eastern Europe”, in Max Knight, editor, The World of the Huns: Studies in Their History and Culture, Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, →ISBN, pages 445–446:
      Where did Cassiodorus read that the Huns were the neighbors of the Seres, supposedly the Chinese? There is little doubt that his source was one of the popular compendia which, directly or indirectly, went back to Dionysius [Periegetes]' Periegesis. Cassiodorus recommended "the map of Dionysius" to his monks. It is not particularly significant that in both the Getica and the Periegesis the Caspian Sea is a gulf of the ocean; this was a belief held and combatted since the time of the Ionian geographers.
    • 1999, Christian Jacob, “Mapping in the Mind: The Earth from Ancient Alexandria”, in Denis [E.] Cosgrove, editor, Mappings (Critical Views), London: Reaktion Books, →ISBN:
      There is not a single ancient Greek source that depicts someone using maps in a practical situation. [] '[G]eographical knowledge' did not depend on maps, but on other media, such as travel reports, sea journeys and periegeses, descriptions of a particular country. Geography relied on words and discourses, on human memory.
    • 2001, Ian Rutherford, “Tourism and the Sacred: Pausanias and the Traditions of Greek Pilgrimage”, in Susan E[llen] Alcock, John F. Cherry, and Jaś Elsner, editors, Pausanias: Travel and Memory in Roman Greece, Oxford: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 45:
      A periegesis is usually understood to be a geographical catalogue, cast in the form of a tour, often of a local area but sometimes more extended in scope. The form is related to local history. Modem scholarship has established that there was a specifically periegetic form of historiography, stretching back at least to the third century b.c.; []
    • 2005, William Hutton, Describing Greece: Landscape and Literature in the Periegesis of Pausanias (Greek Culture in the Roman World), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, pages 271–272:
      This inquiry into Pausanias' generic affinities may seem to have come up with mostly negative results: the Periegesis is not a travel guide; it is not a geography; it is not a work like that of Herakleides Kritikos; it is not a full-blown imitation of Herodotean historiography, nor of Arrianic epistolography; it is not a periplous, and it is not, finally, a periegesis.
    • 2007, Maria Pretzler, “Approaching Pausanias' Periegesis”, in Pausanias: Travel Writing in Ancient Greece (Classical Literature and Society Series), London: Bloomsbury Academic, →ISBN, page 1:
      Few readers approach Pausanias' Periegesis from the beginning, sailing round Cape Sounion and arriving in Athens, before following his convoluted routes through Greece. Not many, in fact, have read the whole work, but almost anyone with an interest in ancient Greece will have 'come across' Pausanias – usually by looking up particular passages: the Periegesis contains useful material for many purposes.

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