Item of the Day: Travels of Anacharsis the Younger in Greece (1804)

Full Title: Travels of Anacharsis the Younger in Greece. During the middle of the fourth century, before the Christian era. Vol. I. By the Abbe Barthememi, Keeper of the Medals in the Cabinet of the King of France, and Member of the Royal Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres. Translated from the French. Vol. I. First American edition. Philadelphia: Published by Jacob Johnson & Co. . . . , 1804.[The following advertisement is taken from the popular novel by Jean Jacques Barthelemy, which recounts the narrative of Anacharsis, a young Scythian who travels to Greece in the fourth century B.C.].


I imagine a Scythian, named Anacharsis, to arrive in Greece, some years before the birth of Alexander; and that from Athens, the usual place of his residence, he makes several excursions into the neighborring [sic] provinces; every where observing the manners and customs of the inhabitants, being present at their festivals, and studying the nature of their governments; sometimes dedicating his leisure to enquiries relative to the progress of the human mind, and sometimes conversing with the great men who flourished at that time; with Epaminondas, Phocion, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, &c. As soon as he had seen Greece enslaved by Philip, the father of Alexander, he returns to Scythia, where he puts in order an account of his travels; and, to prevent any interruption in his narrative, relates in an introduction the memorable events which had passed in Greece before he left Scythia.

The aera I have chosen, which is one of the most interesting that the history of nations presents, may be considered in two points of view. With respect to literature and the arts, it connects the age of Pericles with that of Alexander. My Scythian has conversed with a number of Athenians, who had been intimately acquainted with Sophocles, Euripides, Artistophanes, Thucydides, Socrates, Zeuxis, and Parrhasius. I have mentioned some of the celebrated writers who were known to him. He has seen the masterly productions of Praxiteles, Euphranor, and Pamphilus, make their appearance, as also the first essays of Apelles and Protogenes; and in one of the latter years of his stay in Greece Epicurus and Menander were born.

Under the second point of view, this epocha is not less remarkable. Anacharsis was a witness to the revolution which changed the face of Greece, and which, some time after, destroyed the empire of the Persians. On his arrival, he found the your Philip with Epaminondas: he afterwards beheld him ascend the throne of Macedon; display, in his contests with the Greeks, during two and twenty years, all the resources of his genius; and, at length, compel those haughty republicans to submit to power.

I have chosen to write a narrative of travels rather than a history, because in such a narrative all is scenery and action; and because circumstantial details may be entered into which are not permitted to the historian. These details, when they have relation to manners and customs, are often only indicated by ancient authors, and have often given occasion to different opinions among modern critics. I have examined and discussed them all before I have made use of them; I have even, on a revisal, suppressed a great part of the, and ought perhaps to have suppressed still more.

I began this work in the year 1757, and, since that time, have never intermitted my labours to complete it.* I should not have undertaken it if, less captivated by the beauty of the subject, I had consulted my abilities more than my courage.

*These was written about the latter end of 1788, when the original work was published.


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Filed under 1800's, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel

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