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Ancient Roman Tourists

Route 66 A.D.: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists by Australian author Tony Perrottet chronicles how ancient Rome invented the world’s first tourist industry by sending their citizens on the original “Grand Tour” of famous sites in the ancient world.

Along this route, Romans visited places like Troy, the Athenian Acropolis, the ruins of the fallen Colossus at Rhodes, and the Pyramids of Egypt—to name just a few hot spots.

In this book, Perrottet used ancient texts and maps to follow in the footsteps of ancient Romans eager to see the world they conquered. He shares many of the anecdotes from these texts that describe “bad food, inadequate accommodations, and pushy tour guides” that demonstrate how little travel has changed between the present day and the time of Roman emperors.

Much of the book compares and contrasts past and present sites. Humorously, the author describes the Pompeii McDonalds where he began his tour to Rome, Naples, Sparta, Athens, the Aegean Islands and Cairo. A modern-day tour of the Roman Empire, the book weaves past and present together seamlessly making us wish we were there despite the crummy mattresses and ridiculous souvenirs.

Perrottet offers accounts of the Delphi where ancient travelers flocked to “the world’s ultimate oracle” and describes island-hopping in the Aegean as a “mini-odyssey.” While he and his travel companion faced certain hardships on their journey, he explained the real dangers that would have plagued ancient Roman travelers that included regional disease, bandits, rough seas and pirates. He discusses how Julius Caesar himself was kidnapped by pirates on his way to Rhodes for ransom.

Of particular delight are the author’s descriptions of Ephesus of Asia Minor. His text reconstructs the glittering streets, the gates and library of this spectacular place that “competes with Pompeii as the ultimate Roman archaeological site.” He also described the “erotic ballerinas” that predated the exotic belly dancers of the region.

In any case, this book recreates the well-worn path of ancient Romans as well as how they lived on the road. They explored and they succumbed to many vices of particular areas, but as one Roman gravestone suggests, “baths, wine, sex may ruin our bodies, but they make life worth living.”

Submitted by:

Sharon Stajda

For more information, visit Development Of The Roman Empire.




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