The ancient Romans were responsible for many remarkable achievements—Roman numerals, straight roads—but one of their lesser-known contributions was the creation of the tourist industry. The first people in history to enjoy safe and easy travel, Romans embarked on the original Grand Tour, journeying from the lost city of Troy to the Acropolis, from the Colossus at Rhodes to Egypt, for the obligatory Nile cruise to the very edge of the empire. And, as Tony Perrottet discovers, the popularity of this route has only increased with time.
Intrigued by the possibility of re-creating the tour, Perrottet, accompanied by his pregnant girlfriend, sets off to discover life as an ancient Roman. The result is this lively blend of fascinating historical anecdotes and hilarious personal encounters, interspersed with irreverent and often eerily prescient quotes from the ancients—a vivid portrait of the Roman Empire in all its complexity and wonder.
Just when it seemed certain that travel writers had exhausted the pantheon of destinations, Perrottet offers a fresh perspective by taking the road most traveled. From Rome to Naples to Sparta to Cairo, Perrottet traces the favorite itinerary of ancient Romans in search of adventure and culture abroad. adapting a truly classic journey. Much as the English gentry invaded "the continent" in the waning years of the British Empire, the well-to-do citizens of ancient Rome were ubiquitous and presumptuous when traveling through Asia Minor with their convoys of servants and luggage, and perhaps a portable mosaic swimming pool. Perrottet, whose provisions and entourage consist of a precious copy of the world's oldest known guidebook and his gamely pregnant wife, diligently puts himself at the mercy of the malevolent hoteliers, sullen bureaucrats and teeming masses of a Mediterranean summer, all in the name of embracing the same tedious truths that plagued tourists in the age of Plutarch. When it comes to souvenirs, rented transportation and mercenary guides, it appears there really is nothing new under the sun. Perrottet, an Australian-born freelance writer living in New York, presents a delightful reminder of how little men and women of leisure have changed. His wry personal account blends seamlessly with his historical narrative, which is based mostly on secondary sources. As he tells it, first-century tourist traps rise from the page in scenes so familiar and vibrant that it becomes difficult to discern whether the past is present or the present, past. That temporal illusion is this book's real triumph. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.