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The Grand Tour of Antiquity: A Photo Gallery


The sun-bathed outposts of the Greek islands may now be invaded every summer by northern European tourists, but the culture-loving Romans were uninterested in the empty Aegean beaches, inhabited as they were only by illiterate goatherds and fishermen. The lonely sands of the islands merely reminded them of the grave. Instead, the first tourists sailed on merchant ships from Piraeus—generally sleeping on deck, gazing up at the stars while sipping a glass of Falernian wine—to make landfall at the islands of Delos and Rhodes, which were full of mythic associations. At Rhodes, they could still admire the remains of the famed Colossus, the giant metal statue that had fallen to earth during an earthquake. (Pliny the Elder reports climbing inside the shattered giant, broken at the knees, which he still regarded as one of the Wonders of the World).

When the orator Lucian visited in the second century. Like at mainland sites, he was exasperated by the persistent mystagogi, or guides ("those who show the sacred places to foreigners.") "Abolish lies from Greece," he railed, "and the guides would die of starvation, since nobody wants to hear the truth, even for free."

Squid drying at a fishing village on Rhodes. The only surviving Roman cookbook, by Apicius, includes a recipe for seafood stew—an incipient bouillabaisse.

A bronze statue of Poseidon, god of the sea. His fickle moods were a source of constant worry to ancient sailors, who offered regular sacrifices to him on their trips.

The harbor at Mykonos, jumping-off point for Delos.

The famous avenue of lions on the island of Delos, birthplace of the god Apollo. By the time ancient tourists were visiting, in the first century AD, this once-thriving Greek trading outpost had been all but abandoned. Even so, a hallowed shrine to Apollo was still thriving and luring pagan pilgrims (priests even showed off the tree that the goddess Leto had grasped while giving birth to the deity).

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in paperback as Pagan Holiday
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Also by Tony Perrottet:
The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games

What was it like to attend the ancient olympic games?

As the summer Olympics return to Athens, Tony Perrottet delves into the ancient world and lets the Greek Games begin again. The acclaimed author of Pagan Holiday brings attitude, erudition and humor to the fascinating story of the original Olympic festival, tracking the event day by day to re-create the experience in all its compelling spectacle.
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