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The Grand Tour of Antiquity: A Photo Gallery


Imperial Rome was the New York of its day—a vast, gangling, bloated organism, teetering on the verge of complete logistical collapse, far and away the largest concentration of humanity the world had ever seen. With over one million inhabitants by the end of the first century AD, it was ten times the size of classical Athens, and immeasurably more spectacular. Living in this teeming city, the self-ordained Capital of the World, was hopelessly addictive: For the intrepid Romans about to leave on their Grand Tours, a journey that would take them away for years, the prospect of departure was bittersweet.

View of the Forum Romanum from the Capitoline Hill. This was the ancient site of Rome's most sacred temple, dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the King of the Gods. Roman travelers would come here to gaze over their beloved city for one last time and make promises to Jupiter in return for a safe journey.

Fragments of a statue of the Emperor Constantine on display at the Museo del Campidoglio (which occupies the site of the temple to Jupiter). Only a fraction of the fabulous imperial city survives today; the ancient streets are buried under thirty feet of debris.

The Colosseum, site of imperial gladiatorial shows. These extravaganzas, which often involved elaborate props, music and scenery, were the Cats and Les Mis of their day, luring thousands of wide-eyed provincials to Rome.

Centurions pose for tourists in front of the Colosseum today, wearing outfits left over from the popular sword-and-sandal epics filmed in Italy.

The Pantheon, or temple to all the gods—the only intact pagan temple to have survived from ancient times (the others were all destroyed by Christians during the Middle Ages, their masonry cannibalized to build cathedrals). In the imperial era, the interior of its dome was covered with silver and lined with dozens of gilded statues.

The Appian Way—Queen of Highways—Rome's route to the East. In ancient times, it was lined with tombs and mausoleums, with striking inscriptions for travelers to read: I ADVISE YOU TO ENJOY LIFE MORE THAN I DID! proclaimed one.

Chariot race in the Circus Maximus, from the 1926 silent film, Ben-Hur.

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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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