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The Grand Tour of Antiquity: A Photo Gallery

Turkey (Asia Minor)

Turkey—the Roman province of Asia Minor—was the perfect place for ancient tourists to relax from the rigors of travel. The coast was populated by sophisticated Greeks, and dotted with regal cities like Ephesus and health spas like Pergamum, which were far wealthier and more glamorous than Athens. Romans would unwind in magnificent bath houses, take in the gladiatorial shows at sumptuous amphitheaters, and enjoy invitations to magnificent banquets—with every pleasure raised to an Oriental peak of luxury. Today, Turkey is still a vacationer's paradise, while the ruins along its coastline are actually more impressive and better-preserved than most sites in Greece.

Tepidarium (1881), by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema; a Roman woman unwinds, evidently drained, after a steam bath.

Ephesus is one of the great historical sites of the Mediterranean—an entirely preserved Roman port, complete with splendid highways, arenas and mansions. As one of the Empire's wealthiest cities, it is much more impressive than Pompeii: Strolling its grand boulevards, you can almost hear and smell the ancients at work and play.

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus, one of the most perfectly restored of all ancient buildings.

A gulet, a wooden-hulled Turkish yacht, cruises the coast of Lycia, now known as the Turquoise Coast. A Blue Cruise around this pristine stretch of Turkey allows travelers to glimps the Mediterranean as it may have looked to Homer.

Islands in the Gulf of Gocek—where Daedelus and Icarus took off for their fateful flight.

Istanbul seen from the Golden Horn. One of the world's great cities was built on the site of a scrappy and modest Greek port known as Byzantium. Roman tourists would occasionally come here to catch merchant ships heading south.

A re-creation of the Trojan Horse, by the ruins of Troy. Under the Empire, patriotic Romans flocked here on "roots" tours, to see the great sites mentioned by Homer. For a fee, the Trojans led visitors to counterfeit sites like the tomb of the mighty Achilles, where they could sacrifice, and temples supposedly housing the comb of Helen and lyre of Paris, the whole time reciting key passages from the Iliad. Occasionally, the giant bones of ancient warriors would be unearthed—actually dinosaur bones—and placed reverentially for inspection by awed tourists. Few could resist such magical offerings. The Emperor Hadrian himself even traveled here to re-bury the skeleton of the hero Ajax.


Other Editions Available:
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Now published in the US
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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