Tourism and holidays are not just modern inventions. Already in Roman times, the inhabitants of the Empire often travelled and went on vacation. The Romans began to travel on a massive scale during the reign of Octavian Augustus (reigned 27 BCE – 14 CE).
This was due to the fact that the country enjoyed exceptional stability within its borders, and land and sea routes were safe as never before. Ancient tourists could also count on the help of professional guides and tour guides. The wonders of antiquity and places associated with mythological events were particularly popular. Hence, the Romans travelled mainly to Greece, Asia Minor and Egypt. Naturally, they also went to closer places, e.g. on the Apennine peninsula itself.
Greece was specially loved, which was the mainstay of the Old World for the Romans. They went to Athens, a place that was associated with Socrates, Plato, the Parthenon and the Acropolis. From there, they often went to the Aegean Sea, where it was also possible to bargain with the captain of the ship and go on a further journey. Numerous Greek islands inhabited by fishermen and shepherds were visited. Most travellers, however, went to modern Turkey (Asia Minor), one of the richest provinces of the Empire. The main purpose of the trip to Asia Minor was to the ruins of Troy, which were surrounded by an aura of mystery for those of the time.
The next destination was Egypt, and especially Alexandria, an exotic place for the Romans. Certainly, the incredibly powerful pyramids were also seen and the Nile swam. Such a long journey and vacation lasted from 2 to 5 years.
It is worth mentioning who such Roman travellers usually were. They were rich Romans – ancients, poets, writers or lawyers who had a huge amount of money. They treated such an expedition as a further stage of their education. It was believed that only seeing the great monuments of the world and the possibility of discussing or communing with Greek philosophy on the Acropolis would allow them to become fulfilled and enlightened people.
Finally, it should be added that the oldest guide in the world is the work of Pausanias from around 160 CE “Wanderings across Hellada”. This guide to Hellas in 10 books contains an account of Pausanias from his numerous travels – he describes the various lands of Greece: monuments, and local cults. Pausanias’ style is very rich, he develops individual descriptions, supplementing them mainly with historical and mythological information. The work of Pausanias is a valuable historical source. It is used by geographers and archaeologists, to locate ancient towns, and by art historians, and reconstruct the appearance of ancient temples and other buildings. His work is also used by historians of ancient religions, due to the information about little-known or otherwise unknown local cults. The first book of the treatise describes Attica and Megara, the second Corinth, Sicyon, Argolis, the third Laconia, the fourth Messenia, the fifth and sixth Elida, the seventh Achaia, the eighth Arcadia, the ninth Boeotia, and the tenth Phocis.