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Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists Paperback – April 8, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375756396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375756399
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #869,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

From Rome to Naples to Greece and the islands of the Aegean Sea, then on into the land of Cleopatra, ancient Romans followed the path of their conquering armies in search of adventure. Like 21st-century sightseers, Roman tourists were hustled in and out of temples by professional tour guides and treated to sideshows by clever priests who charged hefty prices for a glimpse of a Cyclops's skull or a Gorgon's hair. They were also subjected to bad food and hard mattresses in roadside inns from Pompeii to Aswan. To prove that little has changed over the centuries, New York Times travel writer Perrottet takes us on a modern-day tour of the Roman Empire. Accompanied by his girlfriend, Perrottet follows the map drawn by Roman war hero Marcus Agrippa, traveling from Rome to Egypt along many of the same routes used by Horace and Pliny. The result is a fascinating and often humorous look at a world long gone and the tourist culture that has grown up around it. Perrottet's writing sparkles with descriptions of modern and ancient misadventures. The accompanying photographs enhance the narrative and help make this book a good purchase for any library. Mary V. Welk, Chicago
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

The need for perpetual motion has always been Tony Perrottet's most obvious personality disorder. While studying history at Sydney University, the Australian-born Perrottet regularly disappeared hitch-hiking through the Outback, sailing the coast of Sumatra or traveling through rural India (enjoying a brief and inglorious career as a film extra in Rajasthan). After graduation, he moved to South America to work as a "roving correspondent," where he covered the Shining Path war in Peru, drug running in Colombia and several military rebellions in Argentina. A brief visit to Manhattan fifteen years ago convinced him that New York was the ideal place for a rootless wanderer to be based. From his current home in the East Village of Manhattan, he has continued to commute to Iceland, Tierra del Fuego, Wyoming, Tasmania and Zanzibar, while contributing to international publications including the New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Slate, Esquire, Outside and the London Sunday Times.

Perrottet is the author of five books - a collection of travel stories, Off the Deep End: Travels in Forgotten Frontiers (1997); Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists (2002); The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Greek Games (2004); Napoleon's Privates: 2500 Years of History Unzipped (2008); and The Sinner's Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe (2011, Broadway Books). His travel stories have been widely anthologized and have been selected four times for the Best American Travel Writing series. He is also a regular television guest on the History Channel, where he has spoken about everything from the Crusades to the birth of disco.

Customer Reviews

I've read it three times, this book was a gift for my grandson who also loves history.
Wrapid Wreader
A very enjoyable read and recommended for anyone interested in ancient social history as well as for anyone who has traveled around the Med.
Wallace V. French III
I like the way Perrottet blended in the stories of the present with travel stories of the past.
Kevin Brianton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Wallace V. French III on October 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I have spent the last few weeks reading this great book and just finished it. The idea that ancient Romans had to go through some of the same things we go through as tourists is incredible. The author puts a somewhat funny spin on his travels throughout the Mediterranean, but along the way he tells stories of ancient tourists like Seneca, Titus, Nero, and Vespasian. So you actually get two stories in one. His modern day travels and the travels of the ancients. It is interesting that the Romans had things like road side rest areas, mile markers on the roads, and star type ratings for lodging. They also had to put up with the same kind of things you put up with today when you travel around the Med. Beggars and scammers at the port, long lines to see anything, bad food, and all of this without air conditioning. He describes what the areas were like so well that you can really get a feel for what it may have been like during Roman times. He describes Rome as the New York City of the day and Naples as the Hamptons and Baiea as Daytona Beach just to name a few. His travels take him from Rome to Naples to Brindisi via the Appian Way, then he sails to Greece and the islands, then to Turkey. The author has several humorous and interesting anecdotes as well. Just to share one...He tells of how Julius Caesar was captured by pirates and held for ransom on his way to Rhodes. After they had got to port and the pirates received the ransom Julius told them he was going to find them, get the ransom back, and kill every last one of them. He did just that; hired a fleet, tracked the pirates, got the ransom back, and nailed them all to a cross old school style. A very enjoyable read and recommended for anyone interested in ancient social history as well as for anyone who has traveled around the Med.
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100 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Michael C. Browning on February 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Up until this moment, Tony Perrottet has led a happy life. Gambolling along like the jolly jumbuck of his native land's anthem, "Waltzing Matilda," the Australian writer has skipped in fleecy lambkin innocence across the green meadows and bosky dells of human existence.

Joyous, exuberant, he even wrote a book, "Route 66 AD, On The Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists." He has been interviewed by NPR, he has freelanced for The New York Times, Esquire and the Sunday Times of London. All seemed sunny.

He little dreamt, that in the dark fens of Palm Beach County, there lurked an alligator in the form of a failed classicist, who had majored in Latin and minored in Greek at Columbia University. There had the monster lain for weary years, nursing its dark hunger, watchful. Within the beast's reptilian brain there lay but one primordial law: Vengeance against intruders who dared venture within the sacred precincts of the Classics, joking, unarmed and unprepared!

A cosmic convergence has brought the frisking lamb within jaw-grasp of the alligator. Reader, if you are squeamish, if you cannot stand the sight of literary gore, avert your pitying eyes! What follows will be a massacre!

Let me begin smilingly: At least 20 percent of this book is unassailably accurate. Another 30 percent might conceivably, on an overcast day, situationally, theoretically, by a long stretch of imagination, be marginally plausible. The parts about Perrottet's own journey through the Mediterranean are, I suppose, true, at least in his mind and recollection.

The rest is utterly wrong. In fact the whole book is wrong in principle. The Greeks and Romans were not, save for a few hardy exceptions, great travellers, let alone tourists.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Tim F. Martin on April 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
_Pagan Holiday_ by Tony Perrottet is both an amusing and interesting travel book and an excellent history focused on the very first age of tourism, the age of Roman tourism. With the advent of a massive, highly detailed and for the time very accurate map unveiled in 5 B.C. (completed by the Roman war hero Marcus Agrippa), the completion and extension of Rome's glorious highway system, the acceptance of Roman currency even to the farthest reaches of the Empire, two unifying common languages (Greek and Latin), and the Pax Romana (the longest unbroken period of peace in European history, lasting roughly from 30 B.C. to A.D. 200), the world was open to legions of Roman tourists. These viatores or peregrinatores (wayfarers; also called spectatores or sightseers) would go on what he called the original Grand Tour, journeying to resorts in other parts of the Italian peninsula, to sacred and historical sites in Greece (the Hellenic "greatest hits" including Athens, Delphi, Olympia, Sparta, and Epidaurus), the Olympic games if possible, to the ruins of Troy, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the exotic and fantastic ruins in Egypt (which to first century A.D. spectatores were mostly enigmatic relics from a forgotten epoch, nearly as ancient to the Romans as they are to us today). Across the entire Mediterranean world a complex tourist infrastructure arose to cater to the needs of the Roman traveler. Perottet sought to both describe the experiences of the Roman tourists - who they were, what they saw, how they traveled, and the difficulties they encountered - and to replicate their travels as closely as possible, to show to the modern reader what they might have been like and to describe the ruins as they appear today.

I found the parallels between Roman and modern tourism quite striking.
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