Map reveals where the Romans went on holiday – you can visit too | Tech News


No reason to w(h)ine when you’re holidaying like a Roman (Picture: Getty)

What did the Romans ever do for us? Well arguably, they created the most important thing of all. Holidays. 

Inventing the proper way to vacay, despite the time and expense, citizens of the Roman Empire still managed to create a way for safe travel as they trotted around different continents. 

It wasn’t for everyone – it was vastly expensive – but still, the idea of packing up and jetting (well, sailing) off appealed as much to people then as it does now.

Oxford University’s Dr Matthew Nicholls, also a visiting professor of classics at the University of Reading, told Metro.co.uk: ‘Travel in the ancient world was expensive and slow.

‘You’d need to be able to take weeks or months away from earning an income, and pay for slow, expensive travel by road or ship.

‘For many people leisure time where they lived was important – hence the importance of city festivals, arena games, spectacular bathhouses etc in the imperial culture of “bread and circuses” [the idea of keeping people happy with superficial trappings].

‘These were all things for urban populations to enjoy in their spare time.’

But for those lucky enough to be able to venture further afield, where did they go?

How many Roman holiday hotspots have you been to? (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

The staycation of dreams 

Not all Romans travelled from Rome, but for those who did live in the Empire’s home city, where would they travel in the country?

The upper classes decamped to the countryside (sounds familiar even today), purchasing vacation villas dotted in the suburbs of the grandiose city. Here they would lounge around beneath the Mediterranean sunshine, and eat grapes, presumably. 

According to Dr Nicholls, these villas may also have had farmland attached, plus gardens, statue collections and libraries. Plots where landscape and sea views were popular.

Roman writer Pliny the Younger wrote about his coastal home in Laurentina in the early 2nd Century.

‘You are surprised that I am so fond of my Laurentine, or (if you prefer the name) my Laurens,’ he wrote. ‘But you will cease to wonder when I acquaint you with the beauty of the villa, the advantages of its situation, and the extensive view of the sea-coast.

‘It is only seventeen miles from Rome: so that when I have finished my business in town, I can pass my evenings here after a good satisfactory day’s work.’

The rich also went to the coast of Campania by the Tyrrhenian Sea, and Capri is where one emperor, Tiberius, built his resort villa. 

Modern-day Capri (Picture: Getty)

But elsewhere, resorts in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Baiae in Naples were popular, attracting people from across the country. 

One particularly magnificent villa in Herculaneum, famed for its unique preservation of 1,800 scrolls following the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE, was owned by the father-in-law of one Julius Caesar.

Baiae was a famous resort town full of bathhouses, leading to various emperors building coastal villas. Emperor Tiberius, Dr Nicholls says, constructed luxury seafront dining caves at Sperlonga and Capri, while Nero built his resorts at Antium. 

Unfortunately by the end of the Empire these resorts were teeming with corruption and hedonism – but instead of avoiding them, people just attended with bodyguards.

Going further afield

Some Romans were able to travel further from their homeland, where foreign destinations such as Greece was popular for those completing their education. Others went as far as the Middle East, Africa and even rainy old England.

Greece 

The Acropolis, Greece (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)

The Romans would, when the time was right, travel to Greece to watch the Olympic Games, as well as other Ancient Greek events such as the Nemean Games. 

And much like us today, they would visit Greek temples and marvel at their immense and ornate construction. And of course in those days, Romans had the benefit of them not being ruins…

In the Roman religion, which had no official name but is a form of polythesim, there is an emphasis on death, and often Roman tourists would visit the Oracle of Delphi. 

Many believed that the Oracle, the Greek High Priestess Pythia, channelled the exact words of the god Apollo, the Greek God of prophecies and truth.

And who doesn’t love a bit of Island hopping? 

Basking in the Grecian sun, the Romans visited the islands of Lesbos, Rhodes, and Chios for a bit of beach holiday time.

Here they also had the added attraction of seeing the Colossus of Rhodes, a magnificent statue of the Greek sun god Helios and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We have to rely on AI for a glimpse.

Egypt

A view of the great pyramids, Giza, Egypt. (Picture: Getty)

Ancient Egypt is older than the Roman Empire, and the mystery that shrouds the their way of life intrigued the Romans as much as it does us. 

It seems they were pretty gullible tourists too, as the Egyptians reportedly told false information to the Romans to make cash off them.

Nevertheless, the country drew in the Romans in droves, where they could gaze at the Pyramids of Giza and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, another long-gone Wonder of the Ancient World. 

Other attractions included the Serapeum of Saqqara, a sacred burial site, while we know from the famous love affair between Caesar and Cleopatra that boats trips were an option too.

And just as today, it seems some tourists wanted to leave their mark. 

Even though padlocks had been invented by this point, according to Dr Nicholls it seems graffiti was also on the cards, as shown by poems left by the aristocratic traveller Julia Balbilla on an ancient Egyptian statue at Thebes.



Where did the Romans stay?

In a Roman version of Airbnb, tourists often stayed on the estates of local families with so-called ‘hospitium publicum’ (public hospitality).

Commercial inns also played a part for far away residents.

Dr Nicholls says ‘mansios’ acted as an overnight stop for military travellers, but said private travellers could probably also stay there – examples can still be seen at Silchester and Caerwent in Britain. 

Horace, a Roman poet, describes a voyage through Italy from Rome to Brindisi – a diplomatic mission, not a holiday – and details where he stayed, including stopping off at inns in little towns along the way.

He grumbled about the variable quality of food and water, travel on a mule-drawn barge with noisy frogs at night and fights among the bargemen.

England

The Roman baths in Bath, Somerset(Picture: Getty)

While there was an opportunity to go to Egypt or Greece, many people opted to come to England… for a spa day. 

Bath’s Roman Spas are the jewel of the city. Next to the baths sat the Temple of Minerva, with a larger tourist town filled with houses, shops, places to stay and even a theatre. 

Bath was even mentioned in a Roman travel book, meaning the town was famous throughout the Empire, inviting visitors to come along. 

The Middle East

The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria (Picture: Getty)

Romans travelled to the Middle East in search of the Arab sun.

With the same allure as Bath, the region also boasted the replenishing qualities of the Dead Sea.


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