Ensiform's Reviews > Route 66 A.D.: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists

Route 66 A.D. by Tony Perrottet
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Mar 02, 13

bookshelves: historical, non-fiction, travel
Read in August, 2011

The author travels to the Mediterranean, attempting to retrace the de rigeur world tour of ancient Roman patricians, from Greece to Italy to Egypt, from Pompeii to the Parthenon to the Pyramids. (He also brings along his pregnant girlfriend, who is a considerable trooper to put up with the squalor he puts her through.) He encounters the usual lying guides, touts, and absurd bureaucrats. Along the way he drops anecdotes about ancient tourists and the similar obstacles they encountered; discusses the maps, guide books, and graffiti made by Roman travelers; and emphasizes the loud, colorful spectacle that the area has always been, perhaps more so in ancient times than even now.

Written with vigor and some wit, this is a travel book that makes history come alive. Communing with the past through texts and ruins, Perrottet gets close enough to the ancients that he can hear and feel them (quite literally, in the case of the mummy of Thutmose), and he does an admirable job conveying what he learns. Of particular interest are the parallels and contrasts between modern tourists and the ancient Romans, from hedonistic beach parties to buying trinkets at holy sites. An intelligent and interesting book, and full of fascinating historical nuggets.
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