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Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  452 ratings  ·  67 reviews
The ancient Romans were responsible for many remarkable achievements—Roman numerals, straight roads—but one of their lesser-known contributions was the creation of the tourist industry. The first people in history to enjoy safe and easy travel, Romans embarked on the original Grand Tour, journeying from the lost city of Troy to the Acropolis, from the Colossus at Rhodes to ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 8th 2003 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  452 ratings  ·  67 reviews

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Feb 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: morbid-books
Faced with an impending travel moratorium (his girlfriend became pregnant), Tony Perrottet took the family-to-be on the road to explore the route laid out by the original adventure travelers. The results are sometimes poignant, often very funny, and always backed by fascinating research. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

For the first time in the history of the world, a class of people had the disposable income and curiosity to travel. The Pax Romana made the adventure relatively safe; p
Aug 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Today I didn't leave the house. But I ended up taking a vicarious journey following the path of the ancient tourists courtesy of Tony Perrottet. Something around 2 AD a first cohesive map on known world was unveiled encouraging the early tourists to go explore and 2000 year later the author set off to retrace their sandaled steps. There is a strong masochistic anxiety inducing quality to Perrottet's traveling, he goes places one wouldn't want to go, stays in accommodations that seem straight up ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Pretty good travel read on Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt. Lot of good sight descriptions and trial and tribulations of hotels and inns. In parts especially about the inn's it reminded me of Tobias Smollett's 18th century book, Travel's Through France and Italy. ...more
Deborah Ideiosepius
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves travel or the Roman empire
This was a very fun book to read: The author combines a clear love of history and his travel experience to write an excellent description of tourism in the Roman empire.

Beginning in Rome with the unveiling of Jupiter's Panorama in the year 5 BCE (or BC)the author tracks the Roman's desire to travel around their empire. There are a staggering number of parallels between the Roman tourist industry two thousand odd years ago, and the modern tourism industry today, these similarities are narrated in
Erik Graff
Sep 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Pax Romana fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: travel
Author Perrottet intersperses his own travel from Rome to Naples to Greece to Turkey and finally to the upper Nile at Aswan, approximating 'the Grand Tour' of an aristocratic Roman during the relatively peaceful centuries when the Mediterranean was 'a Roman lake', with surviving records of vacationers from that era. The emphasis is on parallels, on similarities. The tone is humorous. The presentation is easy going, even for those without much background in classical antiquity or Egyptology. A sl ...more
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this. Read it when I was in Turkey several years ago, and have been thinking it's due for a reread. ...more
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended by a friend - good choice. Great for those who appreciate history the most when it is compared to modern day (Blue Latitudes, for example.) Witty and very interesting, this dip into the travels of Romans back in the day compared to a current trip to Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt was engaging - especially, I expect, for those of us who have also visited these places.
Alex Telander
Tony Perrottet has written a travel book about tourists, but these tourists had never been seen by the world. Route 66 A.D. is not just a travel book, but a history book, for its real characters are tourists of ancient Rome, who began an industry which has become one of the greatest money-making industries in the known world, and in many cases is what towns and cities depend on for survival.

Perrottet became interested in the subject of ancient tourism when he discovered the oldest guidebook in t
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book - though the current version, now in paperback is actually titled Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists. Perrottet believes the Romans were the originators of tourism. The author has a very good sense of humor and of the absurd, as he and his pregnant fiancée trace the route of the Grand Tour for the ancient Roman. He cites ancient texts, letters, and even graffiti to show that problems plaguing modern travelers are all too common across the ages (i.e. ...more
Jenny T
Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, read-in-2010
This book fired up my wanderlust something fierce. The author follows the trail of Ancient Roman tourists, from Rome to Naples, Greece, the Mediterranean islands, Turkey, Troy, and finally Egypt, revealing fascinating little tidbits about ancient travel. The book is also half travelogue, as he recounts the adventures of himself and his very pregnant wife as they visit these sites, looking for signs of the ancient in some very modern places. Both hilarious and insightful, this book was an absolut ...more
Rebecca Huston
Aug 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a rollicking, funny read, about tourists on the road in the Roman Empire. And if you think travel delays, gouging innkeepers, bad food, bad service and the like are a new phenomena, nope, it seems that travel was just as wretched then as it can be now. You'll recognize many of the attitudes and comments. A great, very funny, read.

For the complete review, please go here:
Vicki Cline
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-history
The author and his pregnant girlfriend travel to places the well-to-do ancient Romans would have gone. They encounter problems the ancients would have had to put up with (unpleasant landlords) as well as more modern ones (a car that keeps breaking down). They visit Olympia, the site of the ancient games, the supposed site of Troy, Ephesus, Rhodes, Alexandria and the pyramids and many more. There's an description of ancient Latin-Greek phrasebooks that appear to have been used while on vacation a ...more
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I so enjoyed this book! It's well written and well researched. I never gave a thought to the ancients going on tours or vacations until I found this book! One of the funnier anecdotes was ancients leaving graffiti on places they visited! Too funny! After reading this book, I kind of think maybe all of our ancestors took some sort of vacations in their day. Maybe not as elaborate as today's (or even the Roman's day), but simply moving on to another area to see first hand some place another tribe ...more
Tim Martin
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
_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 (Gree ...more
Nigel McFarlane
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book has brought the ancient world alive like nothing I've ever read before. Tony Perrottet follows the tourist "grand tour" taken by wealthy Romans, accompanied by his heavily-pregnant girlfriend, armed with a Roman guidebook, and taking a determinedly low-budget approach. Along the way we discover than the first 200-odd years of the Roman empire were an age of mass tourism, when tens of thousands of Romans took advantage of the political stability and good roads to visit sites in Italy, G ...more
A delightful book.

The author and his spouse take a vacation to the eastern Mediterranean (Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt), following an ancient Roman (circa 2nd century A.D.) guidebook - a sort of last fling before parenthood experience. I enjoyed it because Tony and Lesley experiences reminded me of Marcus Didius Falco and his spouse Helena Justina in the mystery series by Lindsay Davis. See Delphi and Die in particular. The crowds crowding every tourist site. ("Crowds are good." Tony's mant
Jul 19, 2019 rated it did not like it
Mildly amusing jokes sprinkled among the lists of “what I read about a feature of antiquity “
Jarring insertions of personal tales of poor decision making and lack of travel planning into discriptions of historic places
Stopped reading shortly after being told first century poets who won competitions were awarded crowns of corn leaves
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italia
There needs to be a special 'tone' and pace for this genre of books to work and this one is first rate. Following the footsteps of Roman travellers on their Grande Tour with modern day misadventures. Why couldn't high school history be this enjoyable? ...more
Liam Cheasty
May 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Interesting read but the author's style is irritating.
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you enjoy travel books AND ancient history, you'll love this book ...more
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Nice blend of history and travel writing. Felt bad for the fellow's pregnant wife, though. Seemed like she had a rough time of it. ...more
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Historical and funny

This book is a lot of fun. It is half history and half travelogue. I recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys either category.
Nemo Erehwon
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaning travelogue of man and pregnant wife retracing same tourist route used by the Romans during the Pax Romana. He juxtaposes ancient travelogues with his current adventures to demonstrate the timeless concerns of tourists; finding a safe place to sleep, finding a safe place to eat, finding a safe way to travel, and the various sites of historical import to the Roman minds.

While I would have preferred a little more history, it is interesting to see how human concerns about being strangers
Mary Soderstrom
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Earlier I said I'd be posting about road books: at the time I was thinking of novels of quest and self-discovery. But in the last few weeks I've also read three entertaining, informative (and in one case extremely thought-provoking) books about road trips.

The first is relatively recent: Taras Grescoe's Straphanger. Published in 2012, its subtitle might seem in conflict with the idea of a road book: "Saving our cities and ourselves from the automobile." But Grescoe roamed the world to look at the
Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Heather
Shelves: nonfiction, anthro, travel
A book that combines ancient history with travel writing--you'd think I'd be thrilled, right? I don't know, it was just so-so for me. I honestly wanted more of Perrottet's own travels and experiences (although I know the point was kind of that he's submersing himself in the ancient to avoid what's going on in his life right now). And it seemed like a lot of the ancient history he covered wasn't new to me--I mean, yes, it's ancient Greece, we all know about Zeus and we know about the Parthenon, b ...more
Sonia Monika Wilson
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, rome, classics
I first read this book a decade ago when it was published and liked it. On re-reading, with the benefit of years and a couple of degrees in Roman history, I was prepared to be harsh to my teenaged-self’s assessment and grumpily award only 2 or 3 stars; but it ended up winning me over again. This is a fun, breezy, ancient Roman themed beach read. It is jauntily but articulately written and chock-full of interesting facts about the first two centuries of the Roman Empire. I wish I had a pile of be ...more
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
I always enjoy offbeat travel books. The author came up with the idea of recreating the 'grand tour' of roman times. He packs up his pregnant girlfriend and travels through Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt. However some of the things he wants to see are no longer on the beaten path. And they're on a budget which makes some of their choices limited. Who would really want to rent a Russian car called a Donko? And then what do you do when the window won"t roll back up?
He ends up in many interesting
Dec 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
I really enjoyed this one - though the version I read is actually called Route 66 AD. The author has a very good sense of humor and the absurd, and traces the route ancient roman tourists would have taken in their times. He cites ancient texts, letters and even graffiti to show that problems plaguing modern travelers are all too common across the ages. I couldn't put this down and probably annoyed my friends and family by constantly reading parts of the book to them. In addition to a fascinating ...more
Donny Hilgeman
Jun 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, e-book
Very excited this book is available on Kindle. Had the book a few years ago but lost it before I finished. It was funny and very fascinating. The author and his pregnant wife decide to follow the route of ancient Roman tourists going on holiday. Amazingly, ancient Rome had written travel guides, rating systems, tour guides and rentals. Complaints about inns and food could easily translate into modern times. With our upcoming Rome cruise, decided this would be a great book to re-read and finish. ...more
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