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Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists Paperback – Apr 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: 13.2 x 2.1 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #237,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alf R. Bergesen on June 29 2004
Format: Paperback
If you have any interest in Classical history (especially the more human, socio-economic and religious aspects) and/or enjoy tongue-in-cheek travel writing by authors such as Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods) and Tony Horwitz (Confederates in the Attic), then pick up Tony Perrotet's illuminating and hillarious look at tourism, ancient and modern. At just under fifteen dollars, this book provides entertainment and erudition without the need for mortgaging the home on airfare, Mediterranean tourist trap hotels, Russian made rent-a-car deathtraps or dodging terrorists at the Valley of the Kings. Pagan Holiday is a a great summer escape!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr V on Nov. 20 2003
Format: Hardcover
Written in the style and maturity of an undergraduate term paper, and just as boring. The author opens each chapter with a short anecdote from his trip, usually about his girlfriend, and then proceeds to fill several pages with tired and repetitive historical information. At times I found myself wondering if the author actually had made the trip, as his anecdotes were so trite (read the section on a diving expedition). His traveling companion girlfriend comes across as the more interesting of the pair, but can't save this narrative from tedium.
Try something by William Dalrymple instead
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Format: Paperback
In the year 5 BC, the Roman Emperor Augustus was presented with a small oval map of the known world. A larger version was hung in the public colonnade. There the public could see the known world as it stretched from Spain to Britain to India to Arabia to Northern Africa. For its time the map itself was a feat. A team of Roman scientists had poured over the charts of surveyors sent to every corner of the Empire. The map inspired the first tourist industry in the world. The Grand Tour of Antiquity started in Rome, of course, wound through the Greek Isles and Asia Minor, and then sailed up the Nile to Aswan.
Tony Perrottet calls this the "Route 66" of Antiquity and aptly calls the first edition of his book by that name. Inspired by the map, Perrottet decides to make the same trip. This book is a combination of what it was like to travel in Antiquity and what it is like to travel the same route today. Though separated in time by 2000 years, so much of travel is still the same. I cannot help but notice that Perrottet has written about the wilder, crazier, mis-adventurous side of traveling. His travels are like those currently portrayed on the Travel Channel. I cannot help but picture him with a sly grin on his face as he tells the stories of his travels. After this one should read Lionel Casson's _Travel in the Ancient World_ (which Perrottet depends upon quite a bit) just for comparison.
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By A Customer on Dec 1 2003
Format: Hardcover
Perottet's travel book delightfully flies in the face of travel book convention and hard-core backpackers everywhere. Instead of searching for the unbeaten path, Perottet and his pregnant girlfriend follow the most beaten tourist path they can possibly find: the tourism trails of the ancient Romans.
It's an enjoyable combination of history--giving some measure of personality to the long-dead Roman aristocracy--and the modern travelogue, as Perottet and partner fight the crowds and the bureaucracy of the modern Mediterranean.
Overall, it's a light and enjoyable read, and I don't mind recommending it. However, Perottet really strains at times to connect the historical facts of Roman tourism with his modern-day adventures. The link is weak more often than not. After reading the entire book, I'm convinced that ancient Roman tourists did exhibit many of the same tendencies as the camera-toting travelers of today, but the very frequent attempts (intentional or otherwise) to make them seem like us, except with togas, weakens the book.
Perottet deserves credit for his research and an original idea, and if you're looking for a book to go on the bedstand, you could certainly do worse.
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Format: Hardcover
Great title, I had to read this book on that basis alone. But now I see that the paperback edition has been renamed Pagan Holiday. Ecch.
I don't know if Perrottet had any say in what his book was called, either time, but taking his pregnant girlfriend on a cheap and energetic tour of Rome is something he did have control over. I'm sure he was exaggerating for comic effect, but Perrottet came across as being a bit too macho Aussie. The hotels he and girlfriend Les stayed in were squalid and uncomfortable. Les tried her best to keep up with him on his Roman walkabouts, but she was apparently not in Olympic form in her later months of pregnancy. But they got married according to the book jacket, so maybe it wasn't as bad as it seemed.
The idea of retracing the ancient Roman route and describing it then and now was a good one, a bit like those books they sell at Pompeii, with photos of the ruins of Pompeii today, and overlays showing Pompeii as it was in 79 A.D. Perrottet is enthusiastic, if a bit impatient, and has an infectious affection for ancient Rome.
So, if you can put aside any overt sympathy for Les, you will enjoy Route 66 A.D. Or Pagan Holiday. Whatever.
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Format: Paperback
PAGAN HOLIDAY is descriptive, instructive and marvelously entertaining - prerequisites, in my opinion, for a 5-star travel essay.
Author Tony Perrottet follows the tourist route of the ancient Romans from Italy to Greece to Turkey to Egypt. It's vaguely reminiscent of Eric Newby's ON THE SHORES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN. Newby traveled his route with his long-suffering wife, Wanda. Tony is accompanied by his significant other, Les, who raises the bar on tolerance and patience by enduring the trek through the second trimester of pregnancy into the third. In the Acknowledgments, Perrottet gives his intrepid companion credit: "All of the best jokes in the book are hers."
Starting in Rome, the high points of the itinerary include Naples, Capri, Pompeii, Athens, Corinth, Sparta, Olympia, Delphi, Delos, Rhodes, Ephesus, Pergamum, Troy, Alexandria, Cairo, Thebes, Aswan, and points in between. Tony describes the experiences, both good and bad, of the old Romans on that same pilgrim path, as well as those of Les and himself. Of course, some of the most entertaining for the reader were the worst for the traveler, as when Tony and Les rent a Russian car, a Donco, for tooling around Greece. By the time they approach Sparta:
"... we'd taped a sheet of plastic over the broken window, and tied coat-hanger wire around my door so it wouldn't pop open whenever the car stopped ..."
And the ancients had their own horrors to contend with, as a certain Apollinarius Sidonius experienced during his night's stay in a "greasy tavern":
"His hard-reed bed was hopping with lice; all night, lizards and spiders fell from the ceiling.
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