“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” — Peter Hoeg
Historians agree on the fact that recreational and educational travel already existed in the classical world and, even earlier, in Egypt under the pharaohs. If we want to talk about proper traveling in the antiquity, we have to start with the greeks who were famous for their curiosity and innovation. They were the first great travelers because they were willing to share the findings of their discoveries and observations with the rest of the world. They didn’t travel only for economic and spiritual purposes , but also for pleasure: “A number of Greeks went to Egypt, some, as was natural, for trade, some on the expedition, and some to see that country” (Herodotus, cited in Dillon & Garland, 2010, p. 275). Still, there is a thing we should keep in mind: travel opportunities within the ancient Greek world largely depended on status and profession.
In the earliest oral traditions of Greek mythology, many of the tales, such as the myth of Charybdis which warned of the possible risks of voyaging into the unknown and the tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece which celebrated the benefits to be gained from travelling were talking about the purposes of travelling and it’s benefits but also about the risks that people were facing during their journeys.
In the Greek literature dating from the eighth century BCE, both Hesiod and Homer describe traders, in particular, as great travelers. Works such as the Odyssey illustrated that the authors themselves had clearly traveled or at least spoken to those who had. Later, in „Crito”, Plato illustrates that travel was widely considered a useful activity.
In these times traveling was associated more with commercial and religious purposes but we shouldn’t forget about the so-called traveling for culture. There were people who were traveling to see the great athletic events of the Panhellenic games, other people traveled for their education to famous centers such as Plato’s Academy in Athens and also there were people who traveled from rural areas to participate in life in the city and the of opportunities offered there.
Tourists were those who traveled for no other reason than to see for themselves the cultural sights made famous by literature, theatre, story-telling, warfare and even coinage. Travel in the Greek world, then, just as today, was considered an important way to broaden the mind, learn about other civilizations and cultures and see for oneself the places made so famous by literature.
Later, the Romans were the first who built roads to facilitate traveling. They summed up around 400,000 kilometers, of which over 80,500 kilometers were stone-paved. In our days some of them are overlaid by modern roads.
Because people traveled in that period of time, their societies were able to develop thanks to the fact they have initiated cultural and material exchange, thing that they were able to do because of traveling. It is visible that even in these times people understood that the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
… to be continued.