Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer holidays in the ancient world

According to professor of Classical Archaeology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, M.A. Tiverios, those who first introduced holidays for purposes of relaxing were the ancient Romans. Although we all believe that this is a practice magnified today, we never considered that it was a habit that began thousands of years ago. 
In ancient Greece people travelled frequently. They even preferred to travel by sea, not of course during the winter period. The sea was seen as a more secure, faster and comfortable way of getting from A to B. Many were the reasons that made them travel and leave their city for a bit, mainly professional and health reasons, for example visiting the famous medical centres of Asclepieia of Epidauros and Kos, and also for religious reasons. They used to visit sanctuaries such as Olympia in order to participate in various religious events and attend the Olympic Games, they attended famous festivals, for example the Panathinaia and the Great Donysian in Athens, they also visited shrines, oracles (the most famous within the Hellenic World being the one dedicated to Apollo at Delphi to consult the deity in order to address a problem). Also a minority travelled the known world in order to observe the interesting sites of their time, i.e. site seeing.  

The rich Romans on the other hand had more than one country house, so the holidays did not take place at the same house and location each time. The holiday villas exist from the second century B.C., when the distinction between private and public life of the Roman aristocracy is made clear. The cottage represented the meaning of otium (leisure, life in rural areas) as opposed to the concept of negotium (duty, political activity). The holiday destinations preferred were the coastal areas and green mountainous slopes, in general areas with a healthy climate.The Roman nobility showed a strong preference for the Bay of Naples and the green hills around Rome. They resorted to the seaside in the spring months and the mountains in the summer period. They did this so they would avoid not only the hot weather but also the masses of people who resorted on the beaches. Many of the vacation mansions quickly evolved into a self and social recognition, emphasising the high social status of the owner; they were amazing with their wealth, having galleries, libraries, swimming pools, gardens with fountains and baths. Many aristocrats even built their houses near the sea, on the beach, in order to fish from their house and in many cases even from their bedrooms. The most luxurious also had farms that fed rare fish, including myrrh, a delicious dish for the Romans. 
A city in the Bay of Naples, which was particularly preferred by the Roman aristocrats, emperors and their families was Vaia, today known was Baia. It was not just a famous seaside resort but also a cosmopolitan spa town since it had hot springs. Often during the night, members of the high society would  travel around with their boats, whilst being accompanied by women with  low morals, often swimming naked and getting very drunk. However this was not a practice for only the aristocrats. During the 1 and 2 century A.D. many middle class people visited and holidayed in these areas. Naples was also the favourite tourist place for the intellectuals and lovers of Greek culture.  

No comments:

Post a Comment