Where Did Ancient Romans Go On Vacation

Both the rich and the poor of ancient Rome took time away from the bustling city and sought out vacations when the opportunity arose. Although trips away from Rome may have been considered a little scandalous, it was actually quite commonplace to take trips from the city to the Italian countryside, to the wilds of Britain or even to the welcoming shores of Egypt. Some Romans ventured out even farther to lands that can only be imagined today.

Trips away from Rome were considered both a luxury and a necessity, a necessity in many respects as travelling was one of the few ways to socialize with peers, join in the chariot-racing for which Rome was famous, and consume the food and entertainment that could only be found outside Rome. The rich often took these trips out of luxury, seeking to enjoy the waters, the massage parlours, to revel in the wines and to attend the many festivals, dances and other diversions which were present in ancient Rome but elsewhere may have been even more exciting.

For the poor, however, the picture was a little different. Only a lucky few could afford the luxurious travels away from Rome that the rich enjoyed. Instead, the poorer members of society would seek out vacations to the country or on the seas. In the countryside, they could enjoy the serenity of the hills and valleys, picking fruits and vegetables while they enjoyed a much slower pace of life. On the seas, they would often sail or fish for their sustenance, as well as seeking out any opportunity for recreation and leisure which may come.

Today, many questions remain about where, exactly, the ancient Romans would have gone on vacation. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Romans regularly ventured to other parts of the Mediterranean, south-western Europe and beyond. On the other hand, it is likely that the Romans never made the trip to North America or Australia, as no archaeological evidence of their presence has been found.

Pilgrimages, too, were popular. Ancient Romans regularly made their way to various holy sites in Italy, Greece and the Middle East. Of course, these trips were often made with piety as the primary motivator, although recreation and relaxation did often accompany the spiritual journey.

Whether they traveled for relaxation, business or pleasure, the ancient Romans were accomplished travelers, and their trips often took them to far places. Their journeys may not have been as exotic or luxurious as those of the rich, but they certainly developed a tenacity and courage that enabled them to explore the world around them.

Expeditions by Romans

The Romans have always been known for their courage and wisdom, and that same courage and wisdom led them on many expeditions. Ancient Roman travellers went as far as present day Germany, Spain, North Africa and even northern Britain. In 43 AD, the Romans came to Britain and began the Roman conquest of Britain. As the Romans got more and more victory in Britain, the more tourists and travelers would come to Britain on expeditions. The Romans were most interested in Britain’s natural resources, but also came to explore Britain’s culture and inhabitants.

In addition to visiting Britain, we know that Roman travellers also went to Spain. Archeological remains found in Spain indicates that the Romans were some of the earliest tourists to this region. The Romans were also interested in Spain’s natural resources, such as tin and gold, but also in its culture. Records show that the Romans were particularly interested in observing the culture and customs of the native Spanish people, who the Romans thought were more ‘barbarian’ than the Britons, and were enthralled by the ‘heathen’ customs of the Spanish native population.

The expedition to Germany is another famed journey that was undertaken by the Romans. In 12 BC, the Roman troops led by Drusus invaded Germania and started a war which lasted for a few years. The conquered peoples which the Romans met in Germany, surprised them with their culture and architecture. This expedition allowed the Romans to explore and understand more deeply the culture of the Germanic tribes and it also made them more understanding of the differences between their own and other cultures.

The Romans also explored North Africa, a region which was unexplored for centuries by them. This region was even more exotic than those explored before. The Romans encountered gods and goddesses, cults, customs and mysterious ways that were foreign to them. They were amazed by the exotic beauty and the wildness of the land. The journey to North Africa allowed the Romans to learn even more about different cultures and customs.

Roma Holiday Locations

Of course, when we think of vacations taken by the ancient Romans, we often think of the grandest of all getaways – a trip to the Eternal City itself! Rome was the hub of civilization and life and the many markets, theatres, temples and villas of the capital offered endless sites to explore and endless activity for the travelling Roman. In addition to the attractions of the city, the Romans enjoyed relaxing cruises on the Tiber and trips to the many parks and public baths.

The region around Rome was also popular for vacationers. Campania, for example, was a favourite destination for the ancient upper class. This region was home to many natural sites, such as Pompeii, Herculaneum and Naples, as well as the famous Bay of Naples. Here, the wealthy citizens of Rome could enjoy the hot sunshine, the sea air and some of the world’s most beautiful scenery.

Island destinations were also popular for the Romans. Sicily, for instance, was a favourite location for the Romans to seek out some rest and relaxation. The beautiful scenery and mild climate was a natural draw, and the native culture and attractions of the island made it even more appealing. The Romans also made their way to the coast of Africa, where they would often seek out exotic sights, sounds and foods.

It is also thought that the Romans ventured further abroad in search of new lands, as well as for trade purposes. For instance, it is known that the Romans travelled to Turkey, the area that is now known as Israel and Palestine and even Egypt.

Ancient Roman Vacation Customs

Travel in the ancient world was no different than travel today, the goal was often to make happy memories with friends and family. As such, ancient Romans enjoyed festive outings, and did not shy away from celebrating. Ancient Romans were also known for their generous hospitality and often invited all their friends and family to stay in vacation homes or villas.

This generous hospitality extended to the many travelling entertainers and performers that would arrive from all over the Roman world. Musicians, jugglers, contortionists and clowns were just some of the performers who the Romans would welcome and enjoy. It was also common for wealthy citizens to organise banquets for their friends and family, to be enjoyed during the holiday season.

The Romans were also known for making sacrifices to the gods during their trips away. Ancient Roman religious texts often reference sacrifices being made to the gods in the hopes of gaining a fruitful journey, and offerings were often made to the gods before beginning a new journey.

The Romans were also quite the partygoers! It was quite common for the Roman upper class to visit local pubs and bars while on holiday and indulge in dinner parties, performances and music. As with today, it was not uncommon for Romans to find their own private venues in which to celebrate, and a few well-placed coins could guarantee a good night’s entertainment.

Roman Holiday Attire

No vacation is complete without the right outfit, and the Romans were no different. In ancient Rome, clothing was an important indicator of social status and while on holiday, the wealthy would often adorn themselves in expensive materials such as silk and linen. Jewelry and perfumes were also common additions to the holiday outfit, as well as shoes made from imported leather and dyed in bright, eye-catching colours.

The lower classes, however, often had to content themselves with less extravagant clothing. That being said, the clothing of the lower classes was still usually more attractive and colourful than their everyday attire. Wool clothing, natural and dyed fabrics and lightweight materials were the most common materials for the lower classes and were often worn with bright-coloured sandals.

No matter their social status, the Romans celebrated their holidays with style and grace. Whether they ventured to the surrounding regions of Italy or ventured further abroad, the people of ancient Rome were always on the lookout for an adventure.

Roman Infrastructure

The Romans are also renowned for their innovative infrastructure, which enabled their many journeys throughout the ancient world. The Romans pioneered advances in engineering and road building which meant that long distance travelling was made much safer and easier than it had been before.

For example, roads such as the Via Appia and the Via Flaminia allowed for the swift transport of military units and goods, as well as enabling more ordinary travellers to find their way from the capital out into Italy and beyond. In addition, the Romans also built bridges and aqueducts which made travelling even easier and allowed the provision of natural resources such as water and food to more remote parts of the country.

Ancient Romans vessels were designed with comfort and durability in mind, allowing for relatively comfortable journeys across rivers, seas and even oceans. Vessels such as these were used for trade and military purposes, but also enabled more ordinary citizens to explore the world outside of Rome.

Of course, the sheer scale of Roman engineering remains impressive even today. Without its innovatively designed roads, bridges and vessels, the Romans would not have been able to explore and conquer the ancient world the way they did.

Roman Tourist Attractions

As with travellers today, the Romans had different sites and attractions that they sought out during their travels. These included ancient temples and monuments, the areas rich in natural resources and stunning works of art.

The Romans were particularly fond of the ancient Temples of Poseidon and Zeus, which were located in a number of different cities throughout ancient Greece. In addition, the Romans also sought out places such as the Oracle of Delphi and the Oracle of Dodona, as well as sites such as the Pyramids of Egypt and the grand theatre at Ephesus.

Some of the most famed of all Roman traveller sites were those located on the Italian Peninsula. Here the ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Ostia were the main attractions and still remain a popular destination for tourists today. The natural beauty of the Italian countryside was also something to behold, with its rolling hills, coastal views, vineyards, forests and olive groves.

Of course, no vacation would be complete without food and laughter. The traditional Roman diet was heavy on carbohydrates and allowed for the consumption of many different types of fish, grains and vegetables. Of course, the Romans also enjoyed the finest wines and select cuts of meat at festivals and other celebratory events. Together with the best in entertainment, the lavish feasts and banquets of the ancient Romans could be enjoyed by all, no matter their station.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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