No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Thursday, March 31, 2005

#25: Route 66AD -- Tony Perrottet

Perrottet, a seasoned traveller, travel writer and classicist, decided to try to emulate the Grand Tour made by wealthy Romans at the height of the Empire. Accompanied by his pregnant girlfriend, he went from Rome itself to the Bay of Naples, to Greece, to Turkey and finally to Egypt, in search of the monuments visited (and often defaced) by the people he describes as the first tourists.

Perrottet's an amusing and erudite writer; he knows how to handle uncooperative hoteliers and guards, and he's clearly wealthy enough that, though not happy about it, he can afford to cover the occasional $400-a-night hotel bill. He brings the ancient world to life -- 'crowds are ancient, crowds are good' is his mantra, and one I should probably adopt -- and the book's full of fascinating minutae. There are accounts of executions staged as mythological events ('Orpheus' set upon by bears in the arena, etc) and of Classical medicine; of Egyptian sorcerers and singing statues. Wherever possible he backs up his writing with plenty of references -- and usually avoids the 'We know better now' trap when he's talking about the beliefs of the agents.

I warmed to him most for an episode that was very much in the style of the superstitious Romans; though as a sensible modern man he doesn't believe in ancient curses, etc, he couldn't help wondering if he'd been the victim of a vexed Pharoah, and made his apologies, just in case, in a suitably theatrical style.

Very amusing, with real affection for (and only gentle mockery of) his subjects; also an excellent book about travelling around the eastern Med.

reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place

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