Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists
Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists Tony Perrottet EGYPT Do as the Romans Did Agrippas Map shows the Roman Empire People could understand the distance
between Rome and anywhere else Lots of places were under Caesars protection The world was the Romans oyster (5) The first age of tourism had begun. (5) Perrottets Project Sees map at the New York Public Library I had my own dark reasons to catch that ancient travel bug. (7)
Carries home a modern version of the map with a thin red line scrawled from Rome to Egypts frontier. It was time to revive a great tradition. Scholarly Goals Write a popular account thats readable but also accurate Note extended bibliography, glossary, timeline
Does extensive research throughout the process of planning the trip and traveling Seeks experts in the field for interviews and further information Techniques
Contrasts: old and new Rome vs. the world High culture vs common culture Male/female points of view: his reactions as opposed to his wifes The gung-ho traveler vs. the uninspired tourist
Alexandria Ad Aegyptum The Special Nature of Alexandria For ancient tourists, Alexandria was a phenomenon in its own right, a self-contained enclave that was neither Roman, Greek, nor Egyptianand was utterly, fatally romantic. (266)
Ancient Alexandrians labored diligentlyand made money Roman quip: They worship only one God herecash! (269) Modern Lure of Alexandria Cecil Hotel Lots of literary references E.M. Forster lived in Alex and wrote a history
about it Cavafy, the Greek poet, lived and wrote here Lawrence Durrell kicks off the action of The Alexandria Quartet in this hotel, which is where Darley first glimpses Justine Cecil Hotel Cavafys Apartment
Where is Alex Anyway? Most of the ancient buildings are gone Tries very hard to do archaeology but gets thwarted by government regulations Gets to meet Jean-Yves Empereur, leading archaeologist in Alex. (275) So far his mission has catalogued some 2,000 objects
Progress: its easier to make archaeologists into divers than divers into archaeologists Todays Alex Alzheimers in the Capital of Memory Locked in a Sisyphean slog (277) With aeons of inertia behind them, not much gets done in Alexandria today. Note that it used to be a very European city,
but its getting more and more like the rest of Egypt. Greek Pastry Shop Nightlife in Alex More contrasts: from archaeology to bars WE: hes got time to piece together the remnants of Alexs fabled nightlife, whose
reputation had managed to survive from the Romans steamy Canopus district through to the seedy fantasies of Lawrence Durrell (279) Doesnt quite stack up to a den of iniquity Alex experience doesnt quite stack up either Come back in 90 days Into the Realm of the Exotic Vivid and fanciful descriptions
If you were a Nazi war criminal, the Long Bar of Cairos Windsor Hotel is where you would hang out.. Customers can hide in the shadows.. 289 ..Octogenarian bartenders wearing frayed galabia robes and red fezzes eye their customers suspiciously I started to feel pretty shifty myself, ready to cut a deal in weapons, bootleg penicillin, or hijacked body organs. (You know hes kidding, but)
Nile Magic Were like the ancientseven in the first century, the sights along the Nile belonged to an unimaginable, earlier time period (290) To the Romans, this was the oldest place on earth Intellectuals would hire barges with cooks and poets (not so much different than Edwards
experience) Everything before seemed like a dress rehearsal (291) Nobody, it seemed, left unsatisfied Dangers of Tourism Romans information comes from Herodotus, 5thC BC travel writer
Problems: They viewed the land through the distorting prism of their own cultureand as a result, they misinterpreted almost everything. (293) Inserted their own pantheon of Gods Worse still, the Egyptians themselves fueled the disinformation (293) First Orientalists
Romans and Greeks= first Orientalists (to use Saids term): Their idea of Egypt was more potent than the reality itself (294) They saw what they wanted to seeprobably we do the same today They confuse Amenhotep for Memnon, mythical prince from Troy, and it becomes the Memnon Colossi
Modern Cairo Kafka-esque gallery of old storefronts (cf cultural references we saw in Iyer) Confession: Perhaps inevitably, we were viewing it all with the eyes of modern Orientalists. The city fulfills a Western nostalgic fantasy of the Middle East. (295) Maybe this is inevitable: Egypt is still overwhelming in every way
Interview with a Mortician Would you like to touch him? Explanations of things we probably dont know, even if weve been to Egypthes taking us below the surface Thutmose III Mr. Iskander makes him an offer he cant refuse (note overtones) Doesnt refuse, knows he should, and
proceeds to use this as a device throughout the section Mummy Stuff Mummification was still going on in ancient times P. compares the space in the museum to the House of Usher He notes the devices of the museum itself:
Armed guards hush all conversation; lights are dimmed to a minimum, which adds to the morbid effect. (300) Gets to meet another famous archaeologist Dead Guys Back within the gloomy walls of the Windsor Hotel, I washed my hands, still feeling the cold touch of Thutmose III (301)
The Deathless Pyramids The ultimate sight for the ancients Today, Pyramidiots pay to hold rituals inside the pyramid to capture its cosmic force (307) But P. has to go into the secret passageway as well: Squirming ahead like a worm, I did my best not to think of the 2.3 million stone blocks above my back, each of which could compress
me into a wafer of Egyptian pita. (309) Searching for Immortality Obsessed with death and the afterlife, wrestling with metaphysical despair, tormented by the knowledge that they were toys of a capricious fate, educated Romans were already profoundly vulnerable to
suggestions of the occult. (310) Tourist Egypt, naturally, only makes this worse They paid sorcerers and hired magicians Tales of Horror Anonymous Letter of Thessalos (medical student almost dies trying to find secrets) Heliodoruss Ethiopian Tale An ancient Quijote, Lucian satirizes them in
Lovers of Lies Goethe turns it into a long poem Dukas a symphonic work The Sorcerers Apprentice Disney sets Mickey to work it out in Fantasia Pharaohs Curses
While in the passageway, P. reviews: Mummy lore popular in Victorian Britain Still popular in todays imagination By the time I staggered out of the Great Pyramid on all fours like some beaten vampire cringing from the sun, I had a terrible feeling
that our journey was about to spin out of control. (312) Dont Call Home Compares communication in Roman times Dares to check his phone messages only to find his apartment is flooded (You can research all you want, but real life may interveneLess physical condition is
also a constant reminder of this) Outside the caf, a skeletal waiter offered me a chair. I remembered him because of his friendly smileor was it the face of Thutmose bared into a grin? (316) VIP Seeks Crocodile God Again, P. shows willingness to get off the beaten track
Note: Rough Guide says that to see Faiyum, you have to be committed P. barely gets there himself, wonders if Thutmose had anything to do with this 323 Ancient draw: Labyrinth of Hawara Cf in ancient times, you had to get a guide so that you wouldnt stay lost in the maze of Escher-like dizziness. (323)
Escape Shaking the sand from my shoes back at the Windsor Hotel, I found Les in the Nazi bar, trying to avoid the stares of the usual suspects. (326) Several techniques: uses Les to ground (us), refers again to the Nazi bar, which is already created in our minds,
the Casablanca quote pulls up other cultural references we might have for the region Fun at Luxor All night long it had been raining hieroglyphics in my dreams (333) Back to confession: Sacrilege is sacrilege.. There arent degrees of defiling the dead. (342)
The disaster in our apt. in NYId heard about it the very next night. The mad trip to Faiuym. The terrifying train ride.. I was as bad as those maniacally superstitious Romans, both fascinated and unnerved by the dark forces of Egypt. (342) Valley of the Kings In Thutmoses tomb, for a small bribe, he cant
pass up lying down in the sarcophagus! (342) The End of the World As They Knew It Philae,at that time, was the last stop (Note: UNESCO moved it in the 1970s.) Enough Already! Final example of the road less traveled, accepts invitation to a Nubian wedding
It was slowly dawning on me that this Nubian wedding was going to be an all-night event. Mahmoud finally confessed that this stellar insight was quite true.. Festival would continue nonstop for three days. This was a little inconvenient, since I had no way of getting back to Aswan.. (356) Finally realizes: really should be getting back
Perrottet, Tony. Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists. 2002. NY: Random, 2003.
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