When the first tourists discovered Kos and Rhodes

kos_Asklepeion1When the first tourists discovered Kos and Rhodes

- Since the time of the Romans -

Rhodes, as a pilgrimage to the god Apollo, but also for relaxation, and Kos, because it was a famous medical centre.

Massive summer holidays began after the mid-19th century, when the middle class, especially in Britain, given its economic prosperity, began to spend the summers in seaside resorts. However, those who first established holiday relaxation were the ancient wealthy Romans.

The aristocracy of Europe had already made its own resorts in the Alps, where they spent the summer months. The British, however, turned them into tourist destinations, with climbing and hiking in the mountains and they were the first to introduce skiing as a winter sport.

It was only in the early 20th century that the workers began to flock to the beaches. Until then their own leisure trips were day trips to cities such as London.

Mr Tiberius MA, Professor of Classical Archaeology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki writes about the holidays of the Ancients:

“I remember the surprise of my students years ago when, in the course of discussing the private lives of the ancients, I referred to their holidays. They believed that the habit of people going for a long vacation was invented in our times.

In ancient Greece people travelled frequently even preferring to travel by sea – although certainly not in the dead of winter – as a journey by boat was safer, more comfortable and faster. There were many reasons that made them leave their home town – professional reasons, health reasons, when they went to visit a famous medical centre, such as the Asclepeia of Epidauros and Kos for religious reasons.

They visited large temples and sanctuaries, eg The one in Olympia – to participate in religious events and watch the Olympics, where they celebrated by attending festivals, such as the Panathenaic procession and the Great Dionysia in Athens – in the latter they even had the opportunity to enjoy the unique and theatrical performances of the great tragedies – they went to visit the holy-divination such as that of Apollo at Delphi to consult the deity to face some problem. There were even some, certainly few in number, who were travelling the world to learn about its attractions such as Rhodes which was highly developed politically and well endowed by nature.
Those who first established holiday relaxation were the ancient Romans. The richest of them even had more than one country house, so that their holiday didn’t become monotonous from staying in the same place. The holiday villas appear from the second century BC, when there was a sharper distinction between private and public life of the Roman aristocrat. The cottage represented the concept of otium (= leisure, life outdoors) as opposed to the concept of negotium (= duty political activity).

Most preferable for a holiday then were coastal locations, such as mountain slopes and areas with a healthy climate. The aristocracy eg Romans showed a particular preference for the Bay of Naples and the green hills around Rome. They resorted in coastal villas during spring months, whilst in summer, they moved to the mountains. This was not only to avoid the scorching summer sun and the noise of common mortals who thronged the beaches. Many of these villas, which quickly evolved into a self and social recognition, were amazing with their wealth, and had galleries, libraries, swimming pools, gardens with fountains and baths.”

Translated from Vimatiskos.gr
By Donna Hatzizacharia

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