You might think that the notion of taking time off for a break away is a product of modern civilisation, but that would be an incorrect assumption. The idea of taking a break from work has been a part of life since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Of course, the ancient Greeks weren’t taking time off with the family for a trip to Disneyland or heading to the beaches of Dubai. So where did they go? Here are seven of their favourite spots.
Stabiae: Ask what people want from their time off on holiday and most will say that a great view of a beautiful landscape is important. Well that’s exactly why the ancients favoured the coastal town of Stabiae; it offered a stunning view of the Bay of Naples and the mountains that surrounded that region. Unfortunately, Stabiae was covered in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and that put an end to this particular small seaside town.
Ostia Antica, Italy
Ostia Antica: People seeking a retreat to the country back in the third and fourth centuries would often choose a break away to this popular colonia. Ostia Antica was located at the mouth of the River Tiber and was the site of numerous inns where travellers could rest their weary heads. It also had several sources of entertainment including bars, theatres and baths.
A short train ride from Rome will take you there today to see the remains of what was once a vibrant town. Believe it or not, it used to be a port city but sedimentary deposits from the Tiber mean that it is far more inland today.
Hierapolis: If you’re the kind of person who loves the idea of a rejuvenating spa holiday then you could have easily hung out with the ancient Romans because that was precisely their style. This destination is an ancient city located in Turkey which is home to natural hot springs that the ancients ventured to for healing and relaxation.
Popular in the 2nd Century BC, it was filled with temples, theaters, gyms and libraries but the most popular area was the baths. This also served as a retirement location for some of the ancient Romans who eventually died here and are buried in the necropolis at this location. Today this is a historic site with a museum dedicated to educating people about this therapeutic destination. The Pamukkale healing waters are still available for tourists to enjoy to this day.
Capri: If you were going to take a holiday to a beautiful Italian island today, there’s a good chance that you would choose Capri as your destination. Capri has had a rather colourful historyto say the least; it changed hands from one empire to another and being regularly sacked by pirates including the infamous Admiral Barbarossa. There is a long history of people visiting Capri for a break right back from the time of the Roman Republic, although they were probably used to a Capri without the designer shops!
Antioch: Syria is a place where a battle for control of the land played out for several centuries in early times. During the fourth century, the Roman capital of Antioch was located here in what is now modern-day Antakya, Turkey. In ancient times Antioch was one of the largest cities in the entire known world and served as a major urban destination for the more adventurous and well-to-do ancients who came to enjoy the circus, theatre and the new colonnades being built there.
Baiae: People who had a lot of money around the first and second century AD got to indulge in the luxury of a break to coastal resort towns; Julius Caesar and Emperor Nero both reportedly had elaborate villas built here for their holidays. It’s reported that Baiae was popular at least with some travellers in antiquity because of the medicinal hot springs found here, but it’s believed that the real reason people came here was because it was a hedonistic pleasure destination: think Las Vegas or Monte Carlo for the ancients.
You won’t be living it up in Baiae today, though, since volcanic and seismic activity in the area left most of the city under the Bay of Naples. There are some remaining ruins in the nearby coastal town, now called Baia.
Pompeii, Italy: This was a popular spot in the first century and it’s still a popular spot today for tourists who want to learn about the tragic history of the area. Pompeii would have been considered a more urban destination where people coming from other parts of Italy could get away, quite like the modern day city break.
Like with most destinations in ancient times, the main reason people ventured here was to enjoy the baths that were so intrinsic to life in the area at that time. It is also believed that Pompeii was a retreat for ancient artisans.