The Contribution Of The Ancient Roman Empire Towards The Development Of Travel And Tourism

The Ancient Roman Empire, one of the great and powerful ancient civilization span between  the period of 27 BC to 476 AD. By the 8th BC and 1st  AD, Rome grew from a little colony to an empire. It was one of the first civilizations to establish a government. As a result of this, they became united and powerful which led them to war with smaller states. These states when conquered became their territories. Trade, exchange of goods and wars, motivated travel and Tourism in the Roman Empire.The followings are some of the factors that promoted travel and tourism in the Ancient Roman Empire and the ways in which they contributed to the development of travel and tourism.

The Ancient Roman Empire had a web of highways in almost every province, connecting cities and army camps. These roads were built with security in mind. The good road networks facilitated the movement of people especially traders and soldiers from one place to another. Since the roads were built with high level of security there was no fear of attacks on travelers. Therefore they can travel safely to their destinations. Furthermore, Inns and taverns were built along the roads to provide food and shelter to exhausted travelers. This made people to travel at anytime of the day since they know that they will get a place to rest whenever they are tired. (Inns and taverns developed in to present day hotels and hostels).
Trade and military activities were another factor responsible for the ease of travel in Ancient Roman Empire. People travel from and to Rome to engage in trade.  It has been said that Roman harbors such as Ostia and outposts such as Dara-Europos are always flooded with merchants from all places displaying their wares. Soldiers also travel long distances through forests and other places in order to engage in war with other rebellious states. (Business tourism)
Another factor that promoted travel and tourism in the Ancient Roman Empire is religious activities. A lot of cults and shrines existed  in the Roman empire. Among these were the Mithras cult and cult of Isis. These cults set aside days on which they perform rituals and celebrates the gods. Members of these cults travel near and far to take part in the rituals and the celebrations. Non members also travel to these holy towns just to observe what is going on. Some of the cults  also have particular days which they considered sacred, therefore members do not work on these days. Thus, these days become holidays for them. In addition,  Christianity also promoted travel in the Ancient Roman Empire. This is due to the fact that, priests and teachers of this new religion travel from place to place in the empire spreading the gospel. (Pilgrimages or religious tourism)
Colosseum of Rome
Roman games were another factor that promoted travel and tourism in the empire. Prominent among these games is the gladiatorial combat. This is a battle to the death in which two or more people are placed in a cage to fight to death. The person who survives becomes the winner (Watch Spartacus series). This game attracted a lot of crowd and foreigners travel long distances to Rome just to watch this inhuman game. Some also travel from afar to participate in this game. Large stadium and sporting arenas were built to host the games and a good example is the Colosseum of Rome which is in ruins today. (Sport Tourism)
Furthermore, theater arts also formed part of the leisure activities of ancient Roman Empire. It attracted a lot of people to Rome. Large theaters were built for this purpose. Playwrights and actors perform on stage to entertain the audience. Famous poets also read out their poems to the listeners.
Bathing also played a major part in Ancient Roman leisure. Both men and women spent their leisure time bathing. Many bath houses were built in the public places for this reason. Those who lived along the coast go to the beaches to swim and bath (Modern sun, sea, sex and sun tourism). Towns such as Pompeii and Herculean were noted for these activities.
However, the Roman empire collapsed by the end of the 5th century, but its contribution to the development of travel and tourism can not be overemphasized. It laid the foundation for the development of  modern tourism activities such as business travel, pilgrimages, sport travel and many more.

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  • Dimensions of Tourism by Joseph D. Fridgen (1991) Dimensions of Tourism, American Hotel and Motel Association.

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