Introduction to the Development of Tourism
History of Travel
Ancient and Medieval Travel
People have always needed to travel. This unit will explain how the ways in which ancient and medieval people travelled influenced our modern ideas of travel. It will also describe the earliest forms of tourism and how the behaviour of early tourists still influences us today
In ancient times peoples tended to stay in one place. Travel was essentially to seek food or to escape danger. Gradually, larger settlements began to appear in coastal areas and besides rivers. This led to the development of watercrafts. These boats were used to travel to other settlements in order to trade.
The development of towns, cities and commerce led to the creation of empires. The first empire nation with specific needs for travel was Egypt. At the peak of the Egyptian Empire, travel for both business and pleasure began to flourish.
Travel satisfied people's curiosity. As early as 2700 BC, writers noted that people would come to visit the tombs constructed by the early pharaohs. It is notable that there are accounts of people taking stone chippings with them as they left the tombs. This behaviour mirrors modern people’s fondness for returning from a trip with a souvenir.
Assyrian and Persian Empires
Assyria comprised the area now known as Iraq. As their empire expanded from the Mediterranean in the west to the Persian Gulf in the east, the means of travel were improved for military use.
Roads were improved, markers were established to indicate distances, and posts and wells were developed for safety and nourishment. Even today, we see the influence of military construction aiding pleasure travel. The United States interstate highway system was developed initially to facilitate military transportation in the event of a national emergency.
The Assyrian military travelled by chariot, others by horse, while the donkey was the principal mode of transportation of common people. The Persians, who conquered the Assyrians, continued improvements in travel infrastructure. New kinds of wagons were developed including a four-wheeled carriage for the wealthy.
While previous civilisations had created roads and modes of transport, it was the Greeks who first developed a travel infrastructure in earnest.
The majority of Greek cities were situated on the coast. The Greeks were traders and would travel to other cities by boat to trade commercial goods.
Travel for official business was less important as Greece was divided into city-states that were fiercely independent. However, pleasure travel did exist in three areas: for religious festivals, for sporting events (most notably the Olympic Games), and to visit cities, especially Athens.
Travel in Ancient Greece was advanced by two important developments:
1: Currency Exchange: Prior to the development of currency, Greek travellers would pay their way by carrying various goods and selling them at their destination. Eventually, the coinage of Greek city-states became international currency, eliminating the need to travel with a retinue of goods.
2: The Greek Language: As the Greek language spread throughout the Mediterranean area, it became easier for Greeks to communicate as they travelled.
The Roman Empire
Travel flourished in Roman times for several reasons. The Roman empire stimulated trade and led to the growth of a large middle class with the money to travel.
Roman coins were all the traveller had to carry to finance the trip; the means of transportation, roads and waterways, were excellent; communication was relatively easy as Greek and Latin were the principal languages; and the Roman legal system provided protection from foreign courts, thereby ensuring the safety of the traveller.
Sightseeing became popular in the Roman era, particularly trips to Greece. Greece had recently become a part of greater Rome and was now a popular destination.
The Greek writer Pausanias wrote a 10 volume guide to Greece aimed at Roman tourists in 170 AD. In his detailed guide he describes the monuments and sculptures of Greece as well as the myths that inspired them.
As well as Greece, Egypt and Asia Minor were popular destinations for Roman tourists.
Another notable development in tourism during Roman times was the rise in popularity of second homes amongst the elite. Villas were built along the Italian coast and near mountains spas as a refuge for the wealthy.
The Middle Ages
As the Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century, the roads they constructed fell into disuse as barbarians made it unsafe to travel. A Roman courier could travel up to 160 kilometres a day, whereas the average daily rate of travel during the Middle Ages was 32 kilometres. It was not until the twelfth century that the roads became secure again. This was due to the large numbers of travellers going on pilgrimages.
Pilgrims travelled to pay homage at a particular site or as atonement for sin. Priests who heard confessions would often tell their parishioners to travel to a holy site barefoot as a penance. In other cases pilgrims journeyed to fulfil a promise made when they were sick. Sir John Mandeville is credited with writing a fourteenth-century manual for pilgrims to the Holy Land. In it we see an early example of the destructive effect of tourists.
Mandeville notes that before pilgrims began visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem it was a very open sight. However, pilgrims began breaking bits of stone from the Sepulchre to take as souvenirs. This led to the construction of a wall around the tomb.
In 1388, King Richard II of England decreed that pilgrims must carry permits if they wished to visit religious sites. These permits can be seen as the forerunner of the modern passport.
END OF UNIT:
Ancient and Medieval Travel