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Travel in the Ancient World [Paperback]

By Lionel Casson (Author)
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Item description for Travel in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson...

The only book of its kind in any language, "Travel in the Ancient World" offers a lively, comprehensive history of ancient travel, from the first Egyptian voyages recorded in Old Kingdom inscriptions through Greek and Roman times to the Christian pilgrimages of the fourth and sixth centuries. Rich in anecdote and colorful detail, it now returns to print in paperback with a new preface by the author.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Pages   408
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.51" Width: 5.56" Height: 1.25"
Weight:   1.25 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 1994
Publisher   The Johns Hopkins University Press
Age  22
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0801848083  
ISBN13  9780801848087  

Availability  0 units.

More About Lionel Casson

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Lionel Casson is professor emeritus of classics at New York University and has written many books about life in the ancient world, including Travel in the Ancient World, and Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World, both available from Johns Hopkins.

Lionel Casson was born in 1914 and died in 2009.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Ancient
3Books > Subjects > History > World > General
4Books > Subjects > History > World
5Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Archaeology
6Books > Subjects > Science > Earth Sciences > Geography
7Books > Subjects > Travel > General > Essays & Travelogues

Reviews - What do customers think about Travel in the Ancient World?

Engaging Study of Travel in Ancient Times  Mar 21, 2005
This is a unique and highly interesting account of the many facets of travel in the ancient world. The author covers types of travel, reasons for travel, accomodations, major historical attractions, the mail delivery system in ancient times, and many other topics. In general, the book is highly informative, readable, and entertaining. Descriptions of holiday travel, inns and restaurants, the Roman road system, the trade routes of ancient times are quite fascinating. In a very few places the book seems to bog down in perhaps too much detail, but overall, the book is quite good. The author's perspective is also primarily on the Western world and the Near East, including Egypt. Thus, other ancient cultures (e.g., China) are mentioned only briefly. The book is a very unique contribution to the study of the ancient world. Highly recommended.
80% Great, 10% Garbage; about the other 10%, I'm not sure  Jan 8, 2002
This *is* your one-stop volume on travellers in the ancient world. The author, a professor in classics, wrote it in 1974 then updated it in 1994. Complacently, in the forward he announces that it needed almost no changes.
This statement made me leery. In these 20 years, archaeology has had revolutions of information and theory. Casson knew that he knew everything, so he did not bother to research all the areas where he was under-informed and way out of date, even in 1974.
What is out of Greek and Roman writing is cooked down for you with greater depth and breadth than you will find anywhere else. He is especially strong in the late Roman period. However, classicists are oriented to writing and civilizations. Like most of them, Casson is very weak in his first, pre classical chapters, having no knowledge of human travel outside of the major civilizations. He still has astonishing holes in his classical chapters.
For example, time does not excuse his saying about Roman war galleys: "little more than oversize racing shells, they necessarily followed the coasts and put into harbour every night." Exert a little logic. These were designed for ramming warfare: not fragile, not low-sided. Get particulars out of Rodger's 'Greek and Roman Naval Warfare' (1937) Also, you cannot surprise an enemy place if you coast-crawl up to it; nor can you chase an enemy fleet at sea if you can't sail out of sight of land. If the galley puts into shore each night, it is because the official on board requires it, not because they can't sail open waters at night.
Casson does pass on the evidence against the wide-spread myth of cemented Roman roads, pg168. Thank him for that. Then he treats as fact the 1930s theory of Lefebre des Noettes, whose shoddy observation and distinctly biased study declared that horses were harnessed by *all* the ancients with the same choking "ancient traction system" that never existed, and that saddles, stirrups, and horseshoes were not used until the Middle Ages.
LdN's theories, long thought suspect by people with a better eye for ancient artwork, were thoroughly exploded by Spruytte (see 'Early Harness Systems' 1974) which reconstructed three major systems, none of which discomforted the horses he used. All three were used through the 1800s in slightly different forms. Evidence exists for nailed horseshoes in Rome, not hipposandals, from the 1st C CE (impressed in brick), for saddles from 5th C BC (Pazyryk), and for stirrups from a similar period. Archaeologists who keep excusing early horseshoe finds as "special cases" have not freed themselves from LdN's dishonesty.
In any case, Casson's contention that these last three items are necessary for comfortable riding over long distances is not borne out by long distance riders. Modern 100-mile eventers from desert, semi-desert, or Mediterranean climates may never shoe their horses (Hyland) despite high mileage training. Choose a horse by ancient rules of conformation (Xenophon), with a well-padded rather than high-spined back, and it should be comfortable, especially to people who do not know saddles "ought" to exist. Bareback is *more* comfortable for long overland rides, esp. as stirrups strain and cramp the ankles and knees. One avoids all the problems of getting a saddle that fits the horse that fits the rider, and doesn't injure either. At the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, for the first few years new riders train with no stirrups to develop a good seat. Stirrups are only necessary for warfare and stock work. Over-dependence on them makes a poorer rider.
Casson also subscribes to Victorian social Darwinism: first humans were wandering hunters, then nomadic herdsmen, then finally farmers.
The modern knowledge is that humans were wandering hunters, then settled farmers. Only around 3500 BC, as the last of the Ice-Age glaciers shrank and the world got drier, did they invent nomadic herding. Horses were domesticated about 4500 BC (Sredni Stog excavations) by farmers with no vehicles. Since the teeth of excavated skulls show bit wear, the horses were ridden. The idea (passed on by Casson) that horses were only driven until the classical period is an out-of-date theory due to urbano-centrism and wide spread ignorance of horse-handling.
As well, Casson seems unaware of the use of sledges before wagons in Mesopotamia (Piggot, 'Wagon, Chariot, and Carriage') or of the traveling done by Neolithic traders. All part of his early period weakness, but he apparently doesn't *care* about that period. It's just a lead-in to what he considers the good stuff, the classical period.
If you keep these holes in mind, it can be a fascinating book, opening a door on ancient tourism and traveller's lodging that I was very glad to have read. His writing style is light and easy, despite his heavy scholastic background, his translations are modern, and his enthusiasm unflagging. I'm finding room for it on my very crowded shelves, so despite its flaws it is still worth acquiring for the many good parts.
Time to take a trip  Jun 14, 2000
Another excellent title by Lionel Casson, professor emeritus of classics at NY University. Originally published in the 1970s it is in a 1994 softbound edition with very few changes. The book has chapters on inns and restaurants, ancient tourism, travel by sea, travel by land, and ancient postal systems. Although this may sound like it's pretty dry, it should prove to be very interesting to anyone who likes history of any kind, and is quite amusing in spots.

For example, when pork, a popular meat, was unavailable or too expensive, unethical restauranteurs would sometimes substitute human flesh which apparently is indistinguishable (I wouldn't know) and generally quite cheap and available (this was in Roman times, so that shouldn't be too surprising I guess). Okay, that's a little more gruesome than it is amusing, but trust me, there are amusing things in the book and it is so interesting that you should fly through it and wind up wanting more. Of the book, not the pork.

Other books by this author include "The Ancient Mariners" which just came out in a new and greatly revised edition. I recommend the older edition having read it, and recommend the new edition because Casson is a qualified expert and very good writer. It's sometimes hard for me to believe a writer on ancient history could be so entertaining, and I love ancient history.


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