When did romantic travel started in Greece? Say “ancient Greece”…
Romantic travel in Greece is not a new concept, as most people think. It did not begin in the 20th century. It did not even begin in the 19th century, with the first “world explorers” visiting the ancient ruins and pristine beaches of this magnificent country.
If we extend the meaning of the word “travel” and use it the way ancient Greeks used it (for getting back home, commerce, relationship-building with other city-states , war etc.), we discover that in ancient Greece romantic travel was so common, that both masterpieces of Homer are essentially based on it!
The abduction of Helen of Troy – a romantic travel in Greece with devastating consequences
Iliad, the first masterpiece of Homer, chronicles – in an unsurpassed poetically manner – the Trojan war, who started from a forbidden romance in Greece which ended in Troy.
Helen was the wife of Menelaus, the king of Sparta and the brother of king of Mycenae Agamemnon. She fell in love – as usually, with some help from the gods – with Paris, one of the most handsome men in ancient Greece, and son of Priam, king of Troy. This romance resulted in Paris abducting Helen, and bringing her to Troy, the city-state of his king father.
This romantic travel through the Aegean Sea had devastating implications for Troy: Agamemnon grabbed the opportunity and declared war to Troy. After an irresolute, lasting war, Troy was reduced to ruins by the Mycenaeans and their allies. Helen, after this romantic travel through Greece, that brought so much suffering to her new home, returned with her husband, Menelaos, to Sparta, where they lived happily ever after.
The adventures of Odysseus – a long lasting romantic travel through the Greek Seas in search of true love
Odysseus (also know with his Roman name Ulysses), was the king of Ithaca island city-state. After the successful campaign in Troy – in which he offered more than his fair share, by brilliantly figuring out the Trojan Horse trick – he started the long journey back home. This travel through the Greek Seas proved to be a dream and a nightmare at the same time, as the famous Odyssey, the second masterpiece of Homer, recounts.
Odyssey starts with Odysseus and his Ithacan men getting hit by a major storm. And this was just the beginning. The obstacles they encountered were insurmountable: the giant Cyclop Polyphemos, the sorcerer Circe, the tempting but lethal Sirens, the man-eating Scylla and Charybdis, and the goddess Calypso, to name but a few.
In his troublesome travel through the Aegean, Odysseus is romantically involved twice. The first romance is with sorcerer Circe, who falls in love with him, turns his men into pigs, and demands that he becomes her lover in order to turn them into humans again and free them. The second is with goddess Kalypso, in the island of whom he found himself after his ship was totally wrecked by storm (taking with it to the bottom of the sea his last men standing). He stayed in Calypso’s island for seven years, with the goddess refusing to let him go after – you guessed it – falling in love with him.
But the true romance is not in the adventurous travels of Odysseus throughout the Greek Seas. Although he is romantically involved, first with Circe, and then with Calypso, he always longs to get back to Ithaca and his wife Penelope – something that he finally manages to do with the gods’ intervention.
The moral of the story of Odyssey is that his romantic love acted like a guiding light in the many obstacles that Odysseus had to pass through during his long-lasting adventurous travel, in order to find again his wife and true love: Penelope.
Homer’s stories about romantic travel in ancient Greece are just the icing of the cake. There are countless stories and myths in ancient Greece involving romance and travel. Like the myth of Europa and Zeus, the king of the ancient Greek gods. Europa, who later gave her name to an entire continent, was abducted by Zeus (who transformed for the occasion into an attractive white bull) and was brought to Crete through the sea.
Since the ancient times, the Greeks know the value of romance and romantic travel – although “travel” meant a lot more things at that time. Today, if you are a couple visiting Greece, you can benefit from all this centuries’ old tradition and make your romantic travel in Greece an experience you will never forget.