Tag: Greece

Top Destinations for History Geeks: Ancient World Edition

Top Destinations for History Geeks: Ancient World Edition

I love travel more than anything, but long before I started exploring the world, my passion was history. If you’ve read any of my posts, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I can’t just enjoy a place on its own merits… I have to know what happened there in the past. I thought it would be fun to create a bucket list of the best destinations for history geeks like me. This will be first in a series of posts, each devoted to a different time period.

Destinations for History Geeks in Egypt

The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt, were built 2550-2490 BC as tombs for their kings/pharaohs in a shape meant to assist the king’s soul in ascending to join the gods in heaven. The largest is the Great Pyramid, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that survives today. The four sides measure an average of 755 feet at the base and its original height was 481 feet.

Egypt is one of the top destinations for history geeks who find the ancient world fascinating
The Great Sphinx & Pyramids at Giza, Egypt

The Great Sphinx, also in Giza, dates to around 2500 BC but some studies suggest it could be even older, dating as far back as 7000 BC. Sphinxes were spiritual guardians, and were often included near ancient tombs in Egypt. Researchers have found traces of red pigments on the face of the sphinx, which may indicate that its face was at one time painted. Interestingly, the name “sphinx” originates from Greek mythology, so the ancient Egyptians certainly had a different name for the half-lion, half-human creature.

If you can’t visit Egypt: check out a museum exhibit on ancient Egypt. Many museums also offer online virtual visits where you can view their collections online if you can’t get there in person. Some of the best in the world (outside of Egypt) are:

Destinations for History Geeks in Greece

If ancient Greece is more to your liking, there are plenty of destinations for history geeks like you. Many would recommend the Acropolis in Athens, which is nice, but I would rather visit Delphi, the site of the great Oracle. You can visit the Temple of Apollo where the High Priestess was located, and enjoy magnificent views while walking amongst the ruins.

Delphi, Greece is one of the top destinations for history geeks who are fascinated by the ancient world.
The Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece

Also in Delphi, you can view the Athenian Treasury, an ancient stadium/theatre, Tholos of Delphi (a circular temple that was part of the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia), and an archaeological museum.

If you can’t visit Greece: Here are some great museums to visit elsewhere in the world (or on the web):

Destinations for History Geeks in England

How can you talk about the ancient world and not think of Stonehenge?

top destinations for history geeks - Stonehenge dates from around 2500 BC
Stonehenge

Dating from around 2500 BC, these stone monoliths in Wiltshire, England form a ring of stones measuring approximately 7 feet wide, 13 feet high, and weighing 25 tons. No one is certain what the origins of this site are, but evidence suggests it began its existence as a burial site. The stones came from about 15 miles away but we do not know how the ancients transported them to their current location.

If you can’t visit Stonehenge: You can find over 300 stone circles scattered about England, more than 500 in Scotland, 81 in Wales, 343 in Ireland, 6 in the Channel Islands, and 49 in Brittany, France. For a full (global) list, check out this Wikipedia entry.

Author’s Note: I’ve been to the “Merry Maidens” stone circle near St. Buryan, Cornwall. It’s nowhere near as impressive as Stonehenge, with stones that are only about 3 feet high. However, it was free to visit and completely uncrowded with tourists, which is always a plus. (Disappointed to report, however, that when I stepped inside the circle I did not get transported back through time like Claire in Outlander!)

Destinations for History Geeks in Jordan

We do not know precisely when Petra was built, but historians believe that the city began to prosper from the 1st century BC. It grew rich through trade in frankincense, myrrh, and spices. Petra continued to thrive until a large earthquake in 363 AD destroyed much of the city. 

top destinations for history geeks - the city of Petra in southern Jordan
The Treasury – Petra

The building shown above is the Treasury, called Al-Khazneh. Originally built as a mausoleum and crypt, there are four eagles at the top to carry away the souls of the departed.

If you can’t visit Petra: check out the online virtual tour by Google Maps. Then watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The facade of the Treasury represented the entrance to the final resting place of the Holy Grail.

Destinations for History Geeks in Italy

Pompeii is a history geek’s dream – nearby Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, destroying the city, yet simultaneously preserving it under 13-20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice.

top destinations for history geeks - the ruins of Pompeii Italy
Ruins of Pompeii

Pompeii was an affluent city with a thriving arts scene. There was a theatre, a forum, an amphitheater, and multiple sculptures, mosaics, and frescoes. (There’s even a collection of erotic art culled from the ruins on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.)

There are also, of course, many ancient sites in Rome that make great destinations for history geeks. For instance, the iconic Colosseum.

The Colosseum of Rome

Trivia Alert: Did you know that the Colosseum’s proper name is the Flavian Amphitheater? Built around 80 AD, it became known as the Colosseum due to a colossal statue that stood nearby. Another lesser known fact to people who have not been to see the Colosseum is that it is in the archaeological heart of Ancient Rome. There are other attractions nearby, such as the Roman Forum, Arch of Constantine, and Palatine Hill.

If you can’t visit Italy: take a virtual Pompeii tour online, or visit the following museums:

  • Houston Museum of Natural Science – HMNS is hosting a Pompeii exhibition now through September 6, 2021.
  • Musee de La Civilization, Quebec – “Pompeii: The Immortal City” will be on display here from November 18, 2021, until September 11, 2022.
  • The British Museum produced an exhibit in 2013 called Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum. You can see the accompanying film, Pompeii Live, by clicking here.
  • The Colosseum and other historical sites in Rome offer virtual tours online. Click here for a list of sites.
  • Room 70 at the British Museum covers over 1000 years of the Roman Empire, from 753 BC to 324 AD.
  • The Penn Museum’s Rome Gallery (Philadelphia) has nearly 600 artifacts. It boasts one of the largest collections of Roman glass in the United States.

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top destinations for history geeks - ancient world edition