Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 September 2009
When your eyes are sated with the spectacle of things above and you lower them to earth, another aspect of things, and otherwise wonderful, will meet your gaze. On this side you will see level plains stretching out their boundless expanse, on the other, mountains rising in great, snowclad ridges and lifting their peaks to heaven … You will see the ships seeking the lands they ignore; you will see that no enterprise rejects human audacity, and you will be, in these attempts, both spectator and participant.Seneca, To Marcia on Consolation 18, 4–7
One of the characteristics of the end of the twentieth century was the extraordinary development of the travel industry: modes of transport, communication channels and the tourist market. Travelling is no longer the impossible dream. This revolution in mobility is not without parallels in history. Of course, there was the fifteenth century with its great maritime conquests (the Indies, America). Earlier, the crusades had stimulated curiosity in the Orient. Another period, less known, but just as influential in the launching of travel was the turn of the Christian era in the Roman Empire. There are numerous indications which lead us to believe that the Mediterranean populations of this period were fascinated by travel.
An effect of globalization
Historians agree in describing the Roman Empire as a world in which, everywhere, interest in unknownworlds, the development of the means of communication, and the stability assured by the Pax Augustana come together to intensify exchange.