Historian and travel writer, Lord John Julius Norwich’s epic history plays a huge part in the very foundations of Voyages to Antiquity and is the inspiration behind our new April cruise – ‘A voyage through the Middle Sea’, and we are very excited to announce that he will be joining us on board Aegean Odyssey in spring 2017.
Founder Gerry Herrod was inspired by the book “The Middle Sea,” about the fabled ancient civilisations that flourished in the eastern and central Mediterranean, so he decided to team up with the books author, Lord John Julius Norwich and together they crafted a selection of wonderful itineraries that solely focused on the remains of the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations.
Our brand new springtime cruise ‘A voyage through the Middle Sea’ is a celebration of the greater achievements of Western civilisation: the superbly well-preserved Greek temples of Segesta and the Valle die Templi, the fortifications of Syracuse, the Palatine Chapel in Palermo and the Monreale Cathedral. John Julius shares with us his love for the Mediterranean and what you can expect from our spring cruise.
‘I first set eyes on the Mediterranean when I was fifteen. I have loved it ever since.
Why? Well, glance for a moment at the map. We all take it for granted, I Know; but try to look at it objectively, pretending that you have never seen it before, and you will suddenly realise what a unique phenomenon it is. Saved from stagnation by the Straits of Gibraltar, it seems to have been deliberately designed as a cradle of cultures – and this is certainly what it has proved to be. It nurtured three of the most dazzling civilizations of antiquity, and saw the birth or blossoming of three of our greatest religions; in consequence, the lands surrounding it are richer in painting, sculpture and historic monuments than any comparable area on earth.
Of those civilisations, Ancient Egypt had relatively little cultural impact beyond the Nile Valley; Greece – and Rome even more – profoundly affected the entire Mediterranean, but there was a huge qualitative difference between them. Rome was a political entity – first a republic, then an empire. St Paul could boast that he was a Roman citizen. Greece, on the other hand, was a spirit, an idea. It had no frontiers; if you felt Greek and spoke Greek, then Greek is what you were. Homer, or Herodotus, or Pythagoras, all of whom came from the coast of Asia Minor, were Greeks through and through, just as Greek as if they had been born in Athens or Sparta.
And, oddly enough, it was the Greek spirit that won through in the end. By the fourth century AD, Rome was dying on its feet. By moving the imperial capital to his new city of Constantinople, Constantine the great gave the empire a new lease of life; but Constantinople was part of the Greek world, and gradually the Empire – while still calling itself Roman – become completely Greek. So it remained until Tuesday May 1453 – one of the most fateful dates in all history – when the Ottoman Turks smashed their way through the walls of the city and the Byzantine Empire, after 1,123 years, ceased to exist.
Voyages to Antiquity itineraries have been planned to reveal as much as possible of the literally inexhaustible wealth that the Mediterranean lands have to offer, and to explain it to people who are genuinely eager to see and to understand. We are not interested in mere cruises in the sun; our only ship, the Aegean Odyssey, has no casinos, no discos, no black tie. On the other hand, we recognise that our fellow-travellers are on holiday; they deserve comfortable cabins and the best food that we can provide. And we also know that there are few pleasures like getting together in the evening over a drink or two to discuss the wonders that we have seen during the day. So there’s our formula: interest and excitement ashore, comfort and relaxation on board. We propose to enjoy ourselves; we hope that you will too.’
Lord John Julius Norwich
Join John Julius on board Aegean Odyssey – A Voyage through the Middle Sea departing 17 April 2017