H V Morton: A Traveller in Rome

October 30, 2018

518hprFDaQL._AC_US218_I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of books by Morton, who wrote around the middle of the last century. His travels in the footsteps of Christ and of St Paul are careful, detailed and thoughtful visits to the places, with conversations, encounters and personal responses; I learnt a lot from them.

As I’m thinking about a trip to Rome – which I’ve never visited – I thought it would be interesting to read his take on the Eternal City. A good deal of it was interesting and informative, though I’m sure wildly out of date in places, but there was a great deal that I skimmed through, concerning people and history which didn’t really interest me, Renaissance power-politics and the English visitors of the early nineteenth century and the like.

I realised fairly early on that this book was rather different from the earlier two I’ve mentioned above. They derive their unity from the fact that Morton is following in someone’s footsteps and so in some ways he’s merely an observer, and where he goes is dictated by someone else (a historical personage), whereas in this book the central characters are the city and himself, and so the focus is subtly but clearly different. His interests didn’t always coincide with mine.

Useful things I learned: the city is walkable; lots of detailed information about togas which I’d never known, in spite of my studies, and similarly on the Vestal Virgins, and the pagan origins of the new fire ceremony that is part of the Christian Easter vigil.

I’m glad I read it as part of the preparation for my eventual trip, but it’s an interesting historical curiosity rather than a traveller’s ‘must read’.

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