Encounters with Death: Was there Dark Tourism in Classical Greece?

Journal of Greek Archaeology

‘Dark tourism’ is generally defined as travel to sites associated with suffering, death, or the macabre. In the modern world, popular dark tourism destinations include bloody battlefields such as Gallipoli and Waterloo, sites of disaster like Chernobyl and the World Trade Center, and scenes of genocide including the Holocaust concentration camps and the killing fields of Rwanda. Although some scholars in the burgeoning field of dark tourism studies maintain that travel of this sort is a phenomenon of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, humans have long been drawn to places of death and disaster, and dark tourism arguably has its roots in antiquity. To determine whether dark tourism was indeed an ancient custom, this article explores the evidence for the practice in the ancient Greek world during the 5th century BC. It begins with an introduction to dark tourism and ancient travel, then focuses on examples of two markedly different types of sites, burial grounds and nekuomanteia, ultimately establishing precedents for a premodern precursor of dark tourism and providing a framework for future studies of ‘dark’ travels in the ancient Mediterranean world.