The theoros journeys forth as an official witness to a spectacle, and then returns as a messenger or reporter: at the end of the journey, he gives a verbal account of a visual, spectacular event.

Andrea Wilson Nightingale

In Timaeus, Plato writes about Solon and his voyage to the Nile River delta, where he learned from Egyptian priests and the keepers of ancient records about Greece’s defeat of the Atlantans, a story that had been forgotten by the Greeks themselves. Solon returned to Greece to tell the story of its own history. Solon was a practitioner of the Greek institution of the theoria. Theoria, or θεωρία in Greek, is the root of both the word theory and of tourism. Interestingly, the word translates to English as “to consider, speculate, or look at.” The theoria was a group of trustworthy people or an individual, theoros (θεωρός), literally “spectator,” who would be dispatched to distant lands by the community, in search of the truth. Solon lived in a time, not unlike ours, that was awash in rumor and myth, stories of gods and sea monsters. The theoria’s job was to go to these faraway places, investigate, and report back to the community in the public square. Avatourist is a prototype of a new, theory-based virtual tourism.


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