Hero Cult and Localization
Within the poetics of hero cult, indicated particularly in the archaic and classical sources, the abundant vegetation of cult site also signifies the flourishing of justice and prosperity for the city or region most closely connected with the veneration of the hero. 
Encountering a Hero: Travel in Philostratus’s Heroikos
In other words, having had an indication from the vinedresser that he will learn much about the events of the Trojan War from the hero Protesilaos, the merchant links his dream about the catalogue of heroes (that is, the so-called catalogue of ships from Book II of the Iliad) to the newly discovered availability of an eyewitness account of “Homeric events.” What the merchant does yet realize is that the hero, through the vinedresser, will provide him with an alternative account, critiquing the Homeric version at every turn. Protesilaos’s account is deemed—from the perspective of the dialogue and of the hero—far more authoritative than Homer, not least because it is an “eyewitness account” of the events surrounding the Trojan War. Moreover, the hero exhibits what we can call a “superhuman consciousness” of the Trojan and Achaean matters, narrating many matters that took place after his death. (We may recall that Protesilaos was the first hero to die in the war, shot by a Trojan hero in the moment of disembarking from the ship.  )
Much later in the dialogue, however, the merchant expresses a rather changed attitude. Having told the merchant a great deal of what he has learned from Protesilaos, including much about Achilles, the vinedresser begins to broach the important topic of the Thessalian cult for Achilles at his tomb in the Troad, a cult “mixing something of an initiatory rite with their offerings to the dead” (Heroikos 52.3).
In this instance it is the vinedresser who raises the potential impediment of the demands of commercial travel. We should note that it comes at the point where the dialogue moves into a topic of great religious complexity, the merging of initiatory rites with the offerings to the dead customary in heroic tomb cults. This is the opportunity for the merchant to indicate his new priorities, namely, his willingness to pursue the “soul’s cargo” and thus also a new stage in his devotion to the hero.
These are the concluding words of the dialogue. We may note not only the merchant’s ongoing desire to attain deeper knowledge through the hero, but also the instruction to pour a libation to the hero “from the ship.” The visit would thus end with this act of devotion, not at the tomb per se, but from the vehicle of travel.
The journeys of such suppliants are not explicitly mentioned, but the prominence of the panhellenic athletes suggests that they are not residents of the region around Elaious (one named is from Cilicia, for example). The implication of the text is that Protesilaos functions as a panhellenic oracle and healing sanctuary, perhaps with particular devotion among the Thessalians, his own people. (He also has a sanctuary in Phulakê, his home town). We may surmise, at least as a basis for further investigation, that one purpose of traveling to a hero shrine was to obtain oracular knowledge and that at some hero sanctuaries healing was also available through the practices of the cult. In the case of oracular consultation, it is important to note that here again the “superhuman consciousness of the hero” is activated through cult practices. In this case Protesilaos knows not only about “epic matters” but also practical wisdom pertaining to athletic and erotic success. 
As a picture of personal devotion to a hero linked to imperial benefaction, Hadrian’s care for the bones and the tomb of Ajax recalls a further aspect of travel goes beyond casual sightseeing.  It nevertheless reminds us of a landscape rich with localized opportunities for encounter and devotion, for which sightseeing while traveling may be a first step.
Pausanias also mentions this tradition (Description of Greece 3.19.11). The passage presents us with another aspect of travel and hero cult, as conceptualized by the Heroikos, namely, the accessibility of poetic knowledge through travel to a cult site. It presents the hero, Achilles in this case, as the composer of lyric poetry, a complement to Protesilaos’s knowledge of epic matters (Achilles and Protesilaos function as complementary heroes in several ways throughout the Heroikos). As Richard Martin has shown, oral traditional poetry regularly conceptualizes its composition as coming from the mouth of hero; this is another manifestation in tradition of the notion of the superhuman consciousness of the hero, whereby the tradition itself authorizes itself with reference to the direct powers of the hero.  The Heroikos presents this dynamic throughout with reference to Protesilaos. What travelers to Leukê experience, in keeping with this conceptualization, is the accessibility of song traditions directly from the mouth of Achilles.
Rather than reading this extended passage as a description of how an embassy to a hero sanctuary actually took place, I suggest that it provides an example of how regional devotion to a hero could conceptualize its practices of journeying to the site of primary localization for ritual purposes. The ship itself may become a locus for ritual practice (the singing of a hymn, the sacrificial feast). The limina (the beach, the harbor, “before touching land”) likewise mark areas of negotiating the difference between the cult site itself and the native land of the worshippers (and perhaps of the hero also). We see also in this instance the problems involved with a burial in what is, according to the narrative associated with the cult, in “enemy country” and as a result how what is ritually correct must be redefined. These might all be dimensions of traveling to reach the site of highly localized religious practice.
Questions for Further Research
Such an invitation extended to the heroes opens up the possibility of encounter with the heroes through the practices of cult. This notion, basic to cult, is here linked to regional, corporate visitation, but also undergirds much of what we have observed earlier in this essay. That is, the accessibility of the hero to the worshiper through the practices of cult is repeatedly indicated in the Heroikos as integral to the conceptualization of hero cult. The Heroikos explores this accessibility more thoroughly in terms of individual devotion, encounter, and experience than in terms of corporate veneration. I would propose, however, that what the Heroikos presents and examines in terms of the individual coheres with the conceptualization of what is possible through communal or civic cultic practice. I think here less of what has been called the “mysticism” of hero cult,  although this dimension bears further investigation, and more in terms of the activation of the superhuman consciousness of the hero. In particular, I ask whether what is presented in narrative terms in the Heroikos as the accessibility of the hero as the source of poetic traditions, oracular knowledge, and even healing practices can be transposed into an understanding of what is available through visitation to the cult site itself. To put this question another way: Is a hero cult sanctuary a locus for such practices as rhapsodic performance of poetry, the preservation and transmission of local epic and/or lyric traditions, and the development of sapiential and philosophical teaching, as well as oracular wisdom and healing knowledge? In what ways then does a text like the Heroikos provide a picture of the kinds of expertise that might be available to any visitor or traveler to a hero shrine?