My Hadrian 1900 project

According to the Historia Augusta, no other Roman emperor travelled as much as Hadrian. He was famed for his endless journeys around the empire and devoted a full half of his 21-year reign to the inspection of the provinces (he remained in Rome in 119-120, 126-127 and in the final years of his reign). My fascination for Hadrian and my passion for travelling has motivated me to follow him in his footsteps.

So fond was he of travel, that he wished to inform himself in person about all that he had read concerning all parts of the world.

Historia Augusta – The Life of Hadrian

The year 2017 marked the 1,900th anniversary of Hadrian’s accession to the imperial throne, and myself was born precisely 1,900 years after Hadrian. Therefore, I took this opportunity to celebrate Hadrian’s legacy in an even more exciting way. The commemoration will last about 21 years, from 2017 to 2038. I usually try to use Hadrian’s journeys as a leading thread for my own adventures, but with this project, I want to go one step further. I aim to try to trace Hadrian’s journeys in strict chronological order, so that I would consistently be present at the same place and at the same age as he wasonly 1900 years later. The first two years of Hadrian’s reign (AD 117-118) have already been completed.

AD 117–118: Returning to Rome from Syria by way of the north-eastern frontier

Hadrian’s first imperial journey began soon after he had been proclaimed emperor by the army in Syria. At the time Hadrian had taken up residence in Antioch as governor of Syria while Trajan was campaigning in the East. Trajan died on the 8 August AD 117 (see here), on the 9th it was announced that he had adopted Hadrian (see here), on the 11th the troops hailed Hadrian as emperor (see here).

After receiving the news of Trajan’s death, Hadrian did not travel directly back to Rome. According to the HA, Hadrian set out from Antioch to view the remains of Trajan. Trajan’s ashes were sent on to Rome by ship whilst Hadrian returned to Antioch. He finally left Antioch in September 117 and journeyed north-westwards to sort out the Danube frontier. Hadrian’s path took him from Syria to Ancyra (see here) and Byzantium before heading to Dacia where he conducted negotiations with the king of the Roxolani (see here). Then Hadrian’s remained in the Danube lands for a couple of months (see here) and finally left for Rome which he reached on the 9th of July AD 118 (see here).

The journey of Hadrian in Cilicia was recorded on an inscription in Rome (CIL VI 5076) which carries the names of stations on the high road from Tarsus to Andabalis in Cappadocia and is equipped with dates from 12 to 19 October. However the end of his journey from Pannonia to Rome is uncertain, and I decided to use Anthony R. Birley’s suggestion that Hadrian travelled from Pannonia to Rome overland into the plains around the Venetian lagoon, and headed south along the coast to Ariminum (Rimini) and down the Via Flaminia.

View this map on Google Map

AD 121–125: Hadrian’s first voyage

After nearly three years in Rome, Hadrian turned his attention to the western provinces. After he had celebrated the birthday of the city and inaugurated the Temple of Venus and Roma in April of the year 121 (see here), Hadrian then set out for Gaul (see here), with time available for inspecting the military installations between the Rhine and Danube in Raetia and Noricum. In 122 Hadrian crossed to Britain from Germania Inferior with Platorius Nepos, the newly appointed governor of Britannia. Hadrian’s aim was to strengthen the line of separation between Roman and non-Roman territory by constructing a long wall across the country. Toward the end of 122, Hadrian left Britain for Spain and passed by Nemausus where he enjoined that a basilica be built in honour of Plotina, Trajan’s wife. Then, Hadrian spent the winter of 122/3 in Tarraco but failed to return to the province Baetica and to Italica, the ‘patria’ of the Aelii. While in Spain, a rebellion in Mauretania (modern-day Morocco) broke out and was suppressed by Hadrian. Whether he visited Mauretania personally is not known.

By June 123, the Euphrates frontier called the Emperor, urgently. Problems with Parthia resurfaced, ‘idque Hadriani conloquio repressum‘ (HA Hadr. 12.7). Hadrian was back with his retinue in Antioch, Syria and held a summit meeting with the Parthian king Chosroe. From Antioch, he went to inspect the Cappadocian frontier. From Cappadocia, Hadrian went along the coast of the Black Sea proceeded westwards through Galatia into Bithynia. He then wintered in Nicomedia in 123/4. Early in the next year, Hadrian traversed Mysia, Aeolis, Ionia, visiting the great cities of Cyzicus, Ilium, Pergamon, Smyrna and Ephesus. From Ephesus, he sent a letter addressed to Oenoanda or to Termessus and dated August 29.

In the autumn of 124, Hadrian travelled back to Italy by way of Athens (cf. SA Hadr. 13.1), with winter of 124/5 in Athens (creation of an extra tribe after himself). From Athens Hadrian embarked in a brief tour of the Peloponnese, visiting Argos and Sparta among other cities. He participated in the Eleusinian mysteries in October 124. By March 125, he was back in Athens. He then travelled to Delphi. The route of his return to Rome is not documented. He is recorded at Dyrrhachium on May 20th and may have gone by way of Nicopolis. From Dyrrhachium, Hadrian sailed to Sicily where he climbed to the top of Mount Etna to witness the sunrise. In spring 125, Hadrian was back in Rome. From his villa at Tibur, Hadrian sent a letter to Delphi late in August or early in September.

View this map on Google Map

These maps have been produced with the help of two online maps; a Roman route planner with all the main roads and cities of the Roman Empire based on the Tabula Peutingeriana (a medieval copy of a Roman roadmap from about the year AD 300) and an archaeological atlas of antiquity, both of which were created by René Voorburg.

and also


The main sources & references for this project are:

  • Birley, Anthony R. (1997). Hadrian. The restless emperor. Routledge, London
  • Boatwright, Mary T. (2002). Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire. Princeton University Press.
  • Boatwright, Mary T. (1987). Hadrian and the City of Rome. Princeton University Press.
  • Opper, T. (2008). Hadrian: Empire and Conflict. The British Museum Press.
  • R. Syme, Journeys of Hadrian, ZPE, 73 (1988), 159-170;
  • Fraser, Trudie E . (2006). Hadrian as Builder and Benefactor in the Western Provinces. BAR International Series 1484
  • Højte, J. (2000). Imperial Visits as Occasion for the Erection of Portrait Statues? Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik, 133, 221-235.

28 thoughts on “My Hadrian 1900 project”

  1. What a fantastic project! I have just finished reading Margueritte Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian, which has piqued my interest in this emperor, which led me to your blog. Good luck with your journeys!

  2. Very nice project but in the map there is an error….Via Flaminia after Terni goes to Narni ( where you can see the huge Augustus bridge, the highest in Italy) and then Otricoli ( where there are still many ruins..)which was the first big city outside Rome’s area By the time of Claudius, Trajan and Hadrian it was used also the west branch of the via Flaminia where the city of Carsulae was, very often used by the army to rest . Carsulae had baths, theater and an amphiteather…now an amazing archeological site.

      1. You are very welcome! 🙂 just wanted to inform you … I can see that we have the same great passion for Hadrian and Rome, the Via Flaminia in particular I have traveled all over and there are many places along this path of great interest that perhaps not everyone knows about ( like the little city of Bevagna ). The map is correct, you can leave the track between Spoleto and Terni because reaching Spoleto or Narni, the road was divided into two branches.( the west one, via Carsulae, which was the first road built on a previous ancient Umbrians road, and it was used mainly for the military army and the East branch which was built mainly for the commercial trades because facilitated by a 32 miles shorter distance between Narni and Spoleto.) :-))

    1. Guess what? I’ve been there already! 😉 I visited both theatres. They were indeed built during the reign of Hadrian.

  3. Im proud of you:) When you have been there? Because this year are finishing the archaeological excavations at the theater in Scupi (which is the biggest one in R.Macedonia) and until the end of the next year its planned whole theater to be reconstructed..

  4. That’s a really super project! I was studying the map on the link you posted and it sounds really interesting! Wish you all the best and I hope your project will be real! Take your time… Adriano was going by horses.. Maybe a bicycle will be the right way! 😉

  5. Of course you would have visited Hadrians villa, Tivoli. We went there in2013 on a sultry stormy day.
    Very atmospheric.

    1. Hello, I was in Jerusalem last week and went to see the exhibition where I had a special tour with the curator. I went especially to see the reunited inscription because I was in Jerusalem in October 2014 on the day the second part of the inscription was presented to the public. You might want to read all my posts related to Hadrian in Judea.

  6. Bonjour Carole
    Bravissima! Vous avez crée un site magnifique – très utile, super documenté et nostalgique – surtout pour ceux qui n’ont pas (ou plus) l’occasion de visiter toutes ces places et musées!
    Je ne connais que la Villa Hadriana et les statues dans la région romaine. Mon prénom et nom d’artiste étant Adriano, ça va sans dire que j’ai étudié la vie de ce grand empereur et que je possède une collection de livres importants. Connaissez-vous l’étude de Hugo Meyer sur Antinoos, avec d’innombrables photos des statues et bas-reliefs retrouvé dans tout le monde?
    Mes compliments et salutations de Zürich!

    1. Bonjour Adriano,
      Merci beaucoup pour votre commentaire. 🙂
      Est ce que l’étude de Hugo Meyer sur Antinoos a été publiée en francais ou en anglais ?

  7. Thank you for this, and congratulations-I am very admiring, and very jealous! Hadrian is one of the most fascinating characters in all of history-you chose well to do this project, arduous though it probably is. I will be following for more posts-you have already illuminated this topic for many of us-thanks again.

  8. This is a wonderful project. So glad I found it by accident. Am looking forward to reading more and seeing more. Hadrian’s Wall has been on my list for many years.

Leave a Reply