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
2017 marked the 1,900th anniversary of Hadrian’s accession as emperor. I took this opportunity to celebrate Hadrian’s legacy in a even more exciting way. The commemoration will last for 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. My aim is to try to follow Hadrian’s journeys according to the year they were undertaken. I have already planned the first two years of Hadrian’s reign.
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, on the 9th it was announced that he had adopted Hadrian, on the 11th the troops hailed Hadrian as emperor.
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 and Byzantium before heading to Dacia where he conducted negotiations with the king of the Roxolani. Then Hadrian’s remained in the Danube lands for a couple of months and finally left for Rome which he reached on the 9th of July AD 118.
The journey of Hadrian in Cilicia was recorded on an inscription in Rome (CIL VI 5076) which carries the names of stations on the highroad from Tarsus to Andabalis in Cappadocia, and is equipped with dates from October 13 to 19. However the end of his journey from Pannonia to Rome is uncertain and I decided to use Antony 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
This map has 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 finally, I was born exactly 1900 years after Hadrian… AD 76 – 1976 🙂
My main sources:
- 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