Emperor Hadrian's Travels
Emperor Hadrian, The Stoic-Epicurean Emperor traveled broadly, inspecting and correcting the legions in the field. Even prior to becoming emperor, Hadrian had traveled abroad with the Roman military, giving him much experience in the matter. More than half his reign was spent outside of Italy. Other emperors often left Rome to simply go to war, returning soon after conflicts concluded. A previous emperor, Nero, once traveled through Greece and was condemned for his self indulgence. Emperor Hadrian, by contrast, traveled as a fundamental part of his governing, and made this clear to the Roman senate and the people. He was able to do this because at Rome he possessed a loyal supporter within the upper echelons of Roman society, a military veteran by the name of Marcius Turbo. Also, there are hints within certain sources that he also employed a secret police force, the frumentarii, to exert control and influence in case anything should go wrong while he journeyed abroad.
Hadrian's visits were marked by handouts which often contained instructions for the construction of new public buildings. Hadrian was willful of strengthening the Empire from within through improved infrastructure, as opposed to conquering or annexing perceived enemies. This was often the purpose of his journeys; commissioning new structures, projects and settlements. His almost evangelical belief in Greek culture strengthened his views: like many emperors before him, Emperor Hadrian's will was almost always obeyed.
His traveling court was large, including administrators and likely architects and builders. The burden on the areas he passed through were sometimes great. While his arrival usually brought some benefits it is possible that those who had to carry the burden were of different class to those who reaped the benefits.
For example, huge amounts of provisions were requisitioned during his visit to Egypt, this suggests that the burden on the mainly subsistence farmers must have been intolerable, causing some measure of starvation and hardship. At the same time, as in later times all the way through the European Renaissance, kings were welcomed into their cities or lands, and the financial burden was completely on them, and only indirectly on the poorer class.
Emperor Hadrian's first tour came in 121 and was initially aimed at covering his back to allow himself the freedom to concern himself with his general cultural aims. He traveled north, towards Germania and inspected the Rhine-Danube frontier, allocating funds to improve the defenses. However it was a voyage to the Empire's very frontiers that represented his perhaps most significant visit; upon hearing of a recent revolt, he journeyed to Britannia.