Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, better known as Caracalla, became sole emperor in December AD 211. After a brief period at Rome - perhaps less than a year (211-212) Caracalla embarked on an extensive tour of the empire. In the course of his travels, the emperor visited more than twenty provinces, and led military campaigns on several frontiers. The aim of this thesis is twofold: to analyse the events of this tour, and to assess the emperor's provincial, military and foreign policies.
The reputation of Caracalla ranks him among the worst of all Roman emperors. Caracalla's role in the assassination of his brother and fellow emperor, Geta (December 211), and the subsequent purge of Geta's supporters at Rome provide the foundation for this reputation. Yet these same characteristics are commonly applied to Caracalla in the context of his later provincial tour, most notably, by Edward Gibbon: "every province was by turn the scene of his rapine and cruelty". This perception of Caracalla's reign has survived even in very recent scholarship. An attempt has been made in the present inquiry to redraw the standard picture, at least as far as the provincial, tour is concerned.
This study also addresses the notion that Caracalla held little or no interest in the business of empire, but instead diverted his energies to the pursuit of personal pleasure. In fact, evidence suggests that the emperor maintained a comprehensive administrative agenda in the provinces. Moreover, Caracalla actively sought to solve existing problems both within the provinces and beyond them, and his policies were frequently imbued with a spirit of innovation.
The ancient literary evidence for Caracalla's provincial tour, together with modem scholarly treatments of the period, forms the basis of the present inquiry. At the same time, the study incorporates a detailed inspection of all of the available evidence, including the abundant epigraphic, numismatic and archaeological material. This holistic approach is productive. It serves to offset the inconsistencies found within the literary sources and to shed light on aspects of Caracalla's provincial tour that have received inadequate coverage in modem scholarship.