Levels of personal mobility varied greatly in the ancient Mediterranean. Certain categories of men were regarded as mobile throughout: the trader was a recognizable figure in the Homeric poems, and normally rootless wanderers of the Archaic period include such technical experts (see demiourgoi), as healers, seers, scribes, practitioners of the visual and performance arts, and workers in special materials, esp. metalworkers. Traders remain a standard figure of mobility, from the great wanderers in Herodotus to negotiatores attested on Roman tomb‐inscriptions.
The demand for the general labour of the slave and the fighting skills of the soldier led to increased mobility. The Archaic period saw the development of structures for recruiting mercenaries, through which large numbers of fighting men moved from Greece and Anatolia to Egypt, the Levant, and the Fertile Crescent; and the distribution of significant numbers of people by the nascent slave trade (as attested in Solon's poems).
These circumstances combined to make the Mediterranean sea‐ways a sphere of opportunity and danger, in which legality was tenuous and violence normal: the prevalence of plunder and piracy reflects this. Early community action exploited the opportunities too, and the movements of colonists interested in agricultural produce, exchange‐opportunities, and exploitable labour add to the picture (see colonization, greek). Women were involved in slave‐mobility (witness the regulations on Hellenistic Greek islands keeping women indoors to protect them from being snatched by pirates).
Many of these tendencies survived the regulation of international relations and the increasing orderliness of contacts and communications over the Classical period. Leaving home to be a soldier, and perhaps settling far away, remained a standard experience through the early decades of the Successor (see diadochi) kingdoms, and rising standards of urban living created an ever‐growing demand for slaves, and increasing economic interdependence involved more people in trade. The Roman dominion also required a high level of mobility, and to the other processes added the development of movements which could be regarded as administrative, managing supplies and exactions and serving in the entourages of officials. As all of these processes developed, the opportunities for battening on them did so too, and piracy and rapine (see brigandage) increased until the Roman state in the age of Pompey and Augustus had to extirpate it. Mobility under the Roman empire was thus more secure (the risks from robbers and brigands remained real, even in Italy), if still vulnerable to the weather and the multiple discomforts of ancient transport technology. Soldiers, traders, officials, and slaves retained a particular role in promoting it.
The development of widespread background mobility and its infrastructure made voluntary travel and its culture possible. The result was that inns and eating‐places came to be common, though the élite preferred to rely on reciprocal hospitality (see friendship, ritualized). Journeying to panhellenic sanctuaries seems to have become popular at least by the 4th cent. Élite journeying might turn into tourism, excited by the descriptive and geographical literature that increased alongside mobility in general. Certain destinations in the Aegean and in Egypt (Athens, Sparta, Memphis and the Fayūm, Thebes and the Valley of the Kings) were esp. favoured. Travelling to acquire an education became common for the rich with the multiplication of centres of intellectual prestige from the 4th cent. Touring became a pastime of emperors, never more than in the journeys of Hadrian, whose monument was his eclectic villa near Tibur.
Subjects: Classical Studies.