THE ROMAN ARMY IN BRITAIN
By Guy de la Bédoyère
Back to the Home Page
This chapter is based on Chapter 2 of my Companion to Roman Britain (Tempus 1999)
(A selection of ancient texts in translation is available at The Roman Army.)
See also Auxilia for data concerning the auxiliary troops based in Britain.
The Roman legion of the late first and second centuries was made up of about 5500 soldiers. Each legian was divided into ten cohorts, each of six centuries of 80 men except for the first cohort which had five double centuries. Each century had its own centurion and optio of which the most senior was the primus pilus, centurion of the first century of the first cohort. Each cohort had a tesserarius, signifer, and cornicularius. Although recruitment of legionaries had originally been in Italy, by the second century at the latest they were being recruited from other provinces.
It’s very important to appreciate that we have absolutely no specific statement of how a legion was made up during the period Britain was being conquered. Earlier information like that provided by Polybius (2nd century BC), or later information (4th century AD) by Vegetius, shows that things changed over time. So, the information comes from a variety of sources. The century means literally ‘100’ but in practice it had become a more general statement of quantity like our ‘100 yards’ which we apply to practically any short distance. Hyginus (second century) tells us that centuries had 80 men divided into tent parties of 8 men. So, what we find on the ground at legionary fortresses allows us to compute the total taking into account other data like the fact that a legion had 60 centuries, 30 maniples (two centuries), and ten cohorts. Barrack blocks had ten rooms, plus a large room for the centurion and so on: 10 rooms x 8 men = 80. Count the barrack blocks and you have a theoretical total. BUT this was never exact – there were minor variations in numbers and arrangements for a whole variety of reasons.
In addition the legion had its standard bearer, the aquilifer, 120 cavalry scouts, a praefectus castrorum ('prefect of the camp', normally an ex-primus pilus), six military tribunes, and a legate. The senior tribune, tribunus laticlavius, was of senatorial status and was being groomed as a leader. He would proceed to become a quaestor before being appointed perhaps to a legionary command. After a time as praetor, provincial governorships might follow. The other tribunes, tribuni angusticlavii, were equestrians. The rest of their military careers would normally involve commanding auxiliary units.
Soldiers of various ranks were sometimes detached for other duties, usually either to the legate's or governor's personal staff (see Chapter 7). As a result individual soldiers may be testified in locations where their legions are not.
In the year 23 there were twenty-five legions in service (Tacitus, Annals iv.5), though requirements in the civil war of 68-9, together with other campaigns, elevated the total to around thirty between c. 83-117. By the beginning of the third century Dio observed that the number had dropped to nineteen (lv.23.2). Until the fourth century Britain had at least three and in the early days there were four. However, it was common practice to split the legions into vexillations and these were utilized as necessary. Britain thus sometimes had a garrison made up of members of more than three permanent legions. Individuals also moved between legions. T. Flavius Virilis served as centurion in the late-second and early-third centuries with II Augusta, VI, and XX (twice), before moving on to posts elsewhere in the Empire, taking with him his wife of British origin, Lollia Bodicca (ILS 2653).
The following legions were all stationed in whole or in part at some point during the Roman occupation of Britain, though in one or two cases this may only have amounted to an individual. The evidence for the activities of each legion is piecemeal, ranging from the detailed record by Tacitus of XIV Gemina's movements during the years 68-70, to modern inferences based on undated tombstones. It is, for instance, remarkable that two of the legions based in Britain for very long periods of time, VI and XX, have produced no dated inscriptional evidence for their presence as units (as opposed to individual monuments like tombstones) at their respective fortresses of York and Chester apart from roof tiles.
A vexillation may have helped build the Antonine Wall at Old Kilpatrick, evidenced by an altar of cohors I Baetasiorum, then under the charge of a centurion from I Italica. The arguments for and against the exact date of this altar are recounted by Frere (1987, 152-3, n. 34).
Undated: Old Kilpatrick (AW), altar dedicated by cohors I Baetasiorum under the charge of Julius Candidus, c(enturio), with I Italica. Brit. i (1970), 310, no. 20
Tacitus says that in 69 II Adiutrix had been 'recently raised' (recens conscriptis). It served alongside XIV, just withdrawn from Britain, in the campaign against Civilis under Petillius Cerialis. Tacitus does not identify it as Adiutrix ('Helper', a word applied to legions raised to strengthen an army), but just as secunda. It is distinguishable from II Augusta (see below) by virtue of its history.
It is normally stated that Petillius Cerealis brought II Adiutrix with him to Britain in 71. This is not a testified fact. However, a tombstone from Lincoln states the soldier's service life to have been six or eleven years. As the legion is known not have existed before the mid- to late-60s it can be assumed that II Adiutrix was at least in Britain, and probably at Lincoln, by any time from the early 70s on. This presupposes that he joined when the legion was founded. If he was recruited later, then the estimated date of his death would obviously be wrong.
That II Adiutrix left Lincoln in total for Chester by the 80s is not a certainty; it has become increasingly clear that units were not necessarily moved in their entirety. Transfers, vexillations, and other duties mean that soldiers from different legions can appear in the same place simultaneously.
Tombstones of II Adiutrix soldiers do turn up at Chester. One, giving seven or seventeen years' service, could therefore mean not before c. 75. Others give eleven and thirteen years for not before the late 70s or early 80s. One other example records a deceased soldier of the legion at Bath, presumably there in a private capacity.
The legion's duties seem to have been to garrison Lincoln and/or Chester during the campaigns in the north of the 70s and 80s undertaken mainly by IX and probably XX. Following the withdrawal from Scotland II Adiutrix was withdrawn from Britain either in the piecemeal form of advance vexillations or all at once.
T. Cominius Severus of II Adiutrix was honoured for his part in a Dacian war. The date is not stated on his tombstone but is usually assumed to be the war of 89. Quintus Planius Sardus, perhaps the Sardus in the letters of Pliny the Younger (ix.31), is named as legate of II Adiutrix in Pannonia on his tombstone (ILS 9486). Evidently the legion had been removed, perhaps as early as the mid-80s. But it may not have been moved in toto immediately. The Chester tombstone of Q. Valerius Fronto (see below) requires explanation, assuming its reading is correct.
No epigraphic evidence for any building activity by II Adiutrix during its time in Britain survives.
Undated: Lincoln, tombstone of T. Valerius Pudens, mil(es), apparently 6 yrs service (though the figure has been restored). RIB 258 (9)
Undated: Chester, tombstone of G. Juventius Capito, mil(es), 7 (or 17) yrs service. RIB 476
Undated: Chester, tombstone of Q. Valerius Fronto, miles, of 20 or more years' service. The long-service record, incompatible with a c. 85 departure has been explained as including an earlier spell in another legion, interestingly overlooked as a possibility in the other cases. RIB 479
Undated: Chester, tombstone of [...]inus, eque[s], of 11 yrs service. RIB 481
Undated: Chester, tombstone of [Voltim?]esis Pudens, eques, of 13 yrs service. RIB 482
By 89: Dacia, tombstone of T. Cominius Severus, decorated in a Dacian war. ILS 9193
69 - raised: Tacitus (Histories) iv.68, v.16
by c. 75 - at Lincoln: RIB 258
by late 70s/early 80s all or part at Chester: RIB 476, 481, 482
by 89 - in Dacia: ILS 9193
Legates (in Britain):
II Augusta took part in the invasion of Britain, and is the only legion testified in this role. In 43 Vespasian, later emperor, commanded it during his campaign in south-western Britain. A praefectus castrorum of II Augusta, P. Anicius Maximus, was decorated in a British war which was probably the Claudian invasion.
In view of the area in which it was active, the assumption that II Augusta was the one stationed in the legionary fortress at Exeter by c. 55 is probably correct but not verified by epigraphic evidence.
Sources: Tacitus (Histories) iii.44; Suetonius (Vespasian) iv.1
Claudian: Antioch, dedication to P. Anicius Maximus, sometime praef(ectus) castror(um) leg(ionis) II Aug(ustae) in Britannia, and hasta pura ob bellum Britannic(um), 'with iron-free spear [an honorific symbol] from the British war'. ILS 2696
Poenius Postumius, praefectus castrorum secundae legionis, ignored Suetonius Paullinus' orders to help crush the Boudican revolt in 60. This deprived II Augusta of honours awarded to XIV Gemina and XX. Postumius committed suicide. It is not clear why there was no legate able to respond.
Source: Tacitus (Annals) xiv.37
In 69 a vexillation of the legion (along with vexillations of IX and XX) fought for Vespasian at Cremona.
Caerleon is believed to have been established as a legionary base in 74-5, during the governorship of S. Julius Frontinus on the basis of archaeological evidence. But not until the years 99-100 under Trajan is II testified there.
II Augusta was possibly also building at Gelligaer in 103-11 but the inscription is too fragmentary to be certain.
Sources: Tacitus (Histories) iii.22
99-100: Caerleon, building stone with Trajan's titles. RIB 330
103-11: Gelligaer, building stone, legion's name missing. RIB 397
During this period II Augusta was widely engaged in military affairs on the northern frontier, principally Hadrian's Wall (11, 12). It is testified on several Wall inscriptions under the governor Platorius Nepos. These are mainly milecastle inscriptions; II Augusta is not yet testified at any Wall forts or on the actual curtain.
II Augusta later helped build the Antonine Wall, recorded on several inscriptions from the frontier most of which only name Antoninus Pius for 139-61. A few add the name of the governor Lollius Urbicus (c.139-43). Here its role in building the curtain is specified on some stones. In 139 and 140 the legion was also building at Corbridge.
At Newcastle an inscription records reinforcements for II, VI and XX during the governorship of Julius Verus between c. 155-9. It means either that reinforcements had arrived from the two German provinces for these legions, or had returned.
c. 122-6: Hadrian's Wall under A. Platorius Nepos. RIB 1634 (mc 37), 1637-8 (mc 38) (12), 1666 (mc 42)
139-43: Antonine Wall under Q. Lollius Urbicus. RIB 2191 (Balmuildy) plus numerous others of Antoninus Pius' reign for 139-61 but lacking the governor's name. RIB 2186 from near Cadder records a length of wall (3666.5 paces) built by II Augusta. RIB 2180 from near Auchendavy shows that the legion was split into vexillations.
139: Corbridge, under Q. Lollius Urbicus. RIB 1147
140: Corbridge, under Q. Lollius Urbicus. RIB 1148 (1)
155-9: Newcastle, reinforcements arriving at, or leaving from. RIB 1322 (14)
Under the Severan reorganization Britain was divided into two provinces: Inferior (north) and Superior (south) according to Herodian. II Augusta is not mentioned but Dio, describing the dispositions of the legions around this date, states that its 'winter quarters' (i.e. Caerleon) were in Britannia Superior.
In 207 quarrying by the river Gelt in Cumbria, close to Hadrian's Wall was recorded on an inscription near another naming a vexillation of II Augusta. The date of II Augusta's work is thus not certain but the work was probably linked with rebuilding work on the Wall under Severus. Restoration work by II Augusta at Caerleon between 198-209 may be recorded in a stone from Caerleon churchyard.
The prefect P. Sallienius Thalamus names the legion on a dedication made at Caerleon between 198-209.
Under Caracalla and possibly Elagabalus the legion was named II Augusta Antoniniana, as recorded on the tombstone from Chester of a legionary called Gabinius Felix. This stone also shows that individual tombstones are not necessarily reliable indicators of a legion's exclusive base as Chester was XX Valeria Victrix's fortress.
A suspect inscription from Netherby (butchered and recut) may record a vexillation of II Augusta building here in 219 during the governorship of Modius Julius but the evidence is unreliable (see his biography, Chapter 9).
The legate T. Claudius Paulinus was elevated to the governorship in or around 220, recorded on a statue base from Caerwent, close to Caerleon. His command of the legion will have been some time during the preceding decade.
Sources: Herodian iii.8.2 (division of Britain); Dio lv.23.2-6 (dispositions of the legions)
198-209: Caerleon, building(?), unit unnamed. RIB 333
198-209: Caerleon, dedication by P. Sallienius Thalamus, praef(ectus) of II Augusta. RIB 326
207: Gelt quarry, unit unnamed (see next example), work by Mercatius and with a consular date. RIB 1009
Undated: Gelt quarry, a vexillation of II Augusta. RIB 1008
213-22: Chester, tombstone of Gabinius Felix, miles of II Augusta Antoniniana (Caracalla or Elagabalus). RIB 488
213-22: Caerleon, tiles with the stamp LEG II AUG ANT/ANTO. RIB 2459.54-60
Undated (219?): Netherby, purportedly recording II Augusta, XX Valeria Victrix and cohors I Hispanorum during the governorship of Modius Julius. Butchered and recut. RIB 980
pre-220: Caerwent, statue base of T. Claudius Paulinus, legate. RIB 311 (75)
Third century (after 220)
Tiles were possibly manufactured at Caerleon by II Augusta during the reign of Severus Alexander (222-35). In 244 the birthday of Augustus, the legion's namesake, was celebrated by the senior centurion at Caerleon.
II Augusta was still at Caerleon and building between 255-60. Soldiers were still detached on other duties: G. Carinius Aurelianus, centurion of the legion, was in charge of an anonymous numerus in the Old Carlisle area between 255-9.
During the late second or early third century II Augusta may have supplied a vexillation for an expedition to Germany. Tadius Exupertus died on the German expedition but the memorial stone (his body was presumably not returned) supplies no rank or unit. It was erected by his sister and was found half a mile from Caerleon near a Roman building. His role on the expedition was perhaps in a civilian capacity. Strictly speaking then this is only evidence for an expedition to Germany, not II Augusta's participation. Its style closely resembles stones of Caracalla's reign and thus may apply to the testified campaign there. A further, fragmentary, inscription appears to record Aurelian (270-5) but no further details survive.
222-35?: Caerleon, tile bearing the stamp LEG II A(U)G S(everiana?), for Severus Alexander. RIB 2459.62
244: Caerleon, dedication by [....], p(rimus) p(ilus), under the charge of Ursus, actar(io), to Numina Augustorum and Genius legionis II Augustae. RIB 327
255-60: Caerleon, seventh cohort centurias, 'barracks', rebuilt during the reigns of Gallienus and Valerian, under the governor Desticius Juba, the legionary legate Vitulasius Laetinianus, and the praef(ectus) leg(ionis) (a late form of praefectus castorum), Domitius Potentinus. RIB 334
255-9: Cardewlees (near Old Carlisle), altar dedicated by G. [.]arinius Aurelianus, centurio, to Jupiter Optimus Maximus and Numina Dominorum Nostorum for Valerian and Gallienus. RIB 913
268-70?: Caerleon, tiles possibly bearing the stamp [LEG II A]UG VI(ctoriniana?) for Victorinus. The restoration is doubtful as there is no parallel, but the reading VI seems certain. RIB 2459.64
Undated: Caerleon, tombstone of Tadius Exuper(a)tus, no military connection cited, who died on expeditione Germanica, 'the German expedition'. RIB 369
The last dated reference to the legion is its appearance on some of the coins of Carausius between 286-93. Either these celebrated the legion's loyalty or were issued to buy it.
Source: RIC 58 (Carausius), radiate coin bearing the legend LEG II AUG and the legionary capricorn.
In Notitia Dignitatum, II Augusta is one of only two British legions to be mentioned by name. By then it was controlled by a prefect at the Saxon Shore fort of Richborough in Kent and formed part of the command of the comes litoris Saxonici, 'count of the Saxon shore'. This can only be dated to some point in the fourth century. Archaeology at Caerleon shows it was then in a state of advanced decay. Richborough was far smaller than Caerleon (2ha compared to 20.5ha). Therefore the legion must have been vastly reduced or dispersed amongst several forts.
Source: ND xxviii.19
Tile stamps of II Augusta (13)
Undated tiles of II Augusta are found almost exclusively in the south Wales area but outliers are known from Carlisle and Devon. As with VI and XX only tiles from the period 213-35 can usually be dated.
Undated: Carlisle. RIB 2459.1-2; South Wales: Brecon, Caerleon, Caerwent, Cowbridge, Risca, Usk. RIB 2458.1, 2459.3-40, 42-53; Honeyditches (Devon): RIB 2459.41
Legates of II Augusta
T. Flavius Vespasianus, 42/3-49?. Tacitus (Histories) iii.44
[...]isus Claudius [Aem]ilius Quintus Julius Haterianus, second century. RIB 335 (Caerleon)
A. Claudius Charax, c. 143. AE 1961.320
Fronto Aemilianus [...] Rufilianus (name uncertain), undated but belonging to a period of joint emperors, perhaps 161-9. RIB 320 (Caerleon)
Q. Aurelius Polus Terentianus, c. 180-5. AE 1965.240
L. Julius Julianus, 198-212? CIL xi.4182; RIB 1138 (Corbridge)
T. Claudius Paulinus, c. 200-220. RIB 311 (Caerwent)
T. Flavius Postumius Varus, mid-third century. RIB 316 (Caerleon)
Vitulasius Laetinianus, c. 255-60. RIB 334 (Caerleon)
Prefects of II Augusta
P. Saliienus Thalamus, c. 198-209. RIB 324, 326 (Caerleon)
Domitius Potentinus, c. 255-60. RIB 334 (Caerleon)
43-7 - participated in invasion of Britain: Tacitus (Histories) iii.44
60 - denied participation in defeating Boudican Revolt: Tacitus (Annals) xiv.37
99-100 - at Caerleon: RIB 330
122-6 building on Hadrian's Wall: (e.g.) RIB 1638 (milecastle 38)
139-43 - building on Antonine Wall: (e.g.) RIB 2191 (Balmuildy)
197 - after this date stated to be in Britannia Superior: Dio lv.23.2-6
286-93 - included in Carausian legionary coinage. RIC 58
300s - at Richborough: ND lxxviii.19
II Italica (Noricum)
See RIB 576 under Vexillationes below
See T. Pontius Sabinus under VIII Augusta below (Hadrianic). Note also that a soldier who died at Colchester had served at some time as centurion with III Augusta (RIB 203).
III Italica (Raetia)
See RIB 576 under Vexillationes below
When VI arrived in Britain from Germania Inferior in c. 122 it already had the full titles Victrix Pia Fidelis, awarded by Domitian for remaining loyal in 89 during the revolt of the legionary legate L. Antonius Saturninus on the Rhine.
VI Victrix first appears in Britain involved in the construction of Hadrian's Wall, recorded on a stone from Haltonchesters, erected during the governorship of Aulus Platorius Nepos in c. 122-4+.
VI Victrix probably accompanied Nepos from Vetera in Germania Inferior where it had been based, and he had been governor, until 122. However, it could have arrived slightly earlier. The occasion of the transfer from Germany to Britain under Hadrian is confirmed on a career inscription on a statue base from Rome.
Other Wall work included building milecastles, for example stone milecastle 50, west of Birdoswald. This replaced the earlier Turf Wall in that sector in the latter part of Hadrian's reign or later in the second century.
Sources: Suetonius (Domitian) vi.2, vii.3
Hadrianic: Rome, career inscription recording transfer of VI Victrix's transfer ex Germ in Brittan. ILS 1100 (M. Pontius Laelianus, for his name see ILS 1094)
122-6: Haltonchesters (HW), naming A. Platorius Nepos and VI Victrix. RIB 1427
Undated: Hadrian's Wall (High House, mc 50), RIB 1934
Vexillations from VI Victrix helped build the Antonine Wall, recorded for example at Old Kilpatrick but strictly datable only to the period 139-61. The references to vexillations, as with II and XX, show that not all the legion was involved.
At Newcastle an inscription records II, VI and XX during the governorship of Julius Verus between c. 155-9 (see under II Augusta above).
In 158 VI was back repairing Hadrian's Wall, then being recommissioned, near Heddon. An undated stone from turret 33B (Coesike) names the legion as does another from milecastle 37, originally built by II Augusta.
During the governorship of S. Calpurnius Agricola, about 162-8, a vexillation of VI erected a monument to Sol Invictus at Corbridge.
That VI replaced IX Hispana at York is beyond doubt but no stone records it operating as a whole in the form of building work. Instead there are only tombstones and private dedications, none of which is dated. One records the soldier and pilot, Marcus Minucius Audens, providing useful evidence for the importance of water transport to Roman military units. Claudius Hieronymianus, legate of VI Victrix, dedicated a temple to Serapis in York.
A late return to the Antonine Wall between 175-90 has been suggested on the basis of an undated dedication from Castlecary, recording a dedication by VI soldiers 'citizens of Italy and Noricum'. This combination is believed to be only possible where a legion has been raised in Italy and stationed in Noricum. As this was not where VI had been stationed it has been suggested that soldiers from II Italica, raised in Italy and stationed in Noricum around 165, had then been transferred to VI.
The argument relies on more assumptions than facts. Even if correct this may be just a small vexillation on a foray. There is no reason to believe that this is other than routine evidence for VI active on the Antonine Wall during the testified period of occupation.
Under Commodus VI may have participated in a British war, decribed by Dio and celebrated in victory coins of 184 (84). The only specific, but tenuous, link with VI Victrix is the Dalmatian tombstone of L. Artorius Justus where he is named as the legion's prefect. The fourth-century biography of Commodus states that during this war senatorial commanders of troops in Britain were replaced with equestrians. This would explain the anomalous rank of VI's commander.
Sources: Dio lxxiii.8.1-2 (war of 184); SHA (Commodus) vi.1-2 (senators and equestrians)
139-61: Old Kilpatrick, VI Victrix building the Antonine Wall. RIB 2205. RIB 2194 from near Balmuildy, for examples, names a vexillation of VI Victrix
155-9: Newcastle, reinforcements arriving at, or leaving from. RIB 1322 (14)
158: Hadrian's Wall (Heddon), VI Victrix rebuilding and, exceptionally, providing a consular date. RIB 1389
Undated: Hadrian's Wall (mc 37), VI Victrix building. RIB 1635
Undated: Hadrian's Wall (turret 33B), VI Victrix building. Brit. ii (1971), 291, no. 10
162-8. Corbridge, dedication by a vexillation of VI Victrix during the governorship of S. Calpurnius Agricola. RIB 1137
Undated: York, altar dedicated by M. Minucius Audens, guber(nator) and mil(es) of VI Victrix, to the Matres. RIB 653
Undated (late second/early third century): York, tablet dedicated by Cl. Hieronymianus, leg(atus) of VI Victrix. RIB 658 (74)
Undated: Castlecary (AW), altar dedicated to Mercury by cives Italici et Norici of VI Victrix. RIB 2148
Undated: Dalmatia, tombstone of L. Artorius Justus, praef(ectus) leg(ionis) VI Victricis, see Chapter 2. ILS 2770
Under the Severan reorganization after 197 (or possibly under Caracalla) Britain was divided into two provinces: Inferior (north) and Superior (south). VI is not mentioned but Dio, describing legionary dispositions after this date, says it was in Britannia Inferior, confirmed by the 237 dedication by Lunaris which states that York was in Inferior (29).
Building stones from South Shields name VI in a context associated with the Severan expansion of the fort into a supply base. The stones are undated and only confirm the presence of centuries detached from VI to do the work.
Tiles from Carpow name the legion and supply B for the title Britannica, corresponding with the title taken by Severus with Caracalla and Geta in 210 to celebrate the campaign. A fragmentary dedication from Carpow appears to name Caracalla between 212-17, suggesting a continuation of building work. The legionary name is uncertain. Other tiles belong to the reign of Severus Alexander (222-35).
These various duties may have stretched the legion. An undated statue base from Piercebridge records the presence of a vexillation of VI Victrix and the 'German army' (that is, legionaries drawn from those on the Rhine), commanded by M. Lollius Venator, centurion of II Augusta. The stone is not unreasonably associated with an altar dedicated by a centurion from Germania Superior in 217.
The governor of Britannia Inferior is believed to have been commander of VI Victrix. No inscription states this as a fact. A number of governors of Britannia Inferior in the early third century are known from inscriptions, many tightly dated, but none mentions VI Victrix. No specified legates of VI Victrix are known after 213. Tiberius Claudius Paulinus, governor of Inferior in 220, was 'attached to the VI legion'.
A stone from Stanwix may record VI Victrix building there during the reign of Gordian III (238-44). This depends on expanding G to read Gordiana. A centurion of VI seems to have been in charge of a Sarmatian cavalry unit bearing a similar epithet at Ribchester during Gordian III's reign.
Sources: Herodian iii.8.2 (division of Britain); Dio lv.23.2-6 (dispositions of the legions)
c. 210-11?: York, tiles bearing the stamp LEG VI VIC B(ritannica) P(ia) F(idelis). RIB 2460.75
210-11 or later: Carpow, tiles bearing the stamp LEG VI VIC B(ritannica) P(ia) F(idelis). RIB 2460.71-4
212-17: Carpow, inscription possibly naming Caracalla? Legion unnamed but the tiles (see previous) suggest it was VI Victrix. JRS lv (1965), 223, no. 10
213-22: York, tiles bearing the stamp [LEG VI] VIC ANT(oniniana) for Caracalla or Elagabalus. RIB 2460.70
217: Piercebridge, altar dedicated by Julius Valentinus, ord(inatus), from Germania Superior. RIB 1022
Undated (c. 217): Piercebridge, statue base dedicated by M. Lollius Venator, c(enturio) of II Augusta, commanding a vexillation of VI Victrix and legionaries drawn from Germany. JRS lvii (1967), 205, no. 16
220: Vieux, identifying Ti. Claudius Paulinus as governor of Britain [Inferior] ad legionum sex(tam), 'to the sixth legion'. CIL xvi.3162 (date fixed by RIB 1280 - see his biography, Chapter 9)
222-35: York, tiles bearing the stamp LEG VI SEV(eriana) for Severus Alexander. RIB 2460.41-42
238-44: York, tiles bearing the stamp LEG VI GOR(diana) for Gordian III. RIB 2460.44-7
238-44: Stanwix, building stone naming VI with the suffix G[O]R(diana), for Gordian III. RIB 2027
238-44: Ribchester, pedestal dedicated by Aelius Antoninus, centurion of VI Victrix, serving as praep(ositus) n(umeri) et r(egionis), commanding n(umerus) eq(uitum) Sar[m(atarum)] Bremetenn(acensium) [G]ordiani. RIB 583
Undated: South Shields, building stones of VI Victrix. RIB 1061 (from the first headquarters, dated to c. 163, see Brit. xviii (1987), 368, note 17); JRS lii (1962), 193, no.13; Brit. xviii (1987), 368, no. 8, and Brit. xxvi (1995), 379-80, no. 6
VI Victrix was not included amongst the legionary coin types issued by Carausius. Either the legion's loyalty was guaranteed, or it spurned involvement in the revolt. However, the sole surviving inscription of Carausius' reign comes from VI Victrix's command, Britannia Inferior, and implies the regime had power in the area.
286-93: Gallows Hill, Carlisle, milestone of Carausius. RIB 2291
Notitia Dignitatum mentions Praefectus legionis sextae, 'Prefect of the legion Sexta', under control of Dux Britanniarum. This must be VI Victrix but no place is given which either means a scribal error and omission of York, or the legion was in transit or dispersed at the time. This is the last mention of the legion.
Source: ND xl.18
Tile stamps of VI Victrix
Numerous examples of VI Victrix tiles are known. Apart from some examples with highly-abbreviated imperial references none can be dated with any precision. The majority have been found in York but they are also found scattered throughout the northern frontier zone.
Undated: York, tiles with stamps of VI Victrix. RIB 2460
Undated: Wallsend, Chesters, Carrawburgh (HW), Aldborough, Corbridge, Vindolanda, Ebchester, Netherby. RIB 2460.48-52
Legates of VI Victrix to c. 200
Q. Antonius Isauricus, between c. 122-213. RIB 644 (York)
L. Minicius Natalis, 130-4? ILS 1061
Claudius Hieronymianus, late second, early third century. RIB 658 (York)
L. Junius Victorinus Flavius Caelianus, Antonine? RIB 2034 (Kirksteads)
Mummius Sisenna Rutilianus, before 146. ILS 1101; RIB 2401.8 (diploma)
[after the division of the provinces under Severus the governors of Britannia Inferior are regarded as legates of VI Victrix, see Chapter 3]
Prefects of VI Victrix
L. Artorius Justus (c.182-8?). ILS 2770
122-6 - building on Hadrian's Wall: RIB 1427
139-61 - building on Antonine Wall: RIB 2205
158 - repairing Hadrian's Wall: RIB 1389
162-8 - vexillation at Corbridge: RIB 1137
197+ - stated after about this date to be in Britannia Inferior: Dio lv.23.2-6
300s - at York: ND xl.18
See T. Pontius Sabinus under VIII Augusta below.
There is some evidence that VIII Augusta participated in the invasion of 43. Although it undoubtedly did not stay, occasional vexillations were sent to Britain.
G. Gavius Silvanus, centurion of VIII Augusta, committed suicide in 65 despite having been acquitted of conspiring to kill Nero. A dedication to him survives and records his career which included a spell early on as primus pilus of VIII Augusta. It adds that he was decorated in the British war by Claudius. As VIII Augusta was the only legion he served with it seems reasonable to assume that the legion, or a vexillation, participated in the conquest of Britain. The career inscription of Lucius Coiedius Candidus also survives. He was a tribune in VIII Augusta and was also decorated by Claudius. However, this stone lacks any direct reference to a British war.
The tombstone of T. Pontius Sabinus from Ferentinum states that as primus pilus of III Augusta he commanded an expedition to Britain after 117 which included vexillations of 1000 men each from three legions: VII Gemina, VIII Augusta, and XXII Primigenia.
The shield-boss of Junius Dubitatus, found in the Tyne at Newcastle, names him as a soldier of VIII Augusta. Although undated it seems reasonable, given the location, to suggest that a vexillation arrived not before the reign of Hadrian.
VIII Augusta turns up on a stone of Antonine style found at Birrens bearing the name also of XXII Primigenia. A fragmentary slab from Hayling Island seems also to name the legion and a tribunus militum, name lost, of VIII Augusta appears on a dedication from Brougham. The latter may be a dedication by an auxiliary prefect appointed to the position with the legion, and did not necessarily serve in that capacity in Britain.
The inclusion of VIII Augusta on the coins of Carausius (286-93) raises the interesting question of whether he had any members of the legion at his disposal or was merely soliciting its support. As there is no inscriptional or other evidence to confirm or contradict either of these suggestions, it remains possible that part of the British garrison included a vexillation of the legion at that time.
Sources: Tacitus (Annals) xv.71 (death of Silvanus); see also Keppie 1971
c. 50: Suasa, dedication to L. Coiedius Candidus, former tribune of VIII Augusta and decorated by Claudius on return from military service. CIL xi.6163 (for text see Keppie 1971)
c. 64-5: Turin, dedication to G. Gavius Silvanus, former primus pilus of VIII Augusta and decorated by Claudius in bello Britannico, 'the British war'. ILS 2701, Keppie 1971
Hadrianic: Ferentinum (Italy), tombstone of T. Pontius Sabinus, primus pilus of III Augusta, vexillations of VII Gemina, VIII Augusta and XXII Primigenia on the British expedition. ILS 2726B
Undated: Newcastle (river). Bronze shield boss of Junius Dubitatus of the century of Julius Magnus of VIII Augusta. RIB 2426.1
Undated (Antonine?): Birrens, building stone naming VIII Augusta and XXII Primigenia. Brit. xxiii (1992), 318, no. 20
Undated: Hayling Island, stone (tombstone?) naming VIII (Augusta?). Brit. xii (1981), 369, no. 3
Undated: Brougham, dedication by a [trib(unus)] mil(itum) of the legion. But the stone is long lost and VIIII for IX Hispana is possible. RIB 782
286-93: included in the coinage sequence of Carausius. RIC 77
IX Hispana is not testified in Britain by name until the campaign against Boudica in 60. Led by its commander, Petillius Cerialis, its cavalry raced to save Colchester but were routed and fled back to its unnamed fortress.
After 60 IX, was reinforced with troops sent from Germany. Two thousand legionaries, eight auxiliary cohorts, and a thousand cavalry were required to make good the losses though how much went to IX, is not specified by Tacitus.
Source: Tacitus (Annals) xiv.32, 38
In 69 a vexillation of IX, fought for Vespasian at Cremona. All or part of IX, was at Lincoln at some date between 60 and 107 but its presence is only confirmed by undated tombstones and stamped tiles. Further confirmation of its presence in Britain is an inscription recording the legate C. Caristanius Fronto.
Due to his earlier career with IX Hispana it has sometimes been assumed that the legion formed the backbone of Petillius Cerialis' (see Chapter 9) campaign into the north during his governorship. This is not testified and is merely an inference. The foundation of York as a fortress for IX Hispana is attributed to Cerealis exclusively through archaeology and is similarly treated as a fact, for example by Frere (1987, 83). But the reality is very far from certain (see for instance Birley 1973, 188, and note 45, and 190).
During this period IX Hispana participated in Agricola's campaign into Scotland, as testified by Tacitus. Once again it faced being routed, this time until Agricola arrived with reinforcements.
Following the Scottish campaign IX contributed a vexillation to Domitian's war against the Chatti in Germany, probably the campaign of 83.
Sources: Tacitus (Histories) iii.22 (at Cremona), (Agricola) xvii (Cerialis' campaign), xxvi (IX attacked)
Late 70s: dedication naming C. Caristanius Fronto as leg(atus) IX Hispanae in Britann(iam) during the reign of Vespasian. ILS 9485
Undated, late 1st cent?: Dedication to L. Roscius Aelianus Maecius Celer, trib(unus) mil(itum) leg(ionis) IX Hispan(ae) who participated in expeditione Germanica with a vexillation of the legion. ILS 1025
IX Hispana is last testified in Britain at York on an inscription of 107-8. Its absence from the building work on Hadrian's Wall is crucial negative evidence for its removal from Britain between 108 and 122, and its replacement by VI Victrix. The absence of any building inscriptions from York naming VI Victrix suggests IX Hispana had built a substantial amount of the fortress before it left. Its subsequent history is a matter of some controversy but not relevant here.
107-8: York, monumental inscription recording Trajan's titles for 107-8 and IX Hispana. Found by the SE gateway. RIB 665
Tile stamps of IX Hispana (13)
Undated: Scalesceugh, tile stamps in the form LEG VIIII H(ispana). RIB 2462.2, 4
Undated: Carlisle, tile stamps in the form LEG VI[III H?] (or VI VIC). RIB 2462.3, 2462.16
Undated: York, numerous tile stamps in the form LEG IX HIS/HISP. RIB 2462.5-9 (15)
Undated: Malton, tile stamp in the form [LEG I]X HISP. RIB 2462.14
Legates of IX Hispana
Petillius Cerialis, 60. Tacitus (Annals) xiv.32
C. Caristianius Fronto, late 70s. ILS 9485
Ferox? c. 92-103. Legion or rank not named but see Bowman 1994, 22, 104-5, and Tab. Vindol. I.154
60 - cavalry nearly wiped out by Boudican rebels: Tacitus (Annals) xiv.32
60-1 - reinforced from Germany: ibid., xiv.38
69 - fighting with Vespasian at Cremona: Tacitus (Histories) iii.22
77/8-83/4 - participated in Agricola's Scottish campaign: Tacitus (Agricola) xxvi
c. 89 - vexillation serves in Germany: ILS 1025
107-8 - building at York: RIB 665
Represented by M. Censorius Cornelianus, centurion of, apparently, X Fretensis, serving at Maryport as praepositus in charge of cohors I Hispanorum from Nemausus. He was almost certainly on individual attachment but may have accompanied a vexillation. However, there is no further evidence for members of X Fretensis in Britain.
Inscription: altar dedicated by M. Censorius Cornelianus, c(enturio) leg(ionis) [X Fr]etensis. RIB 814
Like IX and XX, XIV is not testified in the invasion of 43. The earliest dated evidence for XIV Gemina's presence is during the Boudican Revolt of 60. It was serving as the backbone of Suetonius Paullinus' march against Anglesey. Tacitus describes how the governor had all of XIV and a vexillation of XX with him at the battle which defeated Boudica.
The choice of XIV for the Anglesey campaign may have been its location in north Wales, indicated by a pair of undated tombstones from Wroxeter. It may only be said that the lack of the title Martia Victrix, awarded after 60-1, makes it possible the stones precede that date but this is a demonstrably fallacious 'rule' (see below).
Apart from a single other tombstone, of a veteran of XIV, at Lincoln there is no other epigraphic evidence for the legion's presence in Britain.
Sources: Tacitus (Annals) xiv.34 (against Anglesey and Boudica)
Undated: Wroxeter, tombstone of [Titus F]laminius, mil(es), of XIV Gemina, 22 years' service. RIB 292
Undated: Wroxeter, tombstone of Marcus Petronius, mil(es) and sign(ifer) of XIV Gemina, 18 years' service. RIB 294
222-35: dedication to Cn. Petronius Probatus gives XIIII Gemina, but not Martia Victrix. ILS 1179 (also ILS 9200 under the Flavians; 5013 under Septimius Severus or Severus Alexander; CIL xiii contains many examples of the legion with and without Martia Victrix)
As a result of its success in Britain XIV enjoyed an empire-wide reputation. Its later name of XIV Gemina Martia Victrix is probably attributable to the victory. Tacitus says Nero regarded XIV as his best troops. An inscription of 66, of a veteran called M. Vettius Valens, records a period with the legion as tribune, giving the title XIV Gem(ina) Mart(ia) Victr(ix) shows that it had been given the names by that date.
By 68-9 XIV had been moved to Dalmatia and Pannonia. Nero had been succeeded by Galba who was in turn succeeded by Otho, a friend of Nero's. Thanks to their honours under Nero XIV was loyal to his memory and joined Otho.
Otho was defeated by Vitellius in early 69. Vitellius transferred XIV back to Britain in 69. They were garrisoned with Batavian auxiliaries, their sworn enemies, and the journey back to Britain was marred by the burning of towns and threats to Vienna.
Once in Britain the legion was invited to side with Vespasian, now marching against Vitellius. By 70 the civil war was largely over and Vespasian was emperor. However, he faced the revolt of the Batavian chieftain Civilis on the Rhine border which had begun in 69. Civilis exploited the chaos of civil war and mixed loyalties amongst the Rhine border troops. XIV was ordered back to the continent from Britain to help quell the revolt. In the ensuing hostilities the legionaries were celebrated by Petillius Cerialis as domitores Britanniae, 'conquerors of Britain'.
Here XIV Gemina leaves Romano-British history. Its activities between 60-70 form an interesting example of short-term movements in and out of Britain which would be virtually impossible to detect archaeologically. Only the texts supply the information and is a sobering reminder of how erratic and unpredictable troop movements could be and how inadequate archaeology is as a tool to measure such activities.
Sources: Tacitus (Annals) xiv.37 (exploits of XIV), (Histories) ii.11 (XIV's reputation), ii.66 (dispute with Batavians and returned to Britain), ii.86 (civil war affiliation), iv.68 (summoned from Britain), v.16 (Cerialis celebrates)
66: dedication from Rimini of M. Vettius Valens, sometime trib(unus) leg(ionis) XIIII Gem(ina) Mart(ia) Victr(ix). Decorated in a British war, but no date given, and nor is the unit he was in at the time specified. ILS 2648
Legates of XIV in Britain
None known (but see unattributed legates below)
60 - backbone of campaign into Anglesey and defeat of Boudica: Tacitus (Annals) xiv.34, 37
68 - fights on Otho's side in civil war (Histories ii.11)
69 - returned to Britain (Histories ii.66)
69 - help solicited from XIV in Britain for Vespasian (Histories ii.86)
70 - withdrawn to confront Civilis (Histories iv.68)
XX, like IX, and XIV, is not testified in Britain until the description of the Boudican Revolt. Suetonius Paullinus used a vexillation of XX in his campaign against Boudica along with all of XIV, as they had probably already been combined for the assault on Anglesey. Its role in the defeat of Boudica may have earned XX the title Valeria Victrix ('the victorious eagle').
Tacitus states that by about 49 problems with the Silures (in southern Wales) required the installation of a castris legionum, 'legionary camp' in order to crush them. This was made possible by withdrawing a legion from Camulodonum (Colchester) and establishing a colony of veterans. The well-known tombstone of M. Favonius Facilis, centurion with XX, from Colchester, and which lacks the titles Valeria Victrix, makes it probable that all or part of XX had been stationed at Colchester from 43-9 and was the legion despatched against the Silures under Ostorius Scapula.
Facilis' tombstone is not unequivocal evidence for a pre-Boudican date. The use of post-Boudican titles was apparently not universal after 60. For example, a tombstone from Chester (a site archaeologically associated with a Flavian and later date), names G. Valerius Justus, actarius of XX (no titles). Similarly, a tombstone of a veteran from Gloucester is confidently dated on stylistic grounds by RIB to the late second or third century but it too lacks post-Boudican titles. Normally, the lack of titles would otherwise date the stones to before 60. Neither case fits the archaeology. Clearly either the practice of dating stones by the lack of dated titles, or the archaeology, is unreliable. Much later, a building stone from Maryport of 238-44 also lacks them (see below).
The movements of XX after 49 until it appeared at Chester towards the end of the first century therefore rely on a series of inferences drawn from archaeology and very limited epigraphic evidence. Frere, in particular, draws a complex series of movements from Colchester to Chester via Kingsholm (near Gloucester), Usk, and Wroxeter, ruling out a time in the legionary fortress at Gloucester attributed to the mid-60s. This is difficult to reconcile with the epigraphic evidence, some of which has only turned up in recent years.
The evidence for XX at Kingsholm, where the legion is usually stated to have been by 49, is a tombstone of an unnamed soldier of XX found nearby in 1824 and long since lost. No drawing even exists. That the legion's post-60 titles are not recorded cannot be relied on in this instance for a date. Conversely, a centurial stone of a cohort of XX, found in Gloucester cathedral and thus either surely from Kingsholm or Gloucester, suggests that all or part of the legion was there at some time after 60. It bears V V for Valeria Victrix.
A tombstone from Wroxeter of G. Mannius Secundus, soldier of XX, and recorded without the victory titles of 60, is possible proof that XX was there as well as XIV. But he was serving as a beneficiarius and thus had presumably been detached from his legion.
The movements of XX until its presumed appearance at Chester by the end of the first century are therefore all guesswork. As Tacitus described a vexillation only of XX serving with Suetonius Paullinus, the legion must have been divided amongst two or more bases for all or part of this period. He also refers to a body of soldiers at Colchester at the time of the Boudican Revolt. If this had been XX's former base then it is possible one of its vexillations was stationed here as late as 60. This general picture is supported by archaeology which has identified contemporary legionary-style fortresses in various parts of Britain, most of which are too small to have held a whole legion. In the area relevant to XX, Clifford and Clyro are two examples (see Frere and St. Joseph 1983, 38).
The most likely scenario is that XX was resident at all or most of these places on and off in the period but often in the form of vexillations or individuals, and perhaps sharing fortresses with vexillations of other legions, such as XIV. There is no need or justification to go through contortions to create a sequence of movements involving the whole legion.
During the civil wars of 68-9, XX supported Vitellius, egged on by their legate Roscius Coelius who used the conflict to promote his own personal hatred for the governor Trebellius Maximus. In 69 members of the legion fought for Vespasian at Cremona.
Vespasian gave Agricola command of XX in about 69 and was charged with winning the legion's loyalty to the new regime. Although it is always stated as a fact that XX subsequently formed the main part of Agricola's campaign, when governor, into Scotland this is never said by Tacitus. Similarly, the assumption that XX formed the garrison of the short-lived legionary fortress at Inchtuthil is no more than just that. Nothing from the site names the legion.
By the late first century XX was probably based at Chester. A number of undated tombstones indicate the legion's long-term presence as do stamped tiles. Lead pipes bearing the name of Agricola and Vespasian's titles for the year 79 show that the fortress was certainly under construction by that date. But the pipes carry no legionary titles.
Sources: Tacitus (Annals) xii.32 (colony at Colchester and transfer of a legion to Silurian territory), xiv.32 (troops stationed at Colchester), xiv.34 (vexillation of XX with Suetonius Paullinus); Tacitus (Histories) i.60 (XX and Roscius Coelius), iii.22 (Cremona); Tacitus (Agricola) vii.3 (Agricola's command of XX)
Before 56: career inscription of P. Palpellius Clodius Quirinalis, p(rimus) p(ilus) leg(ionis) XX. ILS 2702, Tacitus (Annals) xiii.30
79: Chester, lead pipes bearing imperial titles for 79 and Agricola's name as leg(atus) Aug(usti) pr(o) pr(aetore). No military unit or civilian body named. RIB 2434.1-3
Undated (pre-60?): Colchester, tombstone of M. Favonius Facilis, c(enturio) of XX. RIB 200
Undated: Gloucester, tombstone (name lost) of a soldier(?) of XX (no titles), 13 years' service. RIB 122
Undated: Wroxeter, tombstone of G. Mannius Secundus, miles of XX (no titles), and ben(eficiarius) leg(ati) pr(o praetore), 31 years' service. RIB 293
Undated: Gloucester, tombstone of L. Valerius Aurelius, vet(eranus) of XX (no titles). Brit. xv (1984), 333, no. 1 (where dated to late second or even third century)
Undated: Gloucester, centurial stone of the centurion Cornelius Crescens of XX V(aleria) V(ictrix). Brit. xvii (1986), 429, no. 3
Undated: Chester, tombstone of the wife of G. Valerius Justus, actarius, of XX (no titles). The reference to marriage is suggested as evidence for a third-century date. RIB 507
XX helped build Hadrian's Wall. Unlike II Augusta in particular its presence is poorly recorded. The only surviving dedication slab recording the legion here under Hadrian is from near milecastle 47. No governor's name was included. However, stylistic similarities with other milecastles make it improbable that this was its only contribution though only a single other undated building stone from west of Stanwix is known. The legion was also working further west at Moresby at some point between 128-38.
117-38: Hadrian's Wall (near mc 47), building stone of XX Valeria Victrix. RIB 1852 (N.B. RIB 2035 may be another Hadrianic building stone of this legion, perhaps originating from mc 70, but found in the river Eden to the north)
128-38: Moresby, building stone of XX Valeria Victrix. RIB 801 (17)
Undated: Hadrian's Wall (north of mc 70, 4 miles west of Stanwix), building stone of the fifth cohort of XX Valeria Victrix. RIB 2035
XX subsequently served in the building of the Antonine Wall, recorded on many more inscriptions, for example at Ferrydyke near Old Kilpatrick (18). However, it is only datable to the period 139-61 on the basis of its text. None of the Antonine Wall XX stones record a governor's name.
At Newcastle an inscription found in the Tyne records II, VI and XX during the governorship of Julius Verus between 155-9 (see under II Augusta above) (14).
At Corbridge a vexillation of XX was building during the governorship of Calpurnius Agricola, a time when building work was certainly also going on at Chester.
An undated series of stones from Newstead name a centurion, G. Arrius Domitianus, of XX. This is confidently stated in RIB to be evidence of a vexillation of XX under his command during 'the early Antonine occupation of Newstead'. None of Domitianus' inscriptions name a vexillation and none bears any evidence which could date his presence so precisely. It is no less probable that he had been personally detached, at some unspecified date, to command ala Augusta Vocontiorum which was there at some time.
139-61: Ferrydyke, Old Kilpatrick (AW), building stone of a vexillation of XX Valeria Victrix recording 4,411 feet erected. RIB 2208 (18) (see also, for example, Brit. i (1970), 310, no. 19 and pl. xviii)
155-9: Newcastle, reinforcements arriving at, or leaving from. RIB 1322 (14)
161-9: Corbridge, building stone of XX Valeria Victrix during the governorship of S. Calpurnius Agricola. RIB restores the date to 163, relying on over-optimistic restoration of the fragmentary slab. RIB 1149 (see also RIB 1137 for a dedication to Sol Invictus by a vexillation of XX at Corbridge under the same governor)
167: Chester, tile exceptionally stamped with a legion's name (presumably XX, but damaged), the name of the maker Aulus Vidu(cius?) and a note of the third consulship of Lucius Verus, thus providing the date. RIB 2463.59
Undated: Newstead, altars dedicated by G. Arrius Domitianus, centurion of XX. RIB 2122-4 (and RIB 2121 for ala Vocontiorum)
Under the Severan reorganization after 197 Britain was divided into two provinces: Inferior (north) and Superior (south) according to Herodian. XX is not mentioned but Dio says it was in Britannia Superior. Tile stamps from Chester of this date confirm its presence.
A Thracian tribune, M. Aurelius Syrio, of XX was at Carlisle some time between 213 and 222 when he dedicated an altar to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Juno, Mars, Minerva, and Victory. He may have been in command of a vexillation of the legion, perhaps even a unit made up of vexillations from more than one legion. Another, undated, stone from Carlisle even refers to a unit made up of vexillations from II Augusta and XX.
A suspect inscription from Netherby (butchered and recut) may record a vexillation of the XX building here in 219 but the text is unreliable.
XX was probably building at Maryport under Gordian III (238-44), recorded on a fragmentary stone. The only visible letters are ORD for [G]ord(iana) (?), along with the boar, known from other XX inscriptions to have been its symbol.
A fragmentary dedication from Chester to a Genius can be expanded to read XX V(aleria) V(ictrix) D(eciana). If correct this records a name for the legion which must belong to the reign of Trajan Decius (249-51). An alternative for this and tile stamps of the legion marked DE is that they represent Devensis, 'of Deva (Chester)'. This use of a fortress name is testified elsewhere but not in Britain.
XX was featured on a series of gold coins issued by the Gallic emperor Victorinus (268-70) (see Chapter 10), the only British legion to be so.
Soldiers from XX were passing by or building in the vicinity of milecastle 52 on Hadrian's Wall between 262-6. Other, undated, altars naming legions on garrison duty suggests that they might also have been allocated to frontier patrols on the Wall (for example RIB 1583). This is an activity not normally attributed to legionary vexillations.
Source: Dio lv.23.2-6 (disposition of legions)
213-22: Chester, tiles bearing the stamp LEG XX ANTO(niniana) for Caracalla or Elagabalus. RIB 2463.51-3
Undated (219?): Netherby, purportedly recording II Augusta, XX Valeria Victrix and cohors I Hispanorum during the governorship of Modius Julius. Butchered and recut. RIB 980
Undated: Carlisle, relief dedicated to the Concord of II Augusta and XX Valeria Victrix. Brit. xx (1989), 331, no. 4
213-22: Carlisle, altar dedicated by M. Aurelius Syrio, trib(unus) mil(itum) of XX V(aleria) V(ictrix) Antoniniana. Brit. xx (1989), 331-3, no. 5 (19)
238-44: Maryport, building stone of [XX G]ord(iana) with XX's boar emblem. RIB 854
249-51?: Chester, door jam dedicated by Titus Vet[...] to a Genius, apparently with the titles V(aleria) V(ictrix) D(eciana). But the expansion is not certain and may be D(evensis) for the fortress name (see RIB II, fasc 4, 191, l. column). RIB 449
249-51?: Chester, tiles stamped LEG XX V V DE(ciniana?) or DE(vensis) (see previous). RIB 2463.54-5
262-6: Hadrian's Wall (milecastle 52), altar dedicated by soldiers of XX to Cocidius. RIB 1956
268-70: Chester, tiles stamped LEG XX V V V(ictoriniana?), for Victorinus, but highly dubious. RIB 2463.56-7 (but note that RIB gives dates of 265-7 without reference to the fact that Victorinus is normally attributed to 268-70)
The last reference to XX is on the legionary coins of Carausius between 286-93. The legion is omitted from Notitia Dignitatum, perhaps because it had been disbanded at some point in the fourth century and absorbed into other units.
Source: RIC 275
Tile stamps of XX Valeria Victrix
Tiles stamped with XX's name are known from mainly the north Wales area and around Carlisle. The legion's tile-manufacturing works at Holt near Chester have been excavated (Grimes 1930).
Undated: Carlisle area (Old Penrith, Scalesceugh, Stanwix. RIB 2463.1-3
Undated: Chester and north Wales area (Caernarvon, Caersws, Ffrith, Holt, Oakenholt, Wilderspool). RIB 2458.2-8 (20), 2463.4-50, 57-58, 60
Undated: Whittlesbury. RIB 2463.29 (xiii)
Undated: Wroxeter, one example only of dubious provenance. RIB 2463.29 (xv)
Legates of XX Valeria Victrix
M. Roscius Coelius, -69. Tacitus (Agricola) vii.3, (Histories) i.60
Gn. Julius Agricola, c. 69-74. Tacitus (Agricola) vii.3
T. Pomponius Mamilianus, c.95-120? RIB 445 (Chester, legion not stated; see RIB for a discussion of his date)
60 - participates in Anglesey campaign and defeat of Boudica. Tacitus (Annals) xiv.34
69 - commanded by Agricola. Tacitus (Agricola) vii.3
119-28 - building on Hadrian's Wall. RIB 1852
128-38 - building at Moresby. RIB 801
139-61 - building on Antonine Wall RIB 2208
163 - building at Corbridge. RIB 1149
213-22 - vexillation at Carlisle? Brit. xx (1989), 331-3, nos. 4, 5
238-44 - building at Maryport. RIB 854
249-51 - possibly testified at Chester. RIB 449
The tombstone of T. Pontius Sabinus from Ferentinum says he commanded an expedition to Britain some time after the year 117 which included vexillations of 1000 men each from three legions: VII Gemina, VIII Augusta, and XXII Primigenia.
XXII reappears a generation later on a stone, probably from Falkirk and the Antonine Wall (thus approximately dating it to 139-61), recording building work. Another from Birrens, possibly of the same general date, mentions it once more in company with VIII Augusta.
An undated tombstone from Piercebridge also records the death of a centurion of XXII, though there is no reliable means of associating him with either of the testified vexillations. This is sometimes associated with an altar erected by a centurion from Germania Superior in 217 (RIB 1022). See Chapter 8, Piercebridge under Jupiter Optimus Maximus Dolichenus for dedications which may be contemporary.
The inclusion of XXII Primigenia on the coins of Carausius (286-93) raises the interesting question of whether he had any members of the legion at his disposal or was merely soliciting its support. It remains possible that part of the British garrison included a vexillation of the legion at that time. Considering past history that would be hardly surprising.
Sources: Herodian iii.14.3 (Severan campaign); Stephens 1987
Hadrianic: Ferentinum (Italy), tombstone of T. Pontius Sabinus, primus pilus of III Augusta, commanding vexillations of VII Gemina, VIII Augusta and XXII Primigenia on the British expedition. ILS 2726B
139-61?: Falkirk (AW)? (location uncertain), building stone of vexi[llatio] XXI[I] Primig[en(iae)]. RIB 2216
Undated: Birrens, building stone naming VIII Aug(usta) and XXII Pr(imigenia). Brit. xxiii (1992), 318, no. 20
Undated: Piercebridge, tombstone of [.... G]racilis, from Germania Superior, [ord]inato of XXII. RIB 1026
286-93: represented on coins of Carausius. RIC 80-1
XXX Ulpia Victrix
Unknown in Britain, this legion's possible passing presence is indicated on a dedication from Xanten to the Matres Brittiae by L. Valerius Simplex, miles, with the legion. Either he came from Britain himself, or had retained a veneration for her Mother Goddesses. ILS 4789. The legion was featured on the coins of Carausius (see below).
Unattributed legates of legions in Britain
Gnaeus Hosidius Geta, implied legionary command in 43. Dio lx.20
Manlius Valens, 60. That he suffered a defeat in the Silurian territory of south Wales suggests his command was II or XX. Tacitus Annals xii.40
Priscus, c. 184. Dio lxxii.9
Carausius issued a series of bronze radiates with legionary reverses (auxiliary forces were not represented). Of the British legions II Augusta and XX Valeria Victrix feature in the series, but VI Victrix does not. In addition to the coins issued for VIII Augusta and XXII Primigenia mentioned under the respective legions above, Carausius also issued radiates for five other legions not based in Britain:
I Minervia. RIC 55-6
II Parthica. RIC 60-5
IV Flavia. RIC 69-72
VII Claudia. RIC 74-6
XXX Ulpia Victrix. RIC 84-6 (see above also)
Some of the Praetorian Guard accompanied Claudius to Britain. One tribune of cohors XII, G. Gavius Silvanus, was decorated by Claudius for his part.
The Praetorians may have participated in the Severan campaigns of 208-11. G. Cesennius Senecio, a centurian of the second cohort, died in Britain and his body returned to Rome for burial. The Praetorian title, pia vindex, given on the tombstone, did not predate Severus. However, the stone is otherwise undated and it makes no mention of participation in fighting or campaigning.
c. 45-55: Turin, dedication to G. Gavius Silvanus, [tr]ibunus of the twelfth cohort of Praetorians, decorated by Claudius in the British war. ILS 2701
Severan or later: Rome, tombstone of G. Cesennius Senecio, c(enturio) and p(ia) v(index) (a Severan title), of the second cohort of Praetorians, 'his body brought from Britain'. ILS 2089
Back to the Home Page