List of Roman legions

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This is a list of Roman legions, including key facts about each legion, primarily focusing on Principate (early Empire, 27 BC - 284 AD) legions, for which there exists substantial literary, epigraphic and archaeological evidence.

Until the 1st century BC, legions were temporary citizen levies, raised for specific campaigns and disbanded after them. By the early 1st century BC, legions were mixed volunteer/conscript units. Legions became standing units, which could remain intact long after a particular campaign was finished. Large numbers of new legions were raised by rival warlords for the civil wars of the period 49-31 BC.

However, when Augustus became sole ruler in 31 BC, he disbanded about half of the over 50 legions then in existence. The remaining 28 legions became the core of the early Imperial army of the Principate (27 BC – 284 AD), most lasting over three centuries. Augustus and his immediate successors transformed legions into permanent units, staffed by entirely career soldiers on standard 25-year terms.

During the Dominate (late Empire, 284–476), legions were also professional, but are little understood due to scarcity of evidence compared to the Principate. What is clear is that late legions were radically different in size, structure and tactical role from their predecessors, despite several retaining early period names. This was the result of the military reforms of Emperors Diocletian and Constantine I, and of further developments during the 4th century.

The legions were identified by Roman numerals, though the spelling sometimes differed from the modern "standard". For example, in addition to the spellings "IV", "IX", "XIV", "XVIII" and "XIX", the respective spellings "IIII", "VIIII", "XIIII", "XIIX" and "XVIIII" were commonly used.1

Late Republican legions

Until the Marian reforms of 107 BC, the Republican legions were formed by compulsory levy of Roman citizens (who met a minimum property qualification) and raised whenever it was necessary. Usually they were authorized by the Roman Senate, and were later disbanded.

Gaius Marius' reforms transformed legions into standing units, which could remain in being for several years, or even decades. This became necessary to garrison the Republic's now far-flung territories. Legionaries started large-scale recruiting of volunteer soldiers enlisted for a minimum term of six years and a fixed salary, although conscription was still practiced. The property requirements abolished by Marius, so that the bulk of recruits were henceforth from the landless Citizens, who would be most attracted to the paid employment and Land offered after their service.

In the last century of the Republic, proconsuls governing frontier provinces became increasingly powerful. Their command of standing legions in distant and arduous military campaigns resulted in the allegiance of those units transferring from the Roman state to themselves. These imperatores (lit: victorious generals, from the title imperator they were hailed with by their troops) frequently fell out with each other and started civil wars to seize control of the state. e.g. Sulla, Caesar, Pompey, Crassus, Mark Antony and Octavian (later Augustus, the first Emperor himself). In this context, the imperatores raised many legions that were not authorised by the Senate, sometimes having to use their own resources. As civil wars were resolved, many of these "private" units would be disbanded, only for more to be raised to fight the next civil war. By the time Augustus emerged as sole ruler of Rome in 31BC, over 50 legions were in existence, many of which were disbanded.

The legions included in the following list had a long enough history to be somehow remarkable. Most of them were levied by Julius Caesar and later included into Octavian's army, some of them were levied by Mark Antony.

Early Empire legions

The Roman empire and legions deployed in 125 AD, in the time of emperor Hadrian.

Code for Roman provinces in the table:

Roman legions of the early Empire (units founded between 59 BC and 250 AD)
Legion no.
and title (cognomen)
Main
legionary base
Emblem Date founded/
founder
Date
disband
Castra legionaria (legion bases)
* = main base. Start date 31BC if unspecified
Notes
I Adiutrix Szöny, Hungary Capricorn 68 Nero 444 70-86 Moguntiacum (GS); 86–mid-5th century Brigetio* (PAN) "1st Auxiliary". Was I classica (raised from marines)
I Germanica Bonn, Germany Bull 48 BC Caesar 70 DD to 16 BC HISP; c.5 BC-70 AD Bonna* (GI) Disbanded for cowardice in Batavi revolt
I Italica Svishtov, Bulgaria Boar 66 Nero post 400 70-early 5th century Novae* (MI) prima Italica:raised for aborted Caucasus war
I Macriana 68 Macer 69 DD (Raised for mutiny against Nero by Macer, gov of AFR) liberatrix: "Liberator 1st". Disbanded by Galba
I Minervia Bonn, Germany Minerva 82 Domitian post 300 82-4th century Bonna* (GI) "Minerva-revering 1st"
I Parthica Sinjar, Iraq Centaur 197 S. Severus post 400 197-early 5th century Nisibis* (SYR) Raised for Severus' Parthian campaign in 197
II Adiutrix Budapest, Hungary Capricorn 70 Vespasian 269+ 70-87 BRIT; 87-106 MS; 106-min269 Aquincum* (PAN) "2nd Auxiliary." Ex-naval legion.
II Augusta Caerleon, Wales Capricorn pre 9 BC Augustus post 300 to c.9 AD HISP; 43-74 BRIT; 74-min255 Isca Augusta* (BRIT) Failed to engage Boudicca 60. c.395 at Rutupiae (BRIT)
II Italica Enns, Austria She-Wolf 165 M Aurelius post 400 180-c.400 Lauriacum* (NR) Wolf-suckling twins Rome's national emblem
II Parthica Albano Laziale, Italy Centaur 197 S. Severus post 350 197-218 Castra Albana* (IT); 218-34 SYR; 238-c.300 Albana 4th century recorded at Bezabde (SYR)
II Traiana Alexandria, Egypt Hercules 105 Trajan post 400 125-5th century Nicopolis* (AEG) secunda fortis "Trajan's valliant 2nd"
III Augusta Batna, Algeria Pegasus 43 BC Augustus post 350 to 20 AD AFR; 20-75 Ammaedara 74-350+ Lambaesis* (MAUR) Decimated for cowardice in Mauri war (18 AD)
III Cyrenaica Busra, Syria 36 BC M Antony post 400 to 35 AD Thebes 35-125 Alexandria AEG; 125-5th century Bostra* AR "3rd from Cyrene"
III Gallica Abila, Jordan Two Bulls 49 BC Caesar post 300 31 BC-4th century Raphana* (SYR) tertia Gallica: "3rd from Gaul"
III Italica Regensburg, Germany Stork 165 M Aurelius post 300 165-4th century Castra Regina* (RT) Raised for war on Marcomanni
III Parthica Ra's al-'Ayn, Syria Bull 197 S. Severus post 400 197-4th century Resaena* (SYR) Raised for Severus' Parthian campaign in 197
Legion no.
and title (cognomen)
Main
legionary base
Emblem Date founded/
founder
Date
disband
Castra legionaria (legion bases)
* = main base. Start date 31BC if unspecified
Notes
IV Flavia Felix Belgrade, Serbia Lion 70 Vespasian pre 400 86-4th century Singidunum* (MS) Vespasian's lucky 4th. Reformed IV Macedon
IV Macedonica Mainz, Germany Bull 48 BC Caesar 70 DD to 43 AD HISP; 43-70 Moguntiacum* (GS) Disbanded in Batavi revolt
IV Scythica Gaziantep, Turkey Capricorn 42 BC M Antony post 400 to 58 AD MS; 68-5th century Zeugma* (SYR) quarta scythica: "Scythian-conquering 4th"
V Alaudae Xanten, Germany Elephant 52 BC Caesar 87 XX to 19 BC HISP; c.10 BC-70 AD Castra Vetera* (GI) "Larks 5th" Feathers in helmet? XX by Dacians
V Macedonica Turda, Romania Eagle 43 BC Augustus post 500 6-101 Oescus, 107-61 Troesmis (MI); 166-274 Potaissa* (DC) quinta macedonica: "5th from Macedonia"
VI Ferrata Galilee, Palestine She-Wolf 58 BC Caesar 250+ UF to 71 AD Raphana (SYR); 135-250+ Caparcotna* (JUD) "Ironclad 6th". XX at Battle of Edessa 260?
VI Hispana post 212 250+ UF unknown Only 1 record. XX at Battle of Abrittus 251?
VI Victrix York, England Bull 41 BC Augustus post 400 to 70 AD Leon (HISP); 71-122 GI; 122-c.400 Eburacum* (BRIT) "Victorious 6th" built Hadrian's Wall 122-32
VII Claudia Kostolac, Serbia Bull 58 BC Caesar c.400 to 9 AD GAL; 9-58 DLM; 58-c.400 Viminacium* (MS) septima Claudia: title for crushing mutiny 42
VII Gemina León, Spain 68 Galba c.400 75-c.400 Castra Legionis* (HISP) Raised in Hispania by Galba for march on Rome
VIII Augusta Strasbourg, France Bull 59 BC Caesar post 371 9-44 Poetovio PAN; 44-70 Novae MI; 70-371+ Argentorate* GS octava Augusta:
IX Hispana York, England Bull 41 BC Augustus 161? to 13 BC HISP; 9-43 PAN?; 71-121 Eburacum* (BRIT); 121-130 Nijmegen (GI) nona Hispana:
X Fretensis Jerusalem Boar 40 BC Augustus post 400 to 25 BC JUD; 25 BC-66 AD SYR; 73-c.400+ Hierosolyma* fretum = Strait of Otranto, Naulochus 36 BC
X Gemina Vienna, Austria Bull 42 BC Lepidus post 400 to 71 HISP; 71-103 Noviomagus GI; 103-c.400 Vindobona* PAN Was X Equestris, Caesar's "mounted" legion
XI Claudia Silistra, Bulgaria Neptune 42 BC Augustus post 400 to 71 AD DLM; 71-104 Vindonissa RT; 104-c.400 Durostorum* MI undecima Claudia: honoured by Claudius
XII Fulminata Malatya, Turkey Thunderbolt 43 BC Lepidus post 400 to 14 AD AEG; 14-71 Raphana (SYR); 71-c.400 Melitene* (CAP) Thunderbolt 12th lost aquila in 1st Jewish War
Legion no.
and title (cognomen)
Main
legion base
Emblem Date founded/
founder
Date
disband
Castra legionaria (legion bases)
* = main base. Start date 31 BC if unspecified
Notes
XIII Gemina Alba Iulia, Romania Lion 57 BC Caesar post 400 45-106 Poetovio PAN 106-270 Apulum* DC 270-400 MI "Twinned 13th". Crossed Rubicon with Caesar 49 BC
XIV Gemina Petronell, Austria Capricorn 41 BC Augustus post 400 9-43 GS; 43-70 BRIT; 70-92 GS; 106-c.400 Carnuntum* Defeated Boudica's Britons at Watling Street (60 AD)
XV Apollinaris Saddagh, Turkey Apollo 41 BC Augustus post 400 9-61 NR 61-73 SYR 73-117 NR; 117-c.400 Satala* CAP "Apollo-revering 15th". Fought in First Jewish War
XV Primigenia Xanten, Germany Fortuna 39 Caligula 70 XX 39-43 Moguntiacum (GS); 43-70 Castra Vetera* (GI) Primigenia goddess of Fate. XX in Batavi revolt
XVI Flavia Firma Samsat, Turkey Lion 70 Vespasian post 300 70-117 Satala (CAP); 117-300+ Samosata* SYR "Vespasian's steadfast 16th". Reformed XVI Gallica
XVI Gallica Mainz, Germany Lion 41 BC Augustus 70 DD to 43AD Moguntiacum* (GS); 43-70 Novaesium* (GI) Disbanded for cowardice in Batavi revolt
XVII Xanten, Germany 41 BC Augustus 9 XX to 15 BC AQ?; 15 BC-9 AD Castra Vetera* (GI) Destroyed in Teutoburg Forest, lost aquila standard, never rebuilt
XVIII Xanten, Germany 41 BC Augustus 9 XX to 15 BC AQ?; 15 BC-9 AD Castra Vetera* (GI) Destroyed in Teutoburg Forest, lost aquila standard, rebuilt by Nero for a campaign in Egypt, disbanded by Vespasian
XIX Xanten, Germany 41 BC Augustus 9 XX to 15 BC unknown; 15 BC-9 AD somewhere in GI Destroyed in Teutoburg Forest, lost aquila standard, never rebuilt
XX Valeria Vict. Chester, England Boar 31 BC Augustus 250+ UF to 9 AD DLM; 9-43 GI; 43-75 BRIT; 75-250+ Deva* BRIT vigesima named for Messalla? XX in Allectus' fall 296?
XXI Rapax Windisch, Switzerland Capricorn 31 BC Augustus 92 XX 9-43 GI; 43-70 Vindonissa* (RT); 70-89 GI; 89-92 PAN "Devourer 21st". XX by Roxolani Sarmatian tribe PAN
XXII Deiotariana Alexandria, Egypt 48 BC 132 XX to c.8 BC GAL; 8 BC-123 AD+ Alexandria* (AEG) GAL king "Deiotarus's 22nd". XX in Armenia in 161 by the Parthians
XXII Primigenia Mainz, Germany Hercules 39 Caligula post 300 39-c.300 Moguntiacum* (GS) Raised for Caligula's German war
XXX Ulpia Victrix Xanten, Germany Jupiter 105 Trajan post 400 105-22 DC; 122-c.400 Castra Vetera* (GI) "Trajan's victorious 30th" (M Ulpius Traianus)

Legend

  • Legion number and title (cognomen)

The numbering of the legions is confusing, since several legions shared the same number with others. Augustus numbered the legions he founded himself from I, but also inherited numbers from his predecessors. Each emperor normally numbered the legions he raised himself starting from I . However, even this practice was not consistently followed. For example, Vespasian kept the same numbers as before for legions he raised from disbanded units. Trajan's first legion was numbered XXX because there were 29 other legions in existence at the time it was raised; but the second Trajanic legion was given the sequential number II. XVII, XVIII and XIX, the numbers of the legions annihilated in the Teutoburg Forest, were never used again. (These three legions are without titles, suggesting that in disgrace their titles may have been deliberately forgotten or left unmentioned.) As a result of this somewhat chaotic evolution, the legion's title became necessary to distinguish between legions with the same number.

Legions often carried several titles, awarded after successive campaigns, normally by the ruling emperor e.g. XII Fulminata was also awarded: paterna (fatherly), victrix (victorious), antiqua (venerable), certa constans (reliable, steadfast) and Galliena (Gallienus '). Pia fidelis (loyal and faithful), fidelis constans and others were titles awarded to several legions, sometimes several times to the same legion. Only the most established, commonly used titles are displayed on this table.

The geographical titles indicate
(a) the country a legion was originally recruited e.g. Italica = from Italy or
(b) peoples the legion has vanquished e.g.Parthica = victorious over the Parthians
Legions bearing the personal name of an emperor, or of his gens (clan) (e.g. Augusta, Flavia) were either founded by that Emperor or awarded the name as a mark of special favour.

The title GEMINA means that two diminished legions have been combined to make one new one.

  • Main legionary base

This shows the castra (base) where the legion spent the longest period during the Principate. Legions often shared the same base with other legions. Detachments of legions were often seconded for lengthy periods to other bases and provinces, as operational needs demanded.

  • Emblem

Legions often sported more than one emblem at the same time, and occasionally changed them. Legions raised by Caesar mostly carried a bull emblem originally; those of Augustus mostly a Capricorn

  • Date disbanded

For legions that are documented into the 4th century and beyond, we do not know when or how they were terminated. For legions disappearing from the record before 284, the reason (certain or likely) is given as:
XX = annihilated in battle
DD = disbanded in disgrace
UF = unknown fate

  • Castra legionaria

Indicates the bases (castra) and/or provinces where the legion was based during its history, with dates.

  • Notes

Contains points of note, including explanation of titles and details of a legion's fate.

Province names and borders are assumed throughout the Principate period as at 107 AD, during the rule of Trajan, and after the annexation of Dacia and Arabia Petraea. The map above shows provinces at the end of Trajan's reign, 117 AD. They are the same as in 107, except that Armenia and Mesopotamia have been annexed (they were abandoned soon after Trajan's death); and Pannonia has been split into two (the split occurred c. 107). In reality provincial borders were modified several times during the period 30 BC-284 AD: this explains any discrepancy with other sources, as to a legion's location at a particular date

Late Empire legions

Shield pattern of the palatina legion of the Ioviani seniores, according to the Notitia Dignitatum.

Diocletian reorganized the Roman army, in order to better counter the threat of the Germanic peoples of northern Europe as well as that of the Persians from the East. The army was formed by border and field units.

The border (limitanei) units were to occupy the limes, the structured border fortifications, and were formed by professional soldiers with an inferior training.

The field units were to stay well behind the border, and to move quickly where they were needed, with both offensive and defensive roles. Field units were formed by elite soldiers with high-level training and weapons. They were further divided into:

  1. Scholae: the personal guard of the Emperor, created by Constantine I to replace the Praetorian Guard;
  2. Palatinae: "palace troops" were the highest ranked units, created by Constantine I after he disbanded the Praetorian Guard, it was comprised originally of former guardsmen;
  3. Comitatenses: regular field units, some were newly formed, others were descended from Early-Empire legions;
  4. Pseudocomitatenses: these were limitanei units diverted into the field army and often kept there; some Early Empire legions became pseudocomitatenses units.

These units usually numbered between 300 and 2000 soldiers and some of them kept their original numbering schemes. The primary source for the legions of this era is the Notitia Dignitatum, a late 4th-century document containing all the civil and military offices of both halves of the Roman Empire (revised in ca. 420 for the Western Empire).

  • Legio I
    • I Flavia Constantia (reliable Flavian): comitatensis unit under the command of the Magister militum per Orientis
    • I Flavia Gallicana Constantia (reliable Flavian legion from Gallia): pseudocomitatensis under the command of the Magister Peditum per Gallias
    • I Flavia Martis (Flavian legion devoted to Mars): pseudocomitatensis
    • I Flavia Pacis (Flavian legion of peace): comitatensis under the command of the Magister Peditum
    • I Flavia Theodosiana: comitatensis
    • I Illyricorum (of the Illyrians): stationed at the Camp of Diocletian in Palmyra
    • I Iovia (devoted to Jupiter): levied by Diocletian, stationed in Scythia Minor
    • I Isaura Sagittaria (archers from Isauria): pseudocomitatensis under the command of the Magister militum per Orientis
    • I Iulia Alpina: pseudocomitatensis under the command of the Magister Peditum in Italy
    • I Martia possibly based near modern Kaiseraugst
    • I Maximiana Thaebanorum (the Thebans of Maximianus): comitatensis unit stationed near Thebes, Egypt, and probably fighting in the battle of Adrianople
    • I Noricorum (of the Noricans): stationed in Noricum
    • I Pontica
  • Legio II
    • II Britannica: comitatensis under Magister Peditum
    • II Flavia Constantia: comitatensis under the command of the Magister Peditum
    • II Flavia Virtutis: comitatensis under the command of the Magister Peditum
    • II Herculia (devoted to Hercules): levied by Diocletian, stationed in Scythia Minor
    • II Isaura
    • II Iulia Alpina: pseudocomitatensis under the command of the Magister Peditum, in Comes Illyricum command
    • II Felix Valentis Thebaeorum: comitatensis
  • Legio III
    • III Diocletiana
    • III Flavia Salutis: comitatensis under the command of the Magister Peditum
    • III Herculea: comitatensis under the command of the Comes Illyricum
    • III Isaura
    • III Iulia Alpina: comitatensis under the command of the Magister Peditum command in Italy
  • Legio XII
    • XII Victrix

See also

References

Primary sources

  • Notitia Dignitatum reports the military units and their locations at the beginning of the 5th century.

Secondary sources

  • Oxford Classical Dictionary
  • Keppie, Lawrence. The Making of the Roman Army, 1984 pp. 205–215
  • Stephen Dando-Collins "Legions Of Rome"

Notes

  1. ^ Boyne, William (1968). A manual of Roman coins. p. 13. 

External links








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