Legio VI Ferrata


Legio VI Ferrata

Legio VI "Ferrata" ("Ironclad") was a Roman legion. Ferrata was not the only name that Legion VI was called, it was also known as "Fidelas Constans", meaning Loyal and Steady. Although it is unclear when this title was given but several sources indicate that it may have been in the 1st century AD.

The symbol for Legio VI Ferrata is the bull, like all legions raised by Julius Caesar. It also carried the symbolic she-wolf with Romulus and Remus.

History

Raised in Cisalpine Gaul in 58 BC by Julius Caesar, the Sixth Legion served with him during his tenure as governor and was withdrawn to Spain in 49 BC where it earned the title “Hispaniensis”. (Caesar’s Gallic Wars)

Later seeing action at Pharsalus in 48 BC, Julius Caesar took the 6th to Alexandria to settle the dispute in Egypt with Cleopatra. Alexandria was laid to siege and the 6th was almost wiped out losing almost two thirds of its entire manpower. Julius Caesar eventually triumphed when reinforcements arrived. (The Alexandrian War, attributed to Caesar)
Julius Caesar took his “Veteran Sixth Legion” with him to Syria and Pontus. (The Alexandrian War, attributed to Caesar, 33).

“When Caesar reached Pontus he gathered all his forces together in one spot. They were modest in number and experience of war, with the exception of the veteran Sixth Legion, which he had brought with him from Alexandria; but this had gone through such toil and danger and been so reduced in size, in part by the difficulties of the marches and voyages, and in part by the frequency of campaigning, that it contained less than a thousand men…” (The Alexandrian War, attributed to Caesar, 76)

The Legion then served in Pontus under Caesar in 48 BC and 47 BC. This culminated in the battle of Zela (a town in Pontus) where victory was won by Legio VI.

“The origin of our victory lay in the bitter and intense hand-to-hand battle joined on the right wing, where the veteran Sixth Legion was stationed”. (The Alexandrian War, attributed to Caesar, 76)

“Caesar was quite overjoyed at such a victory, although he had been victorius in many battles. He had brought a major war to an astonishingly rapid end…He ordered the Sixth Legion back to Italy to receive their rewards and honors…” (The Alexandrian War, attributed to Caesar, 77)

During Caesar’s African war against Scipio, the Sixth Legion deserted en masse from Scipio to reinforce Caesar and fought under him. (The African War, attributed to Caesar, 35 and 52) The legion was disbanded in 45 BC after Munda establishing a colony at Arelate (Arles), but was re-formed by Lepidus the following year (44 BC) and given over to Marcus Antonius the year after that. Following the defeat of the republican generals Cassius and Brutus in successive battles at Philippi in 42 BC and the subsequent division of control between Antony and Octavian, a colony was again formed from retired veterans at Beneventum in 41 BC (this is the colony which it is believed became Legio VI Victrix) and the remainder of Legio VI Ferrata was taken by Antony to the East where it garrisoned Judea. (Life in Ancient Rome, Adkins and Adkins) Legio VI fought in the Parthian War in 36 BC. (Life in Ancient Rome, Adkins and Adkins)

Another Legio VI Victrix evidently saw action at Perusia in 41 BC, which presents us with a problem because the official Legio VI Ferrata was at that moment with Anthony in the East. This is explained in Lawrence Keppie's excellent book The Making of the Roman Army - from Republic to Empire (pp.134);“Octavian did not hesitate to duplicate legionary numerals already in use by Antony. The latter had serving with him legio V Alaudae, legio VI Ferrata and legio X Equestris. Soon we find Octavian's army boasting of a Legio V (the later Macedonica), legio VI (the later Victrix) and legio X (soon to be Fretensis). Of these, legio V and legio X, and less certainly legio VI, bore under the empire a bull-emblem which would normally indicate a foundation by Caesar; but the true Caesarian legions with these numerals (Alaudae, Ferrata and Equestris) were with Antony.”

It would seem, therefore, that Octavian had again used the veterans of Caesars Sixth Legion, this time from those left at Beneventum, to form the core of his own Sixth Legion used at Perusia. Both Legio VI’s (Ferrata and Victrix) fought at the Battle of Actium, after this event the Legio VI Ferrata was dispatched back to Judea and the next time we hear of the Legio VI Victrix was in Spain.

Legio VI Ferrata was severely mauled at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC by the forces loyal to Caesar's nephew and heir, Octavian. Following the Battle of Actium, another colony of veterans seems to have been created at Byllis, probably together with soldiers from other legions, and the remainder of VI Ferrata was moved to Syria/Judea where it was to remain.

From 9 BC to 73 AD the VI Ferrata was garrisoned the area of Judea (Palestine). It was in this time frame (historians differ as to the exact year) that one Jesus Christ was tried before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea. (Tacitus, Seutonius, Epictitius, et al)

From 54 AD to 68 AD the Legion served under Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo at Artaxata and Tigranocerta against the Parthians. (The Roman Imperial Army, Webster)

In 69 AD the Legion returned to Judea and fought in the Jewish Civil War. As the Jewish Civil War wound down, the sixth was placed under Mucianis and fought against Vitellius. Legion VI was largely responsible for Mucianis victory over the forces of Vitellius during the brief Roman Civil War. (Tacitus, Hist III, pg 46)

106 AD the legion can be placed at Bostra under A. Cornelius Palma. (Notes on Parthian Campaign of Trajan, JRS, p35)

138 AD the legion is stationed in Palestine, but briefly sent to Africa during the Reign of Antonius Pius. (The Roman Imperial Army, Webster)

150 AD the legion was again in Judea. (Life in Ancient Rome, Adkins & Adkins)

215 AD, the last reference found to Legio VI Ferrata places them still stationed in Palestine. (Life in Ancient Rome, Adkins & Adkins)

ee also

* List of Roman legions
* Roman legion

Notes

References

Primary sources

* [http://www.livius.org/le-lh/legio/vi_ferrata.html livius.org account]

External links

* [http://legvi.tripod.com/ Legion VI Ferrata, Charleston, SC Roman Re-enactment Group]


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