Legio XII Fulminata

Legio XII Fulminata

Legio XII "Fulminata" ("wielder of the thunderbolt"), also known as "Paterna", "Victrix", "Antiqua", "Certa Constans", and "Galliena", was a Roman legion, levied by Julius Caesar in 58 BC and which accompanied him during the Gallic wars until 49 BC. The unit was still guarding the Euphrates River crossing near Melitene at the beginning of the 5th century. The legion's emblem was a thunderbolt ("fulmen"). In later centuries it came to be called commonly, but incorrectly, the "Legio Fulminatrix", the Thundering Legion.

Under Caesar

The Twelfth legion, as it is perhaps better known, fought in the Battle against the Nervians, and probably also in the Siege of Alesia. The Twelfth fought at the Battle of Pharsalus (48 BC), when Caesar defeated Pompey. After Caesar won the civil war, the legion was named "Victrix", and enlisted in 43 BC by Lepidus and Mark Anthony. Mark Anthony led the Twelfth, renamed XII "Antiqua" ("of consolidated quality") during his campaign against the Parthian Empire.

During the latest part of Augustus' principality, XII "Fulminata" served in Syria, camping at Raphana.

Against the Parthians

In the East, King Vologeses I had invaded Armenia (58), a client kingdom of Rome. Emperor Nero ordered Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, the new legatus of Cappadocia, to manage the matter, and Corbulo brought the IIII "Scythica" from Moesia, and with III "Gallica" and VI "Ferrata" defeated the Parthians, restoring Tigranes to the Armenian throne. In 62, IIII "Scythica" and XII "Fulminata", commanded by the new legatus of Cappadocia, Lucius Caesennius Paetus, were defeated by the Parthians at battle of Rhandeia and forced to surrender. The legions were shamed. Removed from the war theatre, they did not participate in the successful campaign of Corbulo.

Great Jewish Revolt

In 66, after a Zealot revolt had destroyed the Roman garrison in Jerusalem, the XII "Fulminata", with "vexillationes" of IIII "Scythica" and VI "Ferrata", was sent to retaliate, but it was sent back by Gaius Cestius Gallus, legatus of Syria, when he saw that the legion was weak. On its way back, XII "Fulminata" was ambushed and defeated by Eleazar ben Simon at Beit-Horon, and lost its "aquila". However, XII "Fulminata" fought well in the last part of the war, and supported its commander T. Flavius Vespasian in his successful bid for the imperial throne. At the end of the war, XII "Fulminata" and XVI "Flavia Firma" were sent to guard the Euphrates border, camping at Melitene.

Defending the Eastern frontier

In 75, XII "Fulminata" was in Caucasus, where Emperor Vespasian had sent the legion to support the allied kingdoms of Iberia and Albania. [In Azerbaijan, an inscription has been found which reads IMP DOMITIANO CAESARE AVG GERMANICO LVCIVS IVLIVS MAXIMVS LEGIONIS XII FVL, "Under imperator Domitian, Caesar, Augustus Germanicus, Lucius Julius Maximus, Legio XII Fulminata". This is the furthest place a Roman soldier went. See , ended with the annexation of the kingdom.

In 134, the threat of the Alans was subdued by the governor of Cappadocia, Arrian, who defeated the invaders with the aid of XII "Fulminata" and XV "Apollinaris".

The Twelfth probably fought in the Parthian campaign of Emperor Lucius Verus, in 162-166, if a mixed unit of XII and XV controlled for some time the newly conquered Armenian capital Artaxata. Emperor Marcus Aurelius commanded the XII "Fulminata" in his campaign against the Quadi, a people inhabiting an area now known as Moravia in modern day Czech Republic, and an episode of a miraculous rain saving a Twelfth subunit from defeat is reported by the sources. [The episode reported by Cassius Dio refers of the presence of an Egyptian mage, Harnuphis, who evoked Mercury, obtaining the rain shower. The Christian writer Tertullian, on the other hand, claims that the miracle of the rain was the result of the prayers of the soldiers, who were Christians. See Cassius Dio, "Roman History", lxxii.8-10 [http://www.livius.org/le-lh/legio/rain.html] ] At this time, most of the Twelfth was composed chiefly of Christians. ["Lives of the Saints" edited by Rev. Hugo H. Hoever p.25] There was a belief that this had led to the emperor issuing a decree forbidding the persecution of the Christians, but this seems to have been based on a forgery. [CathEncy|wstitle=Thundering Legion]

In 175, the legion was in Melitene, when Avidius Cassius revolted; the Twelfth, having been loyal to the Emperor, obtained the cognomen "Certa Constans", "surely constant".

After the death of Emperor Pertinax, 193, XII "Fulminata" supported the governor of Syria, Pescennius Niger, who was in the end defeated by Emperor Septimius Severus. When the Eastern frontier of the Empire was moved from the Euphrates to the Tigris, the Twelfth stayed in the reserve, possibly as a punishment for its support of Severus' rival.

The region around Melitene was one of the first in which Christian faith spread. Polyeuctes is a martyr under Valerian who was a soldier of the Twelfth.

The Sassanid Empire was a major threat to the Roman power in the East. King Shapur II conquered the base of the XV "Apollinaris", Satala (256), and sacked Trapezus (258). Emperor Valerian moved against Shapur, but was defeated and captured. The defeat caused the partial collapse of the Empire, with the secessionistic Gallic Empire in the West and Palmyrene Empire in the East. It is known that the XII "Fulminata" was under the command of Odaenathus, ruler of the Palmyrene Empire, but also that Emperor Gallienus awarded the legion with the cognomen "Galliena".

After these episodes, the records of the "Fulminata" are scarce. The Palmyrene Empire was reconquered by Aurelian; Emperor Diocletian defeated the Sassanids and moved the frontier to Northern Mesopotamia. The Twelfth, which probably took part to these campaigns, is recorded guarding the frontier of the Euphrates in Melitene, at the beginning of the 5th century ("Notitia Dignitatum").

ee also

* Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, a group of Roman soldiers in the Legio XII "Fulminata" who became martyrs for their Christian faith in 320.Fact|date=October 2007
* List of Roman legions



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

External links

* [http://www.xii-fulminata.it/ LEGIO XII FVLMINATA] , Italian re-enactment group
* [http://cf.geocities.com/legioqc/ Legio XII Fulminata Cohors I] , French re-enactment group
* [http://www.fulminata.it/Legio XII FULMINATA] , Italian "Rome Total War" clan

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