Legio VIIII Hispana

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See also the re-enactor legion: Legio VIIII Hispana


Together with the Legions VII, VIII and X, the Legio VIIII (9th legion) was one of the oldest units of the Imperial Army. It is mentioned for the first time in the year 58 BC in Caesar's "Gaulish War", and it was under his command in the battle against the Nervii.

During the Civil War between Caesar and Pompey (his enemy and former colleague in the triumvirate), the Legio VIIII fought in Hispania in the Battle of Ilerda (Lérida, in the summer of 49 BC); after that, the soldiers were posted to Placentia (Plasencia, Cáceres), where they mutinied.

In the spring of the year 48 BC, the 9th legion served in Dyrrachium, where it suffered a great number of casualties. In the Battle of Pharsalia (August 9th, 48 BC), one of its units fought together with another unit from the 8th legion. After this battle the soldiers where taken back to Italy and discharged, although the 9th legion reappeared in the African Campaign of the year 46 BC.

Some veterans were settled in Picenum, and others in Istria. The 9th legion was refounded in 41 BC by Caesar's successor, Octavius, to stop the occupation of Sicily by Sextus Pompeius (son of Pompey The Great), that was threatening Rome's cereal supply. Once this campaign had been completed, the 9th was posted to the Balkans, where it received the nickname of Macedonica, ( there is an inscription about the Legio VIIII as Triumphalis, that proves that this legion could have been refounded previously, and that it fought in the Battle of Philippos in 42 BC).

In 31 BC, the war between Octavius an Marcus Antonius finished with the Battle of Actium, and Octavius became the single ruler of a Mediterranean Empire. He was appointed Augustus and became the first Emperor of Rome. The Legio VIIII, that had been present in Actium, was sent to the province of Hispania Tarraconensis to take part in Augustus' campaigns against the Cantabri and the Astures, that lasted between 25 BC and 13 BC. It was a very long war that involved other legions, like the I Germanica, II Augusta, IIII Macedonica, V Alaudae, VI Victrix, X Gemina , XXV Valeria Victrix and (probably) the VIII Augusta.

The Legio VIIII was the most distinguished unit of that war, mainly in the campaign of 24 BC, and received its honorary title of Hispana or Hispaniensis. It is possible that small Units of the VIIII were transferred to the Rhine river in 20 BC, during Marcus Vipsianus Agrippa's invasion of Germania, but this point hasn't been proved. If the VIIII was sent to the Rhine, it probably took part in the campaigns that Drusus led on the East bank. However, one inscription mentions a soldier of the VIIII Hispana in Pannonia during Augustus' reign, and it is possible that the Legio VIIII was not, in fact, settled in the Rhine, but in the Danube or at Aquilea. We do know, in any case, that during the months of confusion after the Roman disaster at Teutoburgh Forest (September, 9 BC), the Legio VIIII was in Panniona, where its presence has been firmly proved in 14 AD, the year of Augustus' death.

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There, in the city of Sisicia (today's Sisak), at the intersection of the rivers Colapis (Kulpa) and Savus (Save), the Legio VIIII settled until 43 AD. The only exception were some small units of the VIIII Hispana that were sent to Africa and Mauritania to support the Legio III Augusta in the war against the tribal warriors of Tacfarinas (21 – 24 AD). The Legion was commanded by Publius Cornelius Scipio (a direct descendant of the famous Scipiones of the Punic Wars and the Conquest of Spain).

In 43 AD, Emperor Claudius invaded Britannia with the Legions II Augusta, VIIII Hispana, XIV Gemina and XX Valeria Victrix. The VIIII, commanded by Aulus Plautius, was first settled in two headquarters, in Longthorpe and Newton-on-Trent. According to two different sources, it suffered a great number of casualties, about one third of its forces, during Boudicca's riot (60 AD). Its commander in that disaster, Quintus Petillius Cerialis, could continue his military career, something that shows that he and his men had an honourable behaviour in battle. Some reinforcements were sent from the German provinces and in 65 AD it was regrouped in Lincoln, but six years later was sent to York, where it garrisoned the Roman frontier, replacing the II Adiutrix Cerialis, that went back to Britannia after an important campaign in 70 AD (against the Batavian rebellion).

In 78 AD the 9th took part in the fight against Venutius and his Brigantine warriors in the north of England. At the same time, Gnaeus Iulius Agrícola commanded the XX Valeria Victrix to the north. Both legions defeated Venutius together near Stanwick.

In 83 AD, one unit of the VIIII Hispana fought against the Chatti, a German tribe, near Mainz, in Germania Superior. Probably about 1,000 men were sent from Britannia. This caused some difficulties to Agricola's campaign. It is possible that another unit of the VIIII took part in Trajan's invasion of Dacia, but this has not been proved.

The last datable finding (between 108 and 109 AD) of the activities of the Legio VIIII has been found in Britannia, where a stone fort was built in York. Whatever happened after this date is not clear. Some specialists support the idea that it was defeated and annihilated by the Picts, probably in 117 or 118, and this would be the reason why Emperor Hadrian ordered to build his famous wall accross the North of England. Recent investigations, however, point out that, at least, one unit of the VIIII was settled in Nijmegen, in Germania Inferior, after 121 AD. At the same time, the VI Victrix was transferred from Germania Inferior to Britannia, probably changing places with the VIIII.

The fact is that we know names of officers of the VIIII that could not have served before 122 AD (for instance Lucius Aemilius Karus, Governor of Arabia in 142 or 143 AD), something that indicates that this legion was resettled, not annihilated. This proves the existence of the Legio VIIII even during the kingdom of Hadrian. After that, the Legio VIIII disappears from the sources. Maybe it was destroyed during the Jewish riot of Simon Ben Kosiba (132 – 136 AD), or in Cappadocia in 161 AD by the Parthians, or during a riot in the Danube in 162 AD. In one inscription from Marcus Aurelius' reign (161 – 180 AD) that mentions all the legions, the VIIII Hispana does not appear; it probably had been destroyed before this period.

The symbol of the VIIII is unknown; but since it was a Caesarean Unit, it could have had a bull as its symbol."

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