Legio XIIII Gemina

Legio XIIII Gemina: one of the Roman legions. Its name means "the twin legion".

Julius Caesar

The fourteenth legion was perhaps recruited by the Roman general Julius Caesar in 57 BCE, during the war in Gaul, before he attacked the Belgians. Caesar implies the existence of a fourteenth legion in his account of the battle against the Nervians in the late summer of this year. Three-and-a-half years later this unit was destroyed by the Belgian Eburones, commanded by Ambiorix, in the first weeks of 53 BCE. It was immediately reconstituted, and the soldiers of the new Fourteenth must have earned their spurs during the siege of Alesia (52).

During the civil war against Caesar's fellow-triumvir and rival Pompey the Great, the legion fought in Hispania in the battle of Ilerda (49). In the spring of 48, it crossed from Italy to Dyrrhachium (Dürres in modern Albania). It was almost certainly present in the battle of Pharsalus, where Caesar decisively beat Pompey. In late 48, the soldiers were sent back to Italy to be pensioned off, but in 46, they participated in Caesar's African campaign.

Another fourteenth legion is mentioned after 41; it was either a new creation (which explains why its emblem was a Capricorn, the sign of Octavian) or a reconstitution of the old legion. However this may be, it was used by Julius Caesar's heir Octavian, who had to put an end to Sextus Pompeius' occupation of Sicily, which put the grain supply of Rome into peril.

Tombstone of Flavoleius

After Pompeius had been defeated by Octavian's general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in 35, Octavian and his fellow-triumvir Mark Antony started a war, which culminated in the naval battle off Actium (31), where Octavian defeated his opponent and won the supremacy in the Mediterranean world. From now on, the world would know him as the emperor Augustus. The veterans of Actium were settled at Ateste in Italy.

The Fourteenth, which was reinforced with soldiers from the disbanded legions of Mark Antony and henceforth known as "the twin legion", was sent to Illyricum. A very brief stay in Gallia Aquitania or Gallia Transpadana cannot be excluded.

In 6 CE, Augustus' son-in-law Tiberius was to lead at least eight legions (VIII Augusta from Pannonia, XV Apollinaris, XIIII Gemina and XX Valeria Victrix from Illyricum, XXI Rapax from Raetia, XIII Gemina and XVI Gallica from Germania Superior and an unknown unit) against king Maroboduus of the Marcomanni in Czechia; at the same time, I Germanica, V Alaudae, XVII, XVIII and XIX were to move against Czechia as well, attacking it along the Elbe. It was to be the most grandiose operation that was ever conducted by a Roman army, but a rebellion in Pannonia obstructed its execution. It took three years to suppress the revolt.

Then, the Romans were defeated and humiliated in the battle in the Teutoburg Forest (September 9 CE). During the reshuffling of the Roman forces after the disaster, the legion was transferred to Mainz in Germania Superior, where it shared a base with XVI Gallica.

Tomb of Gnaeus Musius

The tomb of Gnaeus Musius dates from the first half of the first century. It shows the bearer of the standard (the "eagle") of the fourteenth legion, who died at the age of 32 after 15 service years. In his right hand, he has the standard, in his left a shield that is decorated with lightning flashes. Numerous other tombstones attest to the legion's presence at Mainz and nearby Wiesbaden.

In 21, a subunit of XIIII Gemina, if not the entire unit, was sent out to suppress the rebellion of the Turoni in Gaul, who had revolted against the heavy Roman taxation under two noblemen named Julius Sacrovir and Julius Florus.

Almost twenty years later, the Fourteenth was employed during the Germanic war of Caligula. According to our sources, Caligula's campaign on the east bank of the Rhine was not really important, but archaeological finds suggest that this is not true. It has been thought that Caligula called his new legion Fifteenth as a compliment to the Fourteenth. The war was continued by Servius Sulpicius Galba (the future emperor), who overcame the Chatti, near Mainz, in the winter of 40/41.

In 43, the emperor Claudius invaded Britain with II Augusta, VIIII Hispana, XIIII Gemina and XX Valeria Victrix. After the first phase of the conquest, XIIII Gemina was stationed in Leicester, perhaps sharing the base with the Ninth. Under the governor Ostorius Scapula, the Fourteenth Legion was sent against the Cornovians in the Northwest, and later to the Deceangi, a tribe in northern Wales. Another victim was the tribe of the Brigantes in northern England. The Fourteenth was redeployed in Lincolnshire. Perhaps it was temporarily sent to Strasbourg.

Inscription of the funeral monument of Cassius

In the next decade, the XIIII Gemina fought against the Welsh tribes: the southern Silures, the Ordovices, and the Deceangi in the north. After 55, it was based at Viroconium (Wroxeter on the river Severn), where it was to stay for some time. When the native queen Boudicca revolted in 60, the legion behaved itself valiantly and was rewarded the honorific title Martia Victrix ("victorious, blessed by Mars"). The emperor Nero thought that this was the best legion he had.

Nero planned a campaign against the Parthian Empire and the legion was consequently sent to the east in 67, but the campaign was canceled and the legion stayed somewhere on the Balkans when news arrived that Nero had committed suicide in the summer of 68 and was succeeded by the above-mentioned Servius Sulpicius Galba. He ordered XIIII Gemina to stay on the Balkans.

Tombstone of L. Aemilius

In January 69, the civil war of the four emperors broke out when the governor of Germania Inferior, Vitellius, revolted. Galba panicked, was lynched and succeeded by Otho. The legions now had to choose and XIV, like the other legions of the Balkans, preferred Otho. Unfortunately, the legion did not arrive in time for the first battle of Cremona; a subunit fought for its emperor, but was defeated with the other Othonian legions. Vitellius, however, was merciful and sent the Fourteenth back to Britain. In the second round of the civil war, Vitellius versus Vespasian (the commander of the Judaean expeditionary force), XIV Gemina remained aloof.

However, in 70, it assisted the expeditionary force of general Petillius Cerialis, who suppressed the Batavian revolt. The fourteenth legion marched from Boulogne through the country of the Nervians to Tongeren and Cologne. It was active in the decisive battle at Xanten.

This time, the legion did not return to Britain, but to Mainz, where it shared its camp with I Adiutrix. Perhaps very old veterans remembered the fortress they had left twenty-seven years ago. The soldiers first had to rebuild the castle, which had been besieged during the Batavian revolt.

XIIII Gemina probably took part in every campaign on the east bank of the Rhine during the next years. In 73/74, the soldiers were active, and ten years later, they were involved in Domitian's Germanic war. (In these years, they also constructed a bridge across the Rhine.) Among their more peaceful activities on the east bank was the reconstruction of the Roman fort at Wiesbaden. Inscriptions mentioning our unit were discovered in the bathhouse.

Inscription of XIIII Gemina

When in 89 the governor of Germania Superior, Lucius Antonius Saturninus, revolted against the lawful emperor Domitian, XIIII Gemina and XXI Rapax supported him. However, the resurrection came to nothing and the two units were separated - the Twenty-first being sent to Pannonia.

In 92, XXI Rapax was destroyed by the Dacians and XIIII Gemina was transferred to Pannonia to replace it, The legion was first stationed at Osijek, and later at Vindobona (modern Vienna), from which town it fought against the Suebes and Sarmatians. This war was continued during the reign of Nerva and escalated to the large Dacian wars of Trajan (101-106), which culminated in the conquest of modern Romania. Veterans of the Fourteenth were settled in Sarmizegetusa, the capital of the conquered provinces.

Rooftile of XIIII Gemina from Carnuntum

After 117/118, the fourteenth legion stayed at Carnuntum, east of Vienna, on the Danube. It was to stay there for more than three centuries, although subunits were active in the wars against the Mauri during the reign of Antoninus Pius, and took part in the Parthian war of Lucius Verus. Marcus Aurelius' war against the Marcomanni was fought just across the Danube, and Carnuntum was his HQ.

After the murder of the emperor Publius Helvius Pertinax in 193, Lucius Septimius Severus, the governor of Pannonia Superior, was proclaimed emperor in Carnuntum. XIIII Gemina was among his staunchest supporters and a considerable part of the legion took part in his march on Rome, against Didius Julianus, who had in the meantime seized the throne. It did not return to the Danube immediately. A subunit took part in the civil war against another rival of Severus, Pescennius Niger. The soldiers forced the Cilician gate and fought at Issus. It is also possible that they took part in Severus' campaigns against the Parthian empire, which culminated in the sack of Ctesiphon (198).

Coin of XIIII Gemina

The unit must have been active on several occasions during the third century, often together with X Gemina (from Vindobona), but evidence is scarce. We know of a war during the reign of Gordian III (238-244) or Philippus Arabs (244-249), and we know that our unit supported an usurper named Regalianus in 260-261. In the conflict between the emperor Gallienus (260-268) and his rival Postumus of the Gallic Empire, our legion supported the first-mentioned, for which it was awarded surnames like Pia VI Fidelis VI ("six times faithful and loyal"). This proves that it was awarded the titles Pia Fidelis to Pia V Fidelis V before, but we have no idea when this happened. After Gallienus' death the Fourteenth switched sides and supported the Gallic emperor Victorinus (269-271).

Between 364 and 378, the emperor Valerian waged war against the Marcomanni, using Carnuntum as HQ. XIIII Gemina must have been involved. At the end of the fourth, beginning of the fifth century, the fourteenth legion still guarded the Danube at Carnuntum. It must have disappeared when the frontier collapsed in 430.

One of the badges of the legion showed the Capricorn; on others, an eagle was depicted. In the late third century, only the Capricorn was used.


This page was created in 2002; last modified on 7 May 2020.