Legio IX Hispana

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Legio IX Hispana
Roman Empire 125.png
Map of the Roman empire in 125 AD, under emperor Hadrian, showing the Legio IX Hispana, then stationed (from 121 to c. 132 AD)[citation needed] on the river Rhine at Noviomagus (Nijmegen, Netherlands), in Germania Inferior province
Active Before 58 BC to sometime in the 2nd century AD
Country Roman Republic and Roman Empire
Type Roman legion (Marian)
Role Infantry assault
Size 2,500-5,000
Garrison/HQ Eboracum (71–?)
Mascot Bull (likely)

Legio Nona Hispana (Ninth Spanish Legion)[1] was a Roman legion which operated from the 1st century BC until the mid-2nd century AD. The legion fought in various provinces of the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire but was then stationed in Britain following the Roman invasion in 43 AD.

The legion's fate is unknown but has been the subject of considerable interest and research. It was based in York in 108. A prevalent theory holds that the legion was destroyed in action north of Hadrian's Wall around 117. This view was popularized by a 1954 novel but was somewhat discredited when tile stamps later found in Nijmegen show that the legion was still based there between 121 and 130.[2] Another source suggests an end in Armenia in 161.[3] In any event, the Ninth does not appear in a list of legions compiled in 165.



The origin of the legion is uncertain, but Julius Caesar is known to have founded a Ninth Legion already based in Gaul in 58 BC,[4] where it remained during the whole campaign of the Gallic wars.

According to Stephen Dando-Collins the legion was raised, along with the 6th, 7th and 8th, by Pompey in Hispania in 65 BC.[5]


The Caesarian Ninth Legion fought in the battles of Dyrrhachium and Pharsalus (48 BC) and in the African campaign of 46 BC. After his final victory, Caesar disbanded the legion and settled the veterans in the area of Picenum.[6]

Following Caesar's assassination, Octavian recalled the veterans of the Ninth to fight against the rebellion of Sextus Pompeius in Sicily. After defeating Sextus, they were sent to the province of Macedonia. The Ninth remained with Octavian in his war of 31 BC against Mark Antony and fought by his side in the battle of Actium. With Octavian as sole ruler of the Roman world, the legion was sent to Hispania to take part in the large-scale campaign against the Cantabrians (25–13 BC). The nickname Hispana ("stationed in Hispania") is first found during the reign of Augustus and probably originated at this time.

After this, the legion was probably a member of the imperial army in the Rhine border that was campaigning against the Germanic tribes. Following the abandonment of the Eastern Rhine area (after the disaster of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD), the Ninth was relocated in Pannonia.

In 43 AD they most likley participated in the Roman invasion of Britain led by emperor Claudius and general Aulus Plautius, because they soon appear amongst the provincial garrison. In 50 AD, the Ninth was one of two legions that defeated the forces of Caratacus at Caer Caradoc. Around 50 AD, the legion constructed a fort, Lindum Colonia, at Lincoln. Under the command of Caesius Nasica they put down the first revolt of Venutius between 52 and 57. The Ninth suffered a serious defeat under Quintus Petillius Cerialis in the rebellion of Boudica (61) and was later reinforced with legionaries from the Germania provinces. Around 71 AD, they constructed a new fortress at York (Eboracum), as shown by finds of tile-stamps from the site.[7]


The last attested activity of the Ninth in Britain is during the rebuilding in stone of the legionary fortress at York (Eboracum) in 108 AD. Its subsequent movements remain unknown, but hypotheses abound.

It is often said that the legion disappeared in Britain about 117 AD.[8][9] However, names of several high-ranking officers of the Ninth are known to serve with the legion after c. 120 (e.g., Lucius Aemilius Carus, governor of Arabia in 142/143), suggesting that the legion continued in existence after this date. It has been suggested that the legion may have been destroyed during the Bar Kochba Revolt in Iudaea Province, or possibly in the ongoing conflict with the Parthian Empire but there is no firm evidence for this.[10]

Miles Russell (senior lecturer in Roman Archaeology at Bournemouth University) has claimed that "by far the most plausible answer to the question 'what happened to the Ninth' is that they fought and died in Britain, disappearing in the late 110s or early 120s when the province was in disarray".[11][12]

Further speculation about a serious British war during the reign of Hadrian may be supported by a tombstone recovered from Vindolanda, Chesterholm in Northumberland. Here, the man commemorated, Titus Annius, a centurion of the First Cohort of Tungrians, had been, “killed in ... war” (in bello ... interfectus).[13] Further afield, a tombstone from Ferentinum in Italy was set up to Titus Pontius Sabinus, who, amongst other things, had commanded detachments of the VII Gemina, VIII Augusta and XXII Primigenia Legions on the “British expedition”, taking reinforcements to the island after (or even during) a major conflict, probably early in the emperor Hadrian’s reign (117–138 AD).[14]

Nevertheless, Sheppard Frere, an eminent Romano-British authority, has concluded that "further evidence is needed before more can be said".[15]

There is evidence, in the form of two stamped tiles, of the Legion's presence at Nijmegen (Noviomagus) in the Netherlands, which had been evacuated by X Gemina.[16] As these were stamped by the legion, and not by a vexillation of the legion, they cannot relate to the known presence of a subunit of the legion on the Rhine frontier during the mid-80s when the emperor Domitian was fighting his war against the Chatti. Instead, the tiles indicate that the Ninth Legion was still based there between 121 and 130.[2]

Two passages from ancient literature are thought to have a bearing on the problem. Evidence for substantial troop losses in Britain is supplied by the Roman historian Marcus Cornelius Fronto, writing in the 160s AD, who consoled the emperor Marcus Aurelius by reminding him of past tragedies: “Indeed, when your grandfather Hadrian held imperial power, what great numbers of soldiers were killed by the Jews, what great numbers by the Britons”.[17] Details of these casualties remain unknown, but, as the emperor Hadrian himself visited Britain around 122 AD, because, “the Britons could not be kept under Roman control”,[18] it is plausible that Hadrian was responding to a military disaster.[19] It is equally likely that the building of Hadrian's Wall stirred up trouble in the area.

The Roman historian Lucius Cassius Dio recorded that a legion was destroyed in Armenia by the Parthians in 161. This was possibly the Ninth Legion.[3]

The Ninth was certainly no longer in existence by the mid-2nd century, as a list of legions compiled in 165 – during the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (161–180 AD) – fails to mention it.

In fiction and popular culture[edit]

The Ninth Legion's mysterious disappearance has made it a popular subject for historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction.

  • In Rosemary Sutcliff's 1954 historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth, a young Roman officer, Marcus Flavius Aquila, is trying to recover the Eagle standard of his father's legion beyond Hadrian's Wall.
  • A Home Service radio dramatisation of The Eagle of the Ninth was broadcast on Children's Hour in about 1956.
  • In Alan Garner's 1973 novel Red Shift, one narrative involves a group of Roman soldiers who are survivors of the Legion's destruction, trying to survive in hostile, 2nd-century Cheshire.
  • In Karl Edward Wagner's 1976 fantasy novel Legion from the Shadows (featuring Robert E. Howard's Bran Mak Morn), the survivors of the Ninth flee underground where they interbreed with the Worms of the Earth.
  • A BBC television serial was made of The Eagle of the Ninth in 1977.
  • The 1979 historical novel Legions of the Mists by Amanda Cockrell recounts the destruction of the Ninth Hispania by an attack by combined tribes in Scotland.
  • In David Gemmell's "Stones of Power" historical fantasy series, (1988–1991) the Ninth have been trapped in Limbo and are released by the protagonists (Uther Pendragon in Ghost King and Alexander the Great in Dark Prince (1991)) to help in battles.
  • In Will Murray's 1993 Doc Savage novel, The Forgotten Realm,[20] the Ninth Hispana founded a city called Novum Eboracum ("New York") in the African Congo, which survived until at least the 1930s.
  • A full-cast radio dramatisation of The Eagle of the Ninth was broadcast by BBC4 in 1996.[21]
  • In Marion Zimmer Bradley's Lady of Avalon historical fantasy novel, (1997) the Ninth is destroyed in a battle with the native Britons, from which the hero Gawen escapes to return to Avalon.
  • In Susanna Kearsley's 1997 novel The Shadowy Horses, an archaeologist believes he's found the remains of a fort that housed the Ninth Legion in remote Eyemouth, Scotland.[22]
  • N. M. Browne's 2000 Warriors of Alavna accounts for the disappearance of the Legion by transporting it to an alternative reality.
  • In Ken MacLeod's 2002 science fiction novel Dark Light, the government of Nova Babylonia is descended from the Ninth Legion, the implication being that it was abducted by aliens and transported to that distant planet.
  • Valerio Massimo Manfredi's 2002 historical novel L'ultima legione (The Last Legion) depicts the Ninth Legion as being part of the legend of King Arthur.
  • Jim Butcher's Codex Alera fantasy series (2004–2009) is populated by the descendants of the Ninth Legion and its camp followers, which had been transported to the world of Carna[23]
  • The 2006 album Caledonia by German Celtic metal band Suidakra includes a song "The IXth Legion" about the legion's fight with the Picts.
  • The 2007 movie The Last Legion based upon the Manfredi novel.
  • In Stephen Lorne Bennett's 2010 historical novel Last of the Ninth the Ninth Legion is destroyed by the Parthians under General Chosroes, in Cappadocia in 161 AD.
  • The 2010 movie Centurion follows the destiny of the Ninth Legion seen from the perspective of centurion Quintus Dias.
  • The 2011 movie The Eagle is based on the book The Eagle of the Ninth.
  • In Warhammer 40K two of the twenty super human Space Marine Legions are recorded as having all records of them deleted. This is a reference to the Ninth Legion as the Space Marine Legions were based on the Roman Legions.

Reenactment groups[edit]

Several historical reenactment groups play the role of the Ninth Legion:

  • The Vicus (UK) represents a vexillation of the Ninth[24]
  • Legio IX Hispana (USA)[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "York's Spanish connection". BBC.co.uk. 13 January 2008. 
  2. ^ a b Bowman, Alan K; Garnsey, Peter; Rathbone, Dominic (2000). The Cambridge Ancient History: The High Empire, A.D. 70–192 (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 497. ISBN 978-0-521-26335-1. 
  3. ^ a b Bowman, p. 158.
  4. ^ Keppie, Lawrence (1984). The Making of the Roman Army, from Republic to Empire. London: Batsford. p. 208. ISBN 0-7134-3651-4. 
  5. ^ Dando-Collins, Stephen (2002). Caesar's Legion: The Epic Saga of Julius Caesar's Elite Tenth Legion and the Armies of Rome. New York: Wiley. pp. 269–270. ISBN 0-471-09570-2. 
  6. ^ Keppie, Lawrence (1983). Colonisation and veteran Settlement in Italy, 47–14 BCE. London: British School at Rome. p. 54. ISBN 0-904152-06-5. 
  7. ^ Wright, R. P. (1978). "Tile-Stamps of the Ninth Legion found in Britain". Britannia 9: 379–382. JSTOR 525953. 
  8. ^ E.g., Winston Churchill, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, vol.1 (1956).
  9. ^ On this whole question, see: Campbell, Duncan B. (2010). "The fate of the Ninth: the curious disappearance of Legio VIIII Hispana". Ancient Warfare IV.5: 48–53. [dead link]
  10. ^ Lendering, Jona. "Legio VIIII Hispana". Livius.org, Articles on ancient history. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  11. ^ Russell, Miles (May 2011). BBC History Magazine: 41–45. 
  12. ^ Russell, Miles (2010). Bloodline: The Celtic Kings of Roman Britain. Amberley. pp. 180–5. ISBN 978-1848682382. 
  13. ^ Roman Inscriptions of Britain, vol. 3 (Oxford 2009) no. 3364
  14. ^ B. Dobson Die Primipilares (Cologne/Bonn, 1978) no. 117, where the connection with Hadrian's visit is considered "likely".
  15. ^ Frere, S. S. (1987). Britannia. A History of Roman Britain (Third, extensively revised ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 124. ISBN 0-7102-1215-1. 
  16. ^ Haalebos, Jan Kees (2000). "Römische Truppen in Nijmegen". In Le Bohec, Yann. Les légions de Rome sous le Haut-Empire. Lyon: Diffusion De Boccard. pp. 465–489. ISBN 2-904974-19-9. 
  17. ^ Fronto Parthian War 2, 220
  18. ^ Scriptores Historiae Augustae Hadrian, 5, 1
  19. ^ E.g. Breeze, D. & Dobson, B. (2000). Hadrian's Wall (4th ed.). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 25. ISBN 0-14-027182-1. 
  20. ^ Robeson, Kenneth (1993). Doc Savage: The Forgotten Realm (1st ed.). Bantam Spectra. ISBN 0-553-29555-1. 
  21. ^ BBC, Eagle of the ninth. ISBN 1-4084-6776-3
  22. ^ Amazon reviews of The Shadowy Horses.
  23. ^ Q&A with Jim Butcher
  24. ^ "What We Do: Roman Units". Vicus – Romans and Britons. Retrieved 27 March 2014. "The Vicus represents two Roman military units. A vexillation of Legio IX Hispania: The choice of portraying Legion IX was an easy one as most of the legions that were present during the invasion and early occupation of Britain were already being portrayed in the UK and also the ninth does seem to have been involved in many of the significant military events...." 
  25. ^ "Legio IX Hispana: Bringing Rome to Life!". Legio IX Hispana. 

External links[edit]