Legio VI Ferrata
|This article's factual accuracy is disputed. (November 2009)|
|Legio VI Ferrata|
|Active||65 BC to at least 215 AD|
|Country||Roman Republic and Roman Empire|
|Type||Roman legion (Marian)|
Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo
Legio sexta Ferrata (Sixth Ironclad Legion), was a Roman Legion formed in 65 BC, and in existence up to at least 3rd century. A Legio VI fought in the Roman Republican civil wars of the 40s and 30s BC. Sent to garrison the province of Judaea, it remained there for the next two centuries.
The Legion was also known as Fidelis Constans, meaning "Firmly Loyal". It is unclear when this title was given, but several sources[who?] indicate that it may have been in the 1st century AD. The symbol for Legio VI Ferrata was the bull. It also carried the symbolic she-wolf with Romulus and Remus.
|This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (March 2010)|
Later seeing action at battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC, Julius Caesar took the 6th to Alexandria to settle the dispute in Egypt with Cleopatra. Alexandria was besieged, and the 6th was suffered many casualties, losing almost two-thirds of its strength. Caesar eventually triumphed when reinforcements under Mithridates of Pergamum arrived.
- "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 Legion served in Pontus under Caesar in 48 and 47 BC. This culminated in the battle of Zela 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".
- "Caesar was quite overjoyed at such a victory, although he had been victorious 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..."
Under Mark Antony
The legion was disbanded in 45 BC after the battle of Munda, establishing a colony at Arelate (Arles), but was re-formed by Lepidus the following year (44 BC) and was handed over to Mark Antony the year after. 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 Mark Antony and Caesar's nephew and heir Octavian, a colony was again formed from retired veterans at Beneventum in 41 BC, and the remainder of Legio VI Ferrata was taken by Mark Antony to the East where it garrisoned Judea.
Two legions under Mark Antony and Octavian
Another Sixth Legion, 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 Mark Antony in the East;
- "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 used the veterans of Caesar's Sixth Legion, this time from those left at Beneventum, to form the core of his own Sixth Legion used at Perusia.
During the war between Antony and Octavian the Legio VI's Ferrata and Victrix found themselves on opposing sides at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. Legio VI Ferrata was severely mauled by Octavian's forces. Following the battle, another colony of veterans seems to have been created at Byllis in Illyricum, probably together with soldiers from other legions, and the remainder of VI Ferrata was moved to Syria/Judea where it was to remain, while Legio VI Victrix was sent to Spain.
From 54 AD to 68 AD the Sixth Legion Ferrata served under Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo at Artaxata and Tigranocerta against the Parthians. In 69 AD the Sixth Legion returned to Judea and fought in the Jewish War. As the War wound down, it was placed under the command of Mucianus and fought against Vitellius. The Legion was largely responsible for Mucianis' victory over the forces of Vitellius during the brief Civil War following the death of Nero.
In 106 AD a vexillatio of the legion participated at the final decisive battle against Dacia (see battle of Sarmisegetusa). The main legion can be placed at Bostra in Nabatea under Aulus Cornelius Palma Frontonianus. In 138 AD the Legion was stationed in Judea, but was briefly sent to Africa during the reign of Antoninus Pius. In 150 AD the Legion was once again in Judea, and the last reference found to Legio VI Ferrata places them still there in 215 AD.
The Legion's long sojourn in Judea left a lasting trace in the country's geography and culture, long past the end of the Legion itself and the Roman Empire in general, and up to the present. Being posted to guard the strategic pass at Meggido during the Bar Kokhba revolt, the place where it had its camp remained known throughout the centuries by the name "Lajun" (derived from "Legion"). In Ottoman times a Khan erected in that location was known as "Khan al-Lajun", and a Palestinian village of that name existed there until the Palestinian-Israeli war of 1947-49, when it was depopulated. Kibbutz Megiddo was established near this strategic location in 1949. Former inhabitants of Lajun Village still conduct a kind of annual pilgrimage to its ruins and preserve the name for later generations born after the village was destroyed - though few remember the name's Roman origin.
A popular Russian song called "Eagle of the 6th Legion" is dedicated to the 6th Legion.
Until recently, the exact location of the castra (“camp” in the sense of a permanent military base) of the Sixth Legion had not been confirmed, but textual evidence places it in the Jezreel Valley along the road from Caesarea to Beth Shean in the vicinity of Meggido. Surveys conducted by Israeli archaeologist Yotam Tepper identified Roman remains in the region, including coins and roof tiles stamped with the name of the Sixth Legion. In 2010 and 2011, Tepper teamed up with the Jezreel Valley Regional Project and the Center for Research and Archaeology of the Southern Levant. Together, Jessie A. Pincus and Timothy DeSmet conducted a Ground Penetrating Radar and Electromagnetic survey of this area and published their results with the accompanying archaeogeophysical interpretation . With the results of those two surveys the collective team decided upon the best areas for excavation during the 2013 field season. Thus in 2013, the team excavated the Legio VI Ferrata camp, uncovering defensive earthworks, a circumvallation rampart, barracks areas and artifacts including roof tiles stamped with the name of the Sixth Legion, coins and fragments of scale armor.
- The Alexandrian War, attributed to Caesar
- The Alexandrian War, attributed to Caesar, 33
- The Alexandrian War, attributed to Caesar, 76
- The Alexandrian War, attributed to Caesar, 77
- The African War, attributed to Caesar, 35 and 52
- Adkins & Adkins, Life in Ancient Rome
- Lawrence Keppie, The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to Empire, p.134
- Graham Webster, The Roman Imperial Army, Adam & Charles Black, London, (1969)
- Tacitus, Histories III, p.46
- R.P. Longden, Notes on the Parthian Campaigns of Trajan, The Journal of Roman Studies Vol. 21 (1931), p.35
- Megiddo, Israel
- Dr. Yohai Sela, "History of al_Lajun" (Hebrew)
- Matthew J. Adams, Jonathan David and Yotam Tepper, Legio: Excavations at the Camp of the Roman Sixth Ferrata Legion in Israel, Bible History Daily, Biblical Archaeology Society, 2013.
Pincus, J. A., de Smet, T. S., Tepper, Y. and Adams, M. J. (2013), Ground-penetrating Radar and Electromagnetic Archaeogeophysical Investigations at the Roman Legionary Camp at Legio, Israel. Archaeol. Prospect., 20: 175–188. doi: 10.1002/arp.1455
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