Aulus Caecina Severus (suffect consul 1 BC)

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Aulus Caecina Severus was a Roman politician and general who was suffect consul in 1 BC.

Early career[edit]

Descended from a distinguished Volaterran family,[1] Caecina made his name as a military man[2] and was awarded the post of suffect consul in 1 BC.[3]

In 6 AD he was the imperial legate in Moesia[4] when the Great Illyrian Revolt erupted. Severus was called down to suppress the revolt, and was joined by Marcus Plautius Silvanus. In 7 AD they met the Daesitiates and the Breuci at the Battle of Sirmium. Here, the Romans won a hard fought victory, but their losses were so significant that they could not follow it up.[5] Caecina was then forced to quickly return to Moesia, as Dacian and Sarmatian raiders were causing havoc in the province.[6] For the next two years he continued to fight the rebels in Illyricum, inflicting another defeat on them in 8 AD as they attempted to prevent Caecina marching to link up with Germanicus in Pannonia, until the revolt was finally put down in 9 AD.[7]

The Rhine revolt[edit]

Around 14 AD, Caecina was the legate in charge of the legions along the lower Rhine frontier in Gallia Belgica (what it time would become Germania Inferior), under the overall command of Germanicus.[8] When the Rhine legions rebelled following the death of Augustus, the men under Caecina were at the forefront, demanding the demobilization of men who had served an excessive number of campaigns, and an increase in pay for the rest.[9] Caecina apparently lost his nerve at the mutiny; he initially made no move to stop the spreading disorder, and when centurions sought his protection, he was forced to hand them over to his men to be tortured and killed.[10] Germanicus was forced to intervene; arriving, eventually he agreed to their demands, and was forced to come up with the money to pay some of the legions. Germanicus ordered Caecina to take the first and twentieth legions back to Oppidum Ubiorum, together with Germanicus’ depleted treasury.[11]

When Germanicus himself arrived at Oppidum Ubiorum, he sent Caecina to Castra Vetera, where the mutinous fifth and twenty-first legions were stationed. Determined to make an example of them, he ordered Caecina to declare to the troops that unless they punished the principal troublemakers, he would come in with a larger army and execute a large number of soldiers at random. Caecina discussed the situation with men he could trust, and they agreed to- obey his orders and kill all the ringleaders of the mutiny before Germanicus arrived.[12]

The German wars[edit]

In the following year (15 AD) Caecina was involved in the campaigns against Arminius and the Cherusci. Germanicus, who first proceeded to attack the Chatti, left him in command of four legions on the Rhine. Caecina was soon forced to turn back a Cherusci advance, and followed this up with a successful battle against the Marsi.[13] After this, hearing that Arminius had gathered together a large coalition of forces, Germanicus sent Caecina with forty cohorts towards the Ems River as a diversionary tactic, ravaging the countryside as he marched.[14] Rejoining Germanicus, they pushed towards the Teutoburg Forest, and Caecina was sent in advance to scout out the way, as well as build bridges and causeways, so that the army could navigate the surrounding marshlands.[15]

After fighting an indecisive battle with Arminius, Germanicus ordered Caecina to take his original forces and march back to the Rhine. Arriving at a spot referred to as the “Long Bridges”, and finding it impassable, Caecina settled down to begin repairs of the causeways so that he could continue his march towards the Rhine.[16] However, he was attacked by Arminius, and just managed to hold them off when night fell. The next day the two armies joined in battle again. The Roman legions become separated and were almost defeated again. Caecina, trying to hold the front line against the Germans, had his horse killed from underneath him, and he only survived by the quick intervention of the first legion.[17] When Caecina saw more and more Germans turning from the fighting to plunder the baggage carts and pack mules, he gave orders for the baggage to be abandoned. This was the only reason the first and 20th legions reached the earlier separated fifth Alaudae and 21st Rapax legions on dry land by nightfall. During the night a rumour soon took flight that the Germans had broken into the Castra, causing the troops to rush the gates in an attempt to escape. Caecina, unsuccessful in attempting to convince the soldiers that there was no attack underway, was forced to throw himself down on the ground under the gateway to finally get the soldiers to stop and listen.[18] During the night Arminius counselled letting the Romans leave their camp in the morning and resume the march for the Rhine. Once the legionaries were in the open and clear of the camp, he said, the Cheruscans could wipe them out. But Arminius’ uncle Inguiomerus did not want to give the Romans a chance to escape. He was all for attacking their camp at dawn and overrunning it. Other chiefs concurred. So Arminius, outvoted, agreed to lead a dawn attack on the Roman camp. In the morning, with Caecina having stiffened up his army’s morale and spirit, and a desperate counterattack plan prepared, the Romans managed to defeat the Germans attacking the camp and caused them to flee the battlefield. Caecina was then able to complete the repairs and return to the Rhine. As a result of this victory, he was awarded the insignia triumphalia.[19]

The next year (16 AD) he was still on campaign with Germanicus in Germany, and he was entrusted by Germanicus with the task of building a fleet of 1,000 vessels, in order to transport the armies from the North Sea into the interior of Germany via the River Ems, which he completed.[20] It is assumed that he marched alongside Germanicus during this campaign, and that Caecina returned with Germanicus to Rome at the end of the year.

Later career[edit]

Taking his place in the Senate, Caecina put forward a motion in 20 AD that an altar be erected to the goddess of vengeance giving thanks for what was termed the righteous death of Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, who was widely believed to be responsible for the death of Germanicus in 19 AD. The emperor Tiberius vetoed the motion.[21] Then in 21 AD, Caecina moved another motion in the Senate during a debate about filling the post of proconsular governor of Africa, this time to prohibit the governors of provinces taking their wives with them when they began their term in office. His speech was frequently interrupted by many senators, who observed that this was not the point of the current debate, and that Caecina was not qualified to act in the role of censor in such a matter. His motion was opposed by Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus and Drusus Julius Caesar, after which it failed to be carried.[22]

Caecina was married and had six children.[23]


  • Tacitus, The Annals
  • Syme, Ronald, The Roman Revolution, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1939.
  • Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Vol I (1867).
  • 15 AD BATTLE OF LONG BRIDGES - How the 1st Germanica Legion made its name, Weapons and Warfare


  1. ^ Syme, pg. 362
  2. ^ Syme, pg. 436
  3. ^ Syme, pgs. 362 & 399
  4. ^ Syme, pg. 394
  5. ^ Syme, pg. 399
  6. ^ Smith, pg. 529
  7. ^ Smith, pg. 529; Syme, pg. 399
  8. ^ Syme, pg. 437; Smith, pgs. 529-30
  9. ^ Tacitus, Annals, I:31
  10. ^ Tacitus, I:32
  11. ^ Tacitus, I:37
  12. ^ Tacitus, I:48-49
  13. ^ Tacitus, I:56
  14. ^ Smith, pg. 530; Tacitus, I:60
  15. ^ Tacitus, I:61
  16. ^ Smith, pg. 530; Tacitus, I:63-64
  17. ^ Tacitus, I:65
  18. ^ Tacitus, I:66
  19. ^ Smith, pg. 530
  20. ^ Tacitus, 2:6
  21. ^ Smith, pg. 530;Tacitus, 3:18
  22. ^ Smith, pg. 530; Tacitus, 3:33-34
  23. ^ Syme, pg. 500
Political offices
Preceded by
Cossus Cornelius Lentulus Gaetulicus
Lucius Calpurnius Piso the Augur
Consul suffectus of the Roman Empire
1 BC
With: Aulus Plautius
Succeeded by
Gaius Caesar
Lucius Aemilius Paullus