Aulus Didius Gallus

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Aulus Didius Gallus was a Roman general and politician of the 1st century AD. He was governor of Britain between 52 and 57 AD.


The career of Aulus Didius Gallus up to 51 can be partly reconstructed from an inscription from Olympia.[1] He is attested as quaestor in a senatus consultum dated to AD 19, that forbade Senators, eques, and their descendants from actively participating in gladiator games.[2] He served as a legate of the proconsul of Asia, as prefect of cavalry, and as proconsul of Sicily, although the dates of these appointments are unknown. He was curator aquarum (superintendent of aqueducts) from 38 to 49, consul in 39, and a member of the septemviri epulonum. He received triumphal regalia as an imperial legate under Claudius, probably in Bosporus: Tacitus records that he commanded forces there that were withdrawn in 49. After this he appears to have taken up another proconsular appointment, possibly in Asia or Africa.

His later career is described by Tacitus. In 52 he was made governor of Britain, following the death in office of Ostorius Scapula, at a time when the situation was deteriorating as a result of a string of rebellions. The south-east was securely held, but despite the defeat of Caratacus the previous year, the tribes of what is now Wales, particularly the Silures, continued to hold out. Venutius' first insurrection against Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes occurred during Didius' rule and he despatched troops under Caesius Nasica to aid her.

Didius acted to quell the rebels rather than enlarge the empire during his rule, which lasted until AD 57. Although criticised by Tacitus as being reactive and defensive, he was probably acting on instructions from Claudius who did not consider the benefits of further conquest in difficult terrain to be great enough to warrant the risk. Instead, Didius built roads and forts at the borders such as those at Usk to contain the native population. After five years in the post, covering the last two years of the reign of Claudius and the first three of Nero, Didius was replaced by Quintus Veranius.

Quintilian tells us that, after several years of campaigning for a provincial governorship, Didius complained at the province he was offered, although whether this refers to Sicily or Britain is unknown.[3] The orator Domitius Afer sarcastically advised him to think of his country. The tombstone of his successor, Quintus Veranius, states that he took the job "although he did not seek it", which has been interpreted as a barbed comment on Didius.[4]

Eponym of Cardiff[edit]

The modern city of Cardiff in Wales is often stated to be named for Didius.

The earliest Welsh name for the city, Caerdyf combines the elements Caer (fort) which refers to the Roman fort established around 75 AD, and a second element which is less certain. The antiquarian William Camden recorded the origin of the name as "Caer-Didi" (Didius' Fort). This derives from local beliefs that Didius had built the fort before the arrival of Frontinus in Britain and his construction of numerous supplementary fortifications in South Wales.[5]

Though most modern linguists dismiss this derivation, the Didius connection has remained popular throughout the centuries, appearing in Camden's Britannia (1586), The Beauties of England and Wales (1815), and the writings of Iolo Morganwg and Taliesin Williams.[6][7]


Aulus Didius Gallus Fabricius Veiento, who was praetor in 62, is almost certainly a relative, and likely to have been his son or grandson.


Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]

  • Smith, William (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. Vol. 2. p. 227. [1]
  • Birley, Anthony R. (1981). The Fasti of Roman Britain. pp. 44–49.


  1. ^ CIL III, 7247 + CIL III, 12278
  2. ^ AE 1983, 210
  3. ^ Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, VI.3.68.
  4. ^ Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, VI.3.68.
  5. ^ Pierce, Gwynedd O. "What's In A Name? – Cardiff". BBC Wales. Archived from the original on 15 January 2009. Retrieved 17 July 2008.
  6. ^ Wedlake Brayley, Britton, Edward, John (1815). The Beauties of England and Wales. London. p. 611.
  7. ^ Taliesin, Williams (1827). Cardiff Castle; a poem. With explanatory remarks and historical extracts. Merthyr Tydfil: J Howell. p. 25.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Suffect Consul of the Roman Empire
AD 39
with Gnaeus Domitius Afer
Succeeded by
Caligula III,
sine collega
Preceded by Roman governors of Britain
AD 52-57
Succeeded by