Legio V Macedonica

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Legio V Macedonica
Roman Empire 125.png
Map of the Roman empire in AD 125, under emperor Hadrian, showing the LEGIO V MACEDONICA, stationed on the river Danube at Troesmis (Romania), in Moesia Inferior province, from AD 107 to 161
Active 43 BC to sometime in the 5th century
Country Roman Republic, Roman Empire, East Roman Empire
Type Roman legion (Marian)
later a comitatensis unit
Role Infantry assault (some cavalry support)
Size Varied over unit lifetime. 5,000–6,000 men during Principate
Garrison/HQ Macedonia (30 BC–6)
Oescus, Moesia (6–62)
Oescus (71–101)
Troesmis, Dacia (107–161)
Potaissa, Dacia Porolissensis (166–274)
Oescus (274–5th century)
Nickname(s) possibly Urbana and/or Gallica (before 31 BC)
Macedonica, "Macedonia" (since AD 6)
Pia Fidelis, "faithful and loyal", or Pia Constans, "faithful and reliable" (since 185–7)
Pia III Fidelis III (under Valerian)
Pia VII Fidelis VII (under Gallienus)
Mascot Bull and eagle
Engagements Battle of Actium (31 BC)
Corbulo Parthian campaign (63)
First Jewish-Roman War (66–70)
Trajan's Dacian Wars (101–106)
Verus Parthian campaign (161–166)
vexillationes of the 5th participated in many other campaigns.
This coin was issued by Roman emperor Gallienus to celebrate the V Macedonica, whose symbol, the eagle, is crowned of wrath by Victoria. The legend on the reverse says LEG V MAC VI P VI F, which means "Legio V Macedonica VI times faithful VI times loyal"
Sestertius minted in 247 by Philip the Arab to celebrate Dacia province and its legions, V Macedonica and XIII Gemina. Note the eagle and the lion, V's and XIII's symbols, in the reverse.

Legio quinta Macedonica (the Fifth Macedonian Legion) was a Roman legion. It was probably originally levied in 43 BC by consul Gaius Vibius Pansa Caetronianus and Octavian (later known as the Emperor Augustus). It was based in the Balkan provinces of Macedonia, Moesia and Dacia. In the Notitia Dignitatum records from beginning of the fifth century, the legion was still stationed in Dacia, with detachments stationed in the east and Egypt.

The last known evidence shows the legion, or detachments from it, stationed in Egypt in the seventh century one or two years before the Islamic conquest of Egypt. It is often assumed that the legion fought in this war and was destroyed, although it is uncertain whether detachments or the whole legion were in Egypt, and there is no further evidence of the legion's eventual fate. If the main body of the legion was still stationed in the Balkans, it may have survived much longer in Byzantine service or it may have been destroyed in the Bulgarian conquests of 680-1.

Its symbol was the bull, but the eagle was used as well.


1st century BC: Creation and deployment in Macedonia[edit]

The Legio V was one of the original twenty-eight legions raised by Octavian. There are two fifth legions recorded: the V Gallica and the V Urbana. It is possible that these both were early names for the V Macedonica. The legion probably participated in the Battle of Actium (31 BC). It later moved to Macedonia, where it stayed from 30 BC to AD 6, gaining its cognomen, before moving to Oescus (Moesia).

1st century: The Great Jewish Revolt[edit]

In 62, some vexillationes of the Fifth fought under Lucius Caesennius Paetus in Armenia against the Parthian Empire. After the defeat of the Battle of Rhandeia, the whole V Macedonica, together with III Gallica, VI Ferrata, and X Fretensis under the command of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, was sent to the east to fight in the victorious war against the Parthians.

The Fifth was probably still in the East when the Great Jewish Revolt in Iudaea Province began in 66. Nero gave the V Macedonica, the X Fretensis and the XV Apollinaris to Titus Flavius Vespasianus to counter the revolt. In 67, in Galilee, the city of Sepphoris surrendered peacefully to the Roman army, and later the V Macedonica conquered Mount Gerizim, the chief sanctuary of the Samaritans. In the Year of the Four Emperors, 68, the legion stayed inactive in Emmaus, where several tombstones of soldiers of the V Macedonica remain. After the proclamation of Vespasian as Emperor and the end of the war under his son Titus, the V Macedonica left Iudaea and returned to Oescus (71). In 96, the later emperor Hadrian served the legion as tribunus militum.

2nd century: In Dacia, protecting Danube frontier[edit]

In 101, the legion moved to Dacia, to fight in Emperor Trajan's campaign against the king Decebalus. The legate of the V Macedonica was future emperor Hadrian. After the war ended in 106, the legion remained in Troesmis (modern Iglita), near the Danube Delta since 107. A centurion of the legion, Calventius Viator, rose to prominence under Hadrian. He was eventually promoted to commander of the emperors horse guards, the equites singulares Augusti.

Based on a Roman inscription discovered near Betar, Hadrian removed the V Macedonica from Dacia (present-day Romania) and sent it to Provincia Iudaea, or what is Judea, along with the Eleventh Claudian Legion,[1] in order to put down an insurrection that broke out in the 16th year of his reign as Roman Emperor, while Tineius (Tynius) Rufus was governor of the province,[2] and which later became known as the Jewish Revolt under Bar Kokhba.

Roman Inscription found near Battir mentioning the 5th and 11th Roman Legions

When Emperor Lucius Verus started his campaign against the Parthians (161–166), the legion moved to the east, but was later returned in Dacia Porolissensis, with a basecamp in Potaissa.

The northern frontier was a hot border of the Empire; when emperor Marcus Aurelius had to fight against the Marcomanni, the Sarmatians, and the Quadi, the V Macedonica was involved in these fights.

At the beginning of the reign of Commodus, the V Macedonica and the XIII Gemina defeated once again the Sarmatians, under the later usurpers Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus. The Fifth later supported Septimius Severus, in his fight for the purple.

In 185 or 187, the legion was awarded of the title Pia Constans ("Faithful and reliable") or Pia Fidelis ("Faithful and loyal"), after defeating a mercenary army in Dacia.

Later centuries: Honors and evolution[edit]

While staying in Potaissa for most of the 3rd century, V Macedonica fought several times, earning honors. Valerian gave the Fifth the name III Pia III Fidelis; his son, Gallienus gave the legion the title VII Pia VII Fidelis, with the 4th, 5th and 6th titles awarded probably when the legion was used as a mobile cavalry unit against usurpers Ingenuus and Regalianus (260, Moesia). A vexillatio fought against Victorinus (Gaul, 269–271).

The legion returned to Oescus in 274, after Aurelian had retired from Dacia. It guarded the province in later centuries, becoming a comitatensis unit under the Magister Militum per Orientis. It probably became part of the Byzantine army.

The cavalry unit created by Gallienus was definitively detached by Diocletian, and become part of his comitatus. This unit was sent to Mesopotamia, where it successfully fought against the Sassanid Empire in 296, and then to Memphis, where it had to stay until its entering in the Byzantine army.

Legio V Macedonica is mentioned again in the Notitia Dignitatum, stationed in Dacia Ripensis, with detachments in the Oriental Field Army and in Egypt.[3]

Legio V Macedonica is again mentioned in both Antaeapolis and Heliopolis in inscriptions, which seem to have been detachments of the units in Memphis. The last inscription provides the date of 635 or 636, indicating that at least part of the Legion was in Egypt until just before the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs began in 637. This would make Legio V Macedonica the longest lived Roman Legion, spanning 680 years from 43 BC to 637 AD.[4] If the main body of the legion was still stationed in the Balkans, it may have survived much longer as part of the Byzantine Army or have been destroyed during the Bulgarian invasions of 680-1.


Attested members[edit]

Name Rank Time frame Province Soldier located in Veteran located in Source
P(ublius) Oppiu[s] ¿P(ubli)? optio  ? Judea?  ? Emmaus Hecht 090710 Legio V Tombstone.jpg

See also[edit]


  • livius.org account
  • E. Ritterling, Legio, RE XII, col. 1572-5
  • Rumen Ivanov, Lixa Legionis V Macedonicae aus Oescus, ZPE 80, 1990, p. 131-136
  • D. Barag, S. Qedar, A Countermark of the Legio Quinta Scytica from the Jewish War, INJ 13, (1994–1999), pp. 66–69.
  • S. Gerson, A New Countermark of the Fifth Legion, INR 1 (2006), pp. 97–100
  • Dr. Gerson, A Coin Countermarked by Two Roman Legions, Israel Numismatic Journal 16, 2007–08, pp. 100–102
  • P. M. Séjourné, Nouvelles de Jérusalem, RB 6, 1897, p. 131
  • E. Michon, Inscription d'Amwas, RB 7, 1898, p. 269–271
  • J. H. Landau, Two Inscribed Tombstones, Atiqot, vol. XI, Jerusalem, 1976


  1. ^ C. Clermont-Ganneau, Archaeological Researches in Palestine during the Years 1873-74, London 1899, pp. 463-470.
  2. ^ Yigael Yadin, Bar-Kokhba, Random House New York 1971, p. 258.
  3. ^ Notitia Dignitatum In Partibus Occidentis
  4. ^ Ross Cowan, The Longest Lived Legion, Ancient Warfare