Quintus Petillius Cerialis

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Quintus Petilius Cerialis Caesius Rufus (born ca. 30 died after 83) was a Roman general and administrator who served in Britain during Boudica's rebellion and who went on to participate in the civil wars after the death of Nero. He later defeated the rebellion of Julius Civilis and returned to Britain as its governor.

His name suggests that he was an adopted son of a Caesius family into the Petilii. His elder brother may have been Caesius Nasica.

Boudican rebellion[edit]

His first important assignment was as legate of the Roman legion IX Hispana (Ninth Hispanic Legion) in the Roman province of Britannia, under governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus. He took part in the defeat of the 60/61 rebellion led by Queen Boudica of the Iceni, although he suffered a serious defeat when attempting to relieve the city of Camulodunum (Colchester), which was destroyed by the Britons. His force, the Ninth Legion, was nearly annihilated in the Battle of Camulodunum as they marched to relieve the colony. By the time they approached the town it had already fallen, and the army was attacked by the full force of the victorious British tribes. They were overwhelmed, and only the cavalry, including Cerialis, managed to escape to a nearby fort.[1] The survivors remained in the fort until joined by Suetonius Paulinus, after his final victory.

Civil war[edit]

As a relative of Vespasian, Cerialis was made a hostage by Vitellius in 69, during the civil wars of the Year of Four Emperors. Cerialis managed to escape disguised as a peasant and joined the Flavian army. He was one of the cavalry leaders that conquered Rome for the approaching Vespasian.[2] His role was to enter Rome via Sabian territory along the Via Salaria.[3]

This success and his brother-in-law's trust gave him the command of XIV Gemina, then stationed in the difficult province of Germania Inferior. Again, Cerialis had to deal with a local revolt, the Batavian rebellion, in which the local tribes, led by Julius Civilis, a romanized prince, besieged two Roman legions at Xanten. Cerialis was again successful and received honours from Vespasian.

Late career[edit]

In 71 Cerialis was appointed governor of Britain, bringing the II Adiutrix with him to the province. He was supported by Gnaeus Julius Agricola, commander of XX Valeria Victrix.[4]

As governor, Cerialis campaigned against the Brigantes of northern England. In 74, Cerialis left Britain and returned to Rome as suffect consul. In 83 he was nominated consul for the second time, as a junior partner of the Emperor Domitian.

According to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica "Tacitus says that he was a bold soldier rather than a careful general, and preferred to stake everything on the issue of a single engagement. He possessed natural eloquence of a kind that readily appealed to his soldiers. His loyalty to his superiors was unshakable".[5]


  1. ^ Tacitus, Annals 14.32 Histories
  2. ^ Tacitus 3.59
  3. ^ Tacitus 3.78-79
  4. ^ 4.86; Agricola 8
  5. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cerealis, Petillius". Encyclopædia Britannica. 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 760. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Marcus Vettius Bolanus
Roman governors of Britain Succeeded by
Sextus Julius Frontinus