Top 10 Roman Legion

Roman Empire comprised impactful strategies, tactics, and techniques in everything it came up with. The Emperors that ruled Rome and the army used by them also happened to be one of the most celebrated ones in ancient history.

The Roman army included many soldiers of about half a million, grouped and placed into different legions, commanded by different Roman Emperors. Each legion would consist of soldiers from 4000 to 6000, and those soldiers would further be divided into smaller groups of 80 men known as Centuries.

These legions proved themselves as the most powerful ones in almost every war and battle they participated in. The major battles, including the battle of Pharsalus, the battle of Munda, and the battle of the Rhine river, were fought victoriously by the famous legions Legio III Gallica and Legio VI Victrix.

However, these are not the only legions that proved their bravery and loyalty in the battles during the Roman Era. Here is the list of the top 10 most powerful Roman Legion which proved bravery in the battles.

Which was the most Elite Roman Legion?

Praetorian Guard, a personal bodyguard of Roman commander was the most Elite Roman Legion. It contained 8 most powerful human warriors to protect Rome and its Emperor.

Which Roman legion was the most feared?

Legio X Equestris founded by Gaius Julius Caesar was the most feared Roman Legion. It contained the most powerful and fearless soldiers compared to all other legions.

10. Legio III Gallica

Inscription of Julius Caesar's Legio III Gallica
Inscription of Julius Caesar’s Legio III Gallica

Julius Caesar founded Legio III Gallica, also known as the Third Gallica Legion, in 49-48 BC. It was formed to fight against  Pompey and major for the Civil War against the conservative republicans.

All the army in the Legion were from Gallic Roman province- Transalpine Gaul and Cisalpine Gaul, so they are named after their province. Their symbol was a bull, like most of Julius Caesar’s legion.

This legion focused mainly on offensive assistance during every campaign and battle. It went along with other legions of Julius Caesar to many battles. The most famous battle led by this legion was the battle of Pharsalus and Munda.

Gallica Legion was later integrated with the legion of Mark Antony after the demise of Julius Caesar. The whole army was handed over to assist Antony in the battles against the Parthians and did serve successfully in 36 BC.

However, the legion was sent to the East to garrison the province of Syria after Mark Antony’s suicide and stationed there until 323 BC.

9.  Legio VI Victrix

A slab of Legio VI Victrix seen on the Antonine Wall
A slab of Legio VI Victrix seen on the Antonine Wall

Legio VI Victrix was founded by general Octavian ( Emperor Augustus Cesar) in 41 BC and was the legion of the Imperial Roman Army.

This legion campaigned and fought against numerous army including the Sextus Pompeius and Mark Antony.

However, its first battle was in Perusia in 41 BC against Mark Antony and Cleopatra. This battle brought an end to Antony and Cleopatra’s plan to claim Rome’s empire by defeating their army in the Battle of Actium on the 2nd of  September, 31 BC.

Other notable fights include the final stage of the Roman conquest of Hispania, the war against the Cantabrians, which lasted from 29 to 19 BC. This was one of the greatest battles of this legion as it managed to bring the whole of the Iberian Peninsula under the rule of Rome.

Victrix was stationed in numerous places for a brief period, including the Rhine river – Germany, northern Britannia and is considered the twin legion of the Legion VI Ferrata.

This legion came into action in various battles and campaigns proving themselves brave and powerful. They were stationed in Spain in 19 BC and stayed there for almost another century.

8. Legio XVIII

Funerary inscription on Legio XVIII
Funerary inscription on Legio XVIII

Legio XVIII was founded in 41 BC by Augustus Caesar and belonged to the Imperial Roman Army. It was especially formed to battle against Sextus Pompeius, who was threatening Rome’s grain supply.

In 31 BC, this legion was stationed in Gaul after the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra. But in the 1st Century BC, it was sent to the Germania provinces to take part in the army, which Drusus and Tiberius led.

It was passed on to the governor, Publius Quinctilius Varus, who took three of his legions, Legio XIX, Legio XVIII, and Legio XVII, towards the west. Legio XVIII was one of the eight promised legions to be delivered to Antony by Augustus during the campaign against Parthians but was never delivered.

The Arminius ambushed all three legions in the battle of Teutoburg Forest on the 9th of September, 9 AD. The ambush destroyed almost all the soldiers, and since then, the three legions – legion XVII, XVIII, and XIX were never used.

7. Legio I Germanica

Symbol of Legio I Germanica
Symbol of Legio I Germanica

Julius Caesar founded Legio I Germanica in 48 BC and was also known as the Germanican Legion for serving in the Germanic Wars. It belonged to the Imperial Roman Army and was formed to take action against Pompey.

They took part in numerous battles and wars including the battle of Pharsalus ( 43 BC ), the Battle of Dyrracchium, and against Sextus Pompeius (41 BC). They proved their bravery by gaining victory over their enemy. 

However, some soldiers could not survive in the Revolt of the Batavi in AD 70 as they were disbanded by Emperor Vespasian. 

Soldiers who managed to survive were added to another legion, Galba’s Legion VII Gemina. They were seen fighting and campaigning until AD 70.

6. Legio XII Fulminata

 The easternmost Roman inscription ever found left by Legio XII Fulminata
The easternmost Roman inscription ever found left by Legio XII Fulminata

Legio XII Fulminata, also known by many other names, including Thunderbolt Twelfth Legion, Victrix, Antigua, Paterna, Gelliena, and Certa Constans, was founded by Julius Caesar in 58 BC and stayed with him until 49 BC.

Unlike Caesar’s other legions, this legion’s symbol was a thunderbolt, and its name was based on its symbol. The legion was engaged in various famous fights, including the most impactful battle against Nervians and Alesia’s Siege.

Another battle was the battle of Pharsalus fought in 48 BC, where they helped their commander Caesar defeat his main enemy, the Pompey. 

Caesar had initially named this legion the Fluminata Legion but was changed to Victrix after winning the Civil War. They also received lands in Parma and were pensioned off after their remarkable victory.

After the victory in 43 BC, this legion was recruited by Lepidus and Mark Antony and was renamed as XII Antiqua while campaigning against the Parthian Empire. The newly formed and named legion was in the Euphrates River until the beginning of the 5th Century.

5. Legio III Cyrenaica

Denarius paid to the Legio III Cyrenaica by Mark Antony
Denarius paid to the Legio III Cyrenaica by Mark Antony

Legio III Cyrenaica was formed around 31 BC and stayed until the 5th Century BC. There is no clear answer to who founded it first. As per Ithistorians, it was founded under the command of Mark Antony or Marcus Aemilois Lepidus but was used mostly by Emperor Augustus.

Augustus used this legion after defeating Antony and annexing Egypt in 30 BC. However, the soldiers of this legion worshipped the Egyptian god Ammon.

This legion was first under the command of Lepidus before 36 BC and under the command of Mark Antony after that. Unlike other legions, the founder and the founded date of this legion are still unclear ( between 43 to 33 BC). From the dates of common, it is possible to be founded by Marcus Aemilois as he was the first one to take command of it.

Its name was based on its origin, Cyrene, and the notable victory made by the legion in that particular region. However, it was the legion of the Imperial Roman Army.

During the imperial period, this legion was stationed in Egypt and played vital roles in many campaigns against Jews and the Nubians. Its existence could be seen in Syria until the beginning of the 5th Century BC.

4. Legio IV Macedonica 

A brick stamp of Legio IV Macedonica
A brick stamp of Legio IV Macedonica

Legio IV Macedonica belonging to the Imperial Roman Army, was founded by Gaius Julius Caesar in 48 BC. The primary reason for founding this legion was to serve in the campaign of Caesar against the Parthian Empire; unfortunately, it was not possible due to Caesar’s assassination.

After Caesar’s death, Legio IV was under the command of his heir Augustus and was seen siding him in the battle of Mutina against Mark Antony suffering massive loss.

Despite their loss in Mutina, they fought in the battle of Philippi in 42 BC  and came back to Italy with Augustus. They were almost finished in this battle but still managed to reform and stay strong.

This legion was seen again at the siege of Perugia (41 BC), the battle of Actium (31 BC), at the battle of Cantabrian War (30 BC), and in Vellica( 25 BC) under the command of Augustus.

Legio IV Macedonica sided Augustus in multiple battles with some victories and some losses but was disbanded in AD 70 by the Roman Emperor Vespasian.

3. Legio IX Hispana

A stone inscription of Legio IX Hispana at York dated 108
A stone inscription of Legio IX Hispana at York dated 108

Legio IX Hispana, also known as Hispana Triumphalis Legion, and Legio Nona Hispana was the Imperial Roman Army. Julius Caesar founded it in 65 BC. 

It fought alongside other legions VII, VIII, and V in 58 BC and is one of the legions to fight both in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. However, it was stationed in Britain since 43 AD; however, it was active from around 58 BC until the 2nd Century AD.

The legion’s disappearance from Roman Empire is around 120 AD, but the reason is still unknown. According to prehistorian Theodor Mommsen, the legion was demolished in northern Britain around 108 AD.

One novel published in 1954, ‘The Eagle of the Ninth,’ states that the legion marched to Caledonia and was never heard of since then. However, numerous inscriptions of IX Hispana were found at the site of Nijmegen, which means this legion was based in Nijmegen since 120 AD.

2. Legio II Augusta

Legio II Augusta with its symbols Capricorn
Legio II Augusta with its symbols Capricorn

Legio II Augusta, also known as Augusta Legion, belonged to the Imperial of Roman Army. It was founded by Roman Emperor Augustus during the Roman Republic era, around 26 BC.

It first came into action around 26 BC, along with seven other legions in the Cantabrian Wars, from 29 to 19 BC. All these legions were stationed in Spain during this time and fought fearlessly. 

They also showed their bravery and loyalty in the battle of Actium of 31 BC  despite losing many soldiers. 

1. Legio X Equestris 

Legio X Equestris and its symbol bull
Legio X Equestris and its symbol bull

Legio X Equestris, also known as the tenth legion, was founded by Julius Caesar in 61 BC. It was his first personal legion which he levied while he was the governor of Hispania Ulterior.

Julius had founded many legions in Rome, and this was his third legion in Hispania Ulterior after legions XVII and XIX. Like other legions, it too had a symbol of the bull.

Legion X came into action in many battles and campaigns, including a campaign in the Summer of 61 BC. Here, the legion proved their bravery and utmost loyalty towards their commander Caesar and led to victory.

Another notable one was at the Gallic Wars, where they teamed up with other legions of Caesar, including legion XVII, XVIII, and XIX.

However, the most successful ones were the battles of Bibracte and Arar, where they fought against Helvetti and defeated them in Saone0et-Loire, France. 

After numerous victorious battles and campaigns, Legio X was discharged in 45 BC. Some soldiers were reconstituted in Mark Antony’s and Octavian’s Legion, which later merged with X Gemina.

Conclusion

Roman Empire, its emperor, and its every invention is a topic of interest for almost everyone. Anything that is related to this empire is impactful and inspirational.

The battle tactics, gladiatorial fights, weapons, architectures, art, and tools, everything they have come up with has been innovative with massive level of engineering. Generals and Emperors responsible for the invention and leadership of these have to be praised and given credit for all this.

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