Thursday, 25 January 2007

The Lost Legion

Some myths die hard.

It used to be thought that the Ninth Legion, the famous legio VIIII Hispana, had come to a sticky end in the wilds of Scotland. This particular legion, which dated back to the days of Augustus if not before, was probably in Britain from the start, participating in the invasion of AD 43. It certainly formed part of Agricola's army when he brought the Caledonian tribes to battle at Mons Graupius forty years later. The legion was engaged in construction work in its fortress at York (Roman Eburacum), some time in AD 108 (according to a stone inscription found there). But, thereafter, it seemed to disappear from the archaeological and historical record.

During the reign of Trajan (AD 98-114), the garrison of Britain stood at three legions. When Hadrian visited the province in AD 122 and planned the building of his well-known frontier wall, he brought a legion with him, the Sixth Victrix from Germany. Scholars assumed that the new legion was required to fill the gap left by some dreadful military disaster. Writing in 1936, Wilhelm Weber, the German biographer of Hadrian, confidently asserted that "the Britons had destroyed the legion IX Hispana in the camp of Eburacum".

In his monumental survey of the Roman legions, the German scholar Emil Ritterling had earlier noticed evidence of officers serving in the Ninth later in Hadrian's reign. So, when the British archaeologist Professor Sir Ian Richmond came to write on the subject, he was loathe to concede the annihilation of an entire legion, and posited instead a convoluted scenario whereby "the legion was cashiered following an ignominious defeat ... [but] some of its officers survived".

But already in the 1960s, Dutch archaeologists had found evidence of the Ninth Legion at the fortress of Nijmegen (Roman Noviomagus) in the Netherlands, dating from early in the reign of Hadrian. Most probably, there had been a troop rotation, a straight exchange of legions, Sixth Victrix replacing Ninth Hispana at York; sadly, there was no dreadful destruction of the Ninth at the hands of the Britons.

However, at some point, a new variation of the myth arose, and became enshrined in Rosemary Sutcliff's delightful Eagle of the Ninth. Generations of book-reading school children have grown up with the idea of the lost legion, an idea that recently resurfaced in an article on the ABS-CBN web site. There, the writer William Esposo listed world-class Scots literature and the many Scots inventors of the past, celebrating the Scottish character:

"At the peak of the expansion of the Roman Empire," he writes, "the Scots successfully resisted Roman conquest. Two Roman legions that were sent as an advance column to Scotland vanished without a trace – no bones, no armor, no signs of battle to suggest what became of them. The mighty Romans lost their nerve and zest for conquering Scotland and instead built Hadrian’s Wall; running 73 miles of open country to separate Romans from the barbarians."

Aye, some myths die hard.

(See also: Lost Legion Myth Lives On.)


  1. I wish I could have used the legend of the lost legion in Caledonia Defiant; it would have made a lot of character motivation and plot development easier.

    What I do use though, is the idea that some vexillationes of the Ninth perished (the rest can go to Novomagus, lol) and perished because of treason of an officer, a fact that was covered up and answers for the contradictory sources.

    The boundaries between a good story and historical facts a writer has to walk. I hope I won't slip.

  2. I'm sure we can forgive some historical license, in the interests of a good story, Gabriele!

  3. Sutcliff (without the 'e') please:

  4. Dutch Archeologist6/9/07 3:18 pm

    The Brittons may have failed in destroying a Roman legion, but the German leader Arminius led his German tribes in the year 9 AD to victory by destroying the XVII, XVIII & XIX Legion. In Germany it's also known as The "Varusschlacht" or Varus Battle, after the Roman general Publius Quinctilius Varus who led the legions.

  5. Again thanks for helping get the facts straight. There still seem to be more articles, especially on the internet, stating that the legion disappeared with no trace than articles which note a probable troop rotation with the sixth replacing the ninth. As you wrote “sadly, there was no dreadful destruction of the Ninth at the hands of the Britons” It is sad isn’t. I loved the idea that they had totally wiped out a whole legion.

  6. Hi, Cornelia, i dont know where you are getting your "facts" from but the Roman 9th legion was almost certainly defeated by the Caledonians.
    I dont know where all this talk of a "myth" is coming from.
    (no wait, i do know, its English propoganda to try and wipe out Scottish history , but thats another story)

    The 9th where tasked with advancing north of Hadrians wall, they done so and where attacked at night as they made camp, most died,the rest fled back across the wall.
    The Romans where so affronted they scrawled out the name of the 9th legion on the wall of honours in Rome.

    Walk into any credible university in the Uk and ask a history teacher, this is what they will tell you

  7. i dont know where you are getting your "facts" from ...
    In this case, it's archaeology, as no written source mentions the demise of the Ninth Legion.

    the Roman 9th legion was almost certainly defeated by the Caledonians ...
    Incorrect, I'm afraid. It was almost certainly not defeated by the Caledonians (as you'd realise, if you read my post)!

    English propoganda to try and wipe out Scottish history ...
    Interesting idea. But the crucial evidence is from Dutch and German scholars!

    The Romans where so affronted they scrawled out the name of the 9th legion on the wall of honours in Rome.
    Amazing. You'd think eminent scholars like Emil Ritterling or Professor Sir Ian Richmond (who spent some time studying in Rome) would've known about this crucial evidence.
    As a matter if interest, where can this "Wall of Honours in Rome" be found?!

    Walk into any credible university in the Uk and ask a history teacher, this is what they will tell you.
    I don't know about history teachers, but I sincerely hope that no British university's archaeology faculty would exhibit this level of ignorance!

  8. hey guys i believe you are reffering to two different ninth legions-
    the first ninth definitely suffered a brutal defeat at the hands of the caledonians
    the second ninth the hispanic one is a matter of conjecture only
    but perhaps probably did suffer terrible defeats also

  9. "i believe you are reffering to two different ninth legions"

    I've only ever heard of one Ninth Legion.
    Trust me ... I'm an Emperor.

  10. ?!

    Hmmm ... not the most trustworthy source! (More here.)

  11. i dont know what happened to the ninth legion, only it is obscure in history an even more in roman records. do you know any other cases in roman history where such a battle hardened legion just disapeared after the day before. No more battles. No more records.No more honerable mentions of the legion hero's. Dont think this adds up to a legion rotation do you. While many people think it unlikely to destroy a roman legion, and taking nothing away from them, no man fights harder, more determined or with less fear than a man fighting for his own land. I just think the ninth met its waterloo as happened to so many other armies through time. Roman history can sometimes choose to forget that which they are not so proud of. Guess thats where they went eh? forgotten, and left to an unknown fate by there own for history to remember. Rome, in its attempts to hide their shame have left the ninth or lost legion immortal to the world by leaving the world an unknown chapter in its history. By the way....does anyone know which legion was wiped out to the man by the germans when rome ehgaged the hun in their own forest???

  12. Hmm, the 9th is always a tricky one. It seems people here have got things partially right in some ways, and others wrong. That is, i have to admit, as far as the many books on the subject i've read go.

    That's not to say i don't love Sutcliff's books, the idea of a roman legion being lost in Scotland is always an engrossing one, no doubt about it. That a Legion fell apart like Sutcliff describes would certainly result in it's memory being erased as much as possible. Indeed, there remains something of a folk tale about it north of the Scottish borders today.

    The author Roddy Martine writes of a wonderful story where a group of ramblers late one evening claim to have seen a large mass of men, with glinting armour waggons and torches crossing the hill. When asking at a local pub later they're told, ah well if it's not a bunch of last Duke of Edinburgh Expeditionists, then it's probably the lost legion. I love this tale, but it is sadly likely only that, a tale.

    Going on archaeology, the last known recorded reference to the Legio 9th Hispana dates from a stone inscription, of 107-8 AD, recording the reconstruction in stone of gateway at their fortress in York in stone!

    The noticable lack of any incriptions documenting construction of Hadrian's wall, especially when one considers the proximity of York to that area, suggests that by the time of construction under Hadrian, the 9th had already left Britain, to be replaced by the 6th Victrix. The 6th are known to have been brought to Britain in 122 by the Governor Aulus Nepos, substantiated by inscriptions and tomstones in York, as well as plaques on Hadrian's wall recording their involvement in it's construction.

    It was definitely not uncommon for Roman Legions to be moved around. That's not to say it happened frequently, some units moved rarely, the second and twentieth never left britain after the invasion the 40s AD. Other legions were withdrawn from Britain though, the 14th left around 70 AD, as did the 2nd Adiuxtrix who replaced them. Emperors moved legions are vexilations (bits of legions) around whenever necessary. For example there are tombstones from the 8th legion in Britain from after the Boudican rebellion, which we have no record of serving there. This has been explained as reinforcements to support the army after Boudicca.

    The ninth is documented to have had a vexilation comprising of a significant number of the legion away from Britain under Domitian, for Tacitus records that at the time of the General Agricola's campaigns in Northern England and Scotland, the 9th were understrength. A section of the unit is known to have fought in Germania in 83 AD.

    There is also evidence for the presence of at least some of the 9th in Nijmegen during the reign of Hadrian. It is unsure if this represented the whole Legion, but certainly the 6 were in York at the same time in 121-23 AD, so the ninth could have been there.

    The common suggestion, made for a number of plausible reasons, is that the 9th were transfered to the east, and perhaps destroyed during the vicious conflict in Judea during the brutal Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-5 AD.

    It would not the be the first time the Judeans had caused severe damage to a Roman legion,for they inflicted severe losses against the 10th Fretensis under Nero, who also lost their eagle, and was only not disbanded because the emperor vespasian didn't want to lose an experienced legion!

    Another Legion, the XXII Deiotriana, serving in the area, is thought to have been destroyed here too. The loss, or shaming of these two legions, of which the first is perhaps more likely, would perhaps explain their notible absence on a inscription from the reign of Marcus Auerlius 161-180, from which both are noticeably absent. So the Legion did not exist any later than 161.

    This of course does not prove the legion was not destroyed in Britain, simply that it no longer existed by any later than 180. The legion could possibly have been destroyed in Britain, and it's vexilations, seperate in germany, reformed into other units. Certainly if it was a particularly damning defeat for example if the legion surrendered, or was slaughtered while in route, then Roman precedent would have ensured that no record of the event would have been left!

    But, we know for fact the names of several senior officers of the ninth, who can not have served earlier than 122. One of these was Lucius Aemilius Karus, who served as Governor of Asia in 142/143. That suggests he was of senatorial rank, and while a vexilation could have been put under command of a tribune, the existence of several such figures, likely senior officers possibly even a legate, suggests that the legion wasn't destroyed earlier than 122 AD, as the popular myth behind the construction of Hadrian's wall suggests.

    Plus there is evidence from the early second Century of some presence of the 9th in Eygpt. There is a tombstone of a member of the Legion, a drill instructor, from Egypt. This of course could be explained by the presence of some vexilation, but it is suggestive, and fits the period. As Hadrian was responsible for reorganising the main frontiers of the Roman world, were the 9th transferred to egypt, arabia to fill a gap?

    Of course we'll never no for certain. All we know for certain is that they are last recorded in Britain in 107-8, and no longer exist on a list of all the Legions that can't be later than 180.

  13. Oops, sorry i appear to have a made a number of rather appalling spelling and gramatical errors as well as omissions in the above statement. Appologies, but i'm rather knackered and it's quite late here! Hopefully people will understand.

    For the 4th to large paragraph for example read rout for 'route."

  14. Dii immortales! A reply that's longer than my original post!

    Thanks, Anonymous of Durham. But I think I'd pretty much covered the same ground. Except for your enigmatic inscription from Egypt: a tombstone of a drill instructor? You really must give us details!

  15. Regrettably while i'm positive that what i said about a drill instructor is correct, he taught the throwing of Javelins if memory serves, i can't for the life of me remember which book etc i found it in sorry!

    Sorry for the longwinded reply, tis true you'd already had covered most of it, not sure why i took so long really! Must have been bored !

  16. Anonymous said - "The noticable lack of any incriptions documenting construction of Hadrian's wall, especially when one considers the proximity of York to that area,..."

    Are you far away that York seems near Hadrians Wall. It is a good 120 miles away but I suppose that the chronocles could have been kept in York.

    Do you know anything about a book on the 9th legion written by Leonard Catterill in around 1944? I am seeking evidence of the 9th losing men in a bog near Bingley,West Yorkshire.

  17. a book on the 9th legion written by Leonard Cottrell ...

    Maybe this one?

  18. Hi guys,just kite-flying:-Had heard of the 9th in context of Boudiccan rebellion-understood they suffered heavy casualties after encountering Iceni tribe on their way to raze Colchester and London...does this tie in with the lost legion legend ??
    Any info welcome
    P.S also had my imagination fired by Ms Sutcliff`s magic prose..

  19. Thanks for your comment, Nick.

    The Ninth Legion, reading between the lines of Tacitus, certainly seems to have required reinforcements after AD 60.

    But the episode is a separate one.

  20. Many thanks for clarification-must confess to being crap at dates...subject is of some interest to me,not least `cos I live in what I believe to be one of the few areas that never fell under the shadow of the Eagle-Pembrokeshire-my understanding is that they never got west of what is now Carmarthen-unless you guys know different.........on a slightly different tack,and hoping this is not too far off topic:-I am guessing that since this seems to be a node of historians,you might be familiar with the Mabinogion-have some thoughts on the location of Pwyll`s capital,Arberth (now known as Narberth) which I would value some informed opinion on...please feel free to tell me to go away if this is outside the parameters

  21. << I am guessing that ... you might be familiar with the Mabinogion ... >>
    Hmmm ... a little outside my area, Nick. You might try our early medieval neighbours.

  22. Antonius you wouldn't happen to know the location of Legio IX Hispana at the time of it's dissapearance would you? I read that it was the danube when it vanished

  23. "you wouldn't happen to know the location of Legio IX Hispana at the time of it's dissapearance would you?"
    Unfortunately, nobody does.

    "I read that it was the danube when it vanished"
    Not normally one of the geographical candidates -- where did you read that?

  24. On wikipedia which is why I'm sckeptical

  25. For all you doubting Piuses, I strongly recommend you read the website for a fascinating academic exposition of this issue, that frankly trounces some of the rubbish printed here. Here's the intro to the section on the ninth legion and the article is required reading for disbelievers:

    "Pick up a paper or read a web article which makes mention of the mysterious disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion - IX Hispana - from the historical record and chances are these days that it will say that the legion did not disappear in Scotland as once thought but was transferred elsewhere in the empire and subsequently lost there.

    Some academics claim this has to be the case as there is no evidence of the Ninth Legion being lost in Scotland.

    How true is this?

    Well actually it is not at all. Most people are however swayed by what they hear and this has been magnified by certain key "authorities" who appear to have undertaken a crusade to relocate the location of the Ninth legions loss to anywhere other than Scotland. These claims have been repeatedly published since the 1970`s, and on the strength of this the theories have gained an entirely undeserved acceptance as a rock solid proven case."

    Oh, and ps I grew up by Inchtuthil, offspring of two university historians.....

  26. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  27. Ah, yes -- an anonymous comment. That always inspires confidence.

    "... a fascinating academic exposition of this issue, that frankly trounces some of the rubbish printed here"

    Modest, aren't you, Mister Anonymous? And clearly no scholar. Remind me -- what are your credentials?

    "I grew up by Inchtuthil, offspring of two university historians"
    So your knowledge of Roman Britain was absorbed by osmosis? I expected at least a term paper on Roman history, if not actually some formal training. I know a farmer whose dog grew up near Ardoch -- I really must get around interviewing him. (The farmer, too.)

    So ... you disagree with some of the rubbish in my blog? That's reassuring. So you agree with the rest of the rubbish? By the way, exactly what rubbish is it you disagree with?

    "Some academics claim this has to be the case as there is no evidence of the Ninth Legion being lost in Scotland"

    Which academics, precisely? Or did you just make that bit up? Even freshmen archaeologists know that absence of evidence isn't necessarily evidence of absence. I guess your "academics" didn't realise that.

    "... certain key "authorities" who appear to have undertaken a crusade to relocate the location of the Ninth legions loss to anywhere other than Scotland"

    Ah, those pesky academics, again. Remind me -- who exactly are these crusaders?

    By the way, I deleted your extracts from RomanScotland-dot-org. Your comment was already far longer than my original post and, frankly, a little boring. If anyone is interested, they can go over and read your site there rather than here.

    If you actually have any concrete contribution to make, I'm listening.

  28. This all well and good saying the Ninth was lost in Scotland but where is the proof?
    If this was fact we should have by now come across some Artefacts but none have been found.
    There are still standing dressed stone with the Ninth engraved on them.

  29. Stuart from the far north.31/5/09 12:04 pm

    I just love these Nationist Scottish Anonymous unqualified Historian's, riding roughshod over the evidence. Maybe they are trying to get Mel Gibson to do another historically acurate film about it.

    Sorry if I am being a little harsh, but it seems that some contributors to this thread that are unable to have an open mind about the fate of Ninth. But Hey, why let evidence get in the way of a good story !

    By the way, Great blog Antoninus, You must post more.

  30. Aye, that'll dae me

    Disappearance of the IX Legion
    In the territory ( in modern Perthshire ), of a Pict tribe the Romans called the Vacomagi just below ( according to Ptolemy ), the territory of the Calidonii tribe, the IX Legion built a 53 acre 'great fortified camp' at Inchtuthil on the river Tay, called Pinnata Castra ( Fortress on the Wing ). The word for wing that the Romans used in the name of the fort, is also used for the wing or feathers of a bird and it seems to be a reference to the wing of the Roman eagle - symbol of the empire. Fort on the wing [ fringe or edge ] of the empire. In modern terms the Romans perhaps felt themselves to be living on the edge, in more ways than one - especially as the fort was near the edge of their main enemy the Calidonii. The fort was defended by a turf rampart 13 feet / 4 meters thick, and at the front by a stone wall 5 feet / 1.5 meters thick, with a ditch 20 feet / 6 meters wide and 6½ feet / 2 meters deep.

    Although the Romans controlled large tracts of land they just couldn't conquer the country. In order to gain a wider control Agricola split his force into three groups. 'When Agricola learnt that the enemy's attack would be made with more than one army. Fearing that their superior numbers and their knowledge of the country might enable them to hem him in, he too [ like the Picts ] distributed his forces into three divisions, and so advanced.' Leading the Romans to believe that the Pict army had split into three divisions was a brilliant piece of Pict false information that had the desired effect of getting the Romans to split their forces - with dire results. It appears to have been the only mistake Agricola made during the invasion. When Agricola split his force into three, the IX [ Ninth ] Legion - who seem to have been especially hated by the Picts perhaps because of some heinous act of brutality - became the Picts main target.

  31. Mair tae come

    Tacitus had written earlier that 'not a single fort established by Agricola was either stormed by the enemy or abandoned by capitulation or flight'. This was about to change. The Caledonians carried out a daring attack in the dead of night on the fortress of the sleeping Ninth Legion - it was payback time ! Tacitus doesn't admit that the Roman intelligence was wrong but that the Picts, 'suddenly changed their plan, and with their whole force attacked by night the ninth Legion.' They first set bodies of troops at key positions to intercept any fleeing Legionnaires and then advance units overpowered the guards. In Tacitus words, 'Cutting down the sentries, who were asleep or panic-stricken, they broke into the camp.'

    The statement that guards were asleep appears to be another spin on the truth by Tacitus. It is very unlikely that any of the guards were asleep because they were inspected at regular intervals and also because the penalty for being asleep on guard-duty was death. It seems the advance attackers managed to open the main gates allowing the waiting united Pict army to pour into the camp in their thousands, there may have been as many as 20,000 or 30,000 of them. Tacitus says, 'the battle was raging within the camp itself.' No doubt the 5,000 Romans sought to quickly organised fighting units; probably numbers of men without officers banded together for their own safety and attempted to make a stand, but many groups of awakening disorientated legionnaires, separated from their unit and in mortal fear, were thrown into a confused terrified panic in which they could see only one course of action - escape from the confined death trap of the fort. Most of them wouldn't even have had time to put on their armour.

    A messenger managed to get through the Pict line and Agricola eventually came to the rescue with cavalry units just in time to save the remnants of the IX; if not for his actions the Legion might have become extinct at that point. The fierce fight with the cavalry units at the gate of the fort was probably called off by the Pict leaders because day was dawning and because Roman infantry units were on route to relieve the IX.

  32. Tacitus is ashamedly silent about the IX' casualty figures, which must have been several thousand at least. The Romans couldn't simply reinforce the IX from other units, probably because more than half the Ninth Legion had been lost. They had to bring in a replacement Legion, pull the remnants of the IX out of Caledonia, re-form the whole Legion and repopulated it with new recruits and officers. Given the circumstances of the attack and the major task of rebuilding the Ninth Legion, the casualties could even have been as high as two out of every three legionnaires. As the depleted thin ranks of the Ninth Legion assembled for roll call the next morning it must have been a sad, depressing event that deflated Roman pride as name after name was called - and no-one answered. It is little wonder that Tacitus recorded that Pict attacks like this one 'spread terror' among the Roman Legions: 'the native tribes assailed the forts' ( Note that the word 'forts' is plural ): 'and spread terror by acting on the offensive.'

    Excavations between 1952-65 revealed that within 4 years (about AD 85 ) of the attack, the Romans - afraid that the Caledonians would melt down any iron they left behind and hammer them into weapons - buried in a 12 foot / 3.5 meter pit, a hoard of over 875,000 hand-made iron nails, ranging in length from 2 inches / 5cm up to 16 inches / 40.5 cm, with a combined weight of 7 tonnes. They then tightly filled up the drains and sewers with gravel, set fire to Pinnata Castra and abandoned the whole area.

    The Emperor of Rome marshalled a renewed Ninth Legion and after the recall of Agricola back to Rome, he sent them for a few years of training and campaigning to battle harden them, (they were known as the 'Hispana' because they helped conquer Spain for the Roman Empire). The Emperor then sent them to teach the Caledonians a lesson about the power of Rome. The new IX Hispana Legion proudly marched north - and simply disappeared. Not one trace has ever been found of them or any of their equipment. Some historians have claimed that the IX was pulled out of Caledonia but the Romans forgot to record that fact. However, the Romans did not loose a Legion in the paperwork; something terrible seems to have happened to the IX, it is as if they just ceased to exist.

  33. Perhaps they suffered the ultimate shame - the Picts annihilated the IX and captured the Legion's Standard and so the disgraced remnants of the Legion were disbanded, and all records of its fate were erased. Roman policy was not to publicly record the fate of legions that had been disgraced or annihilated in battle. These disasters were looked on by the people as bad omens concerning the Emperor's rule and could even lead to political instability. Modern claims that the IX have been rediscovered, could in fact be a different Legion with the same number ( the practice of different Legions sharing a number is not unknown to historians - the distinctiveness of each legion was in their honouree name e.g. Hispana ). The disappearance of the Ninth Legion is one of the mysteries of the Roman Empire, a mystery that continues to this day - and the finger of suspicion points firmly at the Picts. Several scholars believe that it would have taken a major catastrophic event to cause the emperor Hadrian to decide to build his famous wall in modern England; they argue that the catastrophe was the annihilation of the IX legion by the Picts. One last fact is interesting. An inscription discovered in Rome and dated between 161 AD - 180 AD, lists 28 legions in west to east order - the IX Hispana are absent from the list.

    Although Tacitus does not mention Caledonia in this next quoted passage, he may have had it in mind, because he is referring to the period just after the invasion of Caledonia when Agricola had been summoned back to Rome. He writes of those days; 'so many of our officers were besieged and captured with so many of our auxiliaries, it was no longer the boundaries of empire and the banks of rivers which were imperilled, but the winter-quarters of our legions and the possession of our territories. And so disaster followed upon disaster, and the entire year was marked by destruction and slaughter.' Note the reference above to the attacks on winter-quarters - this was one of the main strategies of the Picts. Tacitus had earlier written that the Picts, 'had been accustomed often to repair his summer losses by winter successes.' About the time that Tacitus is referring to, Rome retreated from most of their alleged territory of Caledonia. Tacitus makes a ridiculous and unbelievable statement that Caledonia 'was thoroughly subdued and immediately abandoned.' The men of the IX legion and the other Roman officers and legionaries - died for nothing !

  34. Aye, the 'Aristocrat' of the time were so ashamed of the fighting man who was there 'in battle' that they decided to erase them from the annuls of history so as we today can argue over the fate of the 'Lost IX Legion'.

    From one of todays fighting men,

    45CDO RM

  35. See my comments on your exhaustive essay here, Mr Anonymous.

  36. I have also learned about a Legion that went into a forest in Germany and apparantly were all killed by the Germans.

  37. It is not uncommon for an individual person, or country to omit something from their resume, or history that they have no pride in. Thereby leaving the person studying this resume, or history cause for much speculation. Is it so surprising that persons with other personal prejudice seek to detract from one side, or the other. Do students in Japan get the whole truth in regards to their countries actions during WWII?

    That the Ancient Romans left little record of the "Lost Legion", or neo-english historians seek to detract from the Pict's or Scot's successes in fighting the Romans is no surprise.

    Jack Johnstone


  39. I agree that it is a wonderful book, which I praised here. I just hope that the movie does it justice.

  40. Could this in any way be linked to the ghostly legion that marches in the treasurers house in York?

    I cannot find descriptions of the uniforms to base a date on.

  41. I have an alternative theory: The Ninth Legion, after advancing into hostile territory beyond the Wall, found their supply lines cut and were forced to subsist on the native diet of deep-fried Mars bars, greasy chips, and pints of "heavy". As their continental metabolism rendered them especially susceptible to the lethal effects of this diet, they all very quickly succumbed to obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and stroke, and died within a matter of months (unlike their Scots opponents who - although prone to similar effects - had much greater resistance).

  42. If there was a whole legion,the 9th or whatever who vanished.It would not have been at the hands of the scots. The Picts ( Pretani ) would have killed you for calling them scots.
    The Romans feared the Pretani and so did the scots. The Pretani ( picts ) were are NEVER and have NEVER been Scottish.
    Calling them Scots is a worse insult than calling a Scotsman English.

    The Pretani were fighting the Scots for 100s of years.The Scots to the west,the vikings to the east,and the northumbrians to the south.Those people you wrongly call picts held all three of until the Vikings killed there leaders at cairn oh Hosts ( Carnoustie ). After that,the scots moved in to mop up a displaced people.

    How old is Scotland,ill tell you...

    What are these people called,those who live across the narrow sea to the north ?'
    Pretannikai was how he wrote down the reply,'they are the Pretannikai,and the island is called Pretannike'.
    Over the following three centuries this word changed only slightly, to be noted by Julius Caesar as Britannia.When the Romans finally organized an invasion in AD 43 and colonized southern Britannia,the name stuck through nearly 400 years of occupation,and it has stuck in various forms ever since.
    Scota brought the stone to Ireland and from there into west scotland and attack those people called picts ( Pretani) after the vikings kill there leaders at carnoustie the scots were able to move in and commit genocide on the pretani,they even destroy the real name of these people. Heather is translation of heathen its said that they spilt the blood of the heathen all over there heather only the white heather never had blood spilt on it,thus the term lucky white heather.
    Angus is not the birthplace of scotland,Scone is.Kenneth Macalpin had himself proclaimed king of All the Pretani lands aswell as Dalriada ( west Scotland where the scots first landed from Ireland ) He was crowned arround AD 843. scotland is only over 1166 years old. MacAlpin and his mob are from Egypt,decendants of Rameses the II ( Chenthres Pharoah of The Oppression).
    Scotland is only 1166 years old. the Scots kings are from Egypt.
    Before the Pretani in Foyersup at lochness,the Iberians left there marks of the cup and rings on stones the Pretani re used to put there symbols sutch as the Z rod and dancing water horses.
    In Greek myth Medusa head was chopped of by Perseus,it said that Pegasus the winged horse and his brother Chrysaor sprang from her neck.Now it is said Chrysaor became king of Iberia,that is now Spain and portugal.Lets go back to Lochness where the Iberians were said to have been before the Pretani.There to is a legend of a horse there,not a winged horse like Pegasus,but a water horse,and we all know her name... Nessie.
    Here is the past back to Egypt,by the crowns own claim.
    Alexander II,as a boy of 8,was crowned king in 1249...

  43. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  44. Long rambling and irrelevant post about the Stone of Destiny removed.

    I've left the previous, equally long and rambling one, because it includes one curious belief that is fast becoming entrenched in popular fiction.

    << The Romans feared the Pretani and so did the scots. >>
    I don't know where this equation of Picts = Pretani comes from, but it is complete fabrication. Copies of the writings of Diodorus Siculus, a Greek writer who describes the British Isles around 30 BC, carry the variant forms Prettanoi and Brettanoi for the inhabitants of Brettania, Brettanike, or Prettanike. Linguistically, these point to the same people, the Britons, and the same location, Britannia. No mention of Picts ... obviously, because the Picts didn't exist until the third century.

    And as for Romans fearing Picts, well we all know that the Romans feared no-one! :-)

  45. Surely the work 'Pict' has absolutely nothing liguisticly to do with the word 'Britannia' and its various ancient spellings.

    The word 'Pict' is from the Greek 'Pictoi' surely, and simply refers to 'painted men' ('pict' as in 'depict' and 'picture') as referred to by Greek speaking late Roman historians.

  46. Alrighty, the rambling guy had a few points, but quite a mistakes were made. The Scots did indeed migrate from Hibernia (Ireland) to Caledonia, but this was after the Romans evacuated the provinces to the south. Northumbria and the Viking invasions had nothing to do with the Romans, however, as Northumbria was a Angle kingdom establised (653 AD)long after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, and the Vikings only started their world tour of rape and pillage (officially) in the 790's. In any case, a good blog, Imperator, Fortuna be with you!

  47. Dennis Nicoll3/6/10 7:59 pm

    The Fate of the Ninth still engages
    The minds of both nitwits and sages;
    But that problem, one fears,
    Will be with us for years
    And for ages and ages and ages!

    Quoted by the late Professor Eric Birley at the close of his paper, "The fate of the Ninth Legion," in "Soldier and Civilian in Roman Yorkshire," Essays to commemorate the nineteenth centenary of the foundation of York. Edited by R.M. Butler, Leicester University Press 1971 pp.71-80 (q.v.)

  48. I think we have had our share of both nitwits and sages in this thread over the years!

  49. My goodness, is this discussion still going on.

    Hail Antoninus Pius, this is your late correspondant Anonymous of Durham. The fellow who posted a rather lengthy discussion about the 9th on here two years ago.

    I just wanted to take the opportunity to compliment you again on this thread, and enquire as to your health.


    Anonymous (of Durham)

    P.s. how on earth did you know i was from durham did i mention it somewhere?

  50. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  51. "My goodness, is this discussion still going on."
    I like to think that this is the mark of a successful posting: the fact that people continue to comment!
    (Thanks for the compliment, and I removed your duplicate message, Anonymous of Durham.)

  52. Interesting article, as I just watched that movie last night, Centurion, which is based on the 'lost Ninth'.
    BTW, the Caledonians were NOT Scots; they were British Celts called the Caledones; they did NOT speak Scots Gaelic. Just because they once lived in what is today called Scotland, does not mean they were themselves Scottish, and certainly not in those days. The Scotti came from Ireland, and spoke Gaelic, and settled in what became Scotland in the following decades. The Picts were NOT Scots either, and were called the Cruithne (or similar spelling, cannot remember it now), though, it is more than likely that the very early Picts did have strong ties with the Scotti; I personally believe the two peoples probably intermarried.

  53. What a terrific blog Antonius! I am a lover of ancient/classical history so stumbling across your blog has made my morning!
    I am no historian or arhaeologist, but I am a scientist (MSC - Computing, Univeristy of Hull).
    I trust the evidence. If we cannot do that, then why use evidence at all? Chaos would prevail if the ignoramuses (many of whom appear to have posted responses here) are allowed to prevail using sentimentality over fact.
    I am also an Eglishman, but am not anti Scottish, so would not therefore form an opinion based on nationalist sentimentality. We scientists tend not to do so, because we only consider evidence. All the scientists I know would say the same thing - irrespective of nationality.
    Anyway - Great blog! I am almost inspired to go on a dig in my back garden in Yorkshire!
    Also - I saw a movie recently that is of relevance to anyone interested in the history of the 9th Legion. It is called "Centurion". It isn't the greatest film ever on Roman quasi-history (not up there with Gladiator!), but it encourages thought none the less. The Scots Nationalists would like it: The 9th get duly slaughtered by a Pict Army - even though the Picts (as far as I understand) did not appear in history until after the withdrawal of Roman troops from Britain.

  54. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  55. << What a terrific blog Antoninus! >>

    Thanks, Will. I try my best.

  56. "That the Ancient Romans left little record of the "Lost Legion", or neo-english historians seek to detract from the Pict's or Scot's successes in fighting the Romans is no surprise."

    Well I'm sure the mystery will be revealed through wikileaks eventually!

    Centurion is now streaming on Netflix for anyone interested. Watching the movie brought me here. Great blog, I've been captured for at least half an hour.

  57. Great blog, I've been captured for at least half an hour.
    Praise indeed -- this old emperor is happy to be of service.
    But what on earth are "neo-English historians"?!

  58. COMMODUS struck sesterti refering to VICT BRIT and took the honorary title BRIT in his titles. Perhaps some belated retribution ala GERMANICUS in Germania

  59. Upon further reflection I notice that you yourself issued four sestertii commemorating the victories of Q Lollius Urbicus over the Brigantes in northern Britannia (see Sear nos. 4151 4152 4153 4154 as well as 4266 & 4296). Commodus Issued his sesterti to celebrate the "punitive"campaigns of Ulpius Marcellus in Caledonia (Sear no. 5736). A legion being rotated out after a period of war which saw the abandonment of the northern "Antonine" in favor the southern "Hadrianic" wall would not be too surprising considering the relative peace in the other provinces. A decade later Marcus of course would not be so fortunate as yourself and spent his "best" years campaigning against Germania

  60. Mehercle, you really know your Sear numbers, Fvrivs! But, in truth, the sestertii of AD 142/144 commemorate a victory in Britain, not "over the Brigantes". (Surely the tribes in question lay north of the Brigantes?)

    << A legion being rotated out after a period of war which saw the abandonment of the northern "Antonine" in favor of the southern "Hadrianic" wall would not be too surprising considering the relative peace in the other provinces. >>
    Interesting idea, Fvrivs. Your scenario applies to the years around AD 160, which seems a little late for the withdrawal of the Ninth Legion.

  61. But would it not be true that since your "elevation" was in the year 138 (a beautifull summer day) and your ascent to Mt. Olympus on a miserable cold day in March 161 - and as Sear 4296 depicts "Britannia...... in attitude of dejection" and your TR P is indicated as XVIII this would appear to be a much later year than than 142/144 campaigns(I haven't reseached your TR P years but it must have taken some time to reach XVIII) As for the "Brigantes" as we often see in our modern states (Iraqi's Turks etc.)tribal affiliations often extend far beyond political borders and can involve complex relationships of kinship and trade (especially smuggling i.e. tax evasion) When push comes to shove it can become impossible for the Legions to distinguish friend from foe and when "mistakes" are made a 'blood' debt can accrue which results in protracted and nasty conflict. I am sure the Brigantes had ties all the way up and down the Island.

  62. << as Sear 4296 depicts "Britannia...... in attitude of dejection" and your TR P is indicated as XVIII this would appear to be a much later year than than 142/144 campaigns >>
    Correct. The as of AD 154/155 depicts "Britannia seated on a rock" (the usual personification of Britain -- the coins of AD 142/144 are similar). You are right to say that some have interpreted this as "an attitude of dejection". Others disagree.

    If you are linking this with the withdrawal of the Ninth Legion, it's still a little late. But an interesting idea. Thanks for contributing, Fvrivs.

  63. With all due deference and respect(Trajan-Antoninus-Marcus and Probus are handsdown the best of the heirs of Augustus) the earlier sestertii depict Britannia seated on rock and holding spear with non-Roman looking shield to the front of field - head straight to the left.While the asses shown on the wildwinds website (8 photos)would seem to depict Britannia seated on a pile of stones (possibly rubble)one hand resting on rocks to the rear and the other supporting a downcast head while the sheild and weapons are in the backround.The difference is significant, while the former seems to celebrate Brittania as ally (she hold a spear) the later seems to imply surrender and significantly are found only in Brittania. This positioning is similar to pieces minted by your illustrious predecessor Trajan which show Dacia holding downcast head with discarded weapons. I only belabor this to emphasize the likelyhood of a protracted war which probably lasted from 142-156 (156 AD being an approximate for your Tribunicia Potestate XVIII)and only ended with much suffering and slaughter. These types of conflicts can be quite brutal and if the Balkans are any guide the rule of thumb is to kill all the men and rape all the females (of all ages).This could account for the "peace" during the reign of Marcus until a new generation of warriors could pick up the fight under Commodus(notice also that Septimius followed a full generation later)With this sort of protracted conflict almost any explanation is possible as to where the 9th legion ended up -altho I personally prefer the simpler one - that they were rotated out and possibly broken up to re-inforce the Rhine.

  64. One last speculation about war and the "lost" 9th legion(and I will trouble you no more).Lets for a moment suppose part of the 9th was still operational in Brittania by your 4th year of your reign (ie 142AD)and let us presume the trouble in the north lasted for an extended time (ie 14 years or more)until your XVIII TR P. And lets us presume that the hostilities were nasty and involved much that is unpleasant and distastefull and not written about much in polite society (ie rape and massacre)At some point during this conflict it might not be unreasonable to believe the "Brass" and or the Imperial "bean counters" might grow impatient of what can seem like a war with no end and a price tag that keeps climbing. A new approach can sometimes seem like an excellent idea when the phrase "It will be over by next Saturnalia" starts to grow stale. After years of brute force the so-called carrot and stick tactic is often used in such cases. Either you take our money and work for us or we can fight it out and burn down your village. After a few diehards are taken care of the option of a bladder filled with bronze coin starts to look better than getting your own bladder removed for filling up for the next guy.While most reverse "types" on coins are primarily civilian in nature,ANNONA-SPES-PAX and my own personal favorite FORTVNA REDVX aka "Happy days are here again." Military subjects and "propaganda" are common too (FIDES MILITVM - MARS VLTOR and the previously mentioned BRITANIA and DACIA seated/dejection.The seeming exclusivity of Britannia for the discovery of the former I believe to be part of a concerted effort by HQ to use the payments to the northern tribes for propaganda (and spread the view that the fight is over - Britannia throws in the towel and you will get no help from your cousins down south)As an early part of this "Scotti Awakening" and new policy what is left of the 9th Legion is transfered out as a peace gesture since they were involved in much of the nasty things and probably contained many infamous members (the "butcher of Carmathen" or something similar) whose continued presence would only provoke further retaliations. A lot of assumptions to make but the inevitable result of a wandering and restless mind. Regards F RVFVS

  65. << One last speculation about war and the "lost" 9th legion(and I will trouble you no more). >>
    No trouble at all, Fvrivs. I am enjoying your contributions.

    << ... the previously mentioned BRITANIA and DACIA seated/dejection. >>
    I decided to take this idea over here. I hope you follow me onto the new thread!

  66. Jim Of The Colonies Of The West Coast Of Australia8/5/11 7:58 pm

    Have just watched "The Eagle", and straight onto the internet for a taste of history. Not much history but a lot of conjecture (I loved the whole thread). Being from the colonies and having annihilated a foreign force on the odd occasion (English Cricket Team), I find it hard to reason that if the locals had such a victory over such a prestigious opponent, that the locals wouldn't themselves keep some kind of record. Maybe you scholarly types could explain why the Picts (read locals-at-the-time) might not have kept records?
    Regards, Jim of the colonies.

  67. Jim

    I'm no expert, but having studied ancient history and ancient cultures for a few years a couple of possible explanations come to mind.

    1) That as far as we know, and I may be embracing stereotypes here, the 'celtic' (I use that term loosely for fear of inaccuracy) had more of a verbal than a written tradition. Such an event, if it did happen, would quite likely have been commemorated in popular folklore not written down.

    The Romans, who had a strong written and recording tradition, have been shown to dislike recalling unpleasant or embarrassing incidents or persons. So it's possible they wouldn't have made too much effort to record a defeat, if one took place. Especially under emperor's, who by the very nature of their position were wary of bad publicity. Nothing changes eh!

    2)Most likely, If such an event did occur, it happened a VERY long time ago. History get's lost and forgotten.

    Hopefully the above comments are of some interest, but I suspect the latter is the most accurate.

    Anonymous of London (formerly of Durham)

  68. << The Romans, who had a strong written and recording tradition, have been shown to dislike recalling unpleasant or embarrassing incidents or persons. >>
    True, A. of L. (formerly A. of D.), but there are occasions when Roman historians can be painfully frank, as with Augustus and the Varian disaster, when three legions were destroyed. Makes you think ...

  69. Thank you Antoninus.

    And you're quite right of course. I realised as soon as I'd posted the previous comment that I had probably not mentioned the other side of the equation. I was, i admit, guilty of an over simplification.

    I therefore direct your noble attention to point 2) of my previous post, which I hope is adequately self-encompassing :)

    Anonymous of London (Formerly of Durham)

  70. It would be a shame for this fascinating and long-lasting debate not to enter a fifth year.

    Antoninus, you are a little harsh on the Pictophiles. To term the northern tribes here Picts is anachronistic, but no worse a sin than that. The term may have a late 3rd century origin, but the same can't be said for the peoples. The Irish called the Picts 'Cruithne', a Q-Celtic variant of 'Pritani'. The advent of Pictdom should probably be seen as the development of a xenonym through an increasing sense of cultural otherness between the Romano-British and northern tribes rather than representing cultural change.

    As to the fate of the IXth, Fronto's letter to your successor consoles him that even your illustrious predecessor suffered great losses to the Jews and the Britons. The notion of the IXth being entirely lost in Scotland may not stand, but that does not preclude the possibility that the legion suffered a catastrophic loss -- perhaps sufficient to lead to an eventual disbandment a few years later.

  71. << It would be a shame for this fascinating and long-lasting debate not to enter a fifth year. >>
    Mehercle, a quinquennium! Thanks for stopping by.

  72. Hail Antonius Pius!

    I know I have come to the party late (being near 10 years after it's start but...

    I do not know if this thread is still being monitored or not but if it is I have two things to say, one, I have truly enjoyed reading all of this and two, I stumbled on to this thread seeking knowledge about the "Lost" IX Legion in an endeavor to do some factual research for a fiction story I am attempting to write. The specific quarry I am trying to find an answer for is: "Is there a source somewhere out there where I may be able to find out names of any of the officers of the IX Legion during the time of it's "speculated" disappearance? I am not advocating that they did indeed get lost simply looking for names. In my fiction story I am using real historical figures that their fate is either suspect, questionable, or unknown, figures such as Amelia Earhart, D.B. Cooper, and "Jack the Ripper"

    Much obliged to any help or guidance that is given.

    Your's respectfully,
    Anonymous of Pittsburgh, PA, USA