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Hi everyone

I am new to this forum and I have a question that I hope you may know the answer to; it relates to legionary legates in the early Third Century. In a nutshell, were they still Senators appointed to the command, or were they Equestrians who had risen through the Tribune ranks and achieved the command on merit?

As an example, in the Early Empire, it is my understanding that if a senatorial province had more than one legion, the provincial governor would act as overall commander, but each legion would have its own legate. However, if the province only had one legion, the governor would act as the legate of that one legion, in addition to his governing duties. Is this correct?

Specifically, my query relates to the province of Syria, which originally had three legions, I believe. But then Septimius Severus split the province into two - Syria Coele and Syria Phoenice; the former having two legions, and the latter having just one (the Legio III Gallica). So, after this split, would the legate of Legio III Gallica also have been the governor of Syria Phoenice, or would they have been two separate appointments? And, if separate, would both positions have been given to Senators.

I am currently working on a project about the fall of Caracalla and the rise of Elagabalus, and as I'm sure you know, Legio III Gallica played a significant role in the accession of the teenage emperor, so I was hoping to find clarification on the matter of governors and legates. I've found reference to a chap named Verus, who may or may not have been the governor, or the legate, or even just a Centurion. There is also the reference to Comazon, who may or may not have been a legate of Legio III Gallica or Legio II Parthica. It is all somewhat vague!

Thank you in advance.
(03-03-2016, 01:13 PM)Lord Hobbers Wrote: [ -> ]were they still Senators appointed to the command, or were they Equestrians who had risen through the Tribune ranks and achieved the command on merit?

At the beginning of the third century most legions and provinces were still commanded by senators, yes. The three Parthica legions created by Severus were commanded instead by prefects or praepositi, drawn either from the equestrian order or promoted from the centurionate (this seems to have varied, perhaps depending on the emperor!). It was not until Valerian and Gallienus that senators were phased out of military command, followed soon afterwards by equestrians.

The last recorded equestrian cohort prefect dates from the reign of Probus. After this, almost all military commands were held by promoted career soldiers, and provincial governorships outside Italy by equestrian praesides (although there were exceptions: in the case of Britain, the praeses seems to have held military command as well). Later, perhaps under Constantine, some of these new equestrian governors acquired senatorial status as consulares.


(03-03-2016, 01:13 PM)Lord Hobbers Wrote: [ -> ]would the legate of Legio III Gallica also have been the governor of Syria Phoenice, or would they have been two separate appointments? And, if separate, would both positions have been given to Senators.

Both Syrias were apparently governed by senatorial legates at this point, who would also have had command of the legion(s) of the garrison. There are a few Severan-era inscriptions to some of these men:

CIL 03, 00202: Decimus Pius Cassius - leg(atum) Aug(usti) pr(o) pr(aetore) praesidem provinciae Syriae Phoenices

CIL 03, 00205,1: Quintus Venidius Rufus - leg(atum) Augg(ustorum) pr(o) pr(aetore) praesidem provinc(iae) Syriae Phoenic(es)

IGLS-06, 02776: Manilius Fuscus - leg(ato) Aug(usti) / pr(o) pr(aetore) prov(inciae) Phoenices

CIL 06, 41232: Decimus Simonius Proculus Julianus - leg(ato) Aug(usti) pr(o) pr(aetore) provinc(iarum) Syriae Coeles



(03-03-2016, 01:13 PM)Lord Hobbers Wrote: [ -> ]the reference to Comazon, who may or may not have been a legate of Legio III Gallica or Legio II Parthica.

There are several references in Cassius Dio to individuals said to be legion commanders or even senators who had been promoted from very humble origins. Valerius Comazon was, Dio claims, a former soldier who had once been 'sent to the galleys' (presumably sent to join the navy, or a marine contingent) as a punishment from the Governor of Thrace. Decius Triccianus, who had also commanded II Parthica, was a former soldier, and senator Verus, who raised the revolt of III Gallica, had been appointed to the senate from the centurionate. Needless to say, this is all pretty unusual, and Dio's senatorial dislike of plebian types might have lent malicious exaggeration to his account. Nevertheless, Caracalla did some odd things, and promoting favoured cronies to high offices might have been in his character.

The Parthica legions were usually commanded by prefects or praepositi, and these seem to have been a mixture of centurions promoted through tribunates in the praetorian guard, and equestrians who had completed the tres militiae. In one case there's an inscription to a former primus pilus of II Parthica promoted directly to command of the legion as praepositus. There are also a few inscriptions to the military staff of a legatus legionis ii parthica at Apamea, so clearly at some point the legion briefly gained a senatorial commander.
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my query.

That's Fantastic! This was just the sort of comprehensive answer I was looking for.

Thank you very much Big Grin

David Hobday
(03-04-2016, 07:38 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: [ -> ]There are also a few inscriptions to the military staff of a legatus legionis ii parthica at Apamea, so clearly at some point the legion briefly gained a senatorial commander.

I imagine that you are referring to Aurelius Tato, strator leg(ati) Leg(ionis) II Pa( r)thicae, Verinius Marinus, librari off(ici) leg(ati) Leg(ionis) II Parth(icae) P.F.F. A(e)t(ernae), and Aurelius Hermodorus, exactus librarii legati Leg(ionis) II Part(hicae) Anton(inianae) P.F.F.A.. There could be another explanation for the reference to the legate in these inscriptions. The full title of the prefect in charge of this legion was praefectus vice legati (CIL 08, 20996), implying that he was deputising for the legate. Whether or not this was truly the position, the notion that the post was temporary and that the legion could expect  to be commanded by a legate in the future would mean that it was quite in order for the headquarters staff to be called the officium legati, as in other legions, and for the commanding officer's groom to be the strator legati, even though, for the time being, the officer employing his services was a prefect.
(03-08-2016, 11:45 PM)Renatus Wrote: [ -> ]I imagine that you are referring to...

You imagine right!


(03-08-2016, 11:45 PM)Renatus Wrote: [ -> ]the notion that the post was temporary and that the legion could expect  to be commanded by a legate in the future would mean that it was quite in order for the headquarters staff to be called the officium legati, as in other legions...

Yes, that sounds plausible.

I had remembered reading somewhere that Severus Alexander may have temporarily replaced the equestrian prefects of the Parthica legions with senators (as a pro-senatorial gesture). I think I must have got the idea from Brian Campbell's chapter on the Severans in The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 12, p.23. Although Campbell cites these same inscriptions, and the one to Licinius Hierocles that you mentioned, as evidence... The idea seems to come originally from Balty & Van Rengen's 1993 Apamea in Syria: The Winter Quarters of Legio II Parthica, p.16/39-41.

The Hierocles inscription is the first use of the praefectus legionis vice legati  formula, which occurs several more times in the mid 3rd century for prefects of Danube legions previously commanded by senators (this is according to Mennen, Power and Status in the Roman Empire, AD 193-284). So it still could mean that Hierocles had taken the place of a senatorial legate who, at some intervening point, had been in command... I do prefer your explanation, although I don't think we can rule anything out!