Legio II Augusta

Legio II Augusta ("Augustus' Second Legion") was a legion of the Imperial Roman army that was founded during the late Roman republic. Its emblems were the Capricornus,[1] Pegasus,[2] and Mars. It may have taken the name "Augusta" from a victory or reorganization that occurred during the reign of Augustus.[3]

The Legio II, Sabina was a Roman military unit of the late Republican era, which may have been formed by Julius Caesar in the year of the consulate of 48 BC and coincide, in this case, with the Legio II. Enlisted to fight against Pompey, they took part in the subsequent Battle of Munda of 45 BC.

Alternatively it could be the Legio II, formed by the consul, Gaius Vibius Pansa in 43 BC and recruited in Sabina, hence its nickname.[4] If this theory is true, than it probably participated in the subsequent battle of Philippi of 42 BC on the side of the triumvirate, Octavian and Marc Antony.[5]

After the defeat of the Republicans, Legio II swore allegiance to Octavian[6] and with the same remained until the battle of Actium of 31 BC,[7] after which it seems to have been dissolved in the years between 30 and 14 BC (sent on leave were between 105,000 and 120,000 veterans)[8] and some of its soldiers may have been integrated into the new Legio II Augusta.[6]

At the beginning of Augustus' rule, in 26 BC,[3] this legion was relocated to a place north of Hispania Tarraconensis, to fight in the Cantabrian Wars.[9] This war would definitively establish Roman power in Hispania. While the legion was in Hispania, they along with the Legio I Germanica helped build the Colonia Acci.[9] They also constructed the city of Cartenna.[3]

With the annihilation of several legions at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, the Legio II Augusta moved to Germania, possibly in the area of Moguntiacum. While in Germania, during the 15 AD the legion would participate in the campaigns of Germanicus against the Germanic tribes.[9][3] After Germanicus was recalled the legion was stationed at Argentoratum.[9] On its way back from Germania, the legion was drenched in heavy rain and harassed by heavy storms.[3] After Julius Sacrovir and Julius Florus revolted against the Roman Empire in Gaul, the Legio II Augusta, under the command of Gaius Silius would help put down the revolt.[9][3]

The legion was one of the four legions used during Claudius's invasion of Britannia.[9] The commander of the Legion at the time was Vespasian. He led the campaign against the Durotriges and Dumnonii tribes. During the campaign the Legion marched across the south of Britain, fighting many battles against the local tribes.[3]

The Legion was first stationed at Alchester and in 49 AD it was moved to Waddon Hill.[9] From 55 it was based at Exeter[10] and from 66 it was possibly at Glevum.[11]

During the uprising of queen Boudica, when its praefectus castrorum Poenius Postumus, who was then its acting commander possibly because its legatus and tribunes were with the governor Suetonius Paulinus, contravened Suetonius' orders to join him and so later committed suicide.[9]

In 69 CE, during the Year of Four the Emperors, a vexillation of the Legio II Augusta sided with emperor Otho.[3] After Otho was defeated the vexillation switched sides and served Vitellius.[9] This vexillation possibly took part in Vetellius's march on Rome, and fought in the battle at Cremona against the legions of Otho.[9] Later these soldiers were defeated by those of Vespasian and returned to Britain in 70. It is possible that the main body of the legion had always been loyal towards Vespasian.[9]

Julius Frontinus, the governor of Britain from 74 to 78 ordered several campaigns against the Silures tribe[3] and during the war the fortress of Caerleon in Wales was constructed where from 75 the legion was based.[9] The legion remained there, even during Agricola's term as governor of Britain. Although, several vexillations of the Legio II Augusta fought in the Battle of Mons Graupius.[3]

In 139 the Legion helped build the short lived Antonine Wall.[9] During the years 155 and 158 a revolt spread across Britain, the Legio II Augusta was one of those that fought against the revolt.[9] The legions in Britain suffered greatly, causing reinforcements from the Germanic provinces to be brought over.[9]

In 196 Decimus Clodius Albinus, governor of Britain, declared himself emperor and the Legio II Augusta supported his claim.[9] The legions were defeated by the current emperor, Septimus Severus. Although, while the legions were absent from Britain, the province was overrun with Pictish tribes.[9] Emperor Severus attempted to conquer Scotland in order to stop the tribes, while Severus was fighting the Picts, Legio II Augusta was stationed at a fort near Carpow.[9] It is unknown when, but the II Augusta received the surname Antonina, which meant that the soldiers were particularly dear to the emperor. This happened either under Caracalla or Heliogabalus,[9]

During Severus Alexanders reign as emperor of Rome, the conquests in Scotland were given up and the Second Legion returned to Caerleon.[9] The legion was still there in 255.[9] The last known mention of the Legion was the Notitia Dignitatum which places the legion at Richborough, suggesting Caerleon was abandoned.[3]