Sunday, 14 April 2013


Legatus is my L for today

Yes, I’m still blogging about Celtic/ Roman Britain AD 71-84!

It’s now day 12 and I’ve got to 'personally' know one of those guys in my sequel to my historical novel, THE BELTANE CHOICE - my current WIP that’s sitting at a word count of 93,868 and there’s still more to be written…

So…what was a legatus?

My trusty Roman dictionary has this for legatus:
delegate, ambassador, deputy, lieutenant; commander (of a legion)

Clearly a very important job, a legatus was literally a “deputy” of the emperor.

Each legion had a fixed command structure. At the top, in prime place, was the
Legatus Legionis. He was the overall legionary commander. The Legatus Legionis was usually a man of senatorial status with some prior experience as a tribune, or as a praetor (chief magistrate/commander of a legion), and was generally instated by the emperor. The typical duration of command was three or four years, but some served for longer than that.

In Britannia, which had multiple legions, there was also a provincial governor who had overall command of all the legions. (In territories with only one legion the Legatus was also the provincial governor)

During the period covered by my current work in progress (AD 71-84) there was a particular ‘legate’ who was instrumental in quelling the disruptive Celtic tribes of northern Britannia.  

Gnaeus Julius Agricola.

In AD 69, Agricola was sent to Britannia (his second posting) to take up the post of Legatus in command of the XX Valeria Victrix Legion, by the Emperor Vespasian under the governorship of Marcus Vettius Bolanus. By AD 71 Bolanus, was replaced having not been particularly active in quelling the Celts of the north. Bolanus’ successor –Quintus Petilius Cerialis – was determined to make more impact against the Brigante tribes of the north from his inception and gained assistance for this from the Legio XX under the command of Gnaeus Julius Agricola.

It appears that Agricola distinguished himself so well during the campaigns of AD 71 in Brigante lands that he earned himself a ‘ticket’ back to Rome by AD 74 where he was promoted to higher patrician status: very important for Agricola’s later military career. 

Apart from earning great kudos while serving as a military Legatus of Rome, the Legatus was also in a position to benefit greatly from the spoils of war. A four year tenure where great success was achieved in terms of subduing the natives and appropriating their wealth in the process could be very lucrative for the Legatus.

A way for a man to earn a fortune before returning to Rome?
It seems that was the case for some.

Agricola, however, has been quoted (by probably biased his son- in- law Tacitus)  as having been a very fair man so perhaps he didn't milk the subdued Celtic natives as much as some other Legates.



  1. Fascinating. I'm not so fond of history, but of its little stories, small details. Thanks for sharing this.

    Look forward to the rest of your challenge posts!

    Damyanti @Daily(w)rite
    Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    AZ blogs on Social Media

    1. Thanks for stopping and commenting! I have to say I am fascinated by history.

  2. Good luck with the WIP; perhaps you have 2 books there rather than just 1!

    1. Thought about that! Nice to have you pop in!

  3. Very interesting! I am learning so much during this challenge.
    A to Z buddy
    Peanut Butter and Whine


Thank you for reading my blog. Please pop your thoughts about this post in the comment box. :-)