Monday, 13 June 2016

Happy birthday, Gnaeus Julius Agricola!

Monday Moments with Gnaeus Julius Agricola.

Agricola was born on the 13th June AD 40 in Gallia Narbonensis. (southern France) to a high ranking Roman family. Both of his grandfathers had been Imperial Governors and his father became a member of the Roman Senate the year Agricola was born. Agricola was educated in Massalia (Marseilles) and at the age of 18 he first set foot in Britannia as a tribune with the Legio II Augusta.

By AD 84, as my Celtic warriors prepare themselves for battle with the Roman Empire, this would have been his birthday though I doubt that the Celtic warriors in my Celtic Fervour Series would have been celebrating his birthday in any way when he reached north-east Britannia. I’m not actually sure Agricola would have been celebrating himself while on campaign, except perhaps with regard to giving credit to and acknowledging the power of his ‘genius’ via prayer and worship. Or maybe his soldiers paid honour to his genius in the aedes (dedicated room of worship) if on the 13th June Agricola was in a fortress, or whatever served as the aedes in a marching camp.

The genius was equated to the soul of a person, or place, or thing and was believed to follow the person (/entity) from birth to death much like a guardian spirit.  

So, in the case of a man like Agricola what he had achieved as a conqueror of parts of Britannia, or military leader, was attributed to the qualities nurtured in him by his genius/soul. By the time Agricola was making war with the Celtic tribes of my part of north-east Scotland he had reached the age of about 43 or 44 so it might be said that his genius had been looking after him very well since birth!

The troops of the Roman Legions were inclined to celebrate the genius of individual regiments, and even units within. Evidence has been uncovered in Britain of dedications in stone to various geniuses. I don’t know of any who particularly celebrated on the 13th June but if the Legio XX, or the Legio IX , or the Legio II Adiutrix made particular obeisance on June 13th it would have served as a double celebration for Agricola!



  1. I admire this man too. Thank you for remembering his b'day. I forgot...again

    1. I confess that it took a little prompt for me to do anything about him today!


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