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Legio VI Ferrata

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Pennant of the Legio VI Ferrata.
Creative Commons Attribution license - On the same terms 3.0.

Julius Caesar formed the Legio VI Ferrata in 52 BCE in Galli Cisalpina, and his first fights were during the campaign against Vercingetorix.
The name Ferrata can be translated as “Iron Legion”, which is probably related to the armour of the legionaries. Perhaps it was the first legion to be equipped with new metal armour. The symbol of the legion was most often a bull, less often a she-wolf with twins. In one shift about the legion it is mentioned that the soldiers of the 6th legion wore bright yellow tunics.

During the Civil War, in the summer of 49 BCE, the legion fought against Pompey in Spain, at the Battle of Ilerda. The legion was then called Hispaniensis. Then, in 48 BCE – took part in the Battle of Pharsalus.
At the turn of 48/47 BCE, the legion was stationed in Alexandria, where during the siege it suffered heavy losses, amounting to 2/3 of manpower. After the arrival of reinforcements, however, Caesar managed to win. After placing Cleopatra on the Egyptian throne, Caesar transferred his modest forces, among which veterans of Legio VI Ferrata, were significant experience, to Syria and Pontus to fight his ruler Pharnaces II. The legion, which after so many campaigns and battles had less than 1,000 soldiers, nevertheless played a decisive role in the victorious Battle of Zela in 47 BCE.
During the African campaign against the Pompeians, the legionaries of Legio VI deserted en masse and supported Caesar, they took part in the battles of Tapsus and Munda. Then the legion was disbanded and the veterans were given land in Arletum.

In the winter of 44/43 BCE the legion reformed Marcus Lepidus, who then gave it to Marcus Antony. After the Battle of Philippi, some 6th Legion veterans settled in Beneventum, while the rest headed east with Marcus Antony. While stationed in Judea, they helped in 37 BCE Herod the Great to take the throne. The following year, the legion took part in an unsuccessful campaign against the Parthians, after which it withdrew to Armenia.

When the civil war broke out between Marcus Antony and Octavian, the latter formed new legions, giving them the same numbering as already existing legions under Antony’s command. In this way – probably from the veterans settled in Beneventum – the legio VI Victrix was formed. The original legio VI Ferrata was sent by Marcus Antony to Greece. Both the VI legions – Ferrata and Victrix – took part in the Battle of Actium. Then legio VI Victrix was transferred to Spain, and legio VI Ferrata to Syria and Judea, where it was already permanently stationed.

During the reign of Augustus, he was stationed in Syria in 6 CE, during the governorship of Quirinius. In 58 CE Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo carried out a successful campaign in the kingdom of Armenia, using the legions III Gallica, VI Ferrata and X Fretensis. The cities of Artaxata and Tigranocerta were captured, and the pro-Roman Tigranes became the king of Armenia. However, the Parthians installed the loyal King Tiridates on the throne of Armenia. In 62 CE the prefect of Cappadocia organized another campaign in Armenia, however his two legions – XII Fulminata and IIII Scythica, were forced to surrender by the Parthians. After this event, Corbulo with his three legions launched another campaign, forcing Tiridates to submit to the sovereignty of Emperor Nero.

From 69 CE the legion fought against the Jewish insurgents under the command of Vespasian. After Nero’s death, legio VI Ferrata supported Vespasian in Italy and contributed to the defeat of Vitellius’s army. Upon their return, the legion was stationed in the city of Samosata on the Euphrates.
Legio VI took part in the following years in the Trajan campaign in Armenia (114 CE), as well as in the conquest of Mesopotamia and Babylonia (115 -116 CE). In 119 CE the unit was moved to Arabia, from where it attacked Judea during the revolt of 132-136 CE. After the war, the legion was stationed in Caparcotna in northern Palestine.

In the years 138-150 CE during the reign of Antoninus Pius the legion was in Africa. In 193 CE, during another civil war, the legion sided with Septimius Severus against Pescennius Niger. For this deed, the legion was awarded the title of Fidelis Constans, meaning “loyal and unshakable”.
The last mention of legio VI Ferrata Fidelis Constans dates back to 215 CE when he was still stationed in Palestine at the time. His further fate is unknown.

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