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Soldiers of the XXX. Legion Ulpia Victrix

Who were the men who served Rome in the Lower Rhine? The LVR-RömerMuseum in Xanten (Germany) tells of cultural roots, family situations and military careers in the Legion Ulpia Victrix.

The 30th Legion Ulpia Victrix of the Roman army had been stationed in Xanten since 122. It remained there for 200 years and, together with another legion, protected the Lower Germanic border along the Rhine. It was called Ulpia after its founder, the Roman Emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus. It was awarded the title “Victrix” (the victorious one) for its combat mission in what is now Romania.

Who were the men who served Rome in the 30th Legion Ulpia Victrix?

In the permanent exhibition at the LVR-RömerMuseum in Xanten, grave inscriptions, votive stones and other finds provide clues to the lives and careers of Roman legionaries. They were Roman citizens, some with a migration background, we would say today, came from the area around Xanten or from other provinces of the Roman Empire, were proud of their profession or only found their true vocation after their service was ended. They were on duty in administrative offices or combat units, stationed in the barracks or assigned to special missions. Large picture and text panels tell of cultural roots, family situations, military careers, professions of belief and personal fates of Roman soldiers on the Lower Rhine.

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Im Büro

In the office: My name is Tertinius Vitalis: I am the secretary of the camp commander. As bookkeeper I deal with any administrative tasks for the prefect. My superior is responsible for providing the camp with all goods necessary for living. I take care of procurement and payment.

The inscription reads: To the preserving god Jupiter, the most powerful and greatest, Tertinius Vitalis, soldier of the 30th Legion and secretary to the Prefect, has erected this altar for himself and his own, thus gladly and duly fulfilling his vow. On the sixth day before the Kalends of May. In the year when Lupus and Maximus were consuls. That must have been 26 April 232.

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Gemeinsamer Ruhestand

Retirement together: Now our service is finally at an end! For many years we belonged to a sworn society (wouldn’t the term “sworn brotherhood” be better?) – the standard-bearers of the 30th Legion. To commemorate our festive discharge we three would like to give a present to our comrades. Therefore we are making a donating to approve the appearance of our meeting-room.

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Zeichen setzen

The standard: I, Martius Victor, carry one of the 60 standards of the legion. During battle it shows the position of my centurion and laids tactical manoeuvres. We regard it as sacred and it is stored in the staff building. There is also the cashbox with the savings of the soldiers which is held in trust by us standard-bearers. Under Emperor Severus Alexander, we were awarded the honorary title Severiana Alexandriana.

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Verwaltungsfachmann

Administrative expert: Allow me to introduce myself, Titus Paternius Perpetuus, office manager of the legionary commander and responsible for administrative procedures. My belief in the maternal deities goes back to my homeland, the area around Trier. The Gallic tribe of the Treveri lives there, who particullary worship the Matres of their people.

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Hochrangig

High ranking: Among the 5,500 soldiers of a legion, I am one of only six tribunes. That means I hold one of the highest officer ranks. However, my service here in Xanten only runs for about three years. Many ordinary soldiers therefore have more military experience than I do. On the Lower Rhine I heard about the Germanic goddess Seneucaega. I hope she will help me with the hunt.

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Göttlicher Beistand von der Insel

Divine assistance from the island: I am a soldier of the 30th Legion and want to return to Britain. Therefore I appeal with the dedication to the maternal deities of the British Isles. It was there that I got to know the Matres and appreciate their divine power. Ive heard it said that I was posted to the Lower Rhine for disciplinary reasons, but I refuse to comment on such rumours.

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Glück im Alter

Good fortune in old age: My name is Gaius Sextillus Lepidus, I was a soldier in the 30th Legion. Now, as a civilian, I have great cause to thank Fortuna: the goddess of Luck and Fate heard my vow. Not only did she show me her favour, but also smiled on my whole family. Therefore to her I gladly donate this altar, which was not inexpensive.

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Zum Tempelbau nach Köln

To cologne to build a temple: Priscus, captain of the 30th legion. With an unit of soldiers I was detailed from Xanten to the provincial capital. On behalf of the proconsul we are rebuilding the temple to Jupiter Dolichenus. Our emperor Septimius Severus died recently. Now his sons, Caracalla and Geta, rule Rome. The most sacred relic of the God of Fighting and Victory is in a Turkish village, Doliche.

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Höchste Weihe

Highest Ordination: My name is Ulpius Amandus, I am priest of the Mithras followers in Kalkar. After taking part in numerous secret rituals and enduring many ordeals, I have attained the highest of the seven grades of ordination. We believe in the blood of the bull, whence comes new life and Mithras redeems us. I may say no more.

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Vom Balkan an den Niederrhein

From the Balkans to the Lower Rhine: My five comrades and I, Septimius Mucatra, received Roman citizenship from Emperor Septimius Severus. Thereafter we were assigned to the 30th Legion in Xanten. We come from the area known today as Bulgaria and Romania, as can be heard in our name. We brought our home god, Apollo Dysprus, to the Lower Rhine and dedicated this shrine to him to celebrate a promotion.

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Rheinischer Stammbaum

Rhenish family tree: I, Marcus Verecundianius Victor, come from a native family. My Grandpa still had a Germanic name. At some time in the past my father assumed a Latin name. As for myself, as a Roman citizen, I have the three names: forename, family name and nickname. We Rhinelanders love flowery names, which is why I changed the name of my father, Verecundus, to Verecundianius. Incidentally, I was able to buy the stone for a reasonable price, because it was used.

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Geliebte Gattin

Beloved wife: I, Titus Flavius Ulfus, must mourn the loss of my beloved wife Avitia Restituta, to whom I dedicate this tombstone. We lived in Lyon, where I had been detached. I originally come from the Lower Rhine. In Xanten, I joined the 30th Legion as a Roman citizen and made it to the rank of standard bearer. There are always 500 soldiers from the Rhine legions stationed in Lyon.

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An der Provinzgrenze

On the provincial border: The Vinxtbach stream near Brohl in the Eifel forms the boundary between Lower and Upper Germany. That is almost 125 miles away from Xanten. We, Massianius Ecundus and Aurelius Dosse, soldiers of the 30th Legion, control cross-border traffic here. Thank goodness we appealed to the Border Gods and the guardian spirit of the place: luckily we served our term of duty without misfortune.

Vergrößern

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Beim Statthalter des Kaisers

With the Proconsul of the Emperor: Cologne is the capital of our province Lower Germania. The Proconsul resides there as the representative of the Emperor. He is in charge of a large staff which includes soldiers from Xanten. I, Centurion Marcus Verecundinius Simplex, command the equerry of the Proconsul and also his bodyguards.

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Auf der Bühne in Lyon

On the stage in Lyon: Actually, my name is Flavius Super, but feel free to call me “little onion” – as everyone else does here. Ten years ago in Gaul there were violent disturbances. Therefore our victorious Emperor Septimius Severus decided to station several hundred soldiers from the reliable Rhenish legions in Lyon. I was included in their number. Now I have my honourable discharge and can really indulge myself in my passion for the art of acting.

The inscription reads: In honour of the divine work of the emperors, Titus Flavius Super, called “little onion”, actor, on the occasion of his honourable discharge from service in the 30th legion Ulpia Victrix Pia Fidelis, under the direction of the imperial financial administrator Saturius Censorinus, had an altar erected from his own funds in the assembly building of the polliones (meaning unclear) of the four legions and had a temple-like niche carved out of the wall for it. Dedicated on the nones of November. In the year when Aper and Maximus were consuls. That must have been 5 November 207.

I have taken the texts from the picture and text panels in the LVR-RömerMuseum Xanten. Some translations are mine.

The roman soldier “little onion” (means in german “Zwiebelchen”) has found his way into my short story. I hope he doesn’t hold it against me that I have assigned him to another legion.

More about the Eagles of Rome on the Rhine can also be found at the LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn.

LVR-RömerMuseum in the Xanten Archaeological Park.

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