The History of Trajan and Legio XXX

THE EMPEROR TRAJAN

Trajan was born September 18th, 53 AD into the Ulpii family in the Baetican city of Italica (located in southern Spain). He traced his ancestry back to the 3rd Century B.C. His father was a Roman senator who served under Vespasianus as the legate of Legio X Fretensis and subsequently held several governorships (including those of Baetica and Syria) before becoming proconsul of Asia. Trajan (senior) passed away before 100 AD and was deified in 113 A.D.

The future emperor Trajan served as a legate under his father in Syria, and became a quaestor and a praetor before 84 AD. In 86 AD he was one of two guardians appointed for Hadrian, a 9 year-old cousin who had just lost his father (and would ultimately become Trajan’s successor).

Trajan was subsequently appointed as the legate of Legio VII Gemina. He led his men against the rebel Antonius Saturninus on the Rhine and then fought under Domitian against the Germans. In 91 he became a consul and thereafter was the governor of Moesia inferior and then Germania superior. Hadrian was dispatched to Germania in 97 AD to advise Trajan that the emperor Nerva had adopted him as his heir. On January 27th, 98, Nerva died and Trajan assumed power. Before heading off to Rome he established the Limes in Germany.

The Dacian king Decebalus was a constant thorn in the side of Rome, and it was in 100 AD that Trajan began his preparations for the first Danube campaign to deal with him. Legions were redeployed from several provinces including Germany and Britain. Auxiliary units were transferred into the area and new legions were created to replace two lost in battle. Legio XXX likely took the place of V Alaudae, which was crushed by the Sarmatians in 92; Legio II Traiana replaced the vanquished Legio Rapax.

The offensive against Dacia was launched in 101 AD, after the completion of a new road through the “Iron Gates”, and the erection of a 60 arch bridge across the Danube. Although Decebalus capitulated in 102, he continued to harass the Romans and incite rebellion. Trajan returned to Dacia in 106 and engaged in a long bitter struggle that involved almost one third of the Roman army and concluded with Decebalus’ suicide. The surviving Dacians were slain or enslaved, and the new Roman province of Dacia was opened to immigrants from other parts of the empire. The spoils of war financed massive public works throughout the empire, and the victory was commemorated on Trajan’s column.

In 114 Trajan attacked Parthia and captured Babylon and Ctesiphon. The conquered areas proved too difficult to control and Trajan reluctantly withdrew to the west in 117 AD where he died in Selinus on August 9th. Hadrian was his successor.

Trajan was subsequently appointed as the legate of Legio VII Gemina. He led his men against the rebel Antonius Saturninus on the Rhine and then fought under Domitian against the Germans. In 91 he became a consul and thereafter was the governor of Moesia inferior and then Germania superior. Hadrian was dispatched to Germania in 97 AD to advise Trajan that the emperor Nerva had adopted him as his heir. On January 27th, 98, Nerva died and Trajan assumed power. Before heading off to Rome he established the Limes in Germany.

The Dacian king Decebalus was a constant thorn in the side of Rome, and it was in 100 AD that Trajan began his preparations for the first Danube campaign to deal with him. Legions were redeployed from several provinces including Germany and Britain. Auxiliary units were transferred into the area and new legions were created to replace two lost in battle. Legio XXX likely took the place of V Alaudae, which was crushed by the Sarmatians in 92; Legio II Traiana replaced the vanquished Legio Rapax.

The offensive against Dacia was launched in 101 AD, after the completion of a new road through the “Iron Gates”, and the erection of a 60 arch bridge across the Danube. Although Decebalus capitulated in 102, he continued to harass the Romans and incite rebellion. Trajan returned to Dacia in 106 and engaged in a long bitter struggle that involved almost one third of the Roman army and concluded with Decebalus’ suicide. The surviving Dacians were slain or enslaved, and the new Roman province of Dacia was opened to immigrants from other parts of the empire. The spoils of war financed massive public works throughout the empire, and the victory was commemorated on Trajan’s column.

In 114 Trajan attacked Parthia and captured Babylon and Ctesiphon. The conquered areas proved too difficult to control and Trajan reluctantly withdrew to the west in 117 AD where he died in Selinus on August 9th. Hadrian was his successor.

LXXX U(LPIA) V(ICTRIX) P(IA) F(IDELIS)

Founded around 100 AD, Legio XXX earned the cognomen Victrix (winner) for its involvement in the Dacian conflict. It was stationed at Brigetio (Szony) in Pannonia Superior in 105 after XI Claudia was transferred to Oescus (in Lower Moesia). Stamped tiles discovered at Carnutum and Vindobona testify to Legio XXX’s presence there involved in construction projects, which makes participation in Trajan’s Parthian war of 114-117 unlikely. In 118 Marcius Turbo was given the task of quelling unrest in Pannonia and Dacia following Trajan’s death, and he would have acted as Legio XXX’s supreme commander.

When VI Victrix was redeployed to Britain in 119-122, Legio XXX occupied its former base at Castra Vetera near Colonia Ulpia Traiana (Xanten) in Germania Inferior. The fort was strategically placed where the Lippe joins the Rhine making it ideally suited to control the area and launch raids into Germany.

Soldiers from the XXXth are found posted in Colonia Ara Agrippinensium (Cologne) as clerks in the office of the governor of Germania Inferior, running lime kilns at Iversheim, involved in construction in Bonna (Bonn) along with Legio I Minervia, and serving in locations such as Rigomagus (Remagen), Noviomagus and Divitia. Detachments were posted in Gaul and Legio XXX’s name has been associated with Cabillonum (Chalon Saone-et-Loire), Lugudunum (Lyon), Lutetia (Paris) and Avaricium (Bourges).

A vexillation of Legio XXXth possibly accompanied I Minervia when it participated in Lucius Verus’ Parthian campaign in 162. It supported Lucius Septimius Severus against Clodius Albinus in 196/197 and earned the title Pia Fidelis (faithful and loyal). Vexillations of XXX served with Iulius Castinus in 206-8 when he quelled dissident Gauls and Spaniards and fought with Severus in Britannia.

Detachments were active with Severus Alexander in Persia in 235. The lower Rhine was overrun in 240 and then again in 256. Postumus repelled the invaders in 260, established in-depth defences and founded the Gallic Empire with the support of Legio XXX.

Aurelian’s reintegration of Gaul into the Roman Empire in 274 AD was accomplished at a significant loss in life, and the Franks overran the weakened defences as far as Paris. Order was firmly restored by Chlorus around 300, and he refounded Colonia Ulpia Traiana (Xanten), which had been a ghost town for almost a quarter of a century. Legio XXX was transferred into the city, which was henceforth known as Tricesimae (thirty). According to Ammianus Marcellinus soldiers of the Thirtieth were present at Amida when the Persians laid siege to and captured the city in 359 AD.

The men who served in Legio XXX originated from such diverse places as Italia, Germania Inferior, Gallia, Belgica, Britannia, Dalmatia and Thracia. Examination of the coinage of Gallienus suggests a relationship between the legion and the god Neptune, while those of Victorinus link the god Jupiter, and the astrological sign of Capricorn, with the XXXth.