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Legio XX Valeria Victrix: Wikis


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Map of the Roman empire in AD 125, under emperor Hadrian, showing the Legio XX Valeria Victrix, stationed at Deva Victrix (Chester, England), in the province of Britannia. They were stationed there from AD 88 until at least the late 3rd century.
A Roman Antefix roof tile showing the badge and standard of the Twentieth Legion

Legio vigesima Valeria Victrix (Twentieth Victorious Valerian Legion) was a Roman legion, probably raised by Augustus some time after 31 BC. It served in Hispania, Illyricum, and Germania before participating in the invasion of Britannia in 43 AD, where it remained and was active until at least the beginning of the 4th century. The emblem of the legion was a boar.

Valeria in east-central Europe was a part of Illyricum when the legion was stationed there. The legion won its title from victories in this region while campaigning in the Marcomannic Wars.[citation needed] (Later, in the year 296, Valeria became a separate Province.)



XX Valeria Victrix was part of the great army that campaigned against the Cantabrians in Hispania Tarraconensis from 25 to 13 BC.

The legion then moved to Illyricum, and is recorded in the army of Tiberius operating against the Marcomanni in AD 6. From there, they were withdrawn to fight the Pannonian uprising. In Illyria they were led by the governor of Illyricum Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus, who may have given his clan (gens) name Valeria to the legion. Although understrength, they managed to defeat the rebels led by Bato of the Daesitiates.[1]

In one battle the legion cut through the enemy lines, was surrounded, and cut its way out again.

After the disaster of Varus in 9 AD, XX Valeria Victrix moved to Germania Inferior and was based at Oppidum Ubiorum, then moved to Novaesium at the site of modern Neuss during Tiberius' reign.

The legion was one of the four with which Claudius invaded Britain in 43, after which, from the AD 50s, it encamped at Camulodunum, with a few units at Kingsholm in Gloucester and a garrison at Wroxeter.[2] In AD 60 or 61 the XX helped put down the revolt of queen Boudica.

The Legio XX built Deva Victrix (now Chester), a roman castrum shown in the figure. The Legio stationed in Roman Britain until the beginning of the fifth century

The legion was then based at Deva Victrix.

In the year of the four emperors, the legion sided with Vitellius. Some units went with him to Rome. In 78-84 AD, the legion was part of Gnaeus Julius Agricola's campaigns in northern Britain and Scotland, and built the base at Inchtuthil. In 88 AD the legion returned south and occupied Castra Devena Deva Victrix, where it remained for at least two centuries.

The Twentieth was among the legions involved with the construction of Hadrian's Wall, and the discovery of stone altars commemorating their work in Caledonia suggests that they had some role in building the Antonine Wall.

During the reign of the usurper emperors Carausius and Allectus (286-293 and 293-296 AD) the XX Valeria Victrix was still active. No further information is known after this period and scholars believe the XX legion was still stationed in Britain when the usurper Constantine III pulled the bulk of the military forces from there in the year 407 for his doomed campaign on the continent.

This legion has been much studied; at least 250 members of the legion have been identified in surviving inscriptions.


Legio XX Valeria Victrix and their final days in Deva (Chester) in the early 400's AD form the backdrop to the Tom Stevens mythic-fiction genre novel The Cauldron[3] with the story's protagonist Valerian - the Praefectus and Chief Centurion defending the city with the rump of the legion against the incursions of Hibernian pirates as the 'Dark Ages' settle on Britannia [1]

Legio XX Valeria Victrix was the legion featured in the novel Eagle in the Snow; author Wallace Breem postulates that they were annihilated by the Germanic invasion of 406.

Several of the main characters in the early novels of Jack Whyte's A Dream of Eagles series were former members of Legio XX Valeria Victrix.

Gaius Petrius Ruso, protagonist of Medicus by Ruth Downie is a military doctor in Britannia attached to Legio XX.

Legio XX Valeria Victrix lends its name to the character Valeria Matuchek in Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos; her mother is said to describe this legion as the last to leave Britain -- "the last that stood against Chaos."


  1. ^ Velleius Paterculus, 2.112.1-2, Cassius Dio, 55.30.1-5.
  2. ^ W H Manning 2000 'The fortresses of Legio XX'. In RJ Brewer (ed) Roman Fortresses and their legions.
  3. ^ (special edition) ISBN 978-0955965616

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