Sunday, February 20, 2011

Missing 9th Legion Found?

A Roman Legion of ~5000 men in Britain around 108 AD disappeared from history without a mention.  Roman records were pretty good, so loosing 5000 men was out of character. A couple of theories have been set forth to explain this, either that the Legion was disbanded after it defeated Queen Boadicea's rebellion in 83 AD or that it was moved out of Britain.  However, new evidence has come to light that suggests the Legion was massacred by the Picts, and the empire covered up the evidence from shame:

Queen Boadicea (a modern view)
by Chris Achilleos
The dramatic new evidence hinges on a single gravestone tribute and was brought to light by historian and film-maker Phil Hirst, whose documentary Rome’s Lost Legion will be screened next month.

‘The battle of Mons Graupius was thought to have marked the end of any serious threat to imperial might,’ he said. ‘But the discovery of a tombstone of a centurion stationed at the Northumbrian fort of Vindolanda shows the Romans were under attack from the north 20 years later.’

Historian Neil Faulkner, of Channel 4’s Time Team, said: ‘It is likely the insurgents formed a confederation of tribes. So what the Romans could have been facing was a rising of pretty well the whole of the north of Britain.’

Rome’s reaction after the Ninth’s disappearance lends weight to the theory. Reinforcements were drafted in to Britain to fight a major war at the beginning of Emperor Hadrian’s reign around 117 AD and the construction of Hadrian’s Wall was ordered.

Mr Hirst said: ‘The loss of the Ninth may have led Hadrian to realise that the total conquest of Britain was unachievable and a dividing wall needed to be built separating occupied territory from the barbarian hordes.’

Mr Faulkner added: ‘My guess is that the Ninth Legion was destroyed in a carefully executed ambush by northern tribes.’

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