The Historical LEGIO VIII AUGUSTA
During the Civil war in the first century BC the 8 th legion was
reactivated from veterans of Caesar` s Legio VIII by Octavianus ( later emperor
Augustus). She got the honor title of "Augusta" . It is not sure, where the
legion was stationed between 27 BC and 14 AD. Two inscriptions that were found
in Tunesia may indicate the legion`s presence in Northern Africa during this
In 14 AD the legion had her base in Pettau ( Poetivio in Pannonia).
At the beginning of the first century AD the Legio VIII Augusta belonged
to the Illyric-Moesian Army at the Balcans. It is possible that parts
of the legion where involved in the invasion of Britain under Claudius in 42 AD,
although there is no proof for this theory.
Finally she was stationed in her headquarters in NOVAE (Bulgaria) from 44-
Under Nero the Legio VIII Augusta received the title "BIS
AUGUSTA" for some actions against Dacians or Sarmatians in 45 AD. After Nero`s
death she gave up this title. In the confusion of the civil war after
Nero`s death in 69 AD, the legion voted for Otho and sent a detachment of 2000
men to Italy (like the 7 th and the 3 rd legion did as well). But before it
reached Italy, Otho was defeated by Vitellius from Cologne. Now the
Danube legions voted together with the Eastern legions for Vespasianus. The army
of Vespasianus defeated Vitellius in the Battle of Cremona (69 AD).
The Civil war and the absence of large troops was used by the Batavians at
the Lower Rhine to start up a revolt against Rome. After his victory in Italy,
Vespasianus immediately sent his legions to Germany to strike down the revolt .
After restoration of Rome`s rule in the North, LEGIO VIII AUGUSTA moved to her
new headquarters in Argentorate (Strasbourg) in 70 AD, where the main part
of the unit was stationed until the 5 th century when the Romans withdrawled.
Some detachtments (vexillationes) of the legion were stationed in the
camp of Mirbeau (Burgundy) in the second half of the first century to avoid
riots in the hinterland of the frontier.
In 74 AD LEGIO VIII AUGUSTA under the command of Pinarius Clemens built a
street through the Kinzig valley ( Black Forest ) to shorten the way from
Augusta Vindelicorum (Augsburg) in Raetia to Mogontiacum( Mainz) in Upper
Germany. This was the beginning of the occupation of South West Germany (
territory of the present federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg). Military camps
were built to control the new connection between Rhine and Danube and civilian
settlements arose.These civilian settlements at former military posts still
existed after the military has moved to other places (like Rottweil, Hüfingen, Ladenburg
||This milestone , found in 1615 in the Kinzig river near Offenburg
reports about the construction of a street "iter derectum ab Argentorate
in Raetiam" ( from Strasbourg/Argentorate directly to Raetia) by
Legio VIII Augusta under the command of C. Pinarius Clemens in 74 AD.
Today: Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe
Probably the LEGIO VIII AUGUSTA took part in Domitian`s campaigns against
the Chatti in the Taunus Mountains in 83/84 AD and in 88/89 AD. The tombstone of
C. Valerius Crispus , found in the city of Wiesbaden, may indicate this
participance. Crispus seems to have died during these campaigns and was buried
It is not clear how the legion voted during the revolt of Saturninus in 89
AD, but Domitian did not rely on the Legio VIII , but brought the loyal Legio
VII from Spain to strike down the revolt.
||Tombstone of C. Valerius Crispus, legionary of LEGIO VIII AUGUSTA from
Wiesbaden, 1 st century AD. |
Crispus came from Berta in Macedonia and
belonged to the tribus menenia. He served 21 years and died in the age of
This tombstone is one of the best-known examples of soldier reliefs in
the Rhineland. Based on this image some mal-interpretations of Roman army
outfit had been done.
The pteryges ( a linnen tunic with leather
stripes attached on it) seems to appear as a kind of "leather pants".
For a modern reconstruction see Markus Junkelmann: " Die Legionen des
For a long period the characteristics of LEGIO VIII AUGUSTA were mainly
defensive. She hardly was involved in the several military campaigns of the
Empire. Detachments of the legion were engaged with construction orders in the
new territory of the Agri Decumates ( South-West Germany) , but also in
Gaul and Dalmatia ( today Croatia). These units restored or built auxiliary
forts at the frontier line, the Limes, in Germany ( Neckarburken,
Oberscheidental, Miltenberg, Osterburken, Saalburg, Zugmantel etc.).
Beside this, Legio VIII AUGUSTA was involved in civilian construction projects.
She built the 28 km long aqueduct for the water supply of Argentorate, public
baths in Gaul and Dalmatia ( 2 nd century in Asseria).
Brickworks were run by the legion in Strasbourg-Koenigshoffen and in
Rheinzabern. Tiles showing the signs of LEGIO VIII were found at a large number
of Roman forts along the limes, but also at places in Lower Germany, Raetia (
Aalen) and Gaul and in civilian towns like Rottenburg am Neckar / Sumelocenna.
The legion produced her own ceramics which was only in use in and around
the headquarters in Strasbourg (Argentorate).
In the Saverne- region
and in Norray (France) staff of the legion left inscriptions in Roman quarries.
Another task of this unit was the control and the navigation on the Rhine river.
( This is what the dedication of the legion`s legatus to the Pater Rhenus (
"Father Rhine", the god of the river) from 130 AD underlines.)
||Dedication of the legion`s commander, Oppius Severus, to "Father
Rhine" , 1st half 2nd centuryr. ( Museum Strasbourg) |
The legion`s headquarters , the fortress of Argentorate was built by
LEGIO VIII, because the fortress of Legio II was destroyed or heavily damaged
during the battles in 69 AD. The older camp probably was only a construction of
earth and wood, the new legion`s headquarters was now built in stone . The
fortress was 530 meters x 375 meters , this is exactly the medivial town centre
of Strasbourg. The present Rue du Dome follows the Roman Via principalis and the
present Rue des Hellebardes follows the Roman via praetoria.
In the 2nd/ 3rd
century AD the walls of the legion`s fortress were strengthened. In some parts a
double wall was erected. So the walls had a height of 9 meters and were about
3,4-3,6 meters strong. In addition to this, the legionaries built semi-round
towers along the fortified walls.
| ||Model of the Roman fortress at Strasbourg/
Small units from the LEGIO VIII AUGUSTA served as so-called beneficiarii
at different posts. They had to control the traffic,customs, taking police
tasks. After their 2 years service they usually dedicated altars to several
gods, before they returned to the headquarters. In Osterburken
(Baden-Wuerttemberg) such a sacred area was excavated and a large number of
altars was found. Some of them were set up by members of the LEGIO VIII.
In Heidelberg the beneficiarius consularis C. Vereius Clemens dedicated a
column and an altar to Jupiter . Clemens probybly hat a guard order at the
bridge over the Neckar river.
Legionaries of Legio VIII Augusta also served
in the beneficiari- station at Jagsthausen at the limes, some altars were
recycled in a medievial church at Olnhausen.
At the beginning of the Upper
German Limes between Bad Hönningen and Rheinbrohl the Vixtbach (small river) was
the border between the Roman provinces of Lower Germany and Upper Germany. In
1810 two altars were found at this place. One was set up by soldiers of Legio
XXX from Vetera/Xanten in Lower Germany and the other one was set up by
Tertinius Severus, beneficiarius of the Legio VIII Augusta. This altar shows a
beneficiari standard at a small side.
Other altars of beneficiarii of Legio
VIII were found in Obernburg at the Main river.
When the Legio XI CPF left
her headquarters in Vindonissa/Windisch in Switzerland, soldiers of Legio VIII
and soldiers of Legio XXII still were there as beneficiarii. A boss of a shield
was found at Vindonissa/Windisch which belonged to a soldier of Legio VIII. A
very similar one (but in a better condition) was found in the river Tyne in
|Shield boss from Windisch/ Switzerland
left side: reconstruction
right side: Original fragment (Vindonissa Museum)
Under emperor Hadrian, detatchments of the legion were sent to England (
between 119 and 130 AD) , but not for a military campaigns. They had to support
the construction of Hadrian`s Wall.
186-213 AD the legion had the title "pia fidelis constans commoda", which
was given to her at respect for her loyality to emperor Commodus during the
Maternus- revolt. After the death of Commodus she gave up this title.
At the beginning of the 3 rd century the period of peace for the legion
was over. Sources report about fightings against " defectores et rebelles",
pobably the supporters of Clodius Albinus.
Under Septimius Severus
parts of the legion probably participated in the campaign against the Parthians
and again in 233 AD in the campaingn of Severus Alexander in the East. The
absence of a large number of military units from the border was used by the
Alamanns to invade South-West Germany. The Romans gathered their troops at Mainz
for an offensive. Although there is no historical evidence it is very likely,
that LEGIO VIII AUGUSTA was part of this army.
When the Alamanns
finally conquered the Agri Decumates 250-60 AD, the legion became a direct
frontier unit. As part of the mobile field army ,the legion fought against the
Germans at the Rhine and Danube river.
For the long period from 270-
371 AD there are no sources which tell us about the legion. But an inscription
from Zurzach (Switzerland) from 371 AD mentions "LEGIO OCTA (via August)
In the 5 th century the legion is mentioned in the Notitia
Dignitatum as "OCTAVANI", being part of the legiones palatinae. She then is
situated in Italy, after the remaining Roman units were called to protect Rome
in 401 AD. Her further destiny is unknown!
|| Inscription from a late Roman watch tower at the Rhine Limes ( Tower
Nr. 19) , found in 1892 about 10 km from Zurzach:|
" (s)ALVIS D(ominis)
N(ostri) VALENTINIANO (va)LENTE ET GRATIANO
(perpetuis t)R(iumphatoribus) SENP(er) AUG(ustis)BURGUM/
(in...)IACO CONFINE LEG(io) OCTA(va) (...)ANENSIUM
FECIT SUB CUR(a) (...)RI P(rae)P(ositi) CONSU(libus) D(omino)
N(ostro) GRATIANO II/ (et Flavio P)ROBO V(iro)
C(larissimo) CIL XIII 11538
Many relicts of the LEGIO VIII AUGUSTA and her deputations where found in
SW-Germany and show us, how the unit was involved in daily life and
administration of the country.