A BRIEF HISTORY
by John J. Hartwell
Cognomen: PATERNA, for Caesar as "Pater Patriae". MACEDONICA: from service in the Balkans under Augustus. CLAUDIA: for loyalty to Claudius during the Scribonianus rebellion (see below).
This is one of the four original legions Caesar found already in service upon his arrival in Gaul. It may have been a new formation. It was based, with three others, at Aquileia in Italian Gaul. It served with Caesar throughout the Gallic Wars (-59 to -49), in Spain (-49), at Pharsalus (-48). Africa (-46). It was then disbanded, its veterans being settled at Capua. (Cicero, Phil. xi.37).
Called back into service by Octavian after the Ides of March (-44), and re-formed. Engaged at Forum Gallorum (-43), Mutina (-43), Philippi (-42), and the siege of Perusia (-41). Served under Octavian for the next ten years. In -36/5, a veterans' Colony was established at Beziers as Colonia Urbs Julia Baeterrae Septimanorum. The legion also was with Octavian at the Battle of Actium in -31.
After Actium, Legio VII was part of the army of Marcus Lucius Crassus against the Getae and Basternae in the Northern Balkans. The fighting resulted in the conquest of all the territory between Macedonia and the Lower Danube (-29 to -27). It is probably from this service that the legion took its early cognomen "Macedonica."
About -25 we find the seventh legion in the newly established Province of Galatia. Inscriptions suggest the legion was to remain in garrison there for the next thirty years. In -5/4, they participated in P. Sulpicius Quirinus' final victory over the Cilician Homonadenses. Judging from distribution of inscriptions, the legion's headquarters seems to have been in the southern Highlands of Galatia, most likely at Antiocha Pisidia. We find many veterans of Legio VII Macedonica settled there in what during Augustus Principate became known as Colonia Caesarea.
The legion very possibly remained in Galatia until +6, when it joined the Army being assembled at Carnuntum in the Balkans by Tiberias. This force was was intended to be used in a campaign in Central Europe, against the Marcomanni. But the Illyrian rebellion intervened, and Legio VII Macedonica was engaged over the next three years quelling the Breuci of Pannonia and the Daescidiati of Dalmatia.
By 14, the legion had become a part of the permanent garrison of Dalmatia, based at Tilurium (Gardun, Bosnia). In 42, when the Governor of Dalmatia, Furius Samillus Scribonianus rebelled against the Emperor Claudius, he at first persuaded both Dalmatian legions (VII & XI) to support him. Within only days, however, the legions turned against him, and put him to death. Suetonius attributes this change of loyalties to an evil omen: "For when orders were given them to march, to meet their new Emperor, the Eagles could not be decorated, nor the standards pulled from the ground, whether it was by accident, or a divine interposition." (Clau.ii.14) More than likely, it had simply become clear that none of the legions in the neighboring provinces were prepared to join Scribonnianus' rebellion. A grateful Claudius rewarded the two legions with the cognomen "Claudiana," later rendered "Claudia," which they would bear for the rest of their existence. They were also allowed to use the title "Pia et Fidelis" (Loyal and True), an honorific given a number of legions for loyalty to the Emperors in time of civil unrest.
In 58, Legio VII Claudia, pia et fidelis, was sent East in preparation for a projected expedition into Armenia. The campaign, however, was delayed, for Corbulo found the Syrian legions in such an unfit state that he spent the ensuing year retraining them: The seventh was the example he set before them as the ideal of training and discipline. Having helped in toughening and drilling the Eastern army, Legio VII Claudia returned to Dalmatia. The legions they had trained, III Gallica and VI Ferrata, were so well prepared that they, together with auxilliary cohorts, quickly overran Armenia and captured its capital. In +60, the seventh legion was transferred to Viminacium in Moesia, in response to increased unrest on the Danube frontier.
At the outset of the Civil Wars following the death of Nero (68-9), the legion under its legate, Tettius Julianus, was heavilly engaged fighting incursions by the Sarmatians. The legion and its commander were lavishly rewarded by Otho, and that generosity was duly appreciated. It is probably the reason why, according to Tacitus, both the Moesian legions (VII & VIII) "posessed a strong liking for Otho."(TA ii). Hearing of the advance of Vitellius' forces against their Emperor, the two legions marched to his aid. But they were too late. "They had reached Aqueleia, and by roughly repulsing the messenger who bore tidings of Otho's death, by tearing the colors which displayed the name of Vitellius, by finally seizing on the military chest and dividing it among themselves, had assumed a hostile attitude."(TA ii.___).
Until word came of Vespasian's claim to the throne, the Moesian legions must have been living in some uncertainty as to their future. Their enthusiastic support for the Flavian cause was a foregone conclusion.
DOMITIAN'S DACIAN WAR
The rise of the new unified Dacian state during early Flavian times meant that threats to the frontier would require more than a single legion in Moesia. So, by the reign of Domitian, Legio V Alaudae had been transferred to the Province from the Rhine.
War came in 86/7, when the Dacians made a series of raids into Moesia. The governor, Oppius Sabinus, responded with a single legion (V Alaudae) and auxiliaries. His entire force was wiped out, and that legion disappears from the record. Domitian, always seeking to advance his military reputation, moved energetically. He made Viminacium his headquarters for the invasion of Dacia. He also moved Legio IIII Flavia into a new double camp with VII Claudia.
Domitian's first move came in 87, when he sent his praetorian prefect Cornelius Fuscus with a force of some 5 or 6 legions (including the seventh) across the frontier. Advancing through the Banat region, via the "Iron Gates" of Transylvania, they met the Dacians under their leader, Diurpaneus at Tapae. The result was a major Dacian victory. Fuscus was killed, and his army put to flight. As a reward, the Dacian leader was made King, with the new name by which he would henceforth be known to history, Deceballus literally "Mighty One."
The following year, Legio VII Claudia's old Civil War commander, Tettius Julianus, was sent to take revenge. His main force consisted once again of seven legions (VII Claudia, I Adiutrix, II -, III -, IIII Flavia, XV Ap-). Following the same route as Fuscus, they met Deceballus once again on the same battlefield. Wiser tactics, however, led to an overwhelming Roman victory in the Second Battle of Tappae. In 89, the war was brought to a close by treaty. Tiberius Claudius Maximus, 'vexillarius equitum' of Legio VII Claudia, was granted the 'dona militarium ... ab imperatore Domitiano' (JRS, -, pp.142-53, 19__). the 'dona' was a special decoration awarded only during campaigns under the personal command of the Emperor.We shall hear more of Maximus later.
Sometime in the 90s, Legio IIII Flavia was moved out of Viminacium and posted to Singidunum, where it would remain. VII Claudia continued at Viminacium as Moesia's senior legion. About the same time a Colony for seventh legion veterans was founded at Scupi (near Skoplje). At first known as Colonia Flavia Domitiana, the last name was later dropped, when Domitian suffered 'damnatio memoriae.' A great many future recruits for Legio VII Claudia would come from Colonia Flavia -- descendants of discharged veterans.
UNDER TRAJAN AND HADRIAN
In 115/6 there was a serious uprising among Jewish communities in Cyrene, Egypt, and Cyprus. We find the tribune C. Valerius Rufus of Legio VII Claudia "missus cum vexillo ab imp ... Traiano ... Cyprum in expeditionem." (ILS 9491) The campaign wiped out the ancient Jewish community on Cyprus. A large detachment served in Judaea during Hadrian's Jewish War of 132.
VERUS AND MARCUS AURELIUS
In 16-, a large detachment from the seventh legion marched East to join Lucius Verus' Parthian expeditions.
They returned in 169, to find the Danube frontier in flames. Less than two years before, the barbarian tribes had surged acrossthe Danube and destroyed a Roman army of some 20,000 (including, perhaps, members of Legio VII who had been left behind at Viminacium). The enemy had ravaged as far as the plains on Northern Italy before Marcus Aurelius was able to drive them out. The Emperor was ready to take the offensive, and severely punish the barbarians. And the returning men of the seventh legion were just in time to help. But, they were in a poor state themselves, for they had brought back with them an enemy fully as deadly as the barbarian tribes. In Mesopotamia, the army had contracted the plague, which now swept through the legions and the western provinces as a whole. It is estimated that as many as one third of the population perished, making this one of the most devastating contagions in recorded history.
No sooner had they returned, however, than the battered, depleted Seventh, together with Legio IIII Flavia was put under the command of M. Claudius Fronto for an assault on the Sarmatians (Iazyges).
Legio VII Claudia was among the first legions to support the claim of Septimus Severus in 193, and sent a detachment to join the march on Rome that won him the throne. Severus made his brother, Publius Septimus Geta Governor of Moesia, and later added the three Dacias to his portfolio. The following year, when a force supporting the claim of Pescennius Niger marched West from Byzantium, Geta sent the Moesian army under Marius Maxius, who defeated the rebels and sent them retreating back to Byzantium. A monument at Bononia (Bologna) is dedicated 'To Aurelius Gallius, tribune of legio VII Claudia who has been lost in the battleline in the Thracian war. He has lived 40 years." (CIL xi.705), and doubtless refers to this battle. The seventh legion went on to participate in Severus' victories over Niger in Asia Minor and Syria. They remained to serve in that Emperor's Persian expedition of 195.
On his return from ehe East the following year, Septimus Severus stopped for a time at Viminacium. The Emperor presented his son, Antoninus (Caracalla) before the assembled Legio VII Claudia, and had them acclaim his Caesar. Having developed suspicions as to the ambitions of his brother Geta, Septimus thus forged a bond of loyalty between the garrison of the Moesian capital and his designated successor.
THE THIRD CENTURY CRISIS
The late third century was the great crisis of the Roman Empire, and the years 258-60 was probably the blackest moment. The Franks were ravaging through Gaul and into Spain. The Alemanni poured across the Upper Rhine and through the Alpine passes into Italy itself. And in the East the Goths assailed the Balkans and swept across Asia Minor. Finally, the Emperor Valerian was defeated and captured by the Persians. Gallienus, Valerian's son and co-Emperor, with a display of heroic energy and great military skill, met and crushed the invaders, one by one. But faction, rebellion, and treason within the Empire would prove his downfall.
As Gallienus campaigned in the Western Provinces, many among the Danubian legions began to fear that the threat to their region, to their own homes and families, was being neglected. They felt that an Emperor was needed who would well and truly look after their interests.
They found their man in Ungenuus, the Governor of Lower Pannonia. Late in the Summer of 260, Ingenuus appeared at Viminacium, where he was acclaimed Emperor jointly by Legio VII Claudia and Legio XI Claudia. Soon, the two Upper Pannonian legions (XIIII Gemina at Carnuntum, and X Gemina at Vindobona) followed suit, as did Legio XIII Gemina, until lately stationed in Dacia. Gallienus at that moment was engaged in defeating the Allemanni before the gates of Milan. But, when he had done so, he reacted swiftly, marching north with an army composed of detachments from twelve legions. At Musa, a few miles from Sirmium, where Ingenuus had establishedhis capital, the two armies met. In a brief and confused fight, the rebels were defeated and Ungenuus captured and put to death.
Once the [retender was out of the way, Gallienus did not want to further alienate the Danube army. So, not only did he pardon them, but when he issued a special series of coins to pay the legions that took part in crushing the rebellion, he included the rebek formations themselves. So, we have bronze coins with the reverse inscription LEG VII CL, and the seventh's bull emblem. Below is the legend VI P VI F, the VI indicating that this was Gallienus' sixth campaign since becoming co-Emperor with his father in 253. The P F stands for a distinctly ironic, not to say hypocritical, Pia et Fidelis ("Loyal and True").
If by his lenience Gallienus had hoped to secure the loyalty and gratitude of the Dabubian legions, he was very much mistaken. Within weeks, Legio XIII Gemina at Carnuntum had raised to the purple Regalianus, Governor of Upper Pannonia, and the other Ingenuus rebels followed suit. All, that is, except Legio VII Claudia. For whatever reason, the seventh remained loyal to Gallienus. The Emperor crushed Regalianus' ambitions within a few weeks, and with apparent ease -- the Viminacium legion participating in the campaign. So, when another series of coins was issued to reward the legions, the seventh's VII P VII F was well deserved. The twice rebelled legions, however, were not to be so hinored this time, and no coins marking Gallienus' seventh campaign name them. But, the threats the Empire faced on all sides were so perilous, that the Emperor did not severely punish the Danubian rebels, as they so richly deserved.
Dissaffection, however, was far from over. In the following year (261), an army made up of contingents drawn from the Eastern legions was on the march towards Rome. It was led by ++ Macrianus, a general who had proclaimed his sons, Marcianus junior and Quietus co-Augusti following the capture of Valerianus. As they approached, the two Pannonian legions joined them. But Legio VII Claudia once again held out for Gallienus. The latter sent his Pefect Aureolus to oppose the rebel column. With little difficulty (the Eastern legions really had no wish for civil war), Macrianus' forces were scattered, and he and his older son put to death (Quietus had remained in Syria, and did not last much longer).
Mitchell, S., 'Legio VII and the garrison of Augustan Galatia' CQ 26 (1976), pp. 298-308
Speidel, Michael, 'The captor of Decebalus, a new inscription from Philippi' JRS __ (197_), pp. 142-53