At a time when the conjectured 1900th anniversary of the founding of York has recently been celebrated, and a medal has even been struck commemorating the founder, Petillius Cerialis, it may be appropriate to take a closer look at this man, certainly one of the most interesting persons to figure in the pages of Tacitus. He is best known to students of Roman Britain from the brief lines in the Agricola:
But when, together with the rest of the world, Vespasian recovered Britain also, there were great generals, splendid armies, the hope of the enemy was diminished. And Petillius Oerialis at once induced terror, attacking the civitas of the Brigantes, which is regarded as the most numerous in the whole province. There were many battles, and sometimes they were not without bloodshed; and he embraced a great part of the Brigantes either with victory or with war. And Oerialis, indeed, would have eclipsed the administration and the renown of any other successor: but Julius Frontinus took up and sustained the burden, a great man, in so far as greatness was permissible (Agricola 17.1-2).