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The March of Mucianus*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2015

Ronald Syme*
Wolfson College, Oxford


Vespasian was proclaimed at Alexandria on July 1 of the year 69, in Judaea on July 3, and the legions of Syria under Licinius Mucianus quickly followed suit. After a meeting at Berytus to make plans for the war Mucianus set out with an army. The Historiae of Tacitus furnish no details of time or place for defining the itinerary – only the mention of Byzantium.

Meanwhile the Flavian partisans in the Balkan and Danubian lands, Antonius Primus in the forefront, had moved to rapid action. Not content with holding the Julian Alps, they decided, in a council of war held at Poetovio, to launch an invasion of northern Italy. They defeated the Vitellian forces in battle outside Cremona on October 24, they captured Rome on December 20. By good fortune, the first date is correct to within a day, and the second is certified.

Research Article
Copyright © Australasian Society for Classical Studies 1977

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1 Holzapfel, W.Klio 15 (1918), 117;CrossRefGoogle Scholar 13 (1913), 295 ff. For Cremona, depending on the rising of the moon, see especially Wellesley, K.Rh. Mus. 100 (1957), 244 ff.Google Scholar Josephus furnishes December 20 for the death of Vitellius (BJ iv 654).

2 For example, Heubner, H. in his edition (Heidelberg, 1973).Google Scholar He merely cited, for the structure of the phrase, ii 34.1: ‘tiansitum Padi simulantes … ac ne ipsorum miles segne otium tereret’.

3 Cornelius Tacitus. The Histories. Book III (Sydney University Press, 1972). (Henceforth referred to as ‘Wellesley’.)

3a Hartman, J.J.Analecta Tacitea (1905), p. 279.Google Scholar

4 Wellesley, p. 209.

5 Appendix VI. Events in Moesia in AD 69–70 (pp. 208–15).

6 JRS 57 (1967), 23 ff.

7 ib. p. 27.

8 As assumed by Wellesley, ib. pp.28 f.

9 The improvement finds a place in the text of Goodyear, F.R.D. (Cambridge, 1972).Google Scholar No sign in E. Koestermann (Teubner, ed. 2, 1965), but H. Fuchs had inserted a dash before ‘ceterum’ (Ed. Helv., 1946). Not accepting Wellesley’s thesis, Goodyear none the less accorded it a lengthy treatment in his commentary (op.cit. pp. 169 ff.).

For misunderstandings of Sallust due to faulty paragraphing, see Sallust (1964), p. 80 n. 83. The necessary transference of Ann. i 10.8 to the beginning of the next chapter was there adduced.

10 It will therefore be assumed that the bulk of the Praetorians (horse as well as foot) had been sent on ahead.

11 It is noted in Strabo vii, p. 314. For the details about the two passes across Ocra, see Saria, B.RE 17 1775 ff.Google Scholar

12 Wellesley, p. 211. It is described as an ‘unverifiable, yet probable, assumption’ (p. 212).

13 Wellesley, p. 212.

14 Wellesley, p. 215.

15 Hist, ii 83.1: ‘cum expedita manu … non lento itinere, ne cunctari videretur, neque tamen properans, gliscere famam ipso spatio sinebat, gnarus modicas vires sibi et maiora credi de absentibus’.

16 Josephus, BJ 2 500f.Google Scholar

17 Wellesley takes Mucianus from Sirmium to Poetovio (p. 212). Better, along the valley of the Sava by Siscia to Emona. Also, about three days shorter.

18 Wellesley (p. 211) states that the high-road ‘passed through the wilds of Thrace (the Haemus mountains offered scarcely another route)’.

19 For Succi, Jireďek, C.J.Die Heerstrasse von Belgrad nach Constantinopel (Prag, 1877), pp. 30 ff.;Google ScholarOberhummer, RE 4 A 513 f.Google Scholar

20 As assumed, it appears, by Wellesley, p. 212. His quotation of ii 83.1 omits ‘cum expedita manu’ – which, to be sure, refers only to the early part of the march.

21 Cf. JRS 18 (1928), 49; Móray, A.Pannonia and Upper Moesia (1974), pp. 51, 82 f.Google Scholar

22 ILS 1349. In Ptolemy Ratiaria is the town of the Moesi, Oescus of the Treballi (vi 9.4; 10.10).

23 For this territory, Vetters, H.Dacia Ripensis (1950).Google Scholar

24 Fluss, M.RE 16 1589 ff.Google Scholar

25 Dio lxvii6.3

26 ILS 1005 (Andautonia).

27 AE 1973, 283 (Liria Fdetanorum, nw. from Valencia). See the full interpretation of Alföidy, G. and Halfmann, H.Chiron 3 (1973), 331 ff.Google Scholar

28 For the ripa Thracia see Patsch, C.Wiener SB 204.1 (1932), 94 f.,Google Scholar 146, 151; Nesselhauf, H.Epigraphica 1 (1939), 333;Google ScholarLaureae Aquincenses ii (1941), 44.

29 AE 1914, 93 (C. Furfanius C.f. Poll. Severus, from Fanum Fortunae).

30 AE 1957, 286.

30a Thus Gerov, B.Acta Antiqua Ac. Sc. Hung. 15 (1967), 90, 104.Google Scholar

31 Tacitus reports ‘adiectaque ex Germania legio’ (Ann. xiii 35.2). The legion is patently IV Scythica, hence an error. For an argument that this Moesian legion in fact went to the Rhine c. 50, see Nesselhauf, H.Laureae Aquincenses 2 (1941), 44 f.Google Scholar It went to Syria, in order that X Fretensis should join Corbulo’s force (III Gallica and VI Ferrata).

31a An earlier transference to Moesia in 45, was argued by Nesselhauf, op. cit. 42.

32 Hist, i 10.1; ii 4.4; 6.2; 76.5.

33 ILS 986. The succession of governors of Moesia is provided by their letters to the city of Istria, SEG i 829: for the improved texts, Oliver, J.H.GRBS 6 (1965), 143 ff.Google Scholar

34 ILS 986, lines 14 f.: ‘quamvis parte(m) magna(m) exercitus/ ad expeditionem in Armeniam misisset’. That is, the legion V Macedonica, presumably in 61.

35 One compares the action of Aelius Catus (cos. AD 4), who brought across 50,000 Getae to Thrace, ‘where they now live under the name of Moesi’ (Strabo | vii 303).

36 The comment is described as ‘spiteful’ (Wellesley, p. 215). But not unjustified, if in fact Sarmatians were then named. A defeat of Sarmatians had earned honours early in that year (i 79.5).

37 Josephus, BJ 7 90f.Google Scholar

38 A ‘second Dacian invasion’ is registered by Wellesley, p. 209.

39 Josephus, BJ 7 94.Google Scholar An otiose elaboration is imported by Wellesley, p. 209: ‘The situation restored, possibly with the co-operation of L. Tampius Flavianus in Pannonia and (as suggested by Starr, The Roman Imperial Navy, 132)Google Scholar of the classes Moesica et Pannonica.’

40 Since V Alaudae marched with its eagle to Italy (i 61), the legion was not disbanded by Vespasian but was assigned to the army of Moesia, cf. Ritterling, E.RE 12 1569 f.Google Scholar See further Danubian Papers (1971), p. 105.

41 Patsch, C.Wiener S-B 217.1, 3.Google Scholar

42 C.J. Jireďek, op. cit. (note 19 above) pp. 157 ff. For the first section as far as Sub Radice, see Tsonchev, D.Latomus 18 (1959), 154 ff.Google Scholar

43 Thus Kiepert, Formae Orbis Antiqui 17;Google Scholar the map at the end of CIL iii, Pars ii; the map in Vetters, H.Dacia Ripensis (1950),Google Scholar also his remarks ibid. pp. 8; 22). A dedication to Valentinian, found a little to the south-west of Botevgrad is linked to this road by Vladimirov, V.Arheologija 5 (1963), 33 f.Google Scholar

44 Ann. xii 63.1; cf. Ritterling, E.RE 12 1647Google Scholar (discussing ILS 2713); Patsch, C.Wiener S-B 214.1,146 ff.Google Scholar

45 ILS 231. For a careful drawing, Kalinka, E.Antike Denkmäler in Bulgarien (1906), p. 18,Google Scholar no. 19. Some accounts gave the final spot as ‘Manale’: the Turkish word for ‘village’. Really Miklietsi.

46 AE 1912, 193; cf. Seure, G.Rev. arch. 1915 (fase. 2), 164 ff.Google Scholar For the find spot, ibid. 170.

47 On which, C.J. Jireďek, op. cit. (note 19 above) 138 f.

48 PIR 2,1 632 (the reference to ‘Ann. ép. 1916, p. 215’).

49 For emphasis on the co-ordination see Martin, R.H.JRS 64 (1974), 266.Google Scholar He rejects the emendation. The clause beginning with ‘ac ne’ is omitted in the two quotations of the passage in Wellesley’s Appendix VI (pp.209; 215).

50 For clarity and brevity Burnouf’s translation is worth quoting: ‘Il savait la victoire de Crémone et craignait la double masse de barbares qui pèserait sur l’empire.’

51 Of ‘Cremonensis victoriae gnarus’ Hartman asserted ‘Latine vix dici posse videtur’ op. cit. (note 19 above) p. 279. He ignored ‘gnarus Romanae seditionis’ (Ann. i 36.2).

52 SEG i 829 (see note 33 above).

53 Dessau, H.JÖAI 23 (1926), Beiblatt 345 ff.;Google ScholarStein, A.Die Legateti von Moesien (1940), pp. 28 f.Google Scholar Cf. now Griffin, M.T.Seneca (1976), pp. 457 f.Google Scholar While apparently accepting Dessau’s view, Stein in PIR 2, F 352, preferred to assign to Sabinus two tenures of the prefecture. That is, the first of them at some time previous to the assassination of Pedanius Secundus in 61.

54 Wellesley offers no annotation on this problem. His Index 1: Persons and Places registers Sabinus as ‘49–56 legate of Moesia; 56–60 praefectus urbis’.

55 Wellesley, p. 209; cf. p. 15: ‘Tacitus blurs the whole story of the invasions, because to have narrated it fully would have forced him to recognize the value of Mucianus’ services to Rome; but Mucianus is cast for the role of villain, because he is the creator of the Flavian dynasty.’

56 Hist, iv 11.2; 48.2; 80.1.

56a Wellesley, p. 15.

57 The commanders of X Fretensis and V Macedonica. The third legion in Vespasian’s army (XV Apollinaris) was under Titus.

58 AE 1968, 145 (Saepinum). See the account of Torelli, M.JRS 58 (1968), 170 ff.Google Scholar Torelli assumes consular decorations. Not excluded in such a season for a praetorian legate. The man honoured on an acephalous inscr. at Carthage, presumably Sex. Vettulenus Cerialis, received double consular decorations (ILS 988)

59 Joseph, BJ 7 18.Google Scholar

60 Gallus, Caesennius was with Cestius in 66 (BJ 2 510 ff.),Google Scholar but he is missing from the story of the disaster. Not heard of again until legate of Cappadocia, presumably in 80–83, succeeding Hirrius Fronto (PIR 2,C 170).

61 Compare the dedication which it made at Miletopolis, south-east from Cyzicus, to Asper, a primus pilus:‘[legio VI F] errata quae/[hibernav]it in Arm[e] nia / [maiore su]b [C]n. Domitio / [Corbulon] e’ etc. (ILS 9108).

62 Pliny, NH 5 83.Google Scholar

63 Viz. Cornelius Flaccus in 58 (Ann. xiii 39.1), Verulanus Severus in 60 (xiv 26.1) and, along with Vettius Bolanus, in 62 (xv 3.1).

64 ILS 8816 (Oenoanda); AE 1915,48 (Attaleia).

65 Thus in Tacitus (1958), pp. 785, 790. The year 64 is proposed by Gallivan, P.A.CQ 24 (1974), 310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

66 Josephus, BJ 3 289.Google Scholar

67 Isaac, B.H. and Roll, I.JRS 66 (1976), 15 ff.Google Scholar Therefore not at once going to Egypt with Vespasian, as conjectured in Tacitus (1958), p. 30.

68 Josephus, BJ 6 237Google Scholar (Larcius Lepidus). On that occasion no legate of XII Fulminata is named, or later when the legion was sent away to Melitene (vii 18).

69 ILS 232 (near Harput).

70 Hist, iii 10.1 (Dillius Aponianus). Fulvus, it may be supposed, had gone away to join Mucianus or Vespasian.

71 His consulship is not on record. Perhaps held in absence, cf. JRS 48 (1958), 7 = Roman Papers (1978), 388 f.

72 Tacitus (1958), pp. 789 f.

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