Legio VI Ferrata
(Musei Vaticani, Roma) Legio VI Ferrata: one of the Roman legions. Its name means 'ironclad', which is probably a reference to the suits of armor.
This legion was recruited in 52 BCE by Julius Caesar in Gallia Cisalpina, and saw its first action during the campaign against the Gallic leader Vercingetorix, who was besieged at Alesia (text). Later, it was stationed during the winter at Châlons-sur-Saône or Mâcon. In 51, the ironclads fought against the Carnutes of the lower Loire, and were sent to Orléans.
During the civil war between Caesar and his fellow-triumvir and Pompey the Great, the Sixth was the most mobile of all units. It fought in Hispania in the battle of Ilerda (summer 49), returned to the east, and served at Dyrrhachium in the first months of 48. It was present in the battle of Pharsalus (9 August 48), accompanied Caesar to Alexandria (48/47), and decided the battle of Zela (2 August 47) in Pontus. After these campaigns, in which the Sixth suffered heavily, the dictator sent it sent back to Italy, from where veterans were settled at Arles (pictures), which was called Colonia Iulia Paterna Arelatensium Sextanorum, "the ancestral Julian colony of Arles of the soldiers of the Sixth". However, the legion was present at Munda (17 March 45).
Coin of VI Ferrata
by Marc Antony
After Caesar's violent death, the legion was reconstituted by Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, who handed it over to Mark Antony (43). After it had fought against Brutus and Cassius in the battle of Philippi (42), a new colony was formed for veterans who wanted to retire, at Benevento in Italy. Other soldiers were taken to the east by Mark Antony, where they were stationed in Judaea, after they had helped king Herod the Great gain his throne (37).
During the next year, the sixth legion participated in Antony's campaign against the Parthian empire, which was not successful. The Romans were lucky that they reached the country of their ally Armenia.
Roman coin from 19 BCE
showing a Parthian returning
the standards captured
at Carrhae in 53 BCE (©!!)
When Mark Antony got involved in the civil war against Caesar's heir Octavian, VI Ferrata was directed to Greece, but eventually, the war was decided at sea in the naval battle off Actium. From now on, Octavian was sole ruler, and was called the emperor Augustus. The Sixth was sent back to the east, to Syria, where it was to remain forever. Other legions in the region were III Gallica, X Fretensis, and XII Fulminata. In 20, Augustus' stepson (and later successor) employed these units to impress the Parthians; they returned the eagle standards they had obtained at Carrhae in 53 BCE, where the triumvir Crassus had been defeated.
The governor of Syria, Publius Quinctilius Varus, used three of these legions to suppress the rebellions of the Jewish messianic claimants Judas, Simon, and Athronges after the death of king Herod in 4 BCE.
Montemartini, Roma; ©**)
It is not clear where the legion was stationed, but it is plausible that it was at Raphanaea near Emesa. Veterans were later settled at Ptolemais (Acco).
In 58, the Roman commander Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo launched a very successful campaign in the vassal kingdom Armenia, using III Gallica, VI Ferrata and X Fretensis. The capitals Artaxata (modern Yerevan) and Tigranocerta were captured (in 58 and 59) and he gave the Armenians a new, pro-Roman king, Tigranes (a great-grandson of king Herod).