Legio XX Valeria Victrix
Bust of Octavian/Augustus as high priest. Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, Mérida. Legio XX Valeria Victrix: one of the Roman legions. The natural way to read the name is 'victorious black eagle', although it can also be read as 'valiant and victorious'.
This legion was probably founded after 31 BCE by the emperor Augustus, who may have integrated older units into this new legion. Its first assignment was in Hispania Tarraconensis, where it took part in Augustus' campaigns against the Cantabrians, which lasted from 25-13 BCE. This was one of the largest wars the Romans ever fought. Among the other troops involved were I Germanica, II Augusta, IIII Macedonica, V Alaudae, VI Victrix, VIIII Hispana, X Gemina, and perhaps VIII Augusta. Veterans were settled at Mérida (pictures).
At least some subunits of XX Valeria Victrix were transferred to Burnum on the Balkans as early as 20. This is probably too early for the redeployment of the entire legion, but we can be certain that the entire unit was sent to the Balkans before the beginning of the common era. It seems to have stayed at Aquileia, east of modern Venice.
Black eagle, or, in Latin:
In 6 CE, Tiberius was to lead at least eight legions (VIII Augusta from Pannonia, XV Apollinaris and XX Valeria Victrix from Illyricum, XXI Rapax from Raetia, XIII Gemina, XIV Gemina and XVI Gallica from Germania Superior and an unknown unit) against king Maroboduus of the Marcomanni in Czechia; at the same time, I Germanica, V Alaudae, XVII, XVIII and XIX were to move against Czechia as well, attacking it along the Elbe. It was to be the most grandiose operation that was ever conducted by a Roman army, but a rebellion in Pannonia obstructed its execution. The twentieth legion served with distinction. The Roman historian Velleius Paterculus states in his Roman History that during one battle, it cut its way through the lines of the enemy, found itself isolated and surrounded, and broke again through the enemy lines.
Map of Novaesium (Neuss)
After the disaster in the Teutoburg Forest (September 9), where the legions XVII, XVIII and XIX were destroyed, Tiberius, who had to restore order, took the experienced twentieth legion with him, and it was now redeployed in Germania Inferior. The legion's first base was Cologne, but when Tiberius had succeeded Augustus and had become emperor, it was transferred to Novaesium (Neuss).
The unit was part of the army of general Germanicus, who led three punitive campaigns into 'free' Germania. By then, it was commanded by Caecina, who led our unit back from one of Germanicus' campaigns through the notorious marches between modern Münster and the river Lipua (Lippe).
Claudius (British Museum)
In 21, a mixed subunit of XX Valeria Victrix and XXI Rapax, commanded by an officer from I Germanica, was sent out to suppress the rebellion of the Turoni in Gaul, who had revolted against the heavy Roman taxation under a nobleman named Julius Sacrovir and Julius Florus. Almost twenty years later, the Twentieth was employed during the Germanic war of Caligula. The details, however, are not fully understood.