Legio II Adiutrix
Vespasian, bust from Écija
(Museo Arqueológico, Sevilla) Legio II Adiutrix: one of the Roman legions. Its name means 'helper' or 'assistant'.
This legion was formed in (early March?) 70 by the emperor Vespasian, who had recently come to power. Its soldiers were marines from the Ravenna navy, who had sided with Vespasian during his war against the emperor Vitellius. Being conscripted as legionaries was some sort of reward. This origin also explains why the legion was surnamed Pia Fidelis ('loyal and faithful').
The legion saw its first action in the summer of 70, when we find it fighting under Quintus Petillius Cerialis, who was sent out to suppress the Batavian revolt. Together with VI Victrix, XIV Gemina, and XXI Rapax, it defeated the rebel leader Julius Civilis near Xanten. During the winter, the second legion stayed at the Batavian capital Nijmegen. Next year, it was replaced by X Gemina.
Together with general Cerialis, II Adiutrix went to Britain, where it had to reduce the rebellion of the Brigantes under Venutius. Inscriptions prove that the legion was stationed at Deva (Chester) and Lindum (Lincoln), but we can not establish which town served as the unit's first and second base, although it is usually assumed that the legion's oldest home was Lincoln.
Tombstone of II Adiutrix.
(British Museum, London)
When Gnaeus Julius Agricola was governor of Britain (77-83), the Second was probably moved to Chester, at the mouth of the river Dee on the northern Welsh border. The legion fought against the tribe of the Ordovices and occupied the Isle of Mona (modern Anglesey). During the next years, Agricola tried to subdue Scotland and II Adiutrix seems to have served as strategic reserve in Wales and England.
After Agricola was recalled, the legion was transferred to the lower Danube (87), where it was to take part in the wars against the Dacians of the emperor Domitian. Its base may have been at Acumincum near the confluence of the Tisza and the Danube (40 kilometers north of Belgrade). An alternative location of its base is at Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica).
The Dacians had invaded the Roman empire in 86 and defeated the legions that were supposed to defend the province of Moesia. In 88, a large Roman army group invaded Dacia and general Tettius defeated its king Decebalus at Tapae; the Second was one of nine legions involved. Unfortunately, the revolt of the governor of Germania Superior, Lucius Antonius Saturninus, in 89, prevented the ultimate success.
One of the officers in those days was Publius Aelius Hadrianus, the future emperor Hadrian. He is known as a military tribune in the year 94/95. During his stay with the legion, he met the centurion Quintus Marcius Turbo, who was later to be governor of Pannonia (117-118) and became Hadrian's praetorian prefect.
A Roman helmet from the Aquincum Museum; photo Adrian Wink (©*)
During Trajan's Dacian wars (101-106), II Adiutrix and IIII Flavia Felix were based at Singidunum (modern Belgrade), but when the war was over, the Second was transferred to Aquincum (Budapest). The new legionary base was built on the site of an older cavalry fort. Here, the second legion was to stay for centuries. It can be shown that many soldiers were recruited locally.