Legio X Equestris

The Tenth Legion, known as Legio X Equestris, was formed by Julius Caesar during his tenure as the Governor of Hispania Ulterior in 61 BC. As the first legion Caesar raised personally, it held a special place of trust and prominence in his military campaigns. The legion gained considerable fame during its time and has been remembered throughout history, notably through its depiction in Caesar’s own writings, “Commentaries,” and its critical involvement in the conquest of Gaul. After the legionnaires were discharged in 45 BC, the legion’s remnants experienced a tumultuous period; they served under both Mark Antony and Octavian, were disbanded, and eventually were integrated into the X Gemina legion.

Founding of Legio X Equestris

Upon assuming his role as Governor of the province of Baetica or Hispania Ulterior (modern Andalusia) in 61 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar promptly set his sights on subjugating the western and northwestern regions, corresponding to modern-day Portugal. With the 8th and 9th Legions already stationed in the province, enlisted by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) in 65 BC, Caesar found the need for a third legion for his upcoming campaign. Thus, he swiftly enlisted the 10th legion in March, adopting the bull as its emblem. This emblem gained popularity among other legions such as Legio V Alaudae (Larks), Legio XI, Legio XII Victrix, and Legio XIII Gemina. The campaign during the summer of 61 BC proved highly successful, with the 10th Legion demonstrating bravery and unwavering loyalty to Julius Caesar.

The Tenth Legion & the Gallic Wars

The Tenth Legion played a pivotal role throughout the Gallic Wars, standing alongside Caesar in nearly every major confrontation. Beginning with Caesar’s transfer of the 10th legion from Spain, alongside the 7th, 8th, and 9th legions, pivotal battles such as Arar and Bibracte in 58 BC showcased the legion’s prowess. Notably, they thwarted the Helvetii tribes’ migration, halting their advance from Switzerland into western France.

Following this success, Gallic leaders sought Caesar’s aid against Ariovistus, king of the German Suebi tribe. In a strategic manoeuvre, Caesar outwitted Ariovistus during a peace conference, utilizing the legion’s adaptability and earning them the nickname “Equestris” due to their mounted appearance.

The Tenth Legion’s heroics continued, notably in the Battle against the Nervians in 57 BC, where they rescued allies and turned the tide of battle.

The Tenth Legion & the Invasion of Britain

In 55 BC Legio X was one of the two legions (together with the VII) which took part in Caesar’s first invasion of Britain. Legio X Equestris was part of the invasion force along with other legions.

And while our men were hesitating [whether they should advance to the shore], chiefly on account of the depth of the sea, he who carried the eagle of the tenth legion, after supplicating the gods that the matter might turn out favourably to the legion, exclaimed, “Leap, fellow soldiers, unless you wish to betray your eagle to the enemy. I, for my part, will perform my duty to the commonwealth and my general.” When he had said this with a loud voice, he leaped from the ship and proceeded to bear the eagle toward the enemy. The Gallic Wars: Julius Caesar [4.25]

It is probable that it also participated in the second invasion in 54 BC.

Caesar’s Civil War

However, during Caesar’s Civil War, at the Battle of Dyrrhachium, the legion faced a setback when ordered to retreat, causing disruption within Caesar’s ranks. Despite this, they managed to redeem themselves in subsequent battles.

End of the legion

In 45 BC, the legion was disbanded, its veterans rewarded with land in Narbonne. However, it was later reconstituted during the civil war following Caesar’s assassination, serving under Lepidus and later Mark Antony. They fought in various campaigns until the Battle of Actium, after which they sided with Octavian.

Yet, the legion’s loyalty wavered, leading to rebellion and eventual disbandment under Augustus, marking the end of its storied history as the Tenth Legion.