Lucius Alfenus Senecio – Governor of Britannia from 205/207AD to c.208/9 ?
Alfenus Senecio succeeded Valerius Pudens as governor of Britain perhaps in 205, and certainly not later than 207.¹ It is possible that Senecio had some trouble with both the Maeatae and the Caledonii tribes of Scotland, reported by Dio in 206/7AD. He is known to have instigated the restoration of several forts along Hadrian’s Wall and the immediate hinterland, also at outlying forts.
- See Peter Salway Roman Britain p.227.
Campaigns Obliquely Mentioned by Dio
Severus … was winning the war in Britain through others, …
Cassius Dio Roman History LXXVII.x.6 (206/7AD)
The campaigns of this general are obliquely mentioned in a short passage in book 77 of Cassius Dio’s Roman History (see above), which reports of victories in Britain, presumably won against the Maeatae tribal confederation of lowland Scotland and perhaps also against the Caledonii of the highland region. It is possible that these initial successes were recorded on a stone from Benwell on Hadrian’s Wall (vide infra). This situation was not to last long before Senecio was to suffer serious setbacks.
‘The British Tribes are Revolting’
“The governor reported that the barbarians there were in revolt, overrunning the country, carrying off booty and destroying most things.”
Herodian History of Rome III.xiv.1
It would seem that the Caledonii were stirred-up by Senecio’s campaigns against their lowland neighbours, and retaliated with such force that the province itself was overrun, Roman towns plundered, and no-doubt, Roman civilian casualties. The gubernatorial reports sent to Rome by Senecio were of such seriousness that the emperor was convinced the situation in Britain could only be restored through his personal intervention.
Severus… made a campaign against Britain, though he knew that he would not return…
Cassius Dio Roman History LXXVII.xi.1 (208AD)
For Severus’ Campaigns in Britain, go to Eburacum
Alfenus Senecio – Epigraphic Evidence
RIB 722/3 Brough-by-Bainbridge, North Yorkshire RIB 740 Bowes, Durham RIB 746 Greta Bridge, North Yorkshire RIB 1151 Corbridge, Northumberland RIB 1234 Risingham, Northumberland RIB 1337 Benwell, Tyne & Wear RIB 1462 Chesters, Northumberland RIB 1631b Housesteads, Northumberland RIB 1909 Birdoswald, Cumbria
Brough-by-Bainbridge, Yorkshire RIB 722 [dated: 205-8] IMP CAESARI L SEPTIMIO SEVERO PIO PERTINACI AVGVSTO ET IMP CAESARI M AVRELIO ANTONINO PIO FELICI AVGVSTO [ET P S GETAE NOBILISSIMO CAESARI] VALLVM CVM BRACCHIO CAEMENTICIVM FECIT COH VI NERVIO T SVB CVRA L ALFENI SENECION AMPLISSIMI COS INSTITIT OPERI L VINICIVS PIVS PRAEF COH EIVSD LEGIO … “For Imperator Caesar Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus and Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Felix Augustus (and Publius Septimius Geta, most Noble Caesar), the cementing of the rampart with its outlying earthworks was done by the will of Cohors VI Nerviorum, under the administration of Lucius Alfenus Senecio, the most distinguished consular (governor), the work instigated by Lucius Vinicius Pius, prefect of the same Cohort, the legion […]”.
Also RIB 723 [dated: 205-8] …CAESARI AVGVSTO MARCI AVRELII FILIO … SVB CVRA L ALFENI SENICIONIS AMPLISSIMI VENTS PIVS “[…] to the son of Caesar Augustus Marcus Aurelius […] under the administration of Lucius Alfenus Senecio, the most distinguished and loyal (governor) that has come to pass”.
Bowes, Yorkshire RIB 740 [dated: 205-8] IMPP CAESS L SEPTIM SEVERO PIO PERTINACI ARAB ADIAB PART MAX ET M AVR ANTON PIO AVGG [ET P SEPT GETAE NOB CAES] IVSSV L ALFENI SENECIONIS LEG AVGG PR PR COH I THRAC EQ “For their Imperial Caesars Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax, greatest in Arabia, Adiabene and Parthia, and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Augustus (and Publius Septimius Geta, noble Caesar), by decree of Lucius Alfenus Senecio, pro-praetorian legate of the emperors, the First Cohort of Thracians (made this)”.
Greta Bridge, North Yorkshire RIB 746 [dated: 205-8] IMPP CAESS L SEP SEVERO PIO PERT ET M AVR ANTONINO PIO AVGG ET [P SEPT GETAE] NOB CAES SVB CVRA L ALFENI SENECIONIS LEG EORVM PR PR “For the Imperial Caesars Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius, the Augusti (and Publius Septimius Geta, Noble Caesar), under the administration of Lucius Alfenus Senecio, their legate with pro-praetorian power”.
Corbridge, Northumberland RIB 1151 [dated: 205-8] IMP CAES L SEP SEVERVS PI PERTINAX ET IMP CAESAR M AVR ANTONINVS PIVS AVGVSTI ET P SEPTIMIVS [GETA] CAESAR HORREVM PER VEXILLATIONEM LEG … FECERVNT SVB L ALFENO SENECIONE LEG AVGG PR PR FECEVRVNT SVB G VALERIO PVDENTE LEG AVG PR PR “The emperor Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax and the emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Augustus and Publius Septimius Geta Caesar built this granary through the agency of a detachment of the … Legion … under Lucius Alfenus Senecio, Legate of the Augusti with pro-praetorian power, started under Gaius Valerius Pudens, Legate of the Augustus with pro-praetorian power”.
Risingham, Northumberland RIB 1234 [dated: 205-8] IMP CAES L SEPT SEVERO PIO PERTINACI ARAB ADIAB PARTICO MAXIMO COS III ET M AVREL ANTONINO PIO COS II AVG [ET P SEPT GETAE NOB CAES] PORTAM CVM MVRIS VETVSTATE DILAPSIS IVSSV ALFENI SENECIONIS V C COS CVRANTE OCLATINIO ADVENTO PROC AVGG NN COH I VANGONVM EQ CVM AEMIL SALVIANO TRIB SVO A SOLO RESTIT “…”.
Benwell, Tyne & Wear RIB 1337 [dates: 205-8] VICTORIAE AVGG ALFENO SENECIO NE COS FELIX ALA ASTORVM PR [or BR] … M PRA “To the Victory of the Emperors, (and) for Alfenus Senecio the Consular (governor), the fortunate Ala Asturum commanded by […] military prefect.”, perhaps in reference to British successes reported in Cassius Dio’s Roman History (Vide Dio LXXVII.x.6 supra). It would seem that the Ala Asturum under the command of some unknown prefect had achieved some significant victory, sometime perhaps during the early governorship of Senecio.
Chesters, Northumberland RIB 1462 [dated: 205-8] IMPP CAESS L SEPT SEVERO PIO PERTINACE ET M AVR ANTONINO PIO AVGG ET P SEP GETAE NOB CAES ALA II AST CVRANTE ALF SENECIONE COS ET OCLATINIO ADVENTO PROC INSTANTE … “…”.
Housesteads, Northumberland RIB 1631.b [dated: 205-8; JRS lvii (1967), p.205, no.17] … P SEPT GETAE NOB CAES COH I TVNGR M RESTITVIT PRAETOR L ALFENO SENECIONE LEG AVGG PR PR “[…] Publius Septimius Geta, Noble Caesar, Cohors I Tungrorum restored the praetorium [under] Lucius Alfenus Senecio, pro-praetorian legate of the Augusti”.
Birdoswald, Cumbria RIB 1909 [dated: 205-8] IMPP CAES L SEPT SEVERO PIO PERT ET M AVR ANTONINO AVG ET P SEPT GETAE NOB CAES HORREVM FECER COH I AEL DAC I TRACVM C R SVB ALFENO SENECIONE COS PER AVREL IVLIANVM TR “…”.