Sextus Julius Frontinus

Sextus Julius Frontinus – Governor of Britannia from 73/4AD to 77/8

I also lay aside all ideas of any new works or engines of war, the invention of which long-ago reached its limit, and in which I see no hope for further improvement … Above extract from Strategemata by Sextus Julius Frontinus (intro. book III; c.84AD)

This dynamic governor considered northern Britain safe enough following the campaigns of his predecessor Cerialis to concentrate on subduing the Silures tribe in South Wales, moving Legio II Augusta from Gloucester to a new Legionary fortress in Silurian territory at Caerleon. Other forts were established into Ordovician territory in mid-Wales following the massacre of a cavalry unit in the area.

Cerialis, indeed, would have eclipsed the vigilance or the credit of any other successor; but Julius Frontinus was, so far as a subject of the emperor could be, a great man, and he shouldered and sustained the burden cast on him: his arms reduced the Silures, a powerful and warlike race; he surmounted not only the valour of the enemy but also the physical difficulties of their land. Above extract from De Vitae Agricolae by Cornelius Tacitus (XVII.ii).

The Life and Magistracies of Frontinus

  • Born c.35AD (implied by the fact that his praetorship was in 70AD), very likely into the patrician Julian gens.
  • His later writings on the Aqueducts of Rome suggest that he may have received an education in surveying at Alexandria in Egypt, possibly at the school of Hero of Alexandria (Bennett, xiv).
  • Urban Praetor at Rome in 70AD (Tacitus, Histories, IV.xxxix).
  • Suffect Consul I in 73AD or 74 (CIL VI 2016a; CIL XIV 2242), possibly the junior colleague of the emperor Vespasian’s youngest son Domitianus Caesar, who was himself consul (suffectus) for the second time in 73 (AE 1996, 1477a).
  • Governor of Britain between 73/4AD and 77/8 (Tacitus, Agricola, XVII.ii).
  • Wrote his lost treatise ‘The Art of War’ shortly after returning from Britain around 78AD (Bennett, xiv).
  • Wrote Strategemata “Strategems” in the period between 84-96AD (Bennett, xx).
  • Under Domitian in 86AD was responsible for the restoration of a “gateway and towers” (AE 1969/1970, 593a; fragmentary inscription in Latin and Greek).
  • Appointed to the post of Water Commissioner in 97AD, during which office he wrote De Aquis Urbis Romae “The Aqueducts of the City of Rome” (Bennett, xv).
  • Suffect Consul II in 98AD (AE 1983, 783a; ).
  • Ordinary Consul III in 100AD, the junior colleague of emperor Trajan, who was himself consul for the third time (ILS 6074, Rome; CIL VI 2222s; CIL XIII 7711).
  • Died in 103AD or 104 while serving the state as Augur, in which office he was succeeded by Pliny the Younger (Pliny, Epistulae, IV.viiii.3, X.xiii).

Click here for a breakdown of the military campaigns of Sextus Julius Frontinus in Britain

Sextus Julius Frontinus the entry from the 1911 Online Encyclopaedia Britannica

References for Sextus Julius Frontinus

Strategems & The Aqueducts of Rome by Julius Frontinus, translated by Charles E. Bennett (Loeb, Harvard, 1925); De Vitae Agricolae by Cornelius Tacitus, translated by M. Hutton (Loeb, Harvard, 1970 revised ed.); Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980); Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);