Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata – The Augustan Wing, so named by reason of their virtue

The Ala was stationed in the province of Britannia . It is listed on military diplomas for the years 98/114 to 158 AD AD 132. The unit was probably set up under Augustus . It was probably stationed in Germania in the 1st century AD , since two of its soldiers were recruited from the Treveri tribe. The Ala may then have been part of the troops led by Aulus Plautius that began conquering Britain around 43 AD.

The first record in Britain is based on a diploma dated 98/114. The Diploma lists the Ala as part of the troops (see Roman forces in Britannia ) that were stationed in the province. Other diplomas dated 122 through 158 occupy the unit in the same province. The last evidence of the Ala is based on an inscription which is dated to 242.

Name parts of the Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata

  • Ala : The Ala was a cavalry unit of the auxiliary troops in the Roman army .
  • I : The Roman numeral stands for the ordinal number, the first ( Latin prima ). Hence the name of this military unit is pronounced as Ala prima.
  • Augusta : the Augustan. The honorific refers to Augustus .
  • Gallorum : the Gaul . The soldiers of the Ala were recruited from the various tribes of the Gauls when the unit was formed.
  • Proculeiana : of Proculeius. The cavalry units of the Gauls were often named after one of their first commanders. Gaius Proculeius is mentioned as a possible namesake . [A 2] The addition occurs in the military diplomas from 125 to 158.
  • Gordiana : the Gordian. An honorific referring to Gordian III. (238-244) relates. The addition occurs in an inscription .
  • ob virtutem apellata : awarded for bravery. The addition occurs in several inscriptions .
  • Since there is no evidence of the suffix milliaria (1000 men), the unit was an Ala quingenaria . The nominal strength of the Ala was 480 men, consisting of 16 turmae , each with 30 horsemen.

Locations of Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata in Britannia

Possibly at Lancaster in the late 1st century, first identified at Chesters on Hadrian’s Wall during Hadrianic period. The unit was likely removed from Chesters after the accession of Pius ( AD138) and campaigned somewhere in Scotland, the next known record of the unit being at Old Carlisle in 188, where it stayed until at least 242. The altar at Carlisle recording a victory won by the unit, probably belongs to the period when they were stationed nearby at Old Carlisle. The fate of this unit is unknown, but it may have been renamed Ala Augusta Gordia(na), also recorded at Old Carlisle.

Chesters (Cilurnum):Two inscriptions have been found here. Presumably the unit was stationed at Chesters around 132.

RIB 3298 - Altar dedicated to the Discipline of the Emperor Hadrian Augustus

To the Discipline of the Emperor Hadrian Augustus, (dedicated by) the Cavalry Regiment styled Augusta for valour […]

[.]ISCIPVLINAÍ¡E
IMP HAD AVG
ALA AVG
[.] VIRT APPEL
[...]

The personification Discipulina first appears on late coins of Hadrian, and this altar is now the earliest epigraphic record; it confirms that Hadrian was author of the cult. Dedications were ‘official’: two of the British examples were found beneath the aedes principiorum (RIB 990, 1127), and a third in the principia well (RIB 2092). For these and other examples, see E. Birley 1978, 1513–5. The ala which makes the dedication is likely to be the al(a) Au(gusta) of a lead sealing found at Chesters (RIB II.1, 2411.81). It is probably the ala Aug(usta) attested earlier at Lancaster (RIB 3185 with note), and was certainly at Old Carlisle between 188 and 242 (RIB 893-895 and 897, explicitly ob virtutem appellata). It is not named in any military diploma, which has prompted identification with the ala Augusta Gallorum Proculeiana, which figures in four diplomas but no inscriptions; these diplomas include that of 145/6 (CIL xvi 93 = RIB II.1, 2401.10), which was found at Chesters, and was presumably issued to a veteran of one of the three alae it lists, of which this is the only Augusta. It must have been the Hadrianic garrison of Chesters, which was therefore built for a quingenary ala. Conversely, the first garrison cannot have been the ala II Asturum, which is only attested there from c. 181–4, which forbids any direct connection between the place-name Cilurnum and the gens Cilurnigorum in Asturias (AE 1991, 1046), despite Fernández Ochoa and Morillo Cerdán 1997.

Lancaster : Two inscriptions have been found here. The Ala may have been the first unit stationed at Lancaster, probably under Quintus Petillius Cerialis around 71/74.

RIB 606 - Funerary inscription for Lucius Julius Apollinaris

To the spirits of the departed: Lucius Julius Apollinaris, a Treveran, … aged 30, trooper of the Cavalry Regiment Augusta¹ , lies buried here.
or
To the spirits of the departed and to Lucius Julius Apollinaris of the Treveri, thirty years old, a cavalryman of the Wing,¹ to his friends he lives on, he lies here.

DIS MANI
BVS
L IVL APOL
LINARIS
TREVER AN
XXX EQ AL
AE AV[...]
H [   ]

Possibly the Ala Gallorum Sebosiana although Huebner says this was not ala Sebosiana, though a Trever probably belonged to a Gallic contingent. West suggests ala Augusta, and Watkin inclines to agree. Birley thinks that the unit was probably ala Afrorum.

It was found in a cellar in Pudding Lane (now Cheapside), Lancaster.


Carlisle (Luguvalium): An inscription was found here.

RIB 946 - Dedication to Hercules

To the virtues of the Roman Hercules, Unconquered, the Founder, for the welfare of the dedicator and his fellow-soldiers, after the slaughter of a band of barbarians by the Cavalry Regiment styled Augusta for valour, Publius Sextanius …, the prefect, from Xanten, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.

DEI HERC[...  ...]
VICTI CON[...  ...]
TIBVS PRO S[...  ...]
COMMILITON[...]
BARBARORV[  ...]
OB VIRTV[...]
P SEXTANIV[  5...   ...]
TAT TRAIA[...    ]

The text dates to A.D. 180-92, but before the close of 192 when Commodus identified himself with Hercules. 4.

Old Carlisle (Maglona): Several inscriptions have been found here.

RIB 890 - Altar dedicated to Bellona

To the goddess Bellona Rufinus, cavalry prefect of the Cavalry Regiment Augusta, and Latinianus, his son, (set this up).

DEAE BEL
LONAE RVFI
NVS PRAE[...]
EQ A[...]AE AVG
ET LAT[...]NIA
NVS FIL
  • Birley, The African Emperor: Septimius Severus, rev. ed., (1988), 184-5, discusses Septimius Severus’ alleged visit (HA Sev. 22. 1-7) to a temple of Bellona near the Wall (vallum).
  • Now in Tullie House Museum.

RIB 893 - Altar dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus

To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, the Cavalry Regiment styled Augusta for valour, commanded by Tiberius Claudius Justinus, son of Tiberius, the prefect, (set this up) in the consulship of Fuscianus and Silanus, both for the second time.

I O M
ALA AVG O[...]
VIRTVT APPEL CV[...]
[...]AEEST TIB CL TIB FI
INGM IVSTINV[...]
PRAEF FVSCIAN[...]
II SILANO II C[...]

Now in the British Museum


RIB 894 - Dedication to Jupiter Optimus Maximus

To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, the Cavalry Regiment styled Augusta for valour, commanded by Publius Aelius Magnus, son of Publius, of the Sergian voting-tribe, from Mursa in Lower Pannonia, the prefect, (set this up) in the consulship of Apronianus and Bradua.

I O M
ALA
AVG OB VI͡RTVTÍ¡EM
[...]PÍ¡PEÍ¡LLATA CV[...] PÍ¡RAE
[...]ST P AÍ¡EL PVB F SEÍ¡R
GIA MAGNVS D
MVÍ¡RSA EX PÍ¡AÍ¡NNON
IÍ¡NÍ¡FEÍ¡RÍ¡I

Mursa (now Osijek in Croatia): a colonia in Pannonia Inferior. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): The prefect’s origo is emphasised, the Hadrianic colonia at Mursa which was enrolled in Hadrian’s own tribe Sergia; he might be the grandson of a colonist, an enfranchised auxiliary veteran: see Pinterović, D. and Bulat, M. 1971, 121-31 (with English summary).


RIB 895 - Altar dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus of Doliche

To Jupiter Best and Greatest, of Doliche, for the welfare of our Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus Augustus the troopers of the Cavalry Regiment Augusta, under the charge of their prefect Egnatius Verecundus, set this up.

I O M [...]
PRO SALVT[...]
IMP L SEPT[...]M[...]
SEVERI AVG N
EQVITES ALAE
AVG CVRAN[...]E
EGNATIO VERE
CVNDO PRA
EF POSVERVNT
  • A.D. 197, after the death of Clodius Albinus (19 February) but before the elevation of Caracalla to Augustus (28 January 198).
  • Now in Tullie House Museum.

RIB 897 - Altar dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus

To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, for the welfare of the Emperor Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius Felix Invictus Augustus and for his wife Sabinia Furia Tranquillina and for their whole Divine House, the Cavalry Regiment, styled Augusta for valour, Gordiana, set this up, when commanded by Aemilius Crispinus, prefect of cavalry, born in the province of Africa from Tusdrus under the charge of Nonius Philippus, emperor’s propraetorian legate, in the consulship of Atticus and Praetextatus.

I O M
PRO SALV[...] IMPERATORIS
M ANTONI GORDIANI P [...]
INVICTI AVG ET SAB[...]IAE FVR
IAE TRANQVILAE CONIVGI EIVS TO
TAQVE DOMV DIVIN EORVM A
LA AVG GORDIA OB VIRTVTEM
APPELLATA POSVIT CVI PRAEST
AEMILIVS CRISPINVS PREF
EQ NATVS IN PRO AFRICA DE
TVSDRO SVB CVR NONII PH
ILIPPI LEG AVG PRO PRE[...]
[...]TICO ET PRAETEXTATO
COS
  • The consulship of Atticus and Praetextatus was in A.D. 242.
  • Thysdrus in Africa was not the birthplace of Gordian III, but the city where Gordian I was proclaimed in A.D. 238 by a conspiracy of local landowners.
  • Now in the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge

RIB 902 - Altar dedicated by Titus Aurelius Ateco

To … Titus Aurelius Ateco, curator of the (Cavalry Regiment) Augusta made this willingly when he fulfilled his vow.

T B A T A
VR ATE
CO C AV
G VOT
S L A FE
  • Now in Tullie House Museum.

RIB 907 - Funerary inscription for Maelonius Secundus

To the spirits of the departed Maelonius Secundus, trooper of the Cavalry Regiment Augusta, sesquiplicarius.

D M
MAE[...]
NIVS SEC
VNDVS
EQVI[...]
ALE AVG
SESQ
  • A sesquiplicarius was soldier receiving one and a half times the basic rate of pay, in particular the third-in-command of a turma.
  • Now in Tullie House Museum.

RIB 905 - Dedication to Emperor Caracalla by Ala Augusta

… for the welfare of our Lord the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Felix Augustus, under his legate Gaius Julius Marcus, under the charge of …, the prefect, the Cavalry Regiment Augusta … set this up in the fourth consulship of Antoninus and the second of Balbinus.

[...]
[...]MINI NOS[...  ]
[...]NI PII FELICIS [...]
[...   ...]RCO LEG EIVS CVR
[6] PRAF ALA AVG
[6 ...]T IMP ANTONI
[...  ...  ...] BALBINO II C[...]SS

For a group of loyal dedications from the same year see RIB 1202 (Whitley Castle).

Members of the Ala Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata in Britannia

The following members of the Ala are known:

Commanders of the Ala Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata in Britannia

  • [?], a prefect  (from an inscription found at Old Carlisle (Maglona) see RIB 905 above)
  • Aemilius Crispinus, a prefect.
    A dedicatory inscription  found at Castle Maglona and dated 242 shows that Crispinus was prefect of the Ala Augusta Gordiana ob virtutem appellata , stationed in the province of Britannia. He was from Thysdrus in the province of Africa. (See RIB 897 above)
  • Egnatius Verecundus, a prefect
    Egnatius Verecundus (his praenomen is not known) was a member of the Roman equestrian order ( Eques ) living in the 2nd century AD .A dedicatory inscription  found at Castle Maglona and dated 197 shows that Verecundus was prefect of the Ala Augusta stationed in the province of Britannia . (See RIB 895 above)[]
  • [Pom]peius Va[]: he is named as commander on the diploma of 125.
  • [Pro]pinquos: he is named as commander on the diploma of 126.
  • Publius Aelius Magnus, a prefect
    Publius Aelius Magnus (full form of name Publius Aelius Publi filius Sergia Magnus ) was a member of the Roman knighthood ( Eques ) living in the 2nd century AD .
    A dedicatory inscription found at Castle Maglona and dated 1911 attests that Magnus was prefect of the Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata , stationed in the province of Britannia . Magnus came from Mursa in the province of Pannonia inferior and was enrolled in the tribe Sergia. (See RIB 894 above)
  • Publius Sextanius, a prefect
    Publius Sextanius (his cognomen is unknown) was a member of the Roman equestrian order ( Eques ) living in the 2nd century AD . A dedicatory inscription  found at Castle Luguvalium , dated to 180/192, shows that Sextanius was prefect of the Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata , stationed in the province of Britannia. (See RIB 946 above)
  • Rufinus, a prefect (See RIB 890 above)
  • Septimenus Rusticus , a prefect
    Septimenus Rusticus (his praenomen is not known) was a member of the Roman equestrian order ( Eques ) living in the 2nd century AD. An inscription found at Castle Maglona and dated to 185 shows that Rusticus was prefect. According to John E.H. Spaul , he was prefect of the Ala I Augusta Gallorum Proculeiana , stationed in the province of Britannia.  (See RIB 903 above)
  • Tiberius Claudius Justinus , a prefect
    Tiberius Claudius Justinus (full name form Tiberius Claudius Tiberi filius INGM Justinus ) [A 1] was a member of the Roman knighthood ( Eques ) living in the 2nd century AD. A dedicatory inscription  found at Castle Maglona and dated 188 shows that he was prefect of the Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata stationed in the province of Britannia. (See RIB 893 above)

Other mambers of the Ala Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata in Britannia

  • [?], [14] a rider: the diploma of 125 was issued to him.
  • Insus, a rider (See RIB 3185 above)
  • L(ucius) Iul(ius) Apollinaris, a horseman (See RIB 606 above)
  • L(ucius) Val(erius) S[], a decurio ( RIB-02-01, 02411,081 )
  • Mae[lo]nius Secundus, a horseman and Sesquiplicarius (See RIB 907 above)
  • T(itus) Aur(elius) Ateco, a curator (See RIB 902 above)
  • Victor,  a decurio ( AE 2006, 750 )

Possible Commanders of the Ala Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata in Britannia

  • Gaius Geminius Priscus, a prefect ( CIL 5, 6478)
    Gaius Geminius Priscus was a member of the Roman equestrian order ( eques ) living in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD . Through an inscription from Laumellum, today’s Lomello , individual stations of his career are known, which he probably completed in the early 2nd century.  The order of the offices held by Gaius Geminius Priscus is not clear from the inscription with his cursus honorum. It is most likely that he was initially assigned as praefectus fabrum to a magistrate or proconsul in one of the senatorial provinces of the Roman Empire. He then began his military career as prefect of the Cohors I Breucorum , stationed in the province of Raetia . However, this command was only given to him pro forma ( libero commeatu ), since he was probably staying somewhere else. This could either have been meant as a special privilege for Priscus [3] or indicate an extraordinary leave of absence. Thereafter he became prefect of an Ala Augusta .  There were several units referred to in inscriptions as Ala Augusta . Geminius Priscus could therefore have commanded one of the following units: the Ala I Augusta Gallorum stationed in the province of Mauretania Tingitana , the Ala I Augusta Gallorum Proculeiana stationed in Britannia , or the Ala I Augusta Thracum stationed at the time of his command stationed either in Raetia or in Noricum. The last step in his career was then probably the command as tribune of the Cohors II Praetoria . However, this position is at the very end of the listing of the posts held in the inscription, although otherwise it appears to be a “descending” cursus honorum , i.e. the more important offices are named firstacts. In addition, the inscription stone has been lost and, at least according to the surviving signature, the word “tribune” was left out of the text. It has therefore also been assumed that his service in the Cohors II Praetoria was not at the end but at the very beginning of his career and that he worked there as a simple soldier. In that case , however, between this time and his appointment as praefectus fabrum he would first have had to be promoted to centurion and then to primus pilus.
  • Lucius Egnatius Quartus, a prefect (Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 6 (1932), number 174. & Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 6 (1932), number 167.)
    Lucius Egnatius Quartus ( full name form Lucius Egnatius Luci filius Teretina Quartus ) was a member of the Roman equestrian order ( eques ) living in the 2nd century AD . Individual stages of his career, which he probably completed in the first half of the 2nd century, are known from two inscriptions in Greek . His military career consisted of the tres militiae usual for a member of the equestrian order . First, as prefect , he took charge of the Cohors II Claudia , which was stationed in the province of Cappadocia . In the same province he also assumed the post of praepositus of the Ala I Augusta Gemina Colonorum as an extraordinary command . He then became tribune of the Legio VIII Augusta , stationed at Argentoratum in the province of Germania superior . The conclusion of his career, as far as it is known from the inscriptions, was the command as prefect of an Ala Augusta . However, it is not entirely clear which units of this name were involved in this case. However, since the epithet “Augusta”, unlike the Ala I Augusta Gemina Colonorum in the same inscription, was not translated into Greek as “Σεβαστή”, but simply transcribed in Greek script as “Αὐγούστη” , it can be assumed that it is is a unit stationed in the west of the Roman Empire, so more commonly known by its Latin name. Egnatius Quartus should therefore either be the Ala I Augusta Gallorum Proculeiana, stationed in the province of Britannia , or the Ala I Augusta Thracum , stationed in either Raetia or Noricum at the time of his command.

Evidence for the presence of Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata in Britain

  1. Calunium (Lancaster, Lancashire; RIB 606?; late 1st C. AD)
  2. Cilurnum (Chesters, Northumberland; Britannia x, 1979, p.346, no.7)
  3. Luguvalium (Carlisle, Cumbria; RIB 946; altar to Hercules; Commodus?)
  4. Maglona (Old Carlisle, Cumbria; RIB 894; Jupiter altar; AD191)
  5. ?Maglona (Old Carlisle, Cumbria; RIB 897; Jupiter altar by Ala Augusta Gordia; AD242)