Quintus Petilius Cerialis (AD71-73/4)

The tenure of Quintus Petillius Cerialis as Governor of Britain is documented in three of the major works of Cornelius Tacitus; The Agricola (chapter VIII, verse ii and chapter XVII, verses i-ii), The Annals (book XIV, chapter xxxii) and The Histories (book III, chapter lix and book IV, chapter lxxix).

“A short time elapsed, and then Britain received Petilius Cerialis as its governor; and now Agricola’s virtues found ample scope for display; but for the moment Cerialis gave him a share only of work and danger. Afterwards he shared distinction also: as he often gave him a part of the army to command, to test him; sometimes on the strength of a success he increased his forces;” (Tacitus Agricola VIII.ii)

“[i] But when Britain with the rest of the world was recovered by Vespasian, generals became great, armies excellent, and the enemy’s hopes languished. And Petillius Cerialis at once struck terror into their hearts by invading the commonwealth of the Brigantes, which is said to be the most numerous tribe of the whole province: many battles were fought, sometimes bloody battles, and by permanent conquest or by forays he annexed a large portion of the Brigantes. [ii] 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.” (Tacitus Agricola XVII.i-ii)

“… The victorious enemy met Petilius Cerialis, commander of the ninth legion, as he was coming to the rescue, routed his troops, and destroyed all his infantry. Cerialis escaped with some cavalry into the camp, and was saved by its fortifications. …” (Tacitus Annals XIV.xxxii)

“… Certainly chance helped the Flavian generals quite as often as their own strategy. Here they came across Petilius Cerialis,[162] who had been enabled by his knowledge of the country to elude Vitellius’ outposts, disguised as a peasant. As he was a near relative of Vespasian and a distinguished soldier he was given a place on the staff. …” (Tacitus Histories II.lix)

“… At the same moment Cerialis came by forced marches to the relief of Cologne. A further anxiety haunted Civilis. He was afraid that the Fourteenth legion, in conjunction with the fleet from Britain,[445] might harry the Batavian coast. However, Fabius Priscus, who was in command, led his troops inland into the country of the Nervii and Tungri, who surrendered to him. .. (Tacitus Histories IV.lxxix)

Installations Attributed to Quintus Petilius Cerialis

Eburacum (York)SE6052legionary fortress Legio IX Hispana.
Lindum (Lincoln)SK9771legionary fortress Legio II Adiutrix.
Rey Cross, DurhamNY9012camp between Brough and Bowes
Crackenthorpe, CumbriaNY6523camp SE of Kirkby Thore
Plumpton Head, CumbriaNY5035camp between Old Penrith & Braugham
Luguvalium (Carlisle, Cumbria)NY3956probable camp

References for Roman Military Campaigns – Quintus Petilius Cerialis ( AD71-73/4)

  • The Roman Invasion of Britain by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1980);
  • Rome Against Caratacus by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1981);
  • Britons and the Roman Army by Grace Simpson (Gregg, London, 1964);
  • Historical Map and Guide: Roman Britain by the OS (3rd Edition, 1956; 4th Ed., 1990; 5th Ed., 2001);