Quintus Veranius (57/58AD)

The best documentary account of this governor’s activities in Britain is Tacitus’ Annals of Rome (book XIV, chapter xxix), which unfortunately, provides very little detail. The campaigns of Quintus Veranius are detailed in chapter 6 of Rome Against Caratacus by Graham Webster.

Quintus Veranius, was appointed governor by Nero. He was a rising star in the Roman Empire, having achieved success in campaigns in Lycia and Pamphylia on the eastern front. He was expected to invade Wales and expand northeast into the territory of the Brigantes. However, before he could execute his plans, Veranius passed away unexpectedly while in office. On his deathbed, Veranius claimed that he could have conquered the entire province within two years, the usual term of office for a governor.

Didius was followed by Veranius, who died within the year.

The Agricola, Chapter 14

He was sent to Britain in the winter of 57AD and was possibly responsible for the establishment of the fortress at Wroxeter (Viroconium Cornoviorum) in the centre of the recently-conquered tribal territories of the Cornovii. This new legionary base was to house the Legio Quattuordecimae Gemina – The Fourteenth ‘Twinned’ Legion, who were again reunited after having been deployed in various divisions throughout the Midlands, perhaps at Mancetter (Manduessedum) and Metchley Roman Fort , certainly at Leighton Vexillation Fort beside the Wrekin Hillfort. While the Fourteenth secured Veranius’ rear, Veranius campaigned in south Wales against the fearsome and war-like Silures tribe of Glamorgan, using the Legio Vicesimae Valeria Victrix (The Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious) from Gloucester (Glevum). He unfortunately died after his first campaign, but succeeded in quelling the truculent tribe.

“… Veranius, after having ravaged the Silures in some trifling raids, was prevented by death from extending the war. While he lived, he had a great name for manly independence, though, in his will’s final words, he betrayed a flatterer’s weakness; for, after heaping adulation on Nero, he added that he should have conquered the province for him, had he lived for the next two years.”

Cornelius Tacitus – The Annals, Book 14, Chapter 24

A reasonable amount of archaeological evidence for these campaigns has been recovered from a number of Roman military installations in South Wales and the Welsh Marches.

In preparation for his campaigns in South Wales, Veranius withdrew the cohorts of Legio XIV Gemina from thier separate vexillation fortresses along the Watling Street in Staffordshire and reunited them in a new legionary fortress at Viroconium (Wroxeter, Shropshire) in the Northern Marches. To the south of this new fortress a screening line of fortifications was established across the Marches. New forts were built at Droitwich (Worcestershire), Wall Town (Shropshire), Brompton (Shropshire) and Llwyn-y-Brain (Powys); the Scapulan fort at Stretford Bridge (Craven Arms, Shropshire), beside the main military route south, also featured in this scheme, being situated at the mid-point of the line. This defensive ‘screen’, the components of which were each separated from the next by an easy half-day’s march, was presumably set to guard against any Silurian war-bands escaping northwards to join with the Brigantes tribe, as the warlord Caratacus had done a few years earlier. To the rear of this line in the east, the Claudian fort at Greensforge (South Staffordshire), located at a strategic river crossing, had an annexe built around this time.

The campaign against the Silures was probably conducted by a large contingent of Legio XX Valeria Victrix, which had been badly mauled by the tribe only recently, probably bolstered with cohorts drawn from the other British legions along with a couple of auxiliary cavalry units. This force was housed in a new vexillation fortress at Usk (Gwent), beside the like-named river within the eastern Silurian tribal territories. It is assumed that a caretaker force consisting of a few cohorts from the Twentieth, probably together with an auxiliary cavalry ala, remained behind at the Kingsholm vexillation fortress in Gloucester.

Communications between the legionary fortress at Wroxeter and the vexillation fortress at Usk was achieved along the line of the military road – probably established by Ostorius Scapula – now known as Watling Street West, which ran south-westwards from the crossing of the Severn at Wroxeter via the fort at Stretford Bridge and other forts at Jay Lane (Leintwardine, Herefordshire), Hindwell Farm (Walton, Powys), Clyro (Gwent) and Abergavenny (Gwent); many of these Scapulan foundations underwent rebuilding work during this period.

An interesting feature of this early period in Wales is the establishment of a line of small encampments which appear to have been directed against the Demetae tribe in Dyfed. There was a small station at Erglodd Farm near Aberystwyth in Dyfed, a fortlet at Cae Gaer (Powys) and another small station at Penmincae (Powys). Separate from these, another small fortlet established near the mouth of the Usk at Coed-y-Caerau (Bulmore, Gwent) was probably set here to guard the maritime supply route to the nearby campaign fortress. Occupation was also maintained at the large legionary fort at Cardiff, which guarded the western approaches to the Usk estuary.

Meanwhile, in the south-western peninsula of England, Legio II Augusta were seemingly inactive in thier small fortress at Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter, Devon), possibly due to the cream of this legion’s cohorts being numbered among the mobile campaign army of Veranius in South Wales. The shaky truce with the Brigantes tribe in northern England was also maintained by the continued presence of Legio IX Hispana who were kept in campaign fortresses along the River Trent, forming the border with their neighbours the Coritani.

The short passage in Tacitus which deals with the governorship of Veranius also tells us that he “… was prevented by death from extending the war.” He was not the first Roman propraetor of Britain to die in service,¹ neither would he be the last.

  1. That dubious honour belonged to Publius Ostorius Scapula, who died some six years earlier, also fighting the Silures.
Military Installations Attributed to Quintus Veranius
Viroconium (Wroxeter, Shropshire)SJ5608legionary fortress Legio XIV Gemina
Kingsholm (Gloucester)SO8318vexillation fortress Legio XX Valeria Victrix
Burrium (Usk, Gwent)SO3700vexillation fortress Legio XX Valeria Victrix.
Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter, Devon)SX9292legionary fortress Legio II Augusta.
Salinae (Droitwich, Hereford & Worcester)SO8963fort
Greensforge, South StaffordshireSO8688fort
Wall Town, ShropshireSO6978fort
Stretton Grandison, Hereford & WorcesterSO6343fort
Stretford Bridge, Craven Arms, ShropshireSO4284fort
Llwyn-y-Brain, PowysSO0492large fort
Brompton, ShropshireSO2493fort
Hindwell Farm, Walton, PowysSO2560fort
Clyro, GwentSO2243fort
Gobannium (Abergavenny, Gwent)SO2914fort
Cardiff, South GlamorganST1876fort
Cae Gaer, PowysSN8281fortlet/signal station
Erglodd, DyfedSN6590fortlet/signal station
Penmincae, PowysSO0053fortlet/signal station
Coed-y-Caerau, Bulmore, GwentST3791fortlet/signal station

References for Roman Military Campaigns – Quintus Veranius ( AD57/58)

  • 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);