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Roman Legion - Legio X Fretensis

Багерман А.Я.

Legio X Fretensis (Tenth Legion of the Straits)— was a Roman legion formed by Octavian Augustus in 41 or 40 BCE for the war against Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus' younger son, Sextus Pompeius, who controlled the island of Sicily and was one of the leaders of the Pompeians.

Dates of existence: Created in 41/40 BCE. The last mentions of the legion date back to 410 CE.

Symbols of the legion: Bull, warship, boar, Neptune, dolphin.

Titles: Antoniniana Pia Fidelis

The name "Fretensis" can be translated as "Crushing in the Strait," "Guarding the Strait," "Legion from the Strait," or simply "Strait Legion." According to Mommsen, this cognomen is due to the fact that the legion was originally created to guard the Strait of Messina between Sicily and Italy (Latin: Fretum Siculum). Despite the name, the legion was not a naval unit.

Battle Path

"Take courage, heroes, and cover yourselves with glory! We have long resolved to no longer be servants to the Romans or to any other masters except to God alone, who is the true and just Lord of mankind. The time has now come to carry out our oath. Let us not be disgraced in this hour, for we have always held our souls contemptible when it comes to bondage, and have preferred to die as free men as we were born. Let us not leave our freeborn children to be the spoils of the enemy, nor let our wives be enslaved and subjected to the insult of the victors. While we still have our swords, let us use them in the most gallant way, for it is still in our power to die nobly and as free men. We were the first to revolt, and we are the last to fight against them. And I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely and in a state of freedom, which has not been the case with our brethren, who, unexpectedly captured, were then slain. But let us make a brave use of what is in our hands and nobly perish, embracing life beforehand and making an attempt upon our enemies. Let our wives die before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted of slavery; and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually and preserve ourselves in freedom, as an excellent funeral monument for us. But first let us destroy our money and the fortress by fire; for I am well assured that this will be a great grief to the Romans, that they shall not be able to seize upon our bodies, and shall fail in their hopes of finding a great deal of wealth upon our dead bodies, and that no one will be able to insult us even in our death."

In his account, Josephus Flavius also references the story of two women who, with their five children, took refuge in a cave and informed the Romans about how the men had killed their own wives and children by drawing lots.

"…they made the first onset upon themselves, and killed their wives and children, and then cast lots for one another, and every man killed his friend. And when there were no more men left who would execute their dying wives and children, nor any more women who wanted anything to keep them alive, first the fire obliged those that were within to come out; but when none of them did so, but they received every one of them a sword thrust in their throats, the Romans came then in and put an end to the slaughter. The number of the slain, including the women and children, was about nine hundred and sixty." (VII, 9, 1).

The last of the 960 besieged Jews set fire to the fortress and took his own life. Lucius Flavius Silva Nonius Bassus served as the legion's legate during the siege of Masada. Even today, from the heights of the Masada walls, one can see the remnants of the Roman military camps built by the soldiers of Legio X Fretensis.

Map of the Roman camp at the foot of the Masada fortress in Israel
Massada, leaf soldier X Fretensis. Gaius Messius, son of Hesius, of Berytus, was one of the soldiers of the Legio X Fretensis who took part in the siege of Massada. Massada Museum. 72nd year A.D.
Masada, an inscription left by a soldier of the Legio X Fretensis in 74 AD. Museum in Massada. Israel

It is interesting that there is a version according to which Legio X Fretensis is the legendary Tenth Legion of Caesar. This version is refuted by the well-known Australian writer Stephen Dando-Collins in his book "Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion." The German historian of the 19th century, Theodor Mommsen, holds the opposite view.

Stele in the old market of Jerusalem
Tiles with the stamp of the Legion in Israel, 1-2 century AD.
Tile with Legio X Fretensis symbols. Jerusalem. Museum of Jerusalem, Davidson Center. 70-130 AD


Our club, Legio X Fretensis, is engaged in the reenaction of this Roman Imperial military unit, which is why it is named as such, although its activities have long gone beyond mere reconstruction of the Tenth Legion. The main time period for which the Tenth Legion is reconstructed is the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.

However, there are other clubs for the reconstruction of this division around the world, one of them is located in Malta.

Related topics

List of Roman Legions, Legion, Legionnaire, Octavian Augustus, Legio VI Ferrata, Legio X Gemina, Legio IX Hispana, Legio XI Claudia


1. Theodor Mommsen. "History of the Roman Emperors".

2. I. Golyzhenkov- "The Army of Imperial Rome: 1st-2nd Centuries AD.".

3. A. Makhlayuk, "Roman Legions: The Most Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia (3rd revised and expanded edition)."

4. A.G. Grushevoy, "Jews and Judaism in the History of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire."

5. Stephen Dando-Collins, "Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion."

6. Josephus Flavius, "The Jewish War."

8. E. Dombrova, "Legio X Fretensis: Prosopographic Study of its Officers (1st-3rd centuries AD) (1993)."

9. E. Dombrova, "Legio X Fretensis," in: Yann Le Bohec, "The Roman Legion and the Upper Empire" (2000 Lyon) 317-325.

10. H. Geva, "The Camp of the Tenth Legion in Jerusalem: An Archaeological Reassessment," in Israel Exploration Journal 34 (1984) 239-254.

11. M. Gichon, "The Siege of Masada," in: Yann Le Bohec, Les légions de Rome sous le Haut-Empire (2000 Lyon) 541-554.

12. Y. Meshorer, "Two Finds from the Roman Tenth Legion," in: Israel Museum Journal 3 (1984), 41-45.


Nero's Sestertius with the mark of the 10th Legion. Private collection. 1st century AD
Agrippa's coin, marked Legio X Fretensis. Massada Museum. Israel. Around AD 74.
Fibula of the Tenth Legion. Silver. Private collection. Length-31mm, width-11mm, weight 5g. Late 1st century BC
Bronze coin with boar and dolphin. Bronze, 24.6 mm. The reverse side shows the XF brand. Private auction Hendin 1609/1615. Found in Haifa. 1-2 century AD
Coin with the seal Legio X Fretensis. 1-2 century AD
Coin with the seal Legio X Fretensis. 1-2 century AD
Tabula ansata vexillations of the Tenth Legion on the territory of a monastery in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Ghosh. 1-2 century AD.
Fragment of the seal on the iron coin Legio X Fretensis. 1-2 century AD
Milestone e with mention of X Fretensis. Jerusalem, Davidson Center. 70-79 AD
Helmet type Imperial Italian G (Imperial Italic G). Found in a cave near Hebron (Palestinian Authority, Israel). It is believed that it belonged to the legionnaire Legio X Fretensis. First half of the 2nd century AD
Ceramics with the Legio X Fretensis seal. G&M auction, private collection. First half of the second century
Milestones of the 8th Cohort of Legio X Fretensis on the road between Jerusalem and Samaria, 1st-2nd centuries AD, Israel Museum