Legio I Italica

The First Italian legion was raised by the emperor Nero on 20 September 66. This date was deduced from several inscriptions (ILS 9199; IGLNov 12) and testified by written sources. The creation of the legion was mentioned by the Greco-Roman historian Cassius Dio (Roman Hist., 55.24.2) and Tacitus (Hist. I.6), and Suetonius, who reported that the legion consisted of soldiers enrolled in Italy, who were six-foot tall, especially chosen for a campaign in Armenia and the far east. The new unit received a nickname of “the phalanx of Alexander the Great”, but the defeat of the Roman troops in the East and the revolt of Vindex had stopped the plans of Nero. The Caspian expedition never took place.

The legion arrived to Gaul in spring, but in June the emperor committed suicide. The new emperor, Galba, sent the soldiers to Lugdunum (Lyon), but just after the Vitellian revolt had started, the legion followed the rebels and started its march to Italy.Leg I Ital stamp

In the meantime, Galba was killed and replaced by the elder senator Otho. In AD 70 both armies met near Cremona. According to Tacitus, the First Italian legion was the bravest one in the Vitellian army which won the battle. The same year brought a dramatic change: near the same town of Cremona a new battle took place. The Vittelian army was defeated by Vespasian, a general who surpressed the Jewish revolt.

The new emperor sent the legion to Moesia. It replaced the legio VIII Augusta which was sent to Argentorate. Soldiers of the legio I Italica came to the  place, where the Latin West meets Hellenistic East, but also where the Barbarian north reaches the outskirts of the empire. The legion of the Italians remained there until its end.

antoninianus of GallienusThe soldiers of the legio I Italica are attested in other places where they were sent together with other Lower Moesian troops. They took part in the Dacian wars of Trajan, participated in the Parthian wars, but also realized many administrative duties within the province or in subdued Greek cities of the Black Sea.

The emblems of the Legio I Italica were the boar and less frequently the bull.

See also:

http://www.livius.org/le-lh/legio/i_italica.html

http://www.imperiumromanum.com/militaer/heer/legionen01_03.htm

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