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Decimation and Seaside Resorts

Contributed by David Verne

Last year the emperor sent the 9th Hispania legion to Africa, to help deal with the growing revolt. Instead of keeping them together, the governor, Lucius Apronius, divides them into cohorts, 480 men, and deploys them to forts out in the desert. Tacfarinas seizes the opportunity and continued raiding the countryside. He tried to besiege a fort, and the Roman centurion, Decrius, felt that is was a disgrace for Romans to hide behind walls. He leads his cohort, which happened to be made up of new recruits, out to do battle. They quickly break and retreat to the fort, but Decrius stood his ground and was killed. Tacfarinus' men got tired of trying to besiege the fort and left, but when Apronius learned of it, he ordered the unit to be decimated. This was an old punishment and rarely used, the soldiers would draw lots and every tenth man was killed. Tacfarinas tried besieging another fort, but it was held by veterans who drove off the attackers. By the end of summer, Tacfarinas' army was laden down with loot and set up camp along the Mediterranean coast for some relaxation. When the governor learned of this, he assembled a force and gave command to his son, Caesianus. The Romans drove Tacfarinas south, deep into the desert. For this apparent success, Tiberius awarded Apronius Triumphal Decorations. [1]

My Take by David Verne
It might seem odd that a governor would have his son with him, much less appoint him to lead an important military operation, but this was very common in Rome. For the Romans, especially when the Republic still existed, the military was held in very high honor, and before being elected to political office, most Romans had spent five to ten years in the military. It is reported that Apronius was a personal friend of Tiberius, which may be why he got the award. Now two successive governors of Africa had received Triumphal Decorations, but both would be premature.

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References

  1. Dando-Collins, Stephen (2010). Legions of Rome. St. Martin's Press. 

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