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The Week Long Revolt

Contributed by David Verne

Claudius has proven to be a much better emperor than most senators expected, but many still believe that they are more qualified than the bumbling emperor. A group of senators led by Vinicianus, one of the Senate's proposed successors to Caligula, have formed a plot to overthrow Claudius. Lacking any troops of their own, they bring the governor of Dalmatia, Scribonianus, in on the plot. With the 7th and 11th legions in the province and various auxiliary forces, Scribonianus controls around 20,000 men. On the third week of March, Scribonianus announces his intent to the soldiers to march on Rome and overthrow Claudius. Many legionaries were hesitant with the idea of rebellion, considering that Claudius had only been in office for a year, and he was the brother of the much beloved Germanicus. Every year between the 19th and 23rd of March, the golden eagle standards of the legions were removed from their shrines and were anointed with perfume in a ceremony called the lustration exercise. This year, a rumor spread throughout the camp that when the standard bearers tried to remove the eagles from the shrines, they wouldn't budge. This was enough for the legionaries, who were even more superstitious than most Romans, and the enlisted men swiftly killed the senior officers who were in on the plot. Vinicianus and Scribonianus committed suicide, and the Praetorian Guard rounded up the remaining conspirators. In gratitude for the legions loyalty, Claudius awarded the legions the title Claudia and the soldiers who had acted to kill the officers were all promoted. A senior officer, Lucius Otho, was sent to the province to restore order. Instead of promoting the soldiers as ordered, Otho had them executed. He wasn't punished for this but remained out of Claudius' favor for some time. Claudius was proving to be a capable emperor at this point, but too many people saw him as a bumbling fool who would be easy to overthrow, and he will continue to deal with assassination attempts throughout his reign. [1]

My Take by David Verne
The golden eagles of the legions were considered sacred, and it was greatly dishonorable to lose a standard in battle. There is an account of a standard bearer throwing the eagle over the walls of a camp, rather than let it fall into the hands of an enemy. Recapturing lost eagles was a huge deal and was one of the reasons why Germanicus received so much praise for recovering two of the three standards lost in the Teutoburg Disaster. The third standard was recovered last year in 41 AD, and all three were displayed in the Temple of Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger).

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References

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

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