Legio XX Valeria Victrix was a Roman legion, probably raised by Augustus sometime after 31 BC. It served in Spain, Illyricum, and Germany before participating in the invasion of Britain in 43 AD, where it remained and was active until at least the beginning of the 4th century. The emblem of the legion was a boar. The Valeria part of Legio XX cognomen is difficult to understand: it might be related to the concept of military value; others suggest a relationship with the Valeria gens, or with the black eagle.
XX Valeria Victrix was part of the great army that campaigned against the Cantabrians in Hispania Tarraconensis from 25 to 13 BC. The legion then moved to Illyricum, and is recorded in the army of Tiberius operating against the Marcomanni in 6 AD. In one battle the legion cut through the enemy lines, was surrounded, and cut its way out again.
After the disaster of Varus in 9 AD, XX Valeria Victrix moved to Germania Inferior and was based at Cologne, then moved to Neuss (Novaesium) sometime during Tiberius' reign.
The legion was one of the four with which Claudius invaded Britain in 43, after which it encamped at Colchester (Camulodunum), with some units at Kingsholm in Gloucester. In 60 or 61 it helped put down the revolt of Queen Boudicca; it is possible that the Twentieth legion was awarded of its Valeria Victrix (Valiant and Victorious) cognomen as a consequence of its contribution in this war.
In the year of the four emperors, the legion sided with Vitellius, some units going with him to Rome. In 78-84, it was part of Gnaeus Julius Agricola's campaigns in northern Britain and Scotland (remarkable its partecipation to the Battle of Mons Graupius, in nothern Scotland), and built the base at Inchtuthil that they occupied until returning south in 88 and occupying Chester, where it remained for at least two centuries.
During the reign of the usurper emperors Carausius and Allectus (286-293 and 293-296) the XX Valeria Victrix was still active; no records, however, are present in the 4th century.
This legion has been much studied; at least 250 members of the legion have been identified in surviving inscriptions.
- Comprehensive website for XX Valeria Victrix (http://www.legioxx.org.uk/)
- livius.org account of XX Valeria Victrix (http://www.livius.org/le-lh/legio/xx_valeria_victrix.html)