Last updated: July 31, 2022.
Introduction
Reading the Inscriptions
Commentary on the Inscriptions
Lucius Artorius Castus’ Career
The Origin of the Name “Artorius”
Criticism of Lucius Artorius Castus as the “Real” King Arthur>

1. Introduction

Due to the surge in popularity of the hypothesis that the Roman soldier Lucius Artorius Castus was the “real” King Arthur – much of which is the result of the work of authors Linda Malcor and C. Scott Littleton, who have written several articles and books about the man, as well as the 2004 movie King Arthur (the plot of which is loosely based on Malcor and Littleton’s hypotheses about Lucius Artorius Castus, and for which Dr. Malcor worked as a consultant) – I have decided to gather together on this page as much information as I can find on the two (possibly three) Latin inscriptions which provide us all that is known about this ancient Roman solder.

Because of the mystery surrounding the date of his floruit (estimates have ranged from the mid-2nd to late 3rd century AD) and his alleged Arthurian connection (first suggested by the American scholar Kemp Malone in 1925), Lucius Artorius Castus (hereafter “LAC”) has come to take on an almost legendary quality, especially on the internet; yet few people (including numerous respectable scholars) seem to have examined these two primary sources with any kind of critical eye. The fact is, we have no secure means of dating LAC’s career at this time; his inscriptions offer no references to any other historical figures, nor do they mention any datable campaigns. We are not even completely certain about the translation of the inscriptions – not only do they make extensive use of abbreviations, some of which have multiple possible expansions, but both inscriptions have suffered damage over the centuries and now portions of the inscriptions are either illegible or completely missing. It is important to remember that, for the reasons just mentioned, all modern expansions and translations of the inscriptions are of a partially hypothetical nature.

It is my hope that this page will offer a clear picture of what the inscriptions do – and don’t – say and help to dispel some of the more tenacious myths surrounding LAC’s interesting career, notably that he lead an expedition of British troops against the Armoricans in the late 2nd century AD; the evidence points rather to him leading “Britannicine” or “Britannician”* troops in an expedition against the Armenians (perhaps during emperor Lucius Verus’ Armenian war of 161-166 AD – see the Commentary section below). If Artorius did participate in Verus’ Armenian war, this demolishes the popular speculation (which never had any evidence to support it in the first place) that Artorius commanded Sarmatians – in Britain, or anywhere else – as the Sarmatians were not defeated in Central Europe and forced to send a levy of troops to Britain until 175 AD, more than a decade after Artorius would have (permanently) left Britain.

*either detachments from the the three legions stationed in Britain in the late 2nd-3rd centuries AD, or units similar in nature to the ala/cohors Britannica [milliaria cives Romanorum] (mentioned in numerous inscriptions), or the legio Brittan(n)icin(a) ([CIL 3, 3228], commemorated in an inscription from Pannonia; see below) that had been formerly stationed (and gained notoriety) in Britain before reassignment to the Continent; judging from the limited inscriptional evidence where national origin is mentioned, ethnic Britons seem not to have been a major component of these units. During LAC’s lifetime many of these “Britannic” units were stationed in Pannonia or in other regions along the Danube). See: David Kennedy, “The ‘ala I’ and ‘cohors I Britannica'”, Britannia, Vol. 8, 1977, pp. 249-255; Geoffrey D. Tully, A Fragment of a Military Diploma for Pannonia Found in Northern England?, Britannia, Vol. 36 (2005), pp. 375-382; A. Sadler, “British Auxiliary Troops in the Roman Service”, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, Vol. 26, London, 1870, pp. 221-236

2. Reading The Inscriptions:

Source Abbreviations:

  • CIL = Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum
  • D = H. Dessau, “Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae”, Berlin 1892-1916
  • IDRE = C.C. Petolescu, “Inscriptiones Daciae Romanae. Inscriptiones extra fines Daciae repertae”, Bukarest 1996
  • PIR = Elimar Klebs, Hermann Dessau, “Prosopographia imperii romani saec. I. II. III”, Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, p. 155

Inscription 1: Funerary Memorial

Find Location: Podstrana / Pituntium (Peguntium) [Listed in some sources as having been found nearby at Stobrec / Epetium]

Province: Dalmatia/Liburnia

Epigraphic Sources: CIL 3, 1919

Inscription Type: Cursus Honorum / Funerary Memorial

Inscription Date: Late 2nd through 3rd century AD (estimated)

Discovery Date: 1850 (left fragment first published by Croatian archaeologist Francesco Carrara in  “De’ Scavi di Salona nel 1850: Con cinque tavole”, Teof. Haase, 1852, p. 23; right fragment published by Theodor Mommsen (ed.), Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum: Inscriptiones Asiae provinciarum Europae graecarum Illyrici latinae. Inscriptiones Aegypti et Asiae ; Inscriptiones provinciarum Europae graecarum ; Inscriptionum Illyrici partes I-V comprehendens, Volume 3, part 1, Berlin, George Reimer, p. 303, 1919; based on a description provided by Professor Giovanni Danilo from the museum of Zadar [Zara], Croatia). Both fragments were later published by Thomas G. Jackson in “Dalmatia, the Quarnero and Istria”, Vol. II, Oxford, 1887, Ch. XV, Almissa, pp. 166-167.

LAC-1 as read by Carrara
Left side of inscription as read by Fr. Carrara in 1850.
Mommsen's reading of LAC-1
Mommsen’s edition of both fragments, with the reading of the right side provided by professor Giovanni Danilo of the museum of Zadar.

Thomas Graham Jackson, “Dalmatia, the Quarnero and Istria”, Vol. II, Oxford, 1887, Ch. XV, Almissa, pp. 166-167:
“…in the churchyard wall of S. Martino in Postrana, a hamlet a few miles farther on, are two large fragments of a Roman mortuary inscription within an enriched border, broken and imperfect, and built into the wall upside down. I had no time to copy it, and am indebted to Professor Bulić of Spalato for this transcript which he tells me is more correct than that published in the Corpus Inscript. Lat.[1]”

[1] Mommsen, Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, iii. No. 1919

Jackson (1887) transcript of inscription 1

LAC Inscription 1
LAC Inscription 1
LAC-1-Trace
Traced text on the main LAC inscription

Transcription:

Ligatures noted with underlines; “7” stands for the symbol used to indicate “centurion”.

D ……………………………………………………………..M
L ARTORI[…………………………………..]STVS 7 LEG
III GALLICAE ITEM […………………..]G VI FERRA
TAE ITEM 7 LEG II ADI[………….]TEM 7 LEG V M
C ITEM P P EIVSDEM [……………..] PRAEPOSITO
CLASSIS MISENATIVM […………….]AEFF LEG VI
VICTRICIS DVCI LEGG [………….]M BRITANICI
MIARVM ADVERSVS ARM[….]S PROC CENTE
NARIO PROVINCIAE LI[…………….…] GLADI VI
VVS IPSE SIBI ET SVIS […………………]ST[……….]

Proposed Expansion:

D(is) M(anibus)
L(ucius) Artori[us Ca]stus centurioni leg(ionis)
III Gallicae item [centurioni le]g(ionis) VI Ferra-
-tae item centurioni leg(ionis) II Adi[ut(ricis) (P{iae} F{idelis}?) i]tem centurioni leg(ionis) V M[a]-
-c(edonicae) item p(rimo) p(ilo) eiusdem [leg(ionis)] praeposito
classis Misenatium [pr]aef{f}(ecto) leg(ionis) VI
Victricis duci legg(ionum) [triu]m Britan(n)ici-
{an}arum adversus Arm[enio]s* proc(uratori) cente-
-nario provinciae Li[burniae iure] gladi(i) vi-
-vus ipse sibi et suis [… ex te]st[amento]

*CG: Another possible, albeit unlikely (in my opinion), reconstruction is Arm(orico)s.

Normalized Expansion: Translation (click the links for external articles on the keywords):
Dis Manibus To/for the Divine Shades
Lucius Artorius Castus Lucius Artorius Castus
[ex] Centurioni legionis III Gallicae (for the former) Centurion of legion III Gallica
item Centurioni legionis VI Ferratae also Centurion of legion VI Ferrata
item Centurioni legionis II Adiutricis (Piae Fidelis) also Centurion of legion II Adiutrix (Pia Fidelis)
item Centurioni legionis V Macedonicae (alt: M[acedonicae] C[onstantis]) also Centurion of legion V Macedonica (Constans)
item Primo Pilo eiusdem legionis also Primus Pilus of the same legion
Praeposito Classis Misenatium Provost [Praepositus] of the Classis of Misenum [fleet of Misenum]
Praefecto legionis VI Victricis Camp Prefect [Praefectus (Castrorum)] of legion VI Victrix
Duci legionum trium Britan(n)ici{an}arum adversus Armenios (alt: Armoricos) Leader/Conductor [Dux] of (vexillations/detachments of) the three “Brittannician” legions against the Armenians (alt: Armoricans)
Procuratori Centenario provinciae Liburniae iure gladii; Procurator Centenarius of the province of Liburnia with the power of the sword [jus gladii];
vivus ipse sibi et suis ex testamento in his life/living himself, [he dedicated the monument] for himself and his own [family] as stipulated/according to [his] will.

Notes:

The case switches from nominative in the introductory invocation (D[is] M[anibus] Lucius Artorius Castus) to the dative in the cursus honorum portion. While this might seem unusual on a memorial inscription (normally the same case is maintained throughout such inscriptions), it is not without precedent on other inscriptions. Lucius Artorius Castus tells us that he was alive [vivus] when this inscription was commissioned, according to his will (ex testamento), so the nominative is expected in the opening phrase,* and the shift to dative for the cursus honorum is easily enough explained by implying the word ex “former” before the first instance of the symbol for centurion (here rendered as 7). Whether the omission of ex by the stonecutter was a matter of conserving space (note that the stonecutter made use of numerous space-saving ligatures on the inscription) or simply an error (as with the unexpected double FFs in PRAEFF and the misspelling BRITANICIMIARUM for *Britan[n]icianarum) shall remain a mater of debate.

*Lawrence Keppie. (1991). Understanding Roman Inscriptions, Johns Hopkins, p. 107: "From the mid first century AD onwards a new formula became popular: the inscription now began with the words DIS MANIBUS (‘To the Spirits of the Dead’), followed by the name of the deceased. When the formula first came into use, the words were fully written out, but they were soon abbreviated, to DIS MAN and then to D M. The name of the deceased can be given in the genitive case (so that the invocation is made to the spirit of the departed individual). The name can also appear in the dative case—there the dedication is both to the spirits of the departed in general, and to the particular individual. The name is found also in the nominative case, so that the phrase Dis Manibus serves solely as an introductory invocation... Often, as already observed, the person commemorated had the stone cut or the monument erected during his lifetime. This is made clear by an inscription which has the name in the nominative case, and concludes with the words vivus sibi fecit (‘had it made for himself while still living’)."

Inscription 2: Plaque

Find Location: Pituntium (Peguntium) / Podstrana [Also listed as being discovered between Spalatum (Split) and Almissa (Omis) (additionally: “Ora a Narentae ostiis ad Salonas” , “on the coast by the mouth of the river Neretva, towards Solin”)]

Province: Dalmatia/Liburnia

Epigraphic Sources: CIL 3, 14224 (=12791).

Inscription Type: Cursus Honorum Memorial Memorial Plaque

Inscription Date: Late 2nd through 3rd century AD (estimated)

Discovery Date: 1850 (published in part by Croatian archaeologist Francesco Carrara in  “De’ Scavi di Salona nel 1850: Con cinque tavole”, Teof. Haase, 1852, p. 23)

LAC 2 by Carrara
Second LAC Inscription (right side) – read by Carrara.
LAC-2_Bulić_1893
A reading of fragments of the second LAC inscription from F. Bulić published in 1893 [F. Bulic, Inscrizioni Inedite, Peguntium, (Podstrana di Poljios), no. 131, in: Supplemente al n. 11 del “Bull. di arch. e stor. dalm.” a. 1893, p. 178.] – note the reading of [PR]AEFFEC[T]US with two -FF-s, as in the main inscription. Not found in other transcriptions of the fragment – see below.
LAC-Ins2-sketch
Second LAC Inscription – sketch by F. Bulic
LAC-Ins2-frag
Surviving fragment of second LAC inscription – photo by N. Cambi

TRANSCRIPTION:

L • ARTORIVS
CASTVS • P • P
LEG • V MAC • PR
AEF{F}EC[.]VS • LE[.]
VI • VICTRIC •

PROPOSED EXPANSION:

L(ucius) Artorius
Castus, p(rimus) p(ilus)
leg(ionis) V Mac[(edonicae)] pr-
-aef{f}ec(t)us leg(ionis)
VI Victric(is)

Normalized Expansion: Translation (click the links for external articles on the keywords):
Lucius Artorius Castus Lucius Artorius Castus
Primus Pilus legionis V Macedonicae Primus Pilus of legion V Macedonica
Praef{f}ectus [castrorum] legionis VI Victricis [Camp] Prefect [Praefectus] of legion VI Victrix

Inscription 3: Signet Ring

This is possibly a false lead, but included for curiosity’s sake. Without further information on the inscription, we cannot say whether or not it refers to our Lucius Artorius Castus, or simply another man of the same name.

The inscription (which is on a signet ring/stamp) was discovered in Rome in the late 18th century by antiquarian and cleric Giuseppe Lelli and published by Gaetano Marini, prefect of the Vatican Library, an avid collector of ancient inscriptions. E. Stein seems to regard the inscription as the genuine property of our Lucius Artorius Castus.

Find Location: Roma/Rome

Province: Roma

Epigraphic Sources:

Inscription Type: “signaculum aeneum” (molded bronze stamp, equipped with a ring on the back; rectangular with flange)

Inscription Date: Unknown

Discovery Date: Late 18th to Early 19th century (by the antiquarian and cleric Giuseppe Lelli of Rome)

Sketch of potential third LAC inscription
Sketch of potential third LAC inscription

READING:

LVCI

ARTORI

CASTI

Translation:

“(belonging to) Lucius Artorius Castus”


3. Commentary (CHRONOLOGICAL – all emphases mine):

Johan Gabriel Seidl, II. Beiträge zu einer Chronik der archaeologischen Funde in der österreichischen Monarchie, Archiv für Kunde österreichischer Geschichts-Quellen, Herausgegeben von der zur Pflege vaterländischer Geschichte aufgestellen Commission der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Dreizehnter Band, Wien, 1854, pp. 142-143. https://books.google.com/books?id=HgTquJxVj7cC&pg=RA1-PA142#v=onepage&q&f=false

“Die drittletzte Zeile der Inschrift spielt auf eine Expedition gegen Armenien an, vielleicht auf diejenige, welche im J. 115 n Chr unter Trajan stattfand.”

[Trans: “The third last line of the inscription alludes to an expedition against Armenia, perhaps the one that took place in AD 115 under Trajan.”]


Emil Hübner,  Exercitus Britannicus (Hermes XVI, 1881, p. 521ff.) http://books.google.com/books?id=Xoge2jS-d-4C&printsec=titlepage&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=&f=false

“Legio VI Victrix…….Praefect der Legion und Führer derselben zugleich mit einer Anzahl Cohorten und Alen in einer Überseeischen Expedition (vielleicht gegen Armoricaner oder Armenier) war Artorius Justus* [CIL III 1919]”

[Trans: “Legio VI Victrix….Praefect of the legion and leader of the same, together with a number of cohorts and alae in an overseas expedition (perhaps against the Armoricans or Armenians), was Lucius Artorius Justus (CIL III 1919)]

CG: note that LAC’s name was initially reconstructed as L. Artorius Iustus before the full memorial plaque inscription from Podstrana was pieced together and identified with him. It is interesting that Hübner recognized in 1881 the possibility that the mutilated word should be read as (adversus) *Armenios (“[against the] Armenians”).


Francis Haverfield, “The Romanization of Roman Britain” (Oxford, 1912, p. 65)

“It is this Celtic revival which can best explain the history of Britannia minor, Brittany across the seas in the western extremity of Gaul. How far this region had been Romanized during the first four centuries seems uncertain. Towns were scarce in it, and country-houses, though not altogether infrequent or insignificant, were unevenly distributed. At some period not precisely known, perhaps in the first half or the middle of the third century, it was in open rebellion, and the commander of the Sixth Legion (at York), one Artorius Justus, was sent with a part of the British garrison to reduce it to obedience.1

Notes:
1: C. iii. 1919=Dessau 2770. The inscription must be later than (about) A.D. 200, and it somewhat resembles another inscription (C. iii. 3228) of the reign of Gallienus, which mentions milites vexill. leg. Germanicar. et Britannicin. cum auxiliis earum*. Presumably it is either earlier than the Gallic Empire of 258-73, or falls between that and the revolt of Carausius in 287. The notion of O. Fiebiger (_De classium Italicarum historia_, in Leipziger Studien, xv. 304) that it belongs to the Aremoric revolts of the fifth century is, I think, wrong. Such an expedition from Britain at such a date is incredible.

*CG: From the Clauss Slaby database:

CIL 03, 3228 (p 2328,182) = D 00546
Province: Pannonia inferior
Place: Sremska Mitrovica / Sirmium

[Io]vi / Monitori {p}ro salute adque incolumitate d(omini) n(ostri) Gallieni Aug(usti) et militum vexill(ationum) legg(ionum) G]ermaniciana[r(um)] [e]t Brittan(n)icin(arum) [cu]m auxili(i)s [e]arum [… V]italianus [pro]tect(or?) Aug(usti) n(ostri) [praepo]situs


J. J. Wilkes, Dalmatia, Volume 2 of History of the provinces of the Roman Empire, Harvard University Press, 1969, pp. 328-9

“The Artorii owned property in the Poljica area of the Salona territory in the late second or third century. They were a family of Italian origin, possibly from the south, but but there is no definite evidence when they became established at Salona. None are known in the first century and their position may derive from the distinguished army officer and administrator L. Artorius Castus, attested on two inscriptions from Pituntium, perhaps of the late second century. Like Turbo he began as a legionary centurion with posts in Legion II Gallica, VI Ferrata (both in the east), II Adiutrix at Acquincum, and V Macedonica, which was probably then stationed at Potaissa in Dacia. After a period as temporary commander (praepositus) of the Misenum Fleet he was appointed camp prefect of Legion VI Victrix at Eboracum in Britannia, in effect deputy commander. From this post he was sent as field commander (dux) of a task force drawn from two of the three British legions to deal with trouble in Armorica (Brittany), whose independent population had often caused trouble to the imperial authorities.”

“There is no evidence to date the career of Artorius Castus precisely, but for an equestrian to be entrusted with such a mission was, although not unparalleled, very unusual and he may have been an appointment of the praetorian prefect Perennis early under Commodus. He is known to have used equestrians in preference to senators as legionary commanders, a practice which probably contributed to his downfall in 185. Artorius Castus’ last post was in Dalmatia, as special governor (procurator iure gladii) of Liburnia. No other person is attested as holding such a post, which must have represented an infringement of the power of the consular senator governing Dalmatia. It may have been another appointment made by Perennis. Even allowing for the confusion which must have followed the Marcomannic War one would hardly have expected trouble in Liburnia, the most urbanized area of the province. At this time he may have acquired property at Salona and have retired to live there when his appointment in Liburnia ended. He has no connection with the city recorded on his inscriptions nor, are any relatives mentioned. ”


Xavier Loriot, “Un mythe historiographique : l’expédition d’Artorius Castus contre les Armoricains” (Bulletin de la Société nationale des antiquaires de France‎, 1997), Pg. 85-86

“Une inscription funéraire d’Epetium, près de Salone (Dalmatie), nous a conserve la carrière d’un chevalier romain du nom de L. Artorius Castus. Parmi  les fonctions exercées par ce personage figure un commandement militaire exceptionnel, indiqué, au datif, sous la form suivante: duci legg(ionum c[ohort(ium) alaru]um Britanicimiarum – sic pour Britannicianarum – aduersus Arm[oricano]s. Tel est du moins le texte que proposa Mommsen lorsqu’il inséra cette inscription au C.I.L., III, 1919 = 8153 = 12813, et cette lecture hasardeuse, qui néglige le fait que les Armoricains, en tant que peuple, s’appellent en latin Armorici et non Armoricani, fut dès lors adoptée par tous les editeurs ou commentateurs du texte, en particulier par H. Dessau et H-G Pflaum. Or la photographie procurée en 1980 par Julijan Medini fait apparaître que la lacune où a disparu la partie centrale du mot commençant par ARM ne peut comporter plus de trois ou quatre lettres, ce qui exclut la lecture de Mommsen, fût-elle corrigée en aduersus Arme[nio]s. En outre la première édition du document, par les soins de F. Carrara, montre que juste avant la cassure on déchiffrait non pas seulement un M mais les deux lettres ME en ligature. La lecture qui semble s’imposer est donc aduersus Arme[nio]s. Ainsi, Artorius Castus aura-t-il commandé un détachement de l’armée de Bretagne lors d’une expédition contre l’Arménie. En ce qui concerne la datation, il apparaît clairement que le monument est plus tardif que ne le croyait H.-G. Pflaum, qui voulait l’attribuer au règne de Commode.”

“Les parallèles épigraphiques montrent sans équivoque que le formulaire utilisé appartient au IIIe siècle. Des fonctions telles que praepositus classis ou procurator iure gladii ne se rencontrent pas avant l’èpoque sévérienne et la première mention datée d’un dux legg(ionum) se situe sous Philippe l’Arabe (244-249)*. Il est possible que l’expédition à laquelle participa Artorius Castus soit celle que mena Caracalla en 215 sous la conduite du « danseur » Theocritus et qui, selon Dio Cassius (LXXVIII, 21), se solda par un grave échec. Mais on ne peut exclure une datation plus tardive, par example à l’époque de Sévère Alexandre, sous le règne duquel, d’après un inscription de Tomi (Mésie inférieure), un officier équestre, P. Aelius Hammonius, fut chargé de conduire des opérations ἐν παρατάξει Ἀρμενιακῇ,** voire plus avant dans le IIIe siècle. En tout état de cause, la «révolte de Armoricains» dont parlent plusieurs ouvrages et article récents perd tout support textual et semble devoir être releguée au rang des mythes.”

*CG: Here is the inscription, from the Clauss-Slaby database:
CIL 06, 01645 (p 854, 3163, 3811, 4725) = D 02773 = IDRE-01, 00019 =
EAOR-01, 00026 = AE 1965, +00223
Province: Roma
Locat:ion Roma

praef(ecto)]
veh[icul(orum) proc(uratori)]
lud(i) ma[gni proc(uratori)]
Lusit(aniae) trib(uno) p[raet(orianorum)]
Philipporum A[ugg(ustorum)]
p(rimo) p(ilo) duci legg(ionum) Dac(iae)
|(centurioni) corn(iculario) praeff(ectorum) pr(aetorio)

**CG: From the Packard Humanities Institute’s Searchable Greek Inscriptions database (IG X) IScM II 106 IScM II 105 IScM II 107 Belegstelle: IGRRP-01, 00623 = IScM-02, 00106

Province: Moesia inferior / Scythia Minor
Location: Tomis (Constanța) — Porta Albă —
Date: 238-244 AD — cf. SEG 26.838

ἀγαθῆι τύχηι· Πόπλ(ιον) Αἴλ(ιον) Ἀμμώνιον τὸν κράτιστον ἐπίτροπον τοῦ Σεβ(αστοῦ), πράξαντὰ τὴν ἐπαρχείαν πιστῶς, ἔπαρχον χώρτης Ἑσπάνων, τριβοῦνον χώρτης αʹ Γερμάνων, ἡγησάμενον στρατιωτικοῦ ἐν παρατάξει Ἀρμενιακῇ στρατιωτῶν ἐπαρχείας Καππαδόκων ἔπαρχον ἄλης αʹ Φλ(αουίας) Γετούλων ἡγησάμενον στρατιωτικοῦ τῆς ἐπαρχείας ταύτης ἔπαρχον κλάσσης Φλ(αουίας) Μυσικῆς Γορδιανῆς Κατυλλεῖνος ἀπελεύθερος τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοκράτορος Μ(άρκου) Ἀντ(ωνίου) Γορδιανοῦ Σεβ(αστοῦ) λιβράριος τὸν ἑαυτοῦ (vacat) πραιπόσιτον.


Linda Malcor, Heroic Age, Vol 1 (Spring/Summer 1999); Vol 2 (Autumn/Winter 1999)
Lucius Artorius Castus: Part I: An Officer and an Equestian

Lucius Artorius Castus: Part II: The Battles in Britain

CG: It is my opinion that Linda Malcor’s biography of LAC is error-laden and relies too much on wild speculation to be used as a credible source. For an excellent critique of her flawed scholarship, see : http://tonykeen.blogspot.com/2005/02/king-of-who.html

See also Bradley Skeen’s 2020 paper cited below.


Anthony Birley, “The Roman Government of Britain” (Oxford, 2005, p. 355) http://books.google.com/books?id=6XWwoXWBdSYC&pg=PA355

A funerary inscription from Epetium, near Salone in Dalmatia, records the career of Lucius Artorius Castus, who had been prefect of the legion VI Victrix and then commander of a task force of two British legions against a people whose name used to be restored as Arm[oricano]s, that is the Armoricans of western Gaul:

D(is) [M(anibus)
L(ucius) Artori[us Ca]stus, 7 leg(ionis)
III Gallicae, item [7 le]g(ionis) VI Ferra-
-tae, item 7 leg(ionis) II Adi[utricis i]tem 7 leg(ionis) V M[a]
c(edonicae), item p(rimus) p(ilus) eiusdem [leg(ionis)], praeposito
classis Misenatium, [item pr]aef(ecto) leg(ionis) VI
Victricis, duci legg (=legionum) [duaru]m Britanici-
-miarum (sic) adversus Arme[nio]s, proc(uratori) cente-
-nario provinciae Li[burniae iure] gladi vi-
-vus ipse sibi et suis […]st

“To the divine shades, Lucius Artorius Castus, centurion of the Third Legion Gallica, also centurion of the Sixth Legion Ferrata, also centurion of the Second Legion Adiutrix, also centurion of the Fifth Legion Macedonica, also chief centurion [CG: primus pilus] of the same legion, in charge of the Misenum fleet, prefect of the Sixth Legion Victrix, commander of two British legions against the Armenians, centenary procurator of Liburnia with the power of the sword. He himself (set this up) for himself and his family in his lifetime.”

“This command over the task force of British legions has frequently been dated to the reign of Commodus and associated with the ‘deserters war’ in that reign.80 However, the improved reading by Loriot shows that Arme[nio]s, the Armenians, must be restored in line 7. Hence  the context is an eastern expedition, most probably either under Caracalla in 215 (cf. Dio 77.21) or Severus Alexander.81″

Notes:
80. See. e.g. Pflaum, CP, no. 196, followed by Dobson, Primipilares, no. 151, and others. K. Malone, Modern Philology 22 (1925), 367ff., even suggested that Artorius Castus’supposed expedition to Armorica might be the historical kernel of the Arthurian legend. The idea still seems to be viewed positively by N. J. Higham, King Arthur: Myth-Making and History (2002), 75 f., 96, cf. 268. It must now lapse.

81. X. Loriot, BSNAF (1997), 855ff., refers to the photograph published by J. Medini, Diadora, 9 (1980), 363 ff. For operations in Armenia under Severus Alexander he cites IGR i. 623 = ILS 8851, Tomi.


Marie-Henriette Quet, “La “crise” de l’Empire romain de Marc Aurèle à Constantin” (Paris, 2006, p. 339): http://books.google.com/books?id=g0OQ9XVoR7sC&pg=PA339

Il est arrivé, en certaines circonstances, que des Britanniciani soient envoyés sur le front d’Orient, comme le révèle, sous Caracalla ou Sévère Alexandre, l’ inscription funéraire de L. Artorius Castus, dux legg(ionum) c(hortium) [alaru]m(?)  Britanici<an>arum adversus Arme[nio]s.65  Mais, en l’ occurrence, il semble plutôt que l’état-major ait préferé détacher les vexillations bretonnes en Gaule et en Pannonie, permettant le glissement vers l’Est de troupes prélevées sur limes rhéno-danubien.

Notes: 65. CIL, III, 1919 = 8153 = 12813 (= Dessau, ILS, 2770 et add., p. cixxx). L’interpretation du cursus par Pflaum 1960, I, p. 535-537, no 196, ne peut plus être retenue et doit être corrigée suite â la révision de la pierre par J. Medini 1980, p. 363-434 : voir â sujet Loriot 1997, p. 85-87. La photographie montre que la lacune où Mommsen et tous ses successeurs ont restitué aduersus Arm(oricano)s ne peut comporter que 3 ou 4 lettres. Il fau en revenir au texte du premier éditeur, Francesco Carrara, qui déchiffrait avant la cassure un M et un E en ligature (Carrara 1851, p. 23 no ix), et lire aduersus Arme(nio)s. Il pourrait être question de l’expédition lancée par Caracalla en 215 (Dion Cassius, LXXVII, 21).


Guido Migliorati, Iscrizioni per la ricostruzione storica dell’Impero romano da Marco Aurelio a Commodo, EDUCatt, Milan, 2011, pp. 427-428:

CG: on the debate over the reading Arm[enio]s vs, Arm[oric(an)o]s, Migliorati offers the following, though he fails to even consider that the inscription might actually date to the late second century AD and that LAC’s expedition against the Armenians took place during Lucius Verus’ Armenian and Parthian war of 161-166, which undermines his dismissal of the Arm[enio]s reading:

“Tuttavia è proprio questo supplemento alla linea 8 di CIL III, 1919 che non convince, ad esempio, X. Loriot (cfr. BSAF 1997, pp. 85-87): T. Mommsen in CIL III, p. 303 aveva proposto di integrare la lacuna centrale con Arm[oricano]s in base allo spazio disponibile, annotando che tale supposizione non sembrava incontrare ostacoli così come non pareva si potessero intavvedere soluzioni alternative; dunque le notizie successive relative al titulus di Epetium conservarono Arm[oricano]s (cfr. CIL III, 8513.12813). Invece X. Loriot, facendo riferimento alla documentazione recentemente prodotta circa il support materiale da parte di J. Medini, avanza l’ipotesi che anche il supplemento Arm[enio]s sia possibile: del resto l’iscrizione di Tomis IGRR I, 623=ILS, 8851 (SEG XXVI, 838) assicura che P. Elio Ammonio – prefetto della flotta mesica sotto Gordiano III – rivestì l’incarico, corpo d’armata tratto dagli effettivi di quella provincia e spedito in procinctu Armeniaco senza dubbio durante la guerra persiana di Severo Alessandro. Forse anche L. Artorio Casto operò con vexillationes britanniche in Armenia intorno al 230 d.C.; eppure anche se davvero Armoricanus compare in fonti latine tarde, comunque sembra d’ostacolo alla ricostruzione sopra sintetizzata il fatto che secondo Herodian. 4, 5, 1 gli Armeni erano φίλοι (alleati) di Severo Alessandro: una campagna adversus Arm[enio]s nel 230 d.C. risulterebbe dunque perlomeno strana, e, se si esclude il contesto della guerra persiana di Gordiano III poiché l’Armenia in questo caso non venne coinvolta, non resta che la guerra partica di Caracalla del 215 d.C. Ma anche in questo caso, nonostante Cassio Dione 77(78), 18, 1 menzionasse esplicitamente un πόλεμος armeniaco, non risulta che reparti legionari britannici siano stati trasferiti sul teatro di operazioni militari in Oriente.”

“A favore della cronologia “commodiana” del cursus di L. Artorio Casto gioca invece l’incarico di procuratore da lui rivestito; innanzitutto la Liburnia. Che tale settore della provincia di Dalmazia godesse di una certa autonomia è noto, ma che un procuratore ne curasse l’amministrazione investito del ius gladi – al pari di un legatus Augusti o di un praeses di provincia – unitamente al fatto che tale incarico sembra fosse stato istituito per la prima volta in quell’occasione, come dimostrerebbe la specificazione centenario per esteso, ha indotto gli studiosi a spiegare tale provvedimento in relazione alla responsabilità di Cleandro nel gestire arbitrariamente l’assegnazione o il tipo di incarichi militari e amministrativi, nonché alla necessità di affi dare ad un militare esperto ed originario del luogo il compito di ripulire la Liburnia da briganti e pirati.”

CG: Rough translation:

“However, it is precisely this supplement to line 8 of CIL III, 1919 that is not convincing, for example, X. Loriot (see BSAF 1997, pp. 85-87): T. Mommsen in CIL III, p. 303 had proposed to supplement the central lacuna with Arm[oricano]s on the basis of the available space, noting that this supposition did not seem to encounter obstacles as it did not seem that alternative solutions could be envisaged; therefore the subsequent information relating to the titulus (“inscription”) of Epetium preserved Arm[oricano]s (cfr. CIL III, 8513.12813). Instead X. Loriot, referring to the documentation recently produced about the supporting material by J. Medini, puts forward the hypothesis that the supplement Arm[enio]s is also possible: after all, the inscription of Tomis IGRR I, 623 = ILS, 8851 (SEG XXVI, 838) assures that P. Aelius Ammonius – prefect of the Moesian fleet under Gordian III – held the post, an army corps drawn from the troops of that province and sent on an Armenian military engagement (“in procinctu”) without doubt during the Persian War of Severus Alexander. Perhaps also L. Artorius Castus worked with British vexillationes in Armenia around 230 AD; and yet even if Armoricanus really does appear in late Latin sources, the fact that according to Herodian, 4, 5, 1, the Armenians were φίλοι [philoi] (allies) of Severus Alexander: a campaign adversus Arm[enio]s in 230 AD it would therefore be at least strange, and, if we exclude the context of the Persian war of Gordian III since Armenia in this case was not involved, all that remains is the Parthian war of Caracalla of 215 AD. But even in this case, although Cassius Dio 77 (78), 18, 1 explicitly mentioned an Armenian πόλεμος [polemos, “war”], it does not appear that British legionary units have been transferred to the theater of military operations in the East.”

“In favor of the “Commodian” chronology of the cursus of L. Artorius Castus, however, he plays the role of procurator covered by him; first of all Liburnia. It is known that this sector of the province of Dalmatia enjoyed a certain autonomy, but that a procurator took care of the administration invested with the ius gladi (“power of the sword”) – like a legatus Augusti or a praeses (“governor”) of the province – together with the fact that this position seems to have been established for the first time on that occasion, as the full centenary specification would demonstrate, has led scholars to explain this provision in relation to Cleandro’s responsibility in arbitrarily managing the assignment or type of military and administrative assignments, as well as the need to entrust an experienced and native military with the task of cleansing Liburnia of brigands and pirates.”


Guy Halsall, Worlds of Arthur: Facts and Fictions of the Dark Ages, Oxford 2013, pp. 147-151

CG: Halsall examines LAC’s inscription and career; he supports the Armenios reading and dismantles Malcor et al.’s Arthurian-Scythian/Sarmatian/Alanic connection hypothesis.


Cambi, Nenad, “Lucije Artorije Kast: njegovi grobišni areal i sarkofag u Podstrani (Sveti Martin) kod Splita”, in: N. Cambi, J. Matthews (eds.), Lucius Artorius Castus and the King Arthur Legend: Proceedings of the International Scholarly Conference from 30th of March to 2nd of April 2012, Split : Književni krug Split, 2014, pp. 29-40.

Miletić, Željko, “Lucius Artorius Castus i Liburnia”, in: N. Cambi, J. Matthews (eds.), Lucius Artorius Castus and the King Arthur Legend: Proceedings of the International Scholarly Conference from 30th of March to 2nd of April 2012, Split : Književni krug Split, 2014, pp. 111-130.

Glavičić, Miroslav , “Artorii u Rimskoj Provinciji Dalmaciji”, in: N. Cambi, J. Matthews (eds.), Lucius Artorius Castus and the King Arthur Legend: Proceedings of the International Scholarly Conference from 30th of March to 2nd of April 2012, Split : Književni krug Split, 2014, pp. 59-70.

Three Croatian archaeologists, Nenad Cambi, Željko Miletić, and Miroslav Glavičić, examined the LAC inscriptions in 2012, as part of an international conference on Lucius Artorius Castus organized by authors Linda Malcor and John Matthews.

Cambi proposes that Lucius Artorius Castus’ career can be dated to the late 2nd century AD and his death to the late 2nd, or perhaps early 3rd century AD.

Glavičić dates Lucius Artorius Castus’s military career to the middle- through late-2nd century AD and proposes that he was the first governor of the province of Liburnia, which Glavičić suggests was only established as a separate province from Dalmatia circa 184-185 AD.

Miletić dates Lucius Artorius Castus’s military career to circa 121-166 AD and his procuratorship of the province of Liburnia to circa 167-174 AD.

Cambi, Miletić, and Glavičić all accept the reading ‘‘(adversus) Armenios”, “against the Armenians” (with Cambi offering ‘‘Armorios” [an abbreviation of ”Armoric[an]os”] as an alternate possibility); Miletić places the expedition against the Armenians during emperor Lucius Verus’s Armenian war of 161-166 AD.


RSO Tomlin, Britannia Romana: Roman Inscriptions and Roman Britain, Oxbow, 2018 , pp. 155-157.

“Fifty years almost to the day separate the deaths of Antoninus Pius (7 March AD 161) and Septimius Severus (4 February AD 211). In this half-century the tide of Roman rule in northern Britain continues to ebb and flow as on a darkling plain. In AD 161 the new emperor Marcus Aurelius – like Hadrian at his accession – is said by his ancient biographer to have been threatened by war in Britain. His new governor was the formidable general Statius Priscus, but Marcus sent him to the East instead to cope with a much greater threat, the Parthian invasion of Syria. He also reinforced the eastern armies with three legions from the Danube, and it is likely that he told Priscus to take legionary reinforcements with him from Britain. The evidence is indirect, this tombstone from the eastern Adriatic coast:”

<7.01> Podstrana, Croatia (Epetium)
D(is) M(anibus)
L(ucius) Artori[us Ca]stus (centurio) leg(ionis)
III Gallicae item [(centurio) le]g(ionis) VI Ferratae
item (centurio) leg(ionis) II Adi[utr(icis) i]tem (centurio) leg(ionis) V M[a]- c(edonicae)
item p(rimus) p(ilus) eiusdem [leg(ionis)], praeposito(!)
classis Misenatium, [pr]aef(ectus) leg(ionis) VI
Victricis, duci(!) leg(ionum) [triu]m Britanici-
{mi}arum(!) adversus Arm[enio]s, proc(urator) centenario(!)
provinciae Li[b(urniae) iure] glad(i)I, vivus
ipse sibi et suis [… ex] t(estamento)
ILS 2770, with Loriot 1997

‘To the Shades of the Dead. Lucius Artorius Castus, centurion of the Third Legion Gallica, also centurion of the Sixth Legion Ferrata, also centurion of the Second Legion Adiutrix, also centurion of the Fifth Legion Macedonica, also the first-ranking centurion of the same legion, acting-commander of the Fleet at Misenum, prefect of the Sixth Legion Victrix, general of (detachments of) the three British legions against the Armenians, procurator at a salary of 100,000 (sesterces) of Liburnia with capital jurisdiction, (provided for this tomb) by the terms of his will, for himself and his family in his own lifetime.’

“The lettering is very fine, but the draughtsman or the stone-cutter made some mistakes. Although Artorius Castus (in the nominative) is clearly the subject, the case shifts to the dative in noting his posts of praeposito, duci and centenario, as if he had become his own dedicatee. praef(ectus) was cut as PRAEFF, although the repeated F should indicate a plural (‘prefects’), and BRITANICIMIARVM is a blunder for Britannicianarum. It is incidentally an example of the ‘continental’ spelling Britania (see note to 8.12). The inscription is undated, but the quality of the lettering and the well-executed band of lush ornament to left and right, twining scrolls inhabited by rosettes, would suggest it was Antonine (c. AD 140–90). Artorius Castus was an equestrian, but virtually governor of Liburnia, the coast and islands of modern Croatia, the only one attested. His salary of 100,000 sesterces set him in the second grade of procurators, above those who earned 60,000 (see note to 8.13), but he also exercised special authority: the ‘right of the sword’ (ius gladii) gave him jurisdiction in capital cases and the power of ordering executions. This would have infringed upon the powers of the senatorial legate of Dalmatia, of which Liburnia was part, and it is notable that his previous mission was also of a kind more often entrusted to senators.”

“This handsome slab is now broken into two pieces, with an irregular band of letters lost in the gap between them, but the name of the deceased can be restored with the help of another inscription from Epetium which names Lucius Artorius Castus as first-ranking centurion (primus pilus) of the Fifth Legion Macedonica and prefect of the Sixth Legion Victrix. This guarantees the restoration of ARTORI[VS CA]STVS across the gap in the first line (not counting D M, since it was cut outside the panel), and allows the gap to be measured: it narrows to two letters in the fifth line, the beginning of [PR]AEFF, before it widens again. In most lines some three or four letters have been lost, which means that the name of the province, LIBVRNIAE, must have been abbreviated; but, more importantly, that in the line above, only three or four letters have been lost from the name of Artorius Castus’ opponents, the ARM[…O]S. His post of dux legionum (‘general of legions’) means that he actually commanded, not whole legions, but elements of them, a ‘task force’ consisting of detachments drawn from the legions of a province. But who were his opponents?'”

“At this crucial point the first editor, Carrara in 1850, read ARME[…], which (since he did not read the right-hand piece and then restore Arme[nio]s) rather suggests that he saw the remains of E in the broken edge; but if so, they have since been lost. Mommsen, who did not see the original, restored it in CIL as ARM[ORICANO]S, which would imply a campaign, not against the ‘Armenians’, but the ‘Armoricans’ of Brittany. Since there is no other reference to such a campaign, and the seven letters required cannot be fitted into the space available, Mommsen’s restoration is difficult to accept, let alone the idea it has since inspired, the catalyst of much speculation, that Artorius Castus is the original ‘King Arthur’. Loriot was surely right to dismiss this as a modern myth when he reasserted ARME[NIO]S, even though he worked from poor photographs and (to repeat) there was no longer evidence of a decisive E. This campaign ‘against the Armenians’ has been attributed to the eastern wars of Caracalla or Severus Alexander, but the inscription looks earlier than the third century, and a more attractive attribution is to Statius Priscus’ invasion of Armenia in AD 163. This was so successful that Marcus Aurelius and his colleague Lucius Verus, the nominal commander-in-chief, assumed the title of Armeniacus (‘Conqueror of Armenia’). Statius Priscus, as already said, had just been transferred from governing Britain; that his army included British legionaries, under one of his own senior officers in Britain, Artorius Castus, is a brighter suggestion than to invoke the Celtic shades of ‘Arthurian’ legend.”


Nicholas J. Higham, King Arthur: The Making of the Legend, Yale, 2018, [LAC discussed on pp. 13-39; pp. 281-284]

CG: In his latest book on King Arthur, Higham offers a comprehensive analysis of LAC’s inscriptions and career. Higham supports the Arm[enio]s reading as well as the dating of LAC’s expedition adversus Arm[enio]s to Lucius Verus’ Armenian-Parthian war of 161-166 (additionally, on pp. 40-116, Higham demolishes Malcor and company’s Arthurian-Scythian/Sarmatian/Alanic hypothesis).


Skeen, Bradley, “L. Artorius Castus and King Arthur”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, Volume 48, Number 1 & 2, Spring/Summer 2020, pp. 61-75.

CG: Skeen review of Linda A. Malcor, Trinchese, Antonio, and Alessandro Faggiani, “Missing Pieces: A New Reading of the Main Lucius Artorius Castus Inscription”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, Volume 47, 2019, pp. 415-437. Skeen is highly critical of Malcor and company’s amateurish reading and translation of LAC’s inscriptions (along with their highly speculative-bordering-on-fantasy conclusions about LAC’s life and career). He offers his own analysis of LAC’s cursus honorum and concurs with Higham that ARM[ENIO]S is the most likely reading on the main inscription and that LAC was dux during Lucius Verus’ Armenian Parthian war of 161-166 AD.


4. Lucius Artorius Castus’ Career:

Centurio of Legio III Gallica

The first unit mentioned on LAC’s inscription is the legio III Gallica; for most of the 2nd and 3rd centuries the unit was stationed in Syria. LAC held the rank of centurion in this legion. Most Roman soldiers only achieved the rank of centurion after about 15-20 years of service, but it was not unknown for some politically connected civilians of the equestrian class to be directly commissioned as centurions upon entering the Army, though these directly-commissioned equestrian centurions (known as “ex equite Romano“) were in the minority.1 We cannot tell whether or not Artorius had a lengthy career as a legionary soldier before attaining the centurionate, or whether he was directly commissioned at this rank, as the vast majority of career centurion’s inscriptions do not mention any ranks that they might have held below the centurionate.2 Successful officer often omitted the record of any ranks lower than primus pilus, as LAC did on his smaller memorial plaque.3,4

Centurio of Legio VI Ferrata

From the middle of the 2nd century until at least the early 3rd century the legio VI Ferrata was stationed in Judea. LAC held the rank of centurion in this legion.

Centurio of Legio II Adiutrix

From the early 2nd century onward the legio II Adiutrix was based at Aquincum (modern Budapest) and took part in several notable campaigns against the Parthians, Marcomanni, Quadi and, in the mid-3rd century, the Sassanid empire. LAC held the rank of centurion in this legion.

Centurio and Primus Pilus of Legio V Macedonica

The legio V Macedonica was based in Dacia throughout the 2nd century and through most of the 3rd; the unit took part in battles against the Marcomanni, Sarmatians and Quadi. It was while serving as a centurion in this unit that LAC achieved the prestigious rank of Primus Pilus, the senior centurion of the legion. The Primi Pili were generally career soldiers of exceptional skill and advanced age, generally 45-50 years old.

Praepositus of the Misenum fleet

LAC next acted as Provost (Praepositus) of the Misenum fleet in Italy. This title (generally given to Equestrians) indicated a special command over a body of troops, but somewhat limited in action and subject to the Emperor’s control.5 It was a temporary command, similar in nature to dux (see below). It is possible that LAC commanded detachments from the fleet during some unknown naval mission.

Praefectus of Legio VI Victrix

The Legio VI Victrix was based in Britain from c. 122 AD onward, though their history during the 3rd c. AD is rather hazy. LAC’s position in the Legio VI Victrix, Prefect of the Legion (Praefectus Legionis), was equivalent to the Praefectus Castrorum.6 Men who had achieved this title were normally 50–60 years old and had been in the army most of their lives, working their way up through the lower ranks and the centurionate until they reached Primus Pilus (the rank seems to have been held exclusively by primipilares) 7,8. They acted as third-in-command to the legionary commander, the Legatus Legionis, and senior Tribunus (tribune) and could assume command in their absence.9,10 Their day-to-day duties included maintenance of the fortress and management of the food supplies, sanitation, munitions, equipment, etc.11,12 For most who had attained this rank, it would be their last before retirement.13 During battles, the Praefectus Castrorum normally remained at the unit’s home base with the reserve troops,14 so it is unlikely that LAC actually fought while serving in Britain.

It is interesting that the title is spelled (P)RAEFF on LAC’s sarcophagus – doubled or tripled letters at the end of abbreviated words on Latin inscriptions was often used to indicate two or three people holding a specific title, and some legions are known to have had multiple praefecti castrorum.15, 16 The title is given in the singular on the shorter memorial plaque, however, so we likely have a scribal error on the sarcophagus.

“Dux (of the Detachments) of the Three Britannician Legions” (Dux Legionum [triu]m Britan[n]ic{ian}arum)

Before finishing up his military career, LAC lead an expedition of some note as a Dux Legionum [triu]m Britan(n)ci{an}arum. A dux (literally “leader, conductor”) in the 2nd century AD was a temporary title accorded to officers who were acting in a capacity above their rank, either in command of a collection of troops (generally combined vexillations drawn from the legions of a province) in transit from one station to another, or in command of a complete unit (the former seems to be the case with LAC, seeing that the inscription mentions multiple units).17,18 Though the inscription does not specify that Artorius led detachments (as opposed to the entire legions), it can be inferred, as there are no records of multiple legions being removed from Britain in the mid-late 2nd century.

For many years it was believed that Artorius’ expedition was against the Armoricans (based on the reading ADVERSUS ARM[….]S, reconstructed as “adversus *Armorcianos” – “against the Armoricans” – by Theodor Mommsen in the CIL and followed by most subsequent editors of the inscription), but the earliest published reading of the inscription, made by the Croatian archaeologist Francesco Carrara (Italian) in 1850, was ADVERSUS ARME[….],19 with a ligatured ME (no longer visible on the stone, possibly due to weathering, since the stone has been exposed to the elements for centuries and was reused as part of a roadside wall next to the church of St. Martin in Podstrana; the mutilated word falls along the broken right-hand edge of the first fragment of the inscription). If Carrara’s reading is correct, the phrase is most likely to be reconstructed as “adversus *Armenios“, i.e. “against the Armenians”, since no other national or tribal name beginning with the letters *Arme- is known from this time period.20

It should be noted that the regional names Armoricani or Armorici are not attested in any other Latin inscriptions, whereas the country Armenia and derivatives such as the ethnic name Armenii and personal name Armeniacus are attested in numerous Latin inscriptions. Furthermore, no classical sources mention any military action taken against the Armorici/Armoricani (which was in origin a regional name that encompassed a number of different tribes who lived along the coast of Gaul [Gaulish *arimoricī literally means “coastal [people]”) in the 2nd or 3rd centuries. While there are literary references to (and a small amount of archaeological evidence for) minor unrest in northwestern Gaul during this time period – often referred to as, or associated with, the rebellion of the Bagaudae, there is no evidence that the Bagaudae were specifically associated with the Armorici/Armoricani, or any other particular tribe or region for that matter, making any possible reference to the Armorici/Armoricani somewhat strange (especially since Armorica was otherwise experience a period of prosperity in the late 2nd century AD (when Malcor, et al. believe that Artorius’ expedition took place). Armenia, on the other hand, was the location of several conflicts involving the Romans during the 2nd and 3rd centuries – notably emperor Lucius Verus’ and Marcus Aurelius’ Armenian and Parthian war of the 161-166 AD, which might suit Artorius’ timeframe well, for the governor of Britain at this time, M. Statius Priscus, was withdrawn from Britain to act as general in the war.

The alternate, “Armenian” translation was put forward as early as 1881 by the epigrapher and classical scholar Emil Hübner and most recently taken up again by the historian and epigrapher Xavier Loriot, who (based on the contextual and epigraphic evidence) suggests a floruit for LAC in the early-mid 3rd century AD.21,22 Loriot’s analysis of the inscription has recently been adopted by the Roman historians Anthony Birley, Marie-Henriette Quet, and RSO Tomlin.23,24,25

Legg […]m Britanicimiae = Legionum [triu]m Britan(n)ic{ian}ae

The detachments from the legions that LAC lead in this expedition are called Britanicimiarum (Britanicimiae in the nominative case), a name that seems to be corrupt. It can plausibly be reconstructed as *Britanniciniae or, more likely, *Britannicianae. Given the fact that there were three legions stationed in Britain in the mid-2nd century, we may reconstruct the mutilated word just prior to Britanicimiarum as [triu]m, the genitive of trēs “three”. This would indicate that as dux, LAC commanded detachments drawn from the three legions of Britain (the three “Britannician” legions).

These detachments might have been similar in nature to the ala and cohors I Britannica (also known as the I Flavia Britannica or Britanniciana, among other variations), which were stationed in Britain in the mid-1st century AD, but removed to Vindobona in Pannonia by the late 80’s AD (they would later take part in Trajan’s Parthian War of 114-117 AD and Trebonianus Gallus’ Persian war of 252 AD).26 Though the name of the unit was derived from its early service in Britain, the unit was not generally composed of ethnic Britons.27,28 No units of this name are believed to have been active in Britain during the late 2nd century.29

If we reconstruct the name as Britanniciniae, we can compare an inscription from Sirmium in Pannonia dating to the reign of the emperor Gallienus (CIL 3, 3228), in which we have mention of vexillations of legions *Britan(n)icin([i]ae) (“militum vexill(ationum) legg(ionum) [G]ermaniciana[r(um)] [e]t Brit{t}an(n)icin(arum)“). It is possible, however, that Brittanicin on this inscription stands for *Britannicianarum.

Procurator Centenarius of Liburnia

Exceptionally talented, experienced and/or connected Praefects Castrorum Legionis could sometimes move on to higher civilian positions such as Procurator, which LAC indeed managed to accomplish after retiring from the army.30 He became procurator centenarius (governor) of Liburnia, a part of Roman Dalmatia (centenarius indicates that he received a salary of 100,000 sesterces per year). Nothing further is known of him. Other Artorii are attested in the area, but it is unknown if LAC started this branch of the family in Dalmatia, or whether the family had already been settled there prior to his birth (if the latter, LAC might have received the Liburnian procuratorship because he was a native of the region).

Notes:

  1. Keppie, Lawrence. (2000). Legions and veterans: Roman army papers 1971-2000, Franz Steiner Verlag, p. 179.
  2. Goldsworthy, Adrian K. (1998). The Roman army at war: 100 BC-AD 200, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 31, n. 80.
  3. Keppie (2000), p. 168.
  4. Goldsworthy (1998), loc. cit.
  5. Smith, R. E. (1979). “Dux, Praepositus“, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Bd. 36, pp. 263-278.
  6. Mommsen, Theodor, Demandt, Barbara, and Demandt, Alexander. (1999). A History of Rome Under the Emperors (new edition), Routledge, p. 311.
  7. Webster, Graham. (1998). The Roman Imperial Army of the first and second centuries A.D. (edition 3), University of Oklahoma Press p. 113.
  8. Dobson, Brian. (1974). “The Significance of the Centurion and ‘Primipilaris’ in the Roman Army and Administration,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, 2.1, pp. 392- 434 [p. 415].
  9. Mommsen, Demandt, Demandt (1999), cit.
  10. Webster (1998), loc. cit.
  11. Webster (1998), loc. cit.
  12. Keppie (2000), p. 177.
  13. Keppie (2000), loc. cit.
  14. Smith, William, Wayte, William, and Marindin, George Eden (eds.). (1890). A dictionary of Greek and Roman antiquities (vol. 1, ed. 3), John Murray, p. 798.
  15. Webster (1998), loc. cit.
  16. Keppie (2000), p. 177.
  17. Breeze, David J, and Dobson, Brian. (1993). Roman Officers and Frontiers, Franz Steiner Verlag, p. 180.
  18. Southern, Pat, and Dixon, Karen R. (1996). The Late Roman Army, Routledge, p. 59.
  19. Carrara, Francesco. (1852). De scavi di Salona nel 1850, Haase, p. 23.
  20. Loriot, Xavier. (1997). “Un mythe historiographique : l’expédition d’Artorius Castus contre les Armoricains”, Bulletin de la Société nationale des antiquaires de France‎, pp. 85–86
  21. Hübner, Emil. (1881). “Das römische Heer in Britannien”, Hermes, 16, pp. 513–584 (p. 521ff).
  22. Loriot (1997), loc. cit.
  23. Birley, Anthony. (2005). The Roman Government of Britain, Oxford University Press p. 355.
  24. Quet, Marie-Henriette. (2006). La “crise” de l’Empire romain de Marc Aurèle à Constantin, Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, p. 339.
  25. Tomlin, RSO. (2018). Britannia Romana: Roman Inscriptions and Roman Britain, Oxbow, pp. 155-157.
  26. Tully, Geoffrey D. (2005).”A Fragment of a Military Diploma for Pannonia Found in Northern England?”, Britannia, Vol. 36, pp. 375–82
  27. Kennedy, David. (1977). “The ‘ala I’ and ‘cohors I Britannica'”, Britannia, Vol. 8, pp. 249–255
  28. Tully (2005), loc. cit.
  29. Kennedy (1977), loc. cit.
  30. Webster (1998), loc. cit.

5. The Origin of the Name “Artorius”:

Artorius was a Roman nomen gentilicium (i.e. family name) of uncertain origin. It has been proposed by Malcor (Heroic Age 1, 1999) that it originated in the Campania region of Italy. Earlier etymological speculation on the name suggests that it may ultimately be derived from the praenomen Artor, as found in an early Latin inscription from Praeneste (in Campania) a city with strong Etruscan connections:

CIL 14, 3100 = CIL 1, 126 (p 715, 718, 870) = ILLRP 852; Salomies 1987*
Find location: Palestrina / Praeneste
Mino Colionia Artoro[s] Mai [uxor]

The Latin suffix -ius in gentilic names was used to indicate affiliation or descent, so Artorius would literally mean “belonging to/descended from Artor”, which may plausibly be a Latinization of an Etruscan personal name Arnthur (the meaning of which seems to be uncertain, though it may be a derivative of the noun arnth, “younger son”).

An alternate, and perhaps more appealing, etymology, proposed by Italian linguists such as Ciro Santoro, is that in which Artorius is a Latinization of the Messapic gentilic name Artorres, likely a derivative of the Messapic name Artas, with the Messapic possessive suffix -or and the relative suffix -jo- (which, in conjunction, produced -rr-). Messapic died out in antiquity, but was an Indo-European language that some scholars believe to be closely related to Illyrian, which is interesting, given the number or Artorii attested in Illyrian areas, including LAC. The exact etymology of the Messapic root *art- is uncertain; it may, for instance, be cognate with Celtic *arto- “bear” from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ŕ̥tḱos “bear”, or Indic rta “cosmic law”, from Proto-Indo-European *h2er- “to join, to fit together” (a connection with Greek artos “bread” has also been suggested by Malcor [personal communication], but I find this unconvincing). In a recent paper Blanca María Prósper (Prósper [2019]) lends support to a derivation from PIE *h2er- , proposing that Messapic Artorres (and thus its Latinized form Artorius) should be translated as “(descendant of the) assembler”.

If the Artorii family was ultimately Messapic or Etruscan, there is little doubt that the were fully Romanized and, by the 2nd or 3rd century AD, it is unlikely that they would have still maintained any links with (or have any real knowledge of) their Messapic/Etruscan past. Given the amount of intermarriage of people from different cultures and ethnicities in the Roman world, it is impossible to determine the full ethnic background of a man like LAC anyway. So, while it may be an interesting exercise for modern scholars to trace the origins of the name, it offers us little-to-no real information about who LAC was and with what cultural/ethnic groups he might have identified (beyond his “Roman” identity).

*Olli Salomies, Die römischen Vornamen: Studien zur römischen Namengebung, Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1987, p. 68
Mino Colionia Artoro(s) Mai (uxor). Artoro(s) ist ähnlich wie Caesarus, nominus, Castorus, der altertümliche dialektische Genetiv der 3. Deklination (s. Leumann 435). Seit Schulze (S. 338) wird Artoro(s) Mai oft als Gentilname un Pränomen (in dieser Reihenfolge) interpretiert (so etwa im index des CIL I.2 S 791, 808, 829). Viel wahrscheinlicher scheint jedoch, dass Artoro(s) hier der Genetiv eines sonst unbekannten Pränomens Artor (daraus der Gentilname Artorius; vgl. Sertor /Sertorius), und Mai der Genetiv des Gentilnamens Maius ist (so Vetter zu Nr.402.2; E Peruzzi, Origini di Roma [1970] 161). Zur Bezeichnung des Ehemannes mit dem Pränomen und dem Gentilnamen vgl. die praenestinischen Inschriften I.2.293.311. – Wegen des Suffixes wird Artor etruskischen Ursprungs sein (vgl. z.B. die Vornamen Sertor, etr. velthur usw.).”

Further Reading:
  • Chelotti, Marcella, Morizio, Vincenza, Silvestrini, Marina.  (1990). Le epigrafi romane di Canosa, Volume 1, Edipuglia srl, pg. 261, 264.
  • Herbig, Gust (1910). “Falisca”, Glotta, Band II, Göttingen, p. 98.
  • Prósper, Blanca M. (2019) “Language change at the crossroads: What Celtic, what Venetic, and what else in the personal names of Emona?”, Voprosy Onomastiki, Vol. 16, Núm. 4, pp. 33-73 [p. 48].
  • Salomies, Olli. (1987). Die römischen Vornamen. Studien zur römischen Namenge­bung. Hel­sinki, p. 68.
  • Santoro, Ciro. (1965). “Per la nuova iscrizione messapica di Oria”, La Zagaglia, A. VII, n. 27, p. 271-293.
  • Santoro, Ciro. (1979). La Nuova Epigrafe Messapica “IM 4. 16, I-III” di Ostuni ed nomi in Art-, Ricerche e Studi, Volume 12, p. 45-60.
  • Schulze, Wilhelm. (1966). Zur Geschichte lateinischer Eigennamen (Volume 5, Issue 2 of Abhandlungen der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Philologisch-Historische Klasse, Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften Göttingen Philologisch-Historische Klasse), 2nd Edition, Weidmann, p. 72, pp. 333-339.

6. Criticism of Lucius Artorius Castus as the “Real” King Arthur

Ken Dark. (2000) “A Famous Arthur in the Sixth Century? Reconsidering the Origins of the Arthurian Legend”, Reading Medieval Studies 26, pp. 77-96.

[p. 88] “Consequently, despite the recent explication of his career by Linda Malcor, we may doubt whether he can be the basis of the later Arthurian legend. This would require some memory of him being preserved for almost 400 years before we have any trace of it and, as already mentioned, there is no reason why he should have been any more notable than any other middle-ranking Roman officer. But without Artorius Castus there no Artorii known from Roman Britain at all.”


Anthony Birley. (2005). The Roman Government of Britain, Oxford, p. 355.

“[note 80] K. Malone, Modern Philology 22 (1925), 367ff., even suggested that Artorius Castus’ supposed expedition to Armorica might be the historical kernel of the Arthurian legend. The idea still seems to be viewed positively e.g. by N. J. Higham, King Arthur: Myth-Making and History (2002), 75 f., 96, cf. 268. It must now lapse.”


Christopher Snyder. (2006). “Arthurian Origins”, in N. Lacy (ed.), A History of Arthurian Scholarship, Arthurian Studies LXV, D. S. Brewer, pp. 15-16.

“As Oliver Padel pointed out, this could also be a problem of folklore rather than one of history. Since the origins of a folk tale or folk figure are almost always non-literate and therefore undatable, a folkloric Arthur may be beyond the capacity of a historian to explain. This is the problem one encounters with the so-called ‘Sarmatian Connection’. In 1975 Helmut Nickel wrote an essay in which he briefly explored the possibility that Lucius Artorius Castus was the historical prototype of Arthur and that a unit of Sarmatian cavalry serving under him in Britain formed the basis for what would later be known as the Knights of the Round Table.71 The westernmost Sarmatians, who were related to the ancient Scythians of the Caucasus region as well as the Alans originally from the Russian Steppes, were defeated by the emperor Marcus Aurelius in Hungary in A.D. 175, and 5,500 of their heavy cavalry (cataphractarii) were sent by Rome to help fight barbarians in northern Britain. They were assigned to Castus, wrote Nickel, and fought under a windsock banner of the red dragon; their descendants, still on record in northern Britain in the early fifth century, kept the name Artorius alive as a sort of title and it became linked with epic tales brought from the Caucasus about swords in stones and magic cauldrons. These were grand and sweeping claims, obviously in need of more lengthy and detailed scholarly examination. C. Scott Littleton had also made the Sarmatian Connection independently of Nickel. From conversations with the linguist/archaeologist J.P. Mallory, Littleton went on to publish his theories first in a collaborative essay with Anne C. Thomas (1978) and then in the book From Scythia to Camelot (1994), co-authored with Linda A. Malcor. In this more elaborate form of the theory, Lancelot becomes Alanus-à-Lot (‘the Alan of Lot’), Arthur is more closely linked with Batraz and his Narts (heroes in the Ossetian epics of the Caucasus), and the Holy Grail is seen as a relic stolen from St Peter’s Basilica by the Alans in 410 and carried to southern Gaul. The result is a mixture of sound scholarship on the early Steppe nomads with inaccuracies and flights of historical and etymological fancy.”

“But the most serious problem with the Sarmatian Connection is that it depends upon links between second- to fifth-century historical actors (Castus, Sarmatian veterans in Britain, Alans in Gaul and Britain), twelfth- to fifteenthcentury chivalric romances, and undatable Ossetian epics recorded first in the nineteenth century. Even if these tales do go back to Late Roman Britain, they admittedly (by Littleton and Malcor) had to pass through a filter of Britons in the ninth and tenth centuries. ‘To build a bridge of tradition from secondcentury Roman Britain to ninth-century Wales’, writes Richard Barber, ‘with no other support is a daring feat of imagination, but not admissible evidence.’ Nevertheless, the Sarmatian Connection continues to be a compelling theory, drawing the attention of many scholars and even Hollywood producers.”


Dr. Thomas (Caitlin) Green. (2007). Concepts of Arthur, Tempus, pp. 181-183.

[CG: Green starts of by summarizing Malcor’s hypothesis that Lucius Artorius Castus was the “original King Arthur” and briefly discusses his career]

“Second, as to the idea that L. Artorius Castus could himself have been the ‘original’ Arthur, rather than simply the donor of the name (or an influence in its choice), it has to be noted that there is simply no reason to think this is the case. As has already been shown in the preceding chapters, there is in non-Galfridian tradition (aside from the ninth-century historicization of Arthur into the late fifth century found in the Historia Brittonum and the very few texts related to it) simply no trace of history. Arthur and his legend appear wholly as a product of legend, folklore and myth and there is certainly no hint that Arthur had his origins in a second-century Roman general or any other such figure. Indeed, Arthur’s lack of obvious romanitas, at least in the Arthurian legend of the early ninth century, can be argued to have been the reason for his choice as a new ‘Joshua’ for the Welsh… Having disposed of one ‘historical Arthur’ as the origins of the legend, I see no need to set up another. If Lucius Artorius Castus, or indeed any other Artorius, is to be connected with the legend then he seems to have contributed his name and nothing else to it, if that much.”


Luca Larpi. (February 19, 2008). In Search of Arthur: A Talk on Methodology, Postgraduate Seminar in History and Classics, University of Manchester.

“Lucius Artorius Castus. This positivist position on the historicity of Arthur is still producing a number of works which fall outside of the ‘academic’ net. The standard stance adopted by historians is to ignore this literature, but, in so doing, the academic community fails to recognise the vitality of the debate and the robustness of the ‘historical’ Arthur lobby.”

“A clear example of this is the success of Linda Malcor’s theory concerning the identification between Arthur and a Roman officer of the second century AD, Lucius Artorius Castus. This identification, first proposed in 1925 by Kemp Malone, was later developed by Malcor and became widely known thanks to the last movie on Arthur in 2004, of which Malcor herself was the ‘scientific expert’.”

“The core of this theory was first developed in a book published by Malcor and C. S. Littleton in 1994, From Scythia to Camelot, where it was proposed that the medieval Arthur derived from the folklore of the Sarmatians or Alans via service in the Roman army. Basically, this was an attempt to explain the superficial similarities between the (reconstructed) Sarmatian legends and the (late) ‘tradition’ concerning Arthur.”

“In two articles published online (Heroic Age) in 1999, Malcor developed her view on Lucius Artorius Castus. The existence of this Roman official is confirmed by an inscription from Croatia (CIL 3 1919), which describe his cursus honorum. Malcor’s translation and comment on this epigraphy is mainly fictional, aimed as it is to prove that (a) Castus had a deep knowledge of the Sarmatian tribes and (b) he was the commander of a Sarmatian auxiliary force during the Pict invasion of Britain in 180-185 AD. This reconstruction is based on a series of unacceptable assumptions: to make just one example, Malcor believed that Castus’s title that appears on the epigraph, dux legionis co[hortium alarum] Britanici[n]iarum adversos Armoricanos, which she translated as ‘dux of the legions of cohorts of cavalry from Britain against the Armoricans’ was the source both of Arthur’s title dux bellorum found in the Historia Brittonum, and of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s story of Arthur’s expedition against the Romans on the Continent. This is not exact. First of all, Castus’s title is almost exceptional in the context of the Roman army of the second century AD, and in all probabilities mirrors the exceptional nature of the expedition to Armorica (probably a punitive expedition following a rebellion of some sort); second, the translation of dux legionis cohortium alarum as ‘commander of the legions of cohorts of cavalry’ is completely wrong, since a ‘legion of cohort of cavalry’ never existed: instead, this is the indication that he was leading a mixed force of cohortes and alae, probably formed by some detachments (vexillationes) from the British army (the fact that Malcor insists that Castus was a leader of cavalry is indicative of her will to link this officer with the Sarmatians as a confirmation of her theory concerning Arthurian legends and these barbaric tribe); thirdly, is highly improbable that dux bellorum reflects a Roman title, since the author of Historia Brittonum does not know anything of the Roman army: on the other hand, as Higham showed, an almost identical definition (dux belli) is found in the Book of Judges as a description of Joshua, a character on which the Arthur of Historia Brittonum is modelled (biblical derivation); finally, it would be extremely risky to link an epigraphical source of the 2nd century with a fictional work of the 12th century, as Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae clearly is.”

“This shameless use of late sources is confirmed by Malcor herself in the second of her articles, where she she listed the work she used: Historia Brittonum (9th century); Annales Cambriae (10th century); William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum (ca 1125 AD); Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae (ca 1136 AD); Wace, Roman de Brut (1155 AD); Giraldus Cambrensis, De Principis Instructione (ca 1195 AD); Latamon, Brut (ca. 1205 AD). She justifies this approach in this terms:”

‘When studying the primary Arthurian texts, great care must be used. As von Sydow pointed out, the earliest known variants of a traditional story are seldom either the most complete or the best. ::Tales may be far older than the manuscripts in which they appear. (…) Legends, in the early stages of their transmission, are generally interjected into discussion to prove a point. Legends are told as if they are factual accounts, whether or not the events recounted actually happened. As part of the verisimilitude, legends are attached to places or people familiar to the audience. The importance of this familiarity is underscored by the fact that (…) legends do not transmit easily beyond the region of their creation. Such transmission, however, while uncommon, does happen from time to time. The Arthurian legends are an example of this type of transmission. (…) The important point is that what emerged as the twelfth- and thirteenth-century [Arthurian] romances was a full-blown tradition, complete with the historical elements and folktales incorporated from a variety of sources.’

“Von Sydow’s article is contained in A. Dundes, The study of Folklore (1965); as its title clearly shows (‘Folktale studies and philology: some points of view’), this article concerns mainly the study of the evolution of tales and legends through the centuries, and describes the methodologies which should be used to trace the origin of a particular story. We are in the reign of oral tradition here, a matter which should be handled with extreme care. First of all, as some examples made by Von Sydow himself show, we are on firm ground only when we have some ancient documents testifying that a particular variant of a specific legend was told in a certain time and place: if not, the relationships between ‘variants’ are purely speculative. Secondly, in this kind of studies it is often assumed that the written sources we have report mechanically a story or a legend heard somewhere: in so doing, it is excluded the possibility that the author of the source itself could have made the story up. The results of this approach are quite evident when we consider Malcor’s case: here the so-called ‘Arthurian Legends’ are taken without any attempt of understanding the context in which the authors were writing. Malcor fails to see that all these sources are in fact edited texts, written with a specific purpose in mind, and that, as a consequence, they are extremely suspicious. The progresses made in the understanding of these works (thanks to Dumville and others), are here completely ignored.”


RSO Tomlin. (2018). Britannia Romana: Roman Inscriptions and Roman Britain, Oxbow, pp. 155-157.

“At this crucial point the first editor, Carrara in 1850, read ARME[…], which (since he did not read the right-hand piece and then restore Arme[nio]s) rather suggests that he saw the remains of E in the broken edge; but if so, they have since been lost. Mommsen, who did not see the original, restored it in CIL as ARM[ORICANO]S, which would imply a campaign, not against the ‘Armenians’, but the ‘Armoricans’ of Brittany. Since there is no other reference to such a campaign, and the seven letters required cannot be fitted into the space available, Mommsen’s restoration is difficult to accept, let alone the idea it has since inspired, the catalyst of much speculation, that Artorius Castus is the original ‘King Arthur’. Loriot was surely right to dismiss this as a modern myth when he reasserted ARME[NIO]S, even though he worked from poor photographs and (to repeat) there was no longer evidence of a decisive E. This campaign ‘against the Armenians’ has been attributed to the eastern wars of Caracalla or Severus Alexander, but the inscription looks earlier than the third century, and a more attractive attribution is to Statius Priscus’ invasion of Armenia in AD 163. This was so successful that Marcus Aurelius and his colleague Lucius Verus, the nominal commander-in-chief, assumed the title of Armeniacus (‘Conqueror of Armenia’). Statius Priscus, as already said, had just been transferred from governing Britain; that his army included British legionaries, under one of his own senior officers in Britain, Artorius Castus, is a brighter suggestion than to invoke the Celtic shades of ‘Arthurian’ legend.”