Reading the Inscriptions
Commentary on the Inscriptions
Lucius Artorius Castus’ Career
The ORIGIN of the Name “Artorius”

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).

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.
LAC Inscription 1
LAC Inscription 1
Traced text on the main LAC inscription


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

D ……………………………………………………………..M
L ARTORI[…………………………………..]STVS 7 LEG
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
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 [he dedicated the monument] for himself and his own [family] as stipulated

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
Second LAC Inscription – sketch by F. Bulic
Surviving fragment of second LAC inscription – photo by N. Cambi


AEFEC[.]VS • LE[.]


L(ucius) Artorius
Castus, p(rimus) p(ilus)
leg(ionis) V Mac[(edonicae)] pr-
-aefec(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
Praefectus legionis VI Victricis 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






“(belonging to) Lucius Artorius Castus”

3. Commentary (CHRONOLOGICAL – all emphases mine):

Emil Hübner,  Exercitus Britannicus (Hermes XVI, 1881, p. 521ff.)

“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]”

[“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

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 anyrelatives 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

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 souce. For an excellent critique of her flawed scholarship, see :

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

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

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):

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).

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.

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 be directly commissioned as centurions upon entering the Army, though these directly-commissioned equestrian centurions (known as “ex equite Romano“) were in the minority.14 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.9 Successful officer often omitted the record of any ranks lower than primus pilus,15, 9 as LAC did on his smaller memorial plaque.

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 centuion in this legion.

Centurio of Legio II Adiutrix

From the early 2nd century onward the legio II Adiutrix were 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 centuion 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. Tt 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 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.24 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 Pilus30 (the rank seems to have been held exclusively by primipilares)5. They acted as third-in-command to the legionary commander, the Legatus Legionis, and senior Tribunus (tribune) and could assume command in their absence.24, 30 Their day-to-day duties included maintenance of the fortress and management of the food supplies, sanitation, munitions, equipment, etc.14, 30 For most who had attained this rank, it would be their last before retirement.14 During battles, the Praefectus Castrorum normally remained at the unit’s home base with the reserve troops,28 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.14, 30 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{ian}arum. Dux (literally “leader, conductor”) was in the 2nd century AD 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)2 in transit from one station to another, or in command of a complete unit29 (the former seems to be the case with LAC, seeing that the inscription mentions multiple units). Though the inscription does not specify that Artorius led detachments (as opposed to the entire legions), it can be inferred; there are no records of multiple legions being removed from Britain in the mid-late 2nd century.

For many years it has been 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[….],3 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.18

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) 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 period8 – often referred to as, or associated with, the rebellion of the Bagaudae, there is no evidence that the Bagaudae were connected 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 AD8 (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 160’s 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 Hübner11 and most recently taken up again by the historian and epigrapher Xavier Loriot18, who (based on the contextual and epigraphic evidence) suggests a floruit for LAC in the early-mid 3rd century AD (Loriot’s analysis of the inscription has recently been adopted by the Roman historians Anthony Birley2 and Marie-Henriette Quet)27.

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).

If we reconstruct the name as Britanniciniae, 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 the 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,30 which LAC indeed managed to accomplish after retiring from the army. 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).

Sources Cited and Further Reading:

  1. Birley, Anthony, 2005. The Roman Government of Britain, Oxford: Oxford University Press (p. 355).
  2. Breeze, David John, and Dobson, Brian, 1993. Roman Officers and Frontiers, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag (p. 180).
  3. Carrara, Francesco, 1852. De scavi di Salona nel 1850, Prague: Haase (p. 23).
  4. Dessau, Hermann, 1892-1916. Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, Berlin: Weidmann.
  5. Dobson, B., 1974. “The Significance of the Centurion and ‘Primipilaris’ in the Roman Army and Administration,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, 2.1, Berlin/NY, pp. 392- 434.
  6. Dixon, Karen and Southern, Pat, 1997. The Roman cavalry: from the first to the third century AD, London: Routledge (p. 240).
  7. Egbert, James Chidester, 1896. Introduction to the study of Latin inscriptions, New York: American Book Company (p. 447).
  8. Galliou, Patrick and Jones, Michael, 1991. The Bretons, Oxford (UK)/Cambridge (MA): Blackwell.
  9. Goldsworthy, Adrian Keith, 1998. The Roman army at war: 100 BC-AD 200, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  10. Haverfield, Francis, 1912. The Romanization of Roman Britain, Oxford: Clarendon Press (p. 65).
  11. Hübner, Emil, 1881. “Das römische Heer in Britannien”, Hermes, 16, pp. 513–584 (p. 521ff).
  12. Jackson, Thomas Graham, 1887. Dalmatia, the Quarnero and Istria (vol. 2), Oxford: Oxford University Press (pp. 166-7).
  13. Kennedy, David, 1977. “The ‘ala I’ and ‘cohors I Britannica’”, Britannia, 8, pp. 249-255.
  14. Keppie, Lawrence, 1998. The Making of the Roman Army: from Republic to Empire, London: Routledge (pp. 176-179).
  15. Keppie, Lawrence, 2000. Legions and veterans: Roman army papers 1971-2000, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag (p. 168).
  16. Klebs, Elimar and Dessau, Hermann, 1897. Prosopographia imperii romani saec. I. II. III, Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin (p. 155).
  17. Littleton, C. Scott and Malcor, Linda, 2000. From Scythia to Camelot: A Radical Reassessment of the Legends of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table and the Holy Grail, New York: Garland.
  18. Malcor, Linda, 1999a. “Lucius Artorius Castus, Part 1: An Officer and an Equestrian”, Heroic Age, 1 (Spring/Summer).
  19. Malcor, Linda, 1999b. “Lucius Artorius Castus, Part 2: The Battles in Britain”, Heroic Age, 2 (Fall/Winter).
  20. Malone, Kemp, 1924-1925. “Artorius,” Modern Philology, 23, pp. 367-374.
  21. Medini, Julian, 1980. “Provincija Liburnija”, Diadora, 9, pp. 363-441.
  22. Mommsen, Theodor (ed.), 1873. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum III: Inscriptiones Asiae, provinciarum Europae Graecarum, Illyrici Latinae, Berlin: G. Reimer (no. 1919; no. 8513; no. 12813; no. 12791; no. 14224).
  23. Mommsen, Theodor, Demandt, Barbara, and Demandt, Alexander, 1999. A history of Rome under the emperors(new edition), London & New York: Routledge (pp. 311-312).
  24. Petolescu, C.C., 1996. Inscriptiones Daciae Romanae: Inscriptiones extra fines Daciae repertae, Bucharest (IDRE-02).
  25. Pflaum, Hans-Georg, 1960. Les carrières procuratoriennes équestres sous le Haut-Empire romain, Paris: P. Geuthner (p. 535).
  26. Quet, Marie-Henriette, 2006. La “crise” de l’Empire romain de Marc Aurèle à Constantin, Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne (p. 339).
  27. Smith, William, Wayte, William, and Marindin, George Eden (eds.), 1890. A dictionary of Greek and Roman antiquities (vol. 1, ed. 3), John Murray, London (p. 798).
  28. Southern, Pat, and Dixon, Karen R., 1996. The Late Roman Army, Routledge, London.
  29. Webster, Graham, 1998. The Roman Imperial Army of the first and second centuries A.D. (edition 3), Norman: University of Oklahoma Press (pp. 112-114).
  30. Wilkes, J. J., 1969. Dalmatia, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul (pp. 328-329).

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”, or Indic rta “cosmic law” (a connection with Greek artos “bread” has also been suggested by Malcor [personal communication], but I find this unconvincing).

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 unlikelly 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:
  • Marcella Chelotti, Vincenza Morizio, Marina Silvestrini, Le epigrafi romane di Canosa, Volume 1, Edipuglia srl, 1990, pg. 261, 264.
  • Ciro Santoro, “Per la nuova iscrizione messapica di Oria”, La Zagaglia, A. VII, n. 27, 1965, P. 271-293.
  • Ciro Santoro, La Nuova Epigrafe Messapica “IM 4. 16, I-III” di Ostuni ed nomi in Art-, Ricerche e Studi, Volume 12, 1979, p. 45-60
  • Wilhelm Schulze, 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, 1966, p. 72, pp. 333-339
  • Gust Herbig, “Falisca”, Glotta, Band II, Göttingen, 1910, p. 98
  • Olli Salomies: Die römischen Vornamen. Studien zur römischen Namenge­bung. Hel­sinki 1987, p. 68