Return to Arch of Claudius

Hosidius Geta

"The struggle was indecisive until Gnaeus Hosidius Geta, after narrowly missing being captured, finally managed to defeat the barbarians so soundly that he received the ornamenta triumphalia, though he had never been consul."

Cassius Dio, Roman History (LX.20.4)

In the invasion of Britain in AD 43, Aulus Plautius brought over four legions: XX Valeria, IX Hispania, XIV Gemina, and II Augusta, which was commanded by the future emperor Vespasian. Of the other three, one is likely to have been led by Geta, who, as legionary legate, distinguished himself in the battle of the Medway. But there is disagreement over Dio's wording and whether Geta's praenomen should be Gaius (abbreviated C.), which is argued by Birley, or Gnaeus (Cn.).

Dio writes that Suetonius Paullinus, who put down the Boudican revolt in AD 61, campaigned in Mauretania (northwest Africa) in AD 42, over-running the country and becoming the first Roman general to cross the Atlas Mountains. He was succeeded there by Cn. Hosidius Geta, who, having twice defeated the Moors, followed them into the desert, where his men soon ran out of water. Unfamiliar with the country, they had become desperate until told that an incantation might bring rain. Geta followed the advice, and so much rain fell that the enemy sued for peace, certain that heaven, itself, was on the side of the Romans.

This is likely the same Cn. Hosidius Geta who was promoted to the consulship in the mid 40s, together with T. Flavius Sabinus, Vespasian's older brother, who also had fought at the Medway. Although the day is known, August 1, the year is not quite certain. An inscription in Rome set up during their tenure, which contains one of the new letters of the alphabet introduced by Claudius when he was censor, argues for AD 47.

It is uncertain whether these two men were the same person or were brothers. Frere understands the Geta who was victorious at the Medway and later consul to be the same. Birley argues that it was C. Hosidius Geta who was at the Medway and that the men were brothers. There also is a badly damaged inscription that refers to a Geta who participated in Claudius' invasion of Britain and received the ornamenta triumphalia. This, presumably, is the hero of the Medway.

If so, his daughter married M. Vitorius Marcellus, a friend of the poet Statius, who dedicated the fourth book of Silvae to him. There, in one of the poems, he writes of their son, C. Vitorius Hosidius Geta, and the boy's grandfather, who demands worthy feats of the child. The poet also speaks of the command of legionaries and service in Britain. One wonders, in these lines, whether Statius is referring to Geta's career in that country. If so, the legate then would have been alive over fifty years after the invasion.

On the other hand, the Oxford Classical Dictionary suggests that Gn. Hosidius Geta might be the subject of this inscription, did campaign in Mauretania, could be the legionary legate who served with Plautius (or perhaps it was his brother), and was consul.

It's all a bother.

Return to Top of Page