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The Career and Writings of Sextus Julius Frontinus

Murray K. Dahm

A Thesis submitted in fulfilment of
the requirements for the degree
of Master of Literature
in Ancient History

University of Auckland

iovi optimo maximo iUNONI

minerVAE. PRO

salute sEXTI JUL


'Thank offering to

Jupiter Optimus Maximus and Juno

and Minerva for

the successful discharge of the imperial appointment of Sextus Julius



This inscription, found at Xanten on the Rhine (Sanctena, near the Roman legionary fort of Vetera Castra), is dedicated to the Capitoline Triad in recognition of the well being of the province at the termination of the office of Sextus Julius Frontinus.

'audire magnos iam videor duces

non indecoro pulvere sordidos,

et cuncta terrarum subacta. . .'

Horace Odes 2.1.21‑23

'I have a vision of the great commanders

Jacketed in grime, their uniform of honour,

And of a world subdued. . .'


There are a great many people that I need to thank for their invaluable assistance in this thesis and I can do only inadequate justice to the debt of gratitude that I owe them in such a brief notice. Firstly I must thank Dr. Paul McKechnie my patient and ever accommodating supervisor. I must also thank Professor Vivienne Gray for her continued support and interest, Drs. Tom Stevenson and Marcus Wilson, and Shirley Temm whose encouragement and enthusiasm have been welcome at all times (not to mention the loan of books for unreasonably extended periods of time!). When I inscribed a copy of my MA thesis to my parents, I thanked them for putting up with me; I must make that thanks again but this time with more emphasis because they have had to put up with me for even longer. I also thank my brother Karl with whom I can be truly myself, and who has let me know at various times, to my benefit, that my predicament does not compare with his — which it indeed does not. I must also not neglect the one constant in my life with whom anyone who knows me will be familiar, and that is a certain beautiful creature named Lady Grey. I thank my friends, fellow students, and with my move into the world of retail and part-time student­ship, my workmates, who have made the time during which I have researched and composed this thesis the most enjoyable, memorable, and interesting of my life; especially Nicola Turner, Paul Buddle, Robert Wiremu, Craig Fitton, Simon and Rupert Overall, Brendon Drain, Alex Smith, Elizabeth Frood, David Harvey, Steven Thrupp, Erica Suranyi, Daniel Hay, Sarah Borland, and Dawn Groundsell for their assistance (whether they know that they have assisted me or not) and more and most importantly, their friendship. I must also make special thanks to Anton Ansford for his invaluable assistance in translating obscure nineteenth century German articles for me. Lisa Bligh, although now roughly 12000 miles away in Edinburgh, and despite the fact that I have won many 'worst-correspondent' awards, has also bolstered my confidence the many times that was necessary and has reassured me generally by her very presence through real and electronic mail, the odd cause of an expensive phone bill, and a wonderful unexpected visit in December 1996 into which we crammed many brainstorming idea bouncing hours. M. K. D. CONTENTS

Illustrations viii‑xi
Chapter One: Introduction and Origins. 1‑8
Chapter Two: Frontinus' Career prior to AD 70. 9‑23
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Chapter Three: Frontinus' Position immediately after AD 70. pages 24‑31. Chapter Four: Frontinus' Consulship and Britain. pages 32‑63. Chapter Five: Frontinus' Career After AD 78. pages 64‑71. Chapter Six: Frontinus and Germany. pages 72‑91. Chapter Seven: The Appointment to Asia. pages 92‑105. Chapter Eight: Frontinus in Contemporary Literature. pages 106‑118. Chapter Nine: Frontinus' Career Under Nerva. pages 119‑125. Chapter Ten: The Writings of Frontinus. pages 126‑149. Chapter Eleven: Frontinus, Aelian and Second Century Battle Tactics. pages 150‑170. Chapter Twelve: Conclusions. pages 171‑175. Appendix I: Frontinus' Sources for the Strategemata. pages 176‑180. Appendix II: Frontinus' Relationship to Vegetius' De Re Militari. pages 181‑185. Appendix III: Frontinus and Polyaenus. pages 186‑194. Tables: pages 195‑196. Bibliography: pages 197‑214. ILLUSTRATIONS MAPS Map 1. Germany illustrating campaigns of Cerialis against Civilis and the locations of the Lingones, Rigodulum and Oppenheim. After Tacitus The Histories, translated by K. Wellesley, (Harmondsworth, 1975), map 6. between pages 8 and 9. Map 2. Germany showing the location of Vetera Castra and Batavian territory. Tacitus The Histories, translated by K. Wellesley, (Harmondsworth, 1975), map 7. between pages 31 and 32. Map 3. Britain showing the conquests of Frontinus. V. Nash-Williams The Roman Frontier in Wales2 (Cardiff, 1969), figure 2 and after B. Jones and D. Mattingly An Atlas of Roman Britain, (Oxford, 1990), map 4:12. between pages 35 and 36. Map 4. The legionary forts of Wales AD 74‑80. G. Boon The Legionary Fortress of Caerleon-Isca (Caerleon, 1987), page 9 and B. Jones and D. Mattingly An Atlas of Roman Britain, (Oxford, 1990), Map 4:34. between pages 35 and 36. Map 5. Map showing location of via Julia. I. Margary Roman Roads in Britain3, London, 1973, figure 13. between pages 53 and 54. Map 6. Map of Asia at the time of Frontinus' proconsulate. R. Talbert Atlas of Classical History (London and New York, 1985), page 158. between pages 92 and 93. Map 7. Italy showing locations of Formiae and Anxur. N. Hammond Atlas of the Greek and Roman World in Antiquity (New Jersey, 1981), map 17. between pages 111 and 112. Map 8. Italy showing locations of Formiae and Anxur. Detail of Map 7. between pages 111 and 112. FIGURES Frontispiece. Inscription from the Roman legionary fort of Vetera Castra, modern Xanten, with iovi optimo maximo iUNONI minerVAE. PRO salute sEXTI JUL froNTINI. W. Eck 'Die Gestalt Frontins in ihrer politischen und sozialen Umwelt, Wasserversorgung im Antiken Rom (München, 1989), p. 54, Bild 1. Figure 1. Bronze coin from Smyrna with inscription ανθυπατω Φροντινω. W. Eck 'Die Gestalt Frontins in ihrer politischen und sozialen Umwelt, Wasserversorgung im Antiken Rom (München, 1989), p. 55, Bild 2. between pages 105 and 106. Figure 2. The great gate at Phrygian Hierapolis. W. Eck 'Die Gestalt Frontins in ihrer politischen und sozialen Umwelt, Wasserversorgung im Antiken Rom (München, 1989), p. 56, Bild 3a. between pages 105 and 106. Figure 3. Detail of the bilingual inscription on the great gate at Phrygian Hieropolis with ]AVIT SEX IVLiVS FRONTinus ] ΣΕΝ ΣΕΞΤΟΣ ΙΟΥΛΙΟΣ ΦΡΟΝτινος W. Eck 'Die Gestalt Frontins in ihrer politischen und sozialen Umwelt, Wasserversorgung im Antiken Rom (München, 1989), p. 56, Bild 3b. between pages 105 and 106. TABLES Table I. Frontinus' Relation to Marcus Aurelius. page 195. Table II. The Descendants of Frontinus. page 196.

Introduction and Origins

Sextus Julius Frontinus was one of the most important non-imperial figures in the administrative and military history of Rome in the late first century AD. Details of Frontinus' life we must glean from numerous sources, and although the picture that emerges from them is by no means complete, what is revealed is the picture of a well respected soldier, general, statesman, and author. Much has been said of Frontinus' writings, less of his career, and less still of his influence. It will therefore be the purpose of this study to rectify this state of affairs and, predominantly, to examine the career of Frontinus. As well as his political and military career, Frontinus embarked upon a writing career which posterity has regarded as equally distinguished. He wrote practical handbooks on a variety of subjects, which have become famous and, in some cases, genre defining. Where Frontinus' writings survive, his works are considered as being the forefront of evidence for such subjects. Through his Strategemata, Frontinus is also the first surviving Roman practitioner of the genre of military tactical writing.

In assessing the public occupations of Sextus Julius Frontinus an ample measure of conjecture cannot be avoided, so scant is the firm evidence of his career. However, the argumentum ex silentio is one of the historian's most insidious enemies and speculation from such arguments is dangerous and should be used with extreme caution. In this study the test of a reconstruction involving inference from silence will be whether it coheres and seems probable, or at best plausible, even though it has to invoke the unascertained.

This having been said, the present author experienced somewhat of an epiphany upon witnessing a production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia on the evening of March 22nd 1997, by the Auckland Theatre Company, at the Maidment theatre, where the folly of plausible historical reconstruction based on incomplete literary and historical evidence, and over-exuberant over-enthusiastic conjecture was realised. When all is said and done I hope that I will not be culpable of a similar rashness to the character Bernard Nightingale in assuming that Lord Byron shot Ezra Chater and fled to Lisbon as a result; indeed I hope that I will have striven successfully to avoid such a scenario. And so on to Sextus Julius Frontinus.

Aelian tells us in his Tactica, written circa AD 110 and in Greek, that

Φροντίνῳ τῷ ἐπισήμῳ ὑπατικῷ ἐν Φορμίαις ἡμέρας τινὰς διέτριψα δόξαν ἀπενεγκαμένῳ περὶ τὴν ἐν τοῖς πολέμοις ἐμπειρίαν

'I was able to spend some days at Formiae with the distinguished consular Frontinus, a man of great reputation by virtue of his experience in war.'

This reference to Frontinus by another military writer, summarising Frontinus' record as a general and politician, makes an appropriate starting point for an examination of Frontinus' career because it encapsulates a small part of contemporary opinion of him. It is also interesting in that it shows him in literary company towards the end of his life. But that life should be examined in order.

Frontinus was born probably around AD 35. Ronald Syme argues that Gallia Narbonensis was his likely place of birth, basing his inference on the gentilicium, the same as that of Q. Valerius Lupercus Julius Frontinus. Syme later stated that Frontinus, like Q. Valerius Lupercus Julius Frontinus, probably came from Vienna. We can estimate the date of his birth because Frontinus was praetor urbanus early in AD 70 before resigning his post to Domitian.

Kalendis Ianuariis in senatu, quem Iulius Frontinus praetor urbanus vocaverat, legatis exercitibusque ac regibus laudes gratesque decretae . . . Et mox eiurante Frontino Caesar Domitianus praeturam cepit.

'On the first of January the senate, at a session called by the city praetor, Julius Frontinus, passed votes eulogising and thanking the generals, armies, and allied kings . . . Soon after, Frontinus having resigned, Caesar Domitian received the praetor­ship.'

Praetor urbanus was the top rung of the praetor­ship, and a man would normally become eligible for the praetor­ship at thirty unless he had the ius III liberorum.

Frontinus was therefore probably in his early to mid-thirties when this happened, since, in the absence of refuting evidence, we may assume a standard progression in the senatorial cursus honorum and we can probably safely assume that he was between thirty and thirty five. Tacitus in the Historiae might be supposed likely to mention it if there was something unusual about Frontinus' career progression in AD 70; since he does not, we may perhaps be permitted to assume that he was progressing at what were considered within the bounds of the normal ages.

Frontinus was probably a tribunus militum laticlavius sometime in the mid to late 50s, as a man in his early twenties, prior to entering the senate as a quaestor, a post for which he probably became eligible in the first half of the sixties. Before that he would have held an appointment in the vigintivirate between the ages of eighteen and twenty. The training he received during his three year tenure as tribunus laticlavius was to prepare him for command and general­ship with a view to a military, and political, career. Frontinus' subsequent career does show that he was fast tracked as a potential general, and such a selection must have been made when Frontinus was a young man.

The resignation of the praetor­ship to Domitian in 70 could perhaps be viewed as a sign that Frontinus was out of favour. However, the fact that he did assume the praetor­ship at all, taken together with the events subsequent to his resignation, and the fact that he was consul suffectus less than three years later (in a year when Domitian himself was consul ordinarius) are important signs that the very reverse was the case.

The appointments of AD 70, Brian Jones argues, had probably been made at Berytus six months previously. It is likely that Mucianus held the real power and that Domitian was the figurehead. The fact that Frontinus was allowed by Mucianus to take up his designated post is a sign that it was considered necessary or advisable that Frontinus should actually assume office. At the very least it is a sign that his loyalty was not questioned, and he was not considered a risk or untrustworthy. Tettius Julianus, legatus legionis of the Moesian legion VII Claudia in 68/69 and accused of deserting when that legion declared for Vespasian, was also designated praetor in 70. Mucianus stripped him of that honour at the first meeting of the new senate on January 1, the meeting called by Frontinus, and Julianus' office was given to Plotius Grypus. Then on January 3 the decision was unexpectedly reversed and Julianus allowed to hold his praetor­ship. The case of Julianus makes an interesting comparison with Frontinus not only in that it shows Frontinus was trusted over Julianus but also in that it suggests how Frontinus may have shown his loyalty to be superior to Julianus'.

After resigning his praetor­ship to Domitian, Frontinus took part in the Gallic campaign against Julius Civilis, as he states in the Strategemata:

Auspiciis Imperatoris Caesaris Domitiani Augusti Germanici bello, quod Iulius Civilis in Gallia moverat, Lingonum opulentissima civitas, quae ad Civilem desciverat, cum adveniente exercitu Caesaris populationem timeret, quod contra exspectationem inviolata nihil ex rebus suis amiserat, ad obsequium redacta septuaginta milia armatorum tradidit mihi.
'In the war waged under the auspices of the Emperor Caesar Domitianus Augustus Germanicus and begun by Julius Civilis in Gaul, the very wealthy city of the Lingones, which had revolted to Civilis, feared that it would be plundered by the approaching army of Caesar. But when, contrary to expectation, the inhabitants remained unharmed and lost none of their property, they returned to their loyalty, and handed over to me seventy thousand armed men.'

This is the only occurrence of mihi in the main text of the Strategemata.

As an ex-praetor, after 70 Frontinus would most likely have become legatus legionis of one of the seven legions taking part in the campaign under the general­ship of Cerialis. Command of a legion certainly is suggested by Frontinus' own stratagem, although the only information he himself gives us is that he was acting auspiciis Domitiani. J. A. Crook argued that Frontinus was a comes of Domitian in the campaign. However, the capture of the Lingones' city shows Frontinus was involved in the fighting, whereas Domitian arrived too late and did not proceed beyond Lyons, which is some distance from the Lingones' territory. So Frontinus must have been present before Domitian's arrival and before the battle of Rigodulum; therefore he was probably a commanding officer of a legion, rather than a member of Domitian's personal retinue. This would imply that Frontinus had proven himself capable of commanding a legion earlier in his military career during the 60s, possibly as a tribunus militum of distinction, or as an ex-quaestor legatus.

Frontinus' Career prior to A.D. 70

Postulating where exactly Frontinus was in the late 50s/early 60s may seem pointless, but such inductions should provide some clues as to his later career and also his writings. What then could the position of Frontinus have been prior to 70? He may have been a legatus legionis already in 69 as an ex-quaestor, because the fact that there must have been plenty of proven legati available for the campaign in 70 suggests that he is not likely to have been without experience at that level when appointed to a legion during such a critical period. If Frontinus, before 70, had been an ex-quaestor legatus, his commitment to the tenure of such an appointment could explain his having been delayed in becoming praetor until around the age of thirty-five.

The position of praetor urbanus concerned the administration of justice within Rome, and holding this office would have made Domitian's position in Rome during his father's absence, which lasted till summer, more authoritative. Frontinus, then, probably resigned his post as a favour to Domitian. He may not have had much option but may have been 'encouraged' by someone such as Mucianus to relinquish an office which Domitian needed, in return for a military command and possibly a quick advancement to the consul­ship. Frontinus may alternatively have been considered worthy enough not to be denied the office of praetor. The case of Tettius Julianus shows how well Frontinus by contrast was doing.

Julianus was the legatus legionis of VII Claudia in 68/69 as an ex-quaestor and yet he was, at first, refused his praetor­ship. Frontinus was not. There are three known examples of ex-quaestor legati legioni for the period; Titus, Tettius Julianus, and A. Larcius Lepidus Sulpicianus. However, discussing Petillius Cerialis, Birley argues that 'there are plenty of examples from the early principate of men commanding legions before the praetor­ship.' The same can be said for Frontinus. For Frontinus to prosper while Tettius Julianus' fortunes went into decline, he must have had some service to offer Vespasian's regime — and he must have offered it. This service assured the new regime of his loyalty, a loyalty which was considered firmer than one of only three attested ex-quaestor legati legionum. This is not proof, but the possibility that Frontinus was an ex-quaestor legatus legionis is to some degree strengthened by these observations.

Furthermore, if the appointments for 70 had been rubber stamped at Berytus six months previously, then Frontinus must have proven his loyalty by that time. Continued service in the campaigns before 69 is therefore implied, and the most likely occasion for Vespasian to have seen Frontinus' loyalty was during his own Judean campaigns.

Eric Birley argues that great importance should be attached to an emperor's rating of the abilities of candidates for military service. It was the emperor's rating which decided to which committee within the vigintivirate the candidate would be assigned, and thus it shaped his prospects for advancement. 'It seems clear,' says Birley, 'that a wise emperor must always have planned ahead, selecting in their late teens the men who were to command legions ten or fifteen years later, and consular armies five or ten years after that.' Naturally Vespasian had not planned Frontinus' career; the crucial early decisions had probably been made by Claudius. The appointment as legatus legionis shows something else besides Frontinus' political ability and the regard in which he was personally held. Birley argues that technical proficiency in the military field was also at issue: 'the shortness of a senator's passage from the praetor­ship to the consulate is the clearest indication of his ability as a general, at least as it was assessed by the emperor and his advisers.' This would therefore make Frontinus one of the ablest generals of the time, at least in Vespasian's assessment, since the usual elapsed time between the two offices was twelve years. The leap in less than three years from praetor urbanus in 70 to consul suffectus in 73 Syme comments on as 'peculiar.' This is the ground for Syme's suggestion that Frontinus may have been an equestrian officer who came to the praetor­ship very late and was perhaps adlected into the Senate under Galba. The alternative that Frontinus was a talented young senator is just as plausible, and given the difficulties surrounding his being an equestrian, more likely. Birley's suggestion is that the knowledge of Spain and Africa in Frontinus' writings in the corpus agrimensorum suggests that he may have been a procurator in both Africa and Spain in the 60s. He may equally have been a quaestor in either Africa or Spain. Birley suggests that Frontinus was holding some procuratorial post in Spain in AD 68 and may have been 'rewarded by Galba for rapid adherence to his cause.' The rapid progression to the consul­ship, he argues, may therefore have occurred because of Frontinus' age and ability as a proven equestrian officer.

It would, however, seem preferable, because of Frontinus' unusual progression and his subsequent career, to suppose that he was a senator, whether patrician or not. The best solution for his career is that he was a plebeian senator with consular or praetorian ancestors. For all the positions Frontinus may have held as an equestrian there is an equally plausible argument for his having held them as a senator. And given his career and the rapidity of his progression through the cursus honorum, senatorial status would be more appropriate and convincing for Frontinus' status later in the first century.

Frontinus most probably began his career as a IVvir viarum curandarum. This can be inferred because of the high numbers of senators who we know were IVviri and rose to hold consular commands as opposed to the much lower proportion of the members of the three other vigintivirate boards reaching that level.

During the time between his post as praetor and the consulate in 73, Frontinus was probably serving as a legatus legionis, which service probably extended beyond the Civilis campaign. Frontinus' passage from praetor to consul was therefore as short as it could have been, and so in him we see a senator who was assessed as being one of the most able up and coming generals in the new Flavian regime.

It would seem most likely, therefore, that Vespasian himself had already had a chance to judge the abilities of Frontinus. After all it seems axiomatic that in the tumultuous time of 69 the new emperor would preferably trust his own judgement rather than that of, in Frontinus' case, possibly, the opinions of any or all of the previous five emperors. Certainly Vespasian had no particular reason to rely on Nero's judgement. Frontinus may therefore have served in some capacity in Vespasian's Jewish campaign, possibly as an ex-quaestor legatus. He may also have served in Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo's Parthian campaign, either from 58 or 62 AD.

Three of the legions involved in both the Parthian war of Corbulo and Vespasian's Jewish campaign allow for Frontinus to have had continuous involvement from the early sixties until AD 69. The three were XV Apollinaris, X Fretensis, and V Macedonica. All were involved in Corbulo's campaign whence they moved to Egypt and then to Judea. In 69 Mucianus and Antonius Primus took VI Ferrata and detachments amounting to 13,000 men from the other legions to Italy to face Vitellius. These detachments would have included men from V, X, and XV. Indeed, it is these three legions which Tacitus states had long served with Vespasian.

We may therefore be able to postulate Frontinus' military movements between circa AD 58 and 69. He may have been involved in either of Corbulo's campaigns, after which he may have had a brief military sojourn in Egypt and then been taken to Judea where he served with Vespasian. He may then have gone to Italy as part of the 13,000 man detachment in 69. This is all very convenient and deduced ex silentio but it has many factors to warrant its close examination. In what capacity Frontinus served is less deducible; he could have been anything from a tribunus militum laticlavius, to an ex-quaestor legatus legionis, or (possibly) an equestrian officer.

There is less difficulty in supposing that Frontinus may have been a legatus in Vespasian's Jewish campaign, than in postulating that he had held such a position earlier, in Corbulo's Parthian campaign, because for Frontinus to have been made a legatus immediately or closely following his quaestor­ship (which he probably held in the early 60s) would have made him something very special indeed; and he probably would have come to be regarded more as a threat than a loyal and trustworthy commander in 69. The huge paucity of information regarding the legati legionum of individual legions it is not difficult to postulate a place for Frontinus in one of the many vacant periods.

For Frontinus to be chosen as legatus legionis apparently immediately after his praetor­ship is a sign of proven ability or favour, not only under Vespasian, but also under earlier emperors. In 1958 Syme suggested that Frontinus might have begun his career as an equestrian officer, perhaps coming to the praetor­ship late: perhaps adlected into the senate under Galba. Syme later moved to a firmer belief that Frontinus was equestrian, arguing 'Frontinus cannot pass muster as a patrician. Rather a former equestrian officer, of age towards forty, adlected to the senate by Galba.' If Frontinus was a patrician, which Anthony Birley argues was highly unlikely, we have no problem, but if he was equestrian, he may have been promoted rapidly because of his age. Birley presumably wants to make Frontinus older than the standard age for senatorial positions, favouring a birth date before 30. It should not be so difficult to see Frontinus not following the standard pattern but, as a likewise favoured senator, he may simply have had an accelerated career in a time of crisis when good men were welcomed and necessary. A comparison with Frontinus' successor to Britain, Cnaeus Julius Agricola, may prove fruitful here. Agricola was born in 40, tribunis militum in circa 61, quaestor in 64, praetor in 68, and legatus legionis of XX Valeria Victrix in Gaul then Britain 70‑73/74. He therefore reached the praetor­ship before Frontinus and at a younger age: yet Frontinus was the more senior. It was Frontinus who was consul first in 73, Agricola not until 78. Also, it was Frontinus who succeeded Cerialis to Britain — surely a sign, since both men were probably Cerialis' legati in Britain, that Frontinus was considered more senior. Therefore Frontinus' praetor­ship must have come late due to some factor that we do not know and not one of birth status.

Indeed Birley argues that Frontinus, P. Petronius Turpilianus, and P. Mummius Sisenna, the three governors apart from Agricola who went to Britain immediately following their consul­ship, were all 'at least as old when they arrived in the province as those governors who had consular employment before governing Britain.' Birley argues that the governors were all at least forty-five when they assumed office. However, Birley's next comment on Agricola may be telling for Frontinus. Birley argues that the case of Agricola is remarkable because of his age when appointed. Frontinus may be added to this remarkable case; he may only have been thirty-eight when appointed governor and the success of his tenure may have led to the continuation of the policy of appointing young, proven, vigorous and aggressive campaigners. Birley also argues that Agricola was the sole real British specialist. There is a strong case to argue that Frontinus was also such a British specialist, adding another reason for his appointment at a young age.

We therefore need to postulate why Frontinus held the praetor­ship late, and have already proposed the possibility of prior military commitment delaying Frontinus' holding the position — which, when he finally held it, was the highest praetorian appointment.

One would expect that Frontinus cannot have been too much older, for he presumably would not have been appointed curator aquarum as a very old man. However, Nerva did appoint Verginius Rufus, out of retirement, to be co-consul with himself in AD 97 at the age of 83. On the other hand, given the energy Frontinus dedicated or intended to dedicate to his appointment as he himself tells us, he cannot have been born too long before the 30s. If we were to take 35 as the date of Frontinus' birth he would have been (as noted above) an exact contemporary of Nerva, and a feeling that a man of his own age was ipso facto not too old may go some way to explain Nerva's appointment of Frontinus to the post of curator aquarum. He would have been 62.

Nerva seems often to have looked to men of his own generation who, perhaps, shared his temperament or tastes — or whose merits he possibly thought had missed their due. Frontinus is one of five veteran senators chosen for appointments by Nerva (the others being Verginius Rufus, Arrius Antoninus, Vestricius Spurinna, and Corellius Rufus). Birley argues that 'on the accession of Nerva [Frontinus] emerged as a leading senior statesman.' His merits had not previously missed their due, and so it would seem that he was selected on grounds of known administrative capacity for the post of curator aquarum, an office in need of his proven skills. There can be no doubt that Nerva appreciated these qualities in Frontinus; and he may also have thought of him as a personal friend. Frontinus was one of his first two choices for his economic commission, the Vviri Publicis Sumptibus Minuendis.

In Aelian there is the account (already cited in part) of Nerva and Frontinus at Formiae. From there, Nerva seems to have encouraged Frontinus, who seems to have been in retirement there and at Anxur, to accompany him to Rome. If we take Frontinus' birth date as circa 39 then he was younger — but possibly already in retirement, and brought back to Rome by Nerva. If, however, 35 is closer to his real date of birth then Syme's age problem (Frontinus' being praetor in 70 and consul in 73) lessens — and, if a birth year of 31 is correct, it evaporates. If Birley's even earlier birth date is correct then it makes Frontinus' position in the group of retired senators taken by Nerva to Rome more striking; but he would be the odd one out in Nerva's specially selected five, as the only former equestrian.

Frontinus therefore was probably not an equestrian, but a man of senatorial rank, whether patrician or not, born around AD 35. Anthony Birley, before writing The Fasti of Roman Britain, considered that 'it is even possible that he was a patrician: otherwise the short interval between praetor­ship and consulate is difficult to explain.' Frontinus may not have been a patrician but he may certainly have still been a senator selected for rapid acceleration.

There seems to be major discomfort among modern scholars regarding the abnormality of Frontinus' career with the most commonly suggested solution being that he was equestrian. Frontinus' career presents more of a likelihood that he was instead a truly exceptional non-patrician Roman senator.

Frontinus himself may provide evidence of his career prior to AD 70 in the Strategemata. We have evidence of Frontinus' knowledge of, if not his presence in, the campaigns of Corbulo between AD 58 and 60:

Domitius Corbulo, cum Tigranocertam obsideret et Armenii pertinaciter viderentur toleraturi obsidionem, in Vadandum unum ex megastantis, quos ceperat, animadvertit caputque eius ballista excussum intra munimenta hostium misit. Id forte decidit in medium consilium, quod cum maxime habebant barbari; ad cuius conspectum velut ostento consternati ad deditionem festinaverunt.
'When Domitius Corbulo was besieging Tigranocerta and the Armenians seemed likely to make an obstinate defence, Corbulo executed Vadandus, one of the nobles he had captured, shot his head out of a ballista, and sent it flying within the fortifications of the enemy. It happened to fall in the midst of a council which the barbarians were holding at that very moment, and the sight of it (as though it were some portent) so filled them with consternation that they made haste to surrender.'
Domitius Corbulo in Armenia duas alas et tres cohortes, quae ad castellum Initia hostibus cesserant, extra vallum iussit tendere, donec adsiduo labore et prosperis excursionibus redimerent ignominiam.
'Domitius Corbulo, when in Armenia, ordered two squadrons and three cohorts, which had given way before the enemy near the fortress of Initia, to camp outside the entrenchments, until by steady work and successful raids they should atone for their disgrace.'
Domitius Corbulo in Armenia Aemilio Rufo praefecto equitum, quia hostibus cesserat et parum instructam armis alam habebat, vestimenta per lictorem scidit eidemque ut erat foedato habitu perstare in principiis, donec emitteretur, imperavit.
'When Domitius Corbulo was campaigning in Armenia, a certain Aemilius Rufus, a prefect of cavalry, gave way before the enemy. On discovering that Rufus had kept his squadron inadequately equipped with weapons, Corbulo directed the lictors to strip the clothes from his back, and ordered the culprit to stand at headquarters in this unseemly plight until he should be released.'
Domitius Corbulo duabus legionibus et paucissimis auxiliis disciplina correcta Parthos sustinuit.
'By improving discipline, Domitius Corbulo withstood the Parthians with a force of only two legions and a very few auxiliaries.'
Domitius Corbulo dolabra hostem vincendum esse dicebat.
'Domitius Corbulo used to say that the pick was the weapon with which to beat the enemy.'

We can see from a comparison of Tacitus and Frontinus, especially in IV.1.21 and IV.1.28, that there is enough information found in Frontinus and not in Tacitus, to show either that Frontinus had another account to rely on, or that he was an eyewitness himself. Houston argues that Frontinus' references to Corbulo may be evidence that he served under him. Given Frontinus' relative 'reticence' (as Syme put it), on contemporary warfare we should endeavour to ascribe a reason for his including the small number of contemporary items that he did. The best solution seems to be that he only chose stratagems he himself witnessed or was involved in. This could be plausibly argued for all his stratagems of contemporary warfare.

The concern with discipline seen in these Corbulo stratagems, whilst expected under their chapter heading, perhaps shows us that Frontinus was drawing from his personal experience — discipline he had seen for himself and was impressed with. It is the restoration of discipline which is Tacitus' main theme in describing Corbulo also.

Frontinus' use of dicebat in IV.7.2 may, perhaps, be used as evidence of Frontinus' presence during Corbulo's campaigns. The other occurrences of dicebat do not suggest that this Corbulo stratagem was not from Frontinus' personal experience. Instead they may reflect Frontinus' source. The run of three stratagems which use dicebat at IV.7.1‑3 could imply a common apothegmatic source although, since they are the first three stratagems

De Variis Consilis
'On Sundry Maxims and Devices'

and Frontinus' reporting what he heard Corbulo say would be just as good a source as if he read it in some collection. Also, it is unlikely that Frontinus would read a literary source for a campaign he himself was probably in. Corbulo is the only protagonist in the dicebat stratagems that Frontinus could possibly have heard speak.

Frontinus has one reference to Vespasian's Jewish campaign in the Strategemata. If Houston's argument regarding Corbulo and Frontinus is acceptable then it can be applied to this Vespasianic stratagem as well and again possibly provide evidence of Frontinus' career before AD 70.

Divus Augustus Vespasianus Iudaeos Saturni die, quo eis nefas est quicquam seriae rei agere, adortus superavit.
'The deified Vespasian Augustus attacked the Jews on their Sabbath, a day on which it is sinful for them to do any business, and so defeated them.'

The legion that Frontinus commanded in 70, after a praetor­ship, would probably not have been the same one he commanded before 70, if he indeed did. Therefore we may not be able to prove any connection between Frontinus and the legions in the east, although the possibility of such a connection seems to be reasonably strong. However, if Frontinus travelled to Italy as a part of the contingent of 13,000 in 69 he would not have been assigned to a legion, and so a new military appointment was warranted after his praetor­ship.

Frontinus' Position immediately after A.D. 70

Cerialis brought the war against Civilis to a close at the battle of Rigodulum near Trier in AD 70. After his successful termination of the Gallic campaign he was appointed legate of Britain from 71‑74. If Frontinus had proven a successful subordinate, as he seems to have done, under Cerialis' command in 70, then the latter probably would have taken Frontinus to Britain as legatus of the same legion. Ward Perkins postulated that that legion was II Adiutrix.

The army for this campaign was formed as follows: Cerialis began with XXI Rapax and a force of auxiliaries, with whom he did not approach the territory of the Lingones, but instead went via Vindonissa, Mogontiacum and thence to Trier. Cerialis was then reinforced by XIV Gemina, XIII Gemina, VIII Augusta, XI Claudia, and II Adiutrix. XIV marched from Britain under its legatus Fabius Priscus through the territory of the Tungri and Nervii. Also I Adiutrix and VI Victrix were summoned from Spain.

Frontinus' presence in Germany in 70 has caused a great deal of unnecessary postulation. Birley's analysis has pointed to the fact that between AD 71 and 213, twenty-nine governors had previously governed Lower Germany before moving to Britain. What is more there are unusual gaps in the tenure of this office between 71 and 74, and an inscription to Frontinus is extant from Vetera Castra. Frontinus' remaining in Lower Germany would allow for him to be the governor of that province some time before departing for Britain. Ward Perkins argues that it is not possible to see Frontinus, a praetor in the new year, as legatus of either legio XXI or XIV. However, Frontinus may have succeeded Fabius Priscus as commander of legio XIV since legio XIV remained in Germany after the campaign and did not return to Britain.

In relation to Ritterling's suggestion, that Frontinus was legatus Augusti pro praetore of Lower Germany 73‑74, Syme points out that Cerialis left for Britain in spring 71, but that he was replaced by Acilius Strabo as legate of Lower Germany. If this was the same Acilius Strabo who was consul suffectus in 71, then we have a period in 71 during which there was no governor or 'a governor with an uncomfortably short tenure.' Frontinus is a possibility. Moreover, Strabo's tenure is restricted to 72/73. Frontinus may therefore have been governor for a few short months between 71 and 72 before the arrival of Strabo. Ritterling, using the Vetera Castra inscription, postulated that Frontinus was governor in 73/74, after his consul­ship and before going to Britain. This would also allow Frontinus barely a few months of office. A short tenure of such an important military post is not unattested but the suggestion that there were two such appointments, or even three, on end, (in Syme's words) 'arouses disquiet.' Moreover, the recent discovery of an inscription naming A. Marius Celsus as legate of Lower Germany in late 72 or early 73 would make that four very short tenures in a row. Birley argues that Celsus' appointment rules out the possibility of Frontinus' tenure of the office between 73 and 74. It would seem safe then to conclude that Frontinus was not governor of Lower Germany at this early date and that the scenario of his having held that command before going to Britain, tempting as it is, should be rejected.

It is therefore more plausible that Frontinus held the command later, and so dedicated the inscription either as legatus Augusti pro praetore between 78 and 82 or as a comes of Domitian possibly after 82. Syme assumes that the inscription comes from Frontinus' tenure as legatus legionis between 70‑73 or as consular legate at a later date.

Therefore, Frontinus probably continued as a legatus legionis after the Civilis campaign, but of which legio?

II Adiutrix and XIII Gemina formed part of the army which marched from Italy and joined Cerialis after the battle of Moselle. Their route through the west-Alpine passes would inevitably take them through the territory of the Lingones. In his reconstruction Ward Perkins suggests the control, 'nominal if not actual,' of these two legions by Domitian as far as Lyons, which would fit with auspiciis Domitiani in Frontinus' stratagem on the assumption that Frontinus had taken over command of one of these legions. Moreover, it would allow for Frontinus to be both a comes of Domitian and legatus legionis in 70.

However, as argued above, it is more likely that Frontinus was a legatus legionis before Domitian's reinforcement expedition which turned back after receiving news of the victory at Trier which Cerialis had his army for. Indeed the point is clarified by Tacitus at Historiae IV.71 when he refers to Cerialis at Mogontiacum gathering the troops there and using the troops he had brought with him over the Alps (secum transvexerat). Frontinus would have been with the legions Cerialis himself led from Italy earlier and not with Domitian's much later reinforcements. Frontinus was probably offered the position as legatus legionis in return for his resignation of praetor urbanus. Why then was Frontinus acting auspiciis Domitiani in the stratagem? Possibly because Domitian was the imperial representative, or because Frontinus was paying credit to the man he owed his position to. Frontinus may very well have considered that he was a comes of Domitian.

XIII Gemina was not commanded by Frontinus because it too was part of the legions to join Cerialis and at that time Vedius Aquila was its commander and Frontinus would have already been appointed. II Adiutrix, Ritterling argues, was a new legion probably formed from the sailors of the Ravennate fleet who deserted to the Vespasianic cause in 69. Therefore a new legatus was necessary anyway.

If Frontinus had proven himself capable before his praetor­ship as a legatus legionis he would be the efficient, loyal and capable commander necessary to launch a new legio. The appointment may not have been a natural one, as Ward Perkins suggests, but one that was offered to, or hunted out by Frontinus. The offer of the command of a legion given permanent status for its soldiers' loyalty to Vespasian in 69, would surely entice Frontinus to give up his praetor­ship willingly as a sign of loyalty, not to mention with a view to advancement.

It is unlikely that the legatus of this new legio would have been inexperienced in command at that level. In this point Ward Perkins is at fault. He argued that a new legio would require a new (and Ward Perkins seems to assume inexperienced) legatus and his main argument was that Frontinus was appropriate for the appointment because of his loyalty and efficiency, of which 'subsequent events leave no doubt.' Instead the scenario may well have been that Frontinus, a soldier in the east under Corbulo, and possibly a commander under Vespasian, was offered the command of the new legion in return for his resignation of the urban praetor­ship. He was loyal and efficient but he had probably also commanded a legion before. To ask someone inexperienced in commanding a legion to take control of one possibly composed of ex-mutineers of dubious loyalty would be illogical not to mention dangerous so soon after 69.

A comment in Tacitus may be pertinent here:

Adsumuntur e civitate clarissimus quisque et alii per ambitionem
'All the most eminent citizens were enrolled for the expedition, others at their own solicitation.'

The question is which comment possibly refers to Frontinus. Was he, at this supposedly early stage of his career, considered an eminent citizen? Or, as a praetor urbanus who resigned for Domitian, was he considered to be someone who solicited for the position?

In the campaign against Civilis, Cerialis provides us with an example of a stratagem in contemporary practice. In Historiae V.23 Tacitus records that Cerialis connived to destroy Civilis' support by ravaging the land of the Batavians but leaving Civilis' property untouched. This recalls the famous Spartan trick against Pericles in the Peloponnesian War. Frontinus' own involvement in this campaign makes the connection especially intriguing. Frontinus does not include this exemplary stratagem in his own collection and it is possible that the reason why he did not is that he himself was not present when the event happened. We have no evidence of Frontinus' having ventured as far north during this campaign as Batavian territory. Instead we have evidence of Frontinus in the South, in the Lingones' territory, probably at Mogontiacum, and probably at the final victory at Trier.

After the defeat of the revolt, Cerialis departed for Britain as governor, taking with him II Adiutrix to replace XIV Gemina. If Frontinus was the legatus of II Adiutrix then he would have gone with it to continue his tenure, which would not have been for less than a year. He must therefore have been involved in the remainder of the Civilis campaign, though not seemingly as far as Batavia. He also must have gone to Britain as legatus. Presumably Frontinus performed well enough in the position of legatus legionis to justify his appointment to replace Cerialis as governor of Britain in 74. Cerialis may have even nominated Frontinus as the best replacement to Vespasian, who was already aware of Frontinus' mettle. Therefore Frontinus must have been in a position to prove his capabilities of command and leader­ship not only before AD 70 but also in Britain specifically.

Frontinus' Consulship and Britain

Frontinus' appointment as consul suffectus in AD 73 raised him to the rank required for a governor of Britain, and may suggest that he had by then already been informally selected for the job. Cerialis had been consul suffectus in 70 before his appointment in 71, and in 74 he was consul II perhaps as a reward for his service in Britain. Frontinus' appointment as consul, with Domitian, certainly adds to the picture of Frontinus' being groomed or selected for succeeding Cerialis in Britain as well as proving that his resignation of the praetor­ship to Domitian was not a sign that he was out of favour with him. Similarly, seven of the legionary commanders of 68/69 who had displayed loyalty to the new regime received consul­ships 'almost at once' from Vespasian between 70 and 75, and three other legati of 69/70 received their fasces from Titus. The only legatus of 69/70 not to receive the consul­ship was M. Antonius Primus, who, having won the war for Vespasian in northern Italy, was, Syme says, 'cheated of public recognition and consigned to retirement.' It seems therefore plausible that Frontinus also had commanded before AD 70, and was rewarded in 73. Indeed, if these legionary commanders were to take up the fasces for the years immediately following 69, there would presumably be no room for a commander to assume the consul­ship who had only proven his loyalty as late as 70. Also, Frontinus' probable position in Britain as legatus legionis also groomed him for his appointment as governor and so we can postulate that he too was a British specialist, as was his successor Agricola, and that to some extent he was made consul to take advantage of that speciality.

Just as Cerialis succeeded Frontinus in the consul­ship, Frontinus was appointed provincial governor of Britain as legatus Augusti pro praetore probably from 74 to 78. During his term of office he conquered the Silures of Wales, as Tacitus says in the Agricola:

. . . sustinuit molem Iulius Frontinus, vir magnus, quantam licebat, validamque et pugnacem Silurum gentem armis subegit, super virtutem hostium locorum quoque difficultates eluctatus.
'. . . but Julius Frontinus was a great man, and so far as was humanly possible sustained the burden cast on him: his arms reduced the Silures, a powerful and warlike race; he surmounted not only the valour of the enemy but also the physical difficulties of their land.'

This is the only solid evidence for the achievements of Frontinus' tenure as governor of Britain. However, the purpose of Tacitus' passage was not to detail the governor­ship of Frontinus; we can therefore postulate much more activity than Tacitus describes. Tacitus could expect his readers to go to his Historiae for a fuller account of the campaigns of Frontinus which we cannot do because the relevant books are not extant. As Syme argues 'a single sentence is the only record of his activities — the subjugation of the Silures in South Wales: that would not be enough to justify the unworthy suspicion that he had neglected both northern Wales and northern England and had failed to consolidate or extend the gains of his predecessor.' Instead we should see Tacitus' passage as a kind of highlights package of Cerialis' and Frontinus' tenures — the conquest of the Brigantes being Cerialis' most notable achievement, and the conquest of the Silures Frontinus'. Nash-Williams argues that Frontinus possibly also conquered the Ordovices, although without giving reasons for his argument. Jones and Mattingly argue that Frontinus carried out major campaigns of subjugation of all the major Welsh tribes; the Silures, Demetae, Ordovices and Deceangli. As a result they imply credit for most of the marching camps in southern Wales to him arguing that fort building was established in central Wales by AD 75. This would also imply that many of the northern and central camps were founded during his governance also. It would seem not unreasonable to assume that Frontinus left only the Ordovices not fully subjugated before he departed Britain.

In the absence of the Historiae, Tacitus' judgement of Frontinus in the Agricola may be telling. The magnitude of Frontinus' achievement may be what Tacitus' statement pays tribute to — not his lack of achievement. This certainly seems to be the way in which Mattingly and Handford translate the same passage:

'But Julius Frontinus was equal to shouldering the heavy burden, and rose as high as a man could then rise.'

If such an interpretation is what Tacitus meant then he could not help but be influenced by Frontinus' subsequent career in such a judgement. We may therefore have in this brief passage an indirect insight into the importance which Frontinus achieved, as early as AD 78. What is more, Tacitus' date of composition for the Agricola may also have influenced his attitude to Frontinus. Tacitus composed the treatise in AD 97, a time when Frontinus was re-emerging as one of the most important men in the state. This makes Mattingly's and Handford's translation attractive.

When we compare the account of Frontinus in the Agricola to Tacitus' comments on earlier governors, Frontinus compares well, and indeed it is only he and Petillius Cerialis who get truly favourable mention. When we compare the more full accounts of previous governors with the case of Frontinus, we should be able to see factors, applicable to them, which also apply to him.

Aulus Plautius and Ostorius Scapula were

uterque bello egregius
'both distinguished soldiers.'

In the Annales (XI.36.1) Tacitus again describes Plautius' tenure of office as egregium/distinguished. Plautius was governor from AD 43‑47. The importance of Plautius' achievement in the conquest of Britain can perhaps be gauged from the fact that he was the last man to receive an ovatio.

Plautius' conquest left central areas of Britain firmly in Roman control, with only Wales and Scotland remaining to be conquered: a conquest which would occupy the next forty odd years and never be fully accomplished.

Of Ostorius Scapula's previous career we know virtually nothing, although his tenure as governor, from AD 47‑52, is more fully covered in the Annales than most. He was already in Britain in 47 late in the year and Birley argues that at a stretch

coepta hieme
'with winter begun'

could be argued to mean it was already past the equinox. Scapula's effective and rapid dealing to the problems he faced upon arrival, namely the frontier being threatened by both the Brigantes and the Silures and Ordovices, suggest that he was an experienced soldier. However, Scapula died in office in AD 52 and before his replacement could arrive the legatus legionis C. Manlius Valens (presumably of the Twentieth) suffered a defeat at the hands of the Silures. This therefore meant that the incumbent governor again faced a crisis on both the Welsh and Brigantian frontiers since trouble had also erupted between Cartimandua and Venutius.

These first two governors of Britain present a problem to historians because we have no knowledge of their careers prior to their governor­ship and consul­ship respectively.

The next governor Didius Gallus

parta a prioribus continuit
'merely held what his predecessors had won.'

However, Gallus did have recent military and diplomatic experience in dealing with rival royal claimants. Gallus started energetically even boasting that he might soon extinguish the Silurian name once and for all, but promptly lapsed into inactivity. Upon his arrival the Silures dispersed, which does imply that some kind of military reputation preceded him. Birley also argues that Gallus probably extended Roman control into the Welsh mountains. Gallus then turned his attention to Brigantia, sending first some auxiliary cohorts, and then a legion under Caesius Nasica: factors Tacitus is extremely critical of. Salway argues that Gallus may not have wished to advance the situation in Britain because of the change of emperor in Rome in AD 54. Suetonius records that Nero considered abandoning Britain, and such an attitude would indeed have retarded any expansionist plans of the governor of the province at the time. Therefore after doing little more than containing the troubles on the borders Gallus returned to Rome in AD 57 and is never heard of again.

Nero seems to have reconsidered his attitude to Britain, and Gallus' replacement was Quintus Veranius, a man selected for a more aggressive policy, probably in order to not allow the Claudian success to be seen to end in failure. We have no evidence of the civilian administration of either Veranius or Gallus.

Veranius died within a year of his appointment and is only given eight words by Tacitus. Nonetheless, Veranius was a favoured quaestor and IVvir monetalis under Tiberius. He seems to have laid low during Caligula's reign but came again to prominence in AD 41 as tribune of the plebs. He probably went overseas immediately after his praetor­ship in AD 42 to Lycia, which was annexed as a province in 43 and was where Veranius campaigned for five years, probably 43 to 47 inclusive. He was therefore an experienced soldier and probably had a military reputation of some standing. On his return he received high honours from Claudius, was designated as ordinarius for 49, and was adlected to the augurate. Birley argues that his appointment to Britain corresponded to the aggressive policy undertaken by Corbulo on the eastern border of the empire. He was probably sent to replace the inactive Gallus in order to carry out such a newly aggressive policy. Salway argues that Veranius' appointment probably envisaged the conquest of Wales. Frere argues that until Nero's decision on an aggressive policy in Wales in AD 57, the conquest of Wales was probably not considered; although surely such a troublesome nation during the conquest thus far would have warranted permanent dealing with. Birley argues that Veranius had the right experience for dealing with the Silures, since his experience in Lycia would have involved campaigning in mountainous country similar to the terrain in South Wales. However, in the short time that was to be his governor­ship, he effected no more than a few harrying raids into Silurian territory. We can only speculate as to the accuracy of his claims in his will (reported sceptically by Tacitus) that he could have conquered the whole province in two years if he had had the opportunity. However, Frere's argument that the extent of Paullinus' advance between 58 and 60, whereby he had only to conquer the remnants of the Ordovices and Angelsey, suggests that Veranius' estimate 'was not wide of the mark.'

Suetonius Paullinus was a general extracted from retirement after the death of Veranius, who had won his military glory under Claudius twenty years earlier. Paullinus was experienced in mountainous warfare, as was Veranius, and Birley and Stevens argue that he was selected for this purpose to continue an aggressive conquest of Britain. Birley argues, offering an alternative to Tacitus' Britannicis expeditionibus of Historiae II.37, that Paullinus may have been in Britain before his governor­ship, as a comes of Claudius in 43, but concludes that this could easily refer to his own three campaigning seasons. Indeed it is Paullinus who, Tacitus states, was a formidable competitor to Corbulo in the east, and

receptaeque Armeniae decus aequare domitis perduellibus cupiens
'was anxious to equal the laurels of the recovery of Armenia by crushing a national enemy.'

Paullinus had achieved immediate fame for his military conduct in Mauretania in AD 42 — a rapid campaign as far as Mount Atlas. This is the only military command directly attested for him, although Birley argues he could easily have been governor of one of the Germanies, Pannonia, or Dalmatia.

Paullinus' appointment in AD 58 supports the view that under Nero there was an aggressive expansionist strategy for both extremes of the empire, and one for which the equals of Corbulo were sought for Britain.

Paullinus had two years of success during which he almost concluded the conquest of Wales. He then attacked the last Welsh stronghold of Angelsey in 61 and, although this attack was successful, unfortunately he

adgressus terga occasioni patefecit
'left his rear open to attack'

or as translates less embarrassingly in the Annales:

Haec agenti Suetonio repentina defectio provinciae nuntiatur
'While he was thus occupied, the sudden revolt of the province was announced to Suetonius.'

However, Tacitus does give Paullinus credit for saving Britain from being wholly lost after Boudicca's revolt and states that he restored the province to its former state with a single military action. Tacitus then states that many rebels did not lay down their arms for fear of Paullinus' retaliation, for which reason he was replaced despite his qualities. However, there were also conflicts between Paullinus and the new procurator Classicianus, which led to a visit by the emperor's freedman Polyclitus. Birley argues that Paullinus' replacement should be assigned to the spring or summer of 61. He did not, however, fall out of favour; he was rewarded with a second consul­ship and was still active in 69 as one of Otho's leading commanders, and Tacitus states he even hoped to be chosen as emperor. Birley suggests that Paullinus may have survived into the Flavian regime and advised on Britain.

Paullinus was replaced by Petronius Turpilianus

delictis hostium novus
'a novice in the enemy's crimes.'

Turpilianus was probably, Birley argues, married to the sister of the first governor of Britain. 'Doubtless a kinsman of Plautius would have seemed a suitable person to restore confidence among the natives.' We know nothing of his career before his consul­ship in 61 and his tenure as governor was brief (probably AD 61‑62/62) since Frontinus states that he was curator aquarum for a year in AD 63. Tacitus makes it clear that Turpilianus' military activity was minimal:

compositis prioribus nihil ultra ausus Trebellio Maximo provinciam tradidit. Trebellius segnior et nullis castrorum experimentis, comitate quadam curandi provinciam tenuit.
'he dealt with existing troubles, but risked no further enterprise before handing over the province to Trebellius Maximus. Trebellius was deficient in energy and without military experience, but he kept control of the province by an easy-going kind of administration.'

None the less Turpilianus must have had something to offer militarily since he was given command against the uprising of Vindex in 68, although he never saw any action.

Trebellius probably came to Britain in AD 63 when Turpilianus was appointed curator aquarum. We have few details of his previous career and even his identification is fraught with varying interpretations. A legionary legate Marcus Trebellius successfully besieged two fortresses in the Taurus mountains in AD 36. Birley argues that this is probably the same man as the tribune of VI Ferrata who was friends with the author Columella. Tacitus' statement that Trebellius was without military experience would seem to contradict the new direction of policy in Britain under Nero. Birley argues that Tacitus may have been careless or inadequately informed or that nullis castrorum experimentis could in fact mean that 'he neglected to make trial of the army.' M. Trebellius was consul, probably in AD 56, with Seneca as his colleague and the two were probably friends. It would seem best to identify this and the governor as the same man. Trebellius' experience in the Taurus mountains would qualify him alongside Gallus, Veranius, and Paullinus as appropriately experienced for service in Britain. Paullinus' recall to service should show that Trebellius' experience in 36 would still have been thought applicable in 63. Birley argues that Trebellius' experience would have been especially useful in the conquest of Snowdonia.

Birley also argues that Tacitus' reference to Trebellius' comitas or gentleness was a positive factor and these traits necessary in the governor after the events of AD 60/61. He also argues that Trebellius may have become inactive after AD 64 because 'the times were not propitious for energetic military action.' Peace was the watchword throughout the empire after the eastern peace of 64. What is more in 66 the experienced British legio XIV and eight cohorts of Batavian auxiliaries were withdrawn by Nero to accompany him to the Caucasus. All these circumstances would have made an aggressive policy very difficult for Trebellius to undertake.

Trebellius remained inactive during the civil war of 69, and what is more there was a serious mutiny led by the legatus legionis of XX, Roscius Coelius, which, according to Tacitus, was due to inactivity on the part of an army used to campaigning.

Trebellius, fuga ac lateribus vitata exercitus ira indecorus atque humilis, precario mox praefuit
'Trebellius fled and hid to escape his angry army. His honour and dignity compromised, he now commanded merely on sufferance.'

Trebellius joined with Vitellius soon after April 69 but was still replaced by Vettius Bolanus who was given the task of returning XIV to Britain. Trebellius must still have been despised by his old army, especially the men of XX and Bolanus seems not to have tried to strictly restore discipline.

nec Vettius Bolanus, manentibus adhuc civilibus bellis, agitavit Britanniam disciplina: eadem inertia erga hostis, similis petulantia castrorum, nisi quod Bolanus et nullis delictis invisus caritatem paraverat loco auctoritas.
'Nor did Vettius Bolanus either, so long as the civil war continued, distress Britain with discipline; there was the same inaction in the field, the same rioting in the camp, except that Bolanus, who was inoffensive and had done nothing to earn hatred, possessed the esteem, if not the obedience of his men.'

However, the circumstances of Bolanus' appointment cannot have allowed for a great deal of heavy handedness. Although he brought back XIV to Britain, there is no evidence that the 8000 men taken by Vitellius were returned and very soon Vitellius would demand more.

Bolanus was a legatus legionis in the east in AD 62 under Corbulo and his military experience no doubt was considered appropriate to Britain.

Elsewhere Tacitus describes Bolanus' rule.

placidius quam feroci provincia dignum est.
'his rule was milder than a high-spirited province requires.'

During Bolanus' tenure trouble arose in the north. It would seem that in 69, probably taking advantage of the disruptions at Rome, Venutius once again attacked his ex-wife and this time she had to be rescued by Bolanus. Birley argues that Bolanus probably garrisoned parts of southern Brigantia. Bolanus did fight several engagements which suggests that Tacitus' statements in the Agricola regarding 'inaction in the field' are either a gloss or only refer to the period after Julius Agricola arrived as legatus legionis of XX in AD 70. At about this moment yet again XIV was removed from Britain to fight in the Civilis campaign. This would have prompted inertia, as indeed it seemed to under Trebellius.

Bolanus was replaced by Petillius Cerialis in AD 71 who at once gets high praise from Tacitus

Sed ubi cum cetero orbe Vespasianus et Britanniam recuperavit, magni duces, egregii exercitus, minuta hostium spes. et terrorem statim intulit Petillius Cerialis, Brigantum civitatem, quae numerosissima provinciae totius perhibetur, adgressus.
'But when Britain with the rest of the world was recovered by Vespasian, generals became great, armies excellent, and the enemy's hopes languished. And Petillius Cerialis at once struck terror into their hearts by invading the commonwealth of the Brigantes, which is said to be the most numerous tribe of the province.'

Earlier Tacitus states that under Cerialis Agricola had scope to display his good qualities which, under Bolanus, he had not had.

Tacitus' tone seems to wholeheartedly approve of the resumption of aggressive campaigning in Britain after so much inactivity. His comments on Frontinus are also telling in the context of Cerialis.

et Cerialis quidem alterius successoris curam famamque obruisset; sustinuit molem Julius Frontinus, vir magnus, quantum licebat . . .
'Cerialis, indeed, would have eclipsed the vigilance or the credit of any other successor; but Julius Frontinus was a great man, and so far as was humanly possible sustained the burden cast upon him. . .'

Cerialis is very important for the history of the conquest of Britain, but again, as with so many of the careers of governors of Britain, our knowledge is by no means full and is open to interpretation. Birley argues that Cerialis was a member of the Caesii family, probably the brother of Caesius Nasica. Cerialis revealed himself to the Flavian forces near Mevania in AD 69 after avoiding the Vitellian pickets using his knowledge of the Umbrian terrain and disguising as a peasant. Tacitus states

Propinqua adfinitas Ceriali cum Vespasiano, nec ipse inglorius militiae, eoque inter duces adsumptus est.
'Cerialis was closely connected with Vespasian, and being himself not without reputation in war, was made one of the commanders.'

Birley argues that Paullinus fares better than Cerialis does in Tacitus' three works. And although the summary in the Agricola does give Cerialis praise, his introduction in Tacitus' Annales is by no means triumphant. As legatus legionis of IX Hispana Cerialis came to the rescue of Camulodunum which had fallen to Boudicca.

Et victor Britannus Petilio Ceriali, legato legionis nonae, in subsidium adventanti obvius fudit legionem, et quod peditum interfecit: Cerialis cum equitibus evasit in castra et munimentis defensus est.
'Turning to meet Petillius Cerialis, commander of the ninth legion, who was arriving to the rescue, the victorious Britons routed the legion and slaughtered the infantry to a man: Cerialis with the cavalry escaped to the camp, and found shelter behind its fortifications.'

Birley raises the point that this first meeting between the Romans and the rebels is referred to as a clades/disaster and brief though it is it 'is distinctly unflattering.' Cerialis' legion was replenished from Germany. None the less it would have been after this set back that he did procured his marriage to Domitilla. We know nothing of his career between his legate­ship and his reappearance in 69 but Birley postulates that he might have been proconsul of Pontus-Bithynia. In 69 he was given command of one thousand cavalry but suffered a heavy defeat through carelessness on the outskirts of Rome. Cerialis also failed to arrive in time to save the Flavians on the Capitol, and he failed to keep his men in hand when senatorial envoys arrived. Nonetheless he was appointed, along with Annius Gallus, in 70 to deal with the revolt of Civilis. Birley argues that Cerialis was again rash and that Tacitus 'makes it clear that, in his view' Cerialis succeeded more by good luck than good management. Birley argues that Tacitus' account of Cerialis' tenure in Britain is not the praise it seems, but that Tacitus throughout viewed Cerialis' civil and military career in a critical light. However, Tacitus, despite describing the reverses suffered by Cerialis and apportioning blame to him, and indeed giving account of his rashness, also continually describes Cerialis as a good soldier. When we look at Historiae IV.78.2 for example we see the inescapability of Cerialis' prowess as a general.

Cerialis ut incuria prope rem adflixit, ita constantia restituit; secutusque fortunam castra hostium eodem die capit excinditque.
'Thus Cerialis, having almost ruined the situation by his carelessness, restored it by his resolution; and, following up his success, he captured and destroyed the enemy's camp on that same day.'

Therefore, in the absence of his record as governor of Britain in the Historiae, we cannot assume that the praise he receives in the Agricola was unintentional. Indeed Birley made this comment earlier but seems to have reconsidered it by the time of writing The Fasti of Roman Britain. Indeed, it would seem that despite Tacitus' best efforts to criticise Cerialis, he could not hide his accomplishments.

Cerialis' career did not peter out after Britain since he held a second consul­ship in 74, probably as reward for his conduct there. There was a Q. Petillius Rufus as consul in AD 83, and this is usually considered to be the son of Cerialis. However, as Birley argues, it is far more likely that it was Cerialis himself. Even if it is not Cerialis but a kinsman or a son, as the first choice to share the consul­ship with Domitian in 83, the first year Domitian was in control of consular appointments, this Q. Petillius Rufus demonstrates a man deemed necessary to honour. Birley argues that even if this consul is not Cerialis, if he was alive in 83, then Cerialis would have been ideal as an adviser on Domitian's German campaign (with Frontinus).

Of the previous governors some measure of praise is given by Tacitus to Plautius, Scapula, Paullinus, and to a lesser extent Bolanus. To the remainder Tacitus is either neutral or critical. With the above arguments for Cerialis, it is only Frontinus that Tacitus seems to consider truly praiseworthy. The activities and conduct of the previous governors of Britain should be indicative of the quality of Frontinus' tenure of office.

We have seen above a comparison between the careers of Frontinus and Agricola to show the likelihood that, like Agricola's, Frontinus' was in fact a remarkable career. Indeed Birley's whole analysis of Agricola and the governors of Britain in general provides various intriguing points to consider about Frontinus. Birley argues that thirteen out of the first sixteen governors of Britain were Italian, while the two definite exceptions were both men from southern Gaul — Frontinus and Agricola.

What is more, as a further argument that Frontinus had not been an equestrian, the only two governors who had entered the senate after an equestrian career were M. Statius Priscus and P. Helvius Pertinax. As we have seen above Birley suggests that Frontinus may also have been an equestrian. However, Priscus was governor in AD 161‑162 before being summoned to partake in Lucius Verus' Parthian war, and Pertinax was governor in 185. It cannot be considered likely that Britain would be entrusted so early in its conquest to the hands of an ex-equestrian, regardless of his ability, when she was not so entrusted again until 161.

Pertinax is also of interest because he, along with Frontinus and Veranius, share the distinction of being the only governors who only held one praetorian post (that we know of) before achieving the consul­ship. Birley calls these 'especially striking cases' but seems unsure of whether fully to categorise Frontinus as only having held one praetorian post. The rarity of governors of Britain only having held one such position may strengthen the case that Frontinus may have held a praetor­ship before AD 70 and/or that he commanded a legion before that date also.

We have seen that the Vespasianic governors of Britain were probably selected because of their experience in Britain. Like Cerialis and Agricola we can probably conclude that Frontinus was also considered a British specialist. We have also seen that they were probably selected on the basis of their experience of mountain warfare, even if that experience was quite distant. We may therefore speculate that Frontinus also had experience in mountain warfare, and, what is more, given the precedent, that he had experience commanding in mountain warfare. Certainly Frontinus' experience in mountain warfare is certainly reflected in his accomplishments in Wales and also possibly later in Germany.

Whilst in Wales Frontinus founded the legionary camp at Isca (Caerleon) and began the via Julia which can still be seen. Frontinus would have had to have founded many other camps in his subjection of the Silures and the other tribes of southern and central Wales, but their identification is less secure. However, Nash-Williams argues that Beulah has archaeological fragments usually associated with the governor­ship of Frontinus, and that Neath was first occupied and fortified by him, that Coelbren may have been established for the Silures campaign (although this assertion was dropped from the second edition) and one of the largest forts in Wales, the auxiliary fort of Brecon Gaer, was established soon after AD 75, following Frontinus' campaigns against the Silures (again an assertion dropped from the second edition), and lastly that Caersws was founded probably in the governor­ship of Frontinus. Boon makes the interesting observation that the forts in the majority are located on navigable estuaries and so the conquest of Wales must have involved sea-borne landings. Both Isca and Chester controlled their mountainous surrounds by lesser coastal and valley forts. Both were on loops of rivers, beyond the danger of flooding, and Isca also had the advantage of marshes to the east. In his first edition Nash-Williams argued that the most favoured position of a fort should have been a 'broad spur or platform close to a road and overlooking a river-plain or valley, with a clear view on all sides and the approaches masked where feasible by marshy ground.' Isca/Caerleon especially takes advantage of its natural surroundings. The other major fort attributed strongly to Frontinus is that of Chester for II Adiutrix.

Dilke also argues that Frontinus' part in the planning of Verulamium may have been underestimated. Salway argues that it is almost certain that the forum at Verulamium with its great public buildings was planned and probably started under Frontinus and that at Exeter, the forum and basilica were begun about AD 75, and that the forum of Cirencester should also be attributed to him.

Although Frontinus has left us the Strategemata, there seem to be no contemporary references from Frontinus' own experiences in Britain. However, Dederich and Kappelmacher cite Strategemata I.5.26 as a contemporary reference.

Eundem errorem obiecturi nostris Silures per diversa loca buculos laqueis ad arbores alligaverunt, qui diducti frequentiore mugitu speciem remantium praebebant hostium.
'To produce a like misconception in the minds of our men, the Silurians, in various places, tied bullocks to trees with halters. The animals, being thus separated, bellowed incessantly and produced the impression that the Silurians were still there.'

Usually Silures is replaced with the MS reading Ligures. This emendation moves the stratagem chronologically from Rome's expansion into northern Italy in the third century BC to Frontinus' own Welsh campaign. Bennett and McElwain have no note on this text. The implications of this stratagem as contemporary are therefore difficult to assess. We have no information on the campaign in extant narratives other than the brief note in the Agricola. One gets the feeling that the emendation is one of convenience for Dederich and Kappelmacher for it does not change any extant historical narrative. As the stratagem does not have a strict historical circumstance, and as it allows for Frontinus to have made reference to his own campaign in Britain, something which authors like Syme thought he would have done, the emendation is attractive.

When we examine and postulate Frontinus' governor­ship in Britain we cannot but help to assume certain things. Although we must do so with caution, rewards may be reaped by such speculation. We have already seen that Frontinus is unlikely to have neglected northern Britain and the rest of Wales during his office, and therefore to regard Tacitus' Agricola passage as a kind of highlights package. What is more, as Birley points out, when Agricola arrived he used the short half-season to successfully discharge the conquest of the Ordovices and Angelsey. We may therefore be able to postulate that a great deal of the organisation for this campaign was done by Frontinus before he left and that, unlike there being the exact same situation as under Paullinus before him, the situation throughout the rest of Britain was stable enough that a repeat of 61 did not occur under Agricola. The credit for that stability must lie with Frontinus. In 1973 Anthony Birley even suggested that Cerialis or Frontinus may have penetrated beyond the territory of the Brigantes and fought against, at least, the Votadini and Selgovae. Hanson and Campbell argue that Pliny the Elder's phrase

XXX prope iam annis notitiam eius (sc. Britanniae) Romanis armis non ultra vicinitatem silvae Calidoniae.
'in nearly thirty years Roman armies have explored Britain, but not beyond the neighbourhood of the Caledonian forest'

would place such exploration, from the date of the conquest, in the transitional era of approximately AD 73 — the governor­ships of Cerialis and Frontinus. And whilst this is an approximation, such military contact cannot be dated to Agricola's tenure because the Historia Naturalis was dedicated to Titus in AD 77. Therefore Frontinus may have been campaigning as far north as the Great Glen and certainly further than the forests of northern Britain. Birley, in 1981, argued that the phrase subiit sustinuitque molem in Tacitus' Agricola passage 'might well have been intended to convey the fact that Frontinus took on the burden of the war against the Brigantes.' Hanson and Campbell add that 'we might reasonably expect that Cerialis, or more probably Frontinus, would have begun the occupation of Brigantian territory.'

Speculation on the actions of Frontinus during his governor­ship is not a modern invention. In 1796 David Williams argued that because the Roman method of crossing the Severn has not been recorded, 'it must be left to those Antiquaries, who are at liberty to imagine ancient occurrences, as may suit their hypotheses.' Whilst historical methodology has hopefully progressed somewhat since the time of Mr. Williams, as the most erudite scholar on the history of Monmouthshire who has attempted such a hypothesis, his observations may prove useful. He conjectured that Frontinus would have feinted toward a place he calls Aust (opposite the mouth of the Wye), crossed the Severn, and drawn the Silures into the forest near the conflux of the Wye and Severn. He argues that the naval transports would have crossed and disembarked their troops near Charston rock, below Chepstow: for it is here, he argues, the via Julia began. Here Williams' conjecture ends, and given that it is only a hypothesis which we cannot test, no attempt shall be made to do so. Jones and Mattingly also conjecture the movements of Frontinus in Wales (they do not attempt to suggest any movements for the rest of Britain) although they do not identify which manoeuvres they consider to be earlier or later. Likewise this hypothesis can stand on its own merits — in the absence of any other evidence such conjectures can aid our ideas about Frontinus' possible conduct.

Britain was an anomalous element in the first century AD empire.

At his death Augustus left a Roman empire

mari Oceano aut amnibus longinquis saeptum
'fenced in by the sea, the Ocean and long rivers.'

Tacitus records that Tiberius addressed the senate after the funeral and deification and ordered a document left by Augustus, the breviarium totius imperii, to be read out. In an oft quoted and interpreted phrase the final clause of this breviarium

addideratque consilium coercendi intra terminos imperii
'advised the restriction of the empire within its present frontiers.'

Tiberius certainly did not follow this advice but it was mostly followed by subsequent emperors in their foreign policies until the last years of the first century and Trajan's wars of expansion, which banished what Syme called the 'inertia Caesarum.' There was, however, one exception to this general rule of keeping within the boundaries of the existing empire in AD 14; and that exception was Britain.

Britain was the only new active frontier throughout the Roman empire from the death of Augustus until the Dacian wars of Trajan. However, was Britain considered a new frontier? Caesar had invaded and despite Tacitus' comment that he

potest videri ostendisse posteris, non tradidisse
'can be seen rather to have discovered the island for his descendants than bequeathed it to them.'

Augustus records in Res Gestae 32 that there were, amongst the men who took refuge with him as suppliants, Dumnobellaunus and Tincommius from Britain. Augustus may therefore have considered Britain part of the empire through treaty and friendship. However, in the conquest of Britain the boundaries of those treaties and friendships were transgressed.

Britain was the one new theatre for imperial Roman generals to prove themselves; rebellion, civil war, and to a certain extent the acquisition of allied territories, were known quantities both geographically and militarily, but the only sphere where new techniques of subjugation needed to be tested, and new terrains mastered, was in Britain. Indeed A. Trevor Hodge described Britain as the 'boondocks' of Roman military service in the first century AD, implying that it was the place to serve. The most brilliant generals of the first century almost to a man spent time in Britain either during their formative training or at their height when the situation in Britain needed their campaigning skills.

Britain may provide a connection between Frontinus and the only other surviving military author the first century AD, the Platonic philosopher Onasander. He wrote the Strategikos in 42 chapters covering general precepts which concentrated on 'common-sense, even obvious, advice and watchful diligence, rather than mastery of technical knowledge or complicated manoeuvres. Strength of character and moral uprightness are well to the fore among the qualities required.' There is a practical purpose in this work which can been seen in the preface in its dedication to Quintus Veranius, consul in 49 and governor of Britain in AD 57‑58. Onasander does however himself recognise that his treatise has more than one purpose and may be perused by retired commanders. It is most probable that Onasander wrote the work in preparation for Veranius' appointment as governor of Britain. As was seen above, Birley deduced that Veranius must have arrived in Britain in AD 57, since Syme demonstrated that Suetonius Paullinus arrived in 58. This implies that Onasander probably wrote the Strategikos in 56 or early 57.

It is probable that Frontinus read Onasander as a specific work for a previous governor of Britain in preparation for his own appointment. In the De Aquis Frontinus states that:

primum ac potissimum existimo, sicut in ceteris negotiis institueram, nosse quod suscepi.
'. . .I deem it of the first and greatest importance to familiarise myself with the business I have undertaken, a policy which I have always made a principle in other affairs.'

He may well have considered Onasander's treatise a necessary part of his preparation. We can only ponder at how useful he found it.

Onasander expresses the necessities of general­ship in a straightforward common sense way. He may be dry and even cliched but the one thing he is not is useless. The principles of success in warfare are simple it is their application which leads to defeat or victory. Therefore to preach or to actually go through the apparently basic exercise of writing down common-sense advice is something which human experience evidently requires. Furthermore it is something which human experience seems to have required for an extensively long period of time. We should not therefore abuse practitioners of common-sense writing no matter how obvious we consider their advice. Such abuse is indicative of the ignorance and arrogance which arises from being unfamiliar with that which is being taught.

Despite modern philologists' and historians' low opinion of Onasander, he continued to be read as a military author through late antiquity, for he is included in Johannes Lydus' list of military writers. Even if Lydus only included authors which were on his bookshelf at the time, it is still of interest that Onasander was there.

Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries Onasander was translated no less than thirteen times into Latin, Spanish, German, French, Italian, and English. Smith had a high opinion in the nineteenth century and translations continued. Even the reviewer of the Loeb translation, the World War I veteran E. McCartney, saw the treatise's benefit.

Frontinus' Career after A.D. 78

After his return from Britain in 77 or 78 we have very little concrete information for Frontinus' career until the last years of the first century. Some have argued that he was out of favour and that his career faltered during Domitian's reign. We also have no information for Frontinus' career during the reign of Titus. During that reign, however, according to Syme, he may have been governor of Lower Germany. Jones has attempted to reconstruct a career for Frontinus during Titus' principate. 'Whilst there is no evidence of his activities under Titus, it would not be unreasonable to assign a place in the consilium to a senator of his ability and loyalty.' Jones places Frontinus as one of three loyal and experienced administrative and military senators, with M. Hirrius Fronto Neratius Pansa and M. Ulpius Traianus (senior), who were only seven to ten years older than Titus, were closer to him in background and outlook than the former Neronian counsellors, and who formed a group of three amici to advise Titus. 'It seems not unreasonable to suggest, then, that these three close contemporaries formed a unit on whose military knowledge and administrative experience Titus could rely heavily.' However, in 1954 Jones argued that many of the prominent Flavian amici lost favour under Titus but were promoted by Domitian in the first two years of his reign. This is a possibility which cannot be ruled out in Frontinus' case. Jones gives numerous examples of men who were ignored by Titus. It would seem that by the time of writing The Emperor Titus thirty years later, Jones had revised his view and considered that Frontinus could not have been ignored. Indeed Jones makes Frontinus the equal of Pansa and Traianus (senior). One of Jones' earlier examples of an ignored senator, M. Tittius Frugi, provides an interesting comparative study for Frontinus. Frugi was legatus legionis of XV Apollinaris during 68/69 in the eastern campaign and yet received no recognition under Titus. The other legati legionum in Judea included Traianus senior and Pansa but no one has yet made the postulation that Frontinus had command of a legion in that campaign. Despite this the point is made that 'other legionary commanders of 68/69 who had displayed loyalty to the new dynasty received the fasces almost at once.' This idea is constant in Jones from 1954 to 1984.

The reign of Domitian has also been considered a time when Frontinus was out of favour. However, Frontinus was appointed governor of Asia in either 85 or 86, and immediately before that he seems to have had a military posting to Germany between 82 and 84. Frontinus may have been either a comes of Domitian or legatus or governor of Lower Germany. He may even have been Domitian's comes in Dacia. He was therefore not out of favour at all. Indeed, Waters counts Frontinus as one of Domitian's 'most energetic and able supporters.'

Frontinus seemed to come into his own again politically in the reign of Nerva after a period of roughly a decade of retirement. Frontinus' then continued to flourish under Trajan. He was again consul, with Trajan, in 98, and III ordinarius with Trajan in AD 100. The attainment of a third consul­ship was the highest honour available to a senator in the empire; no privatus ever received a fourth. This appointment also shows the high regard that Trajan must have had for Frontinus.

Frontinus may have had a say in the selection of Trajan to succeed Nerva and this may explain Trajan's high opinion of him. Frontinus' relation­ship with Nerva has been partially analysed above and his part in the selection of Trajan may further reflect the tenor of Frontinus' relation­ship to Nerva. Frontinus may have also played a part in securing the succession of Trajan during the brief period of uncertainty following Nerva's death.

Sherwin-White argues that the second and third consul­ships of Spurinna in 98 and 100, the same years as Frontinus' second and third consul­ships, were a reward for his part in securing the succession of Nerva and Trajan. Given that Trajan shared his own second and third consul­ships with both men, the same may well be true for Frontinus. Birley argues that the exceptional honour of a shared third consul­ship with the emperor 'underlines the high regard in which he was held, and suggests, further, that Trajan had a debt to repay.'

The high regard that Trajan seems to have had for Frontinus is also reflected the success of Frontinus' son in law, Q. Sosius Senecio, who was consul ordinarius in 99 and again in 107. Frontinus' daughter, possibly the same Julia Frontina of the Oppenheim inscription, married Senecio. Trajan's regard is also shown in the respect he showed Frontinus' military writings, as is shown when Vegetius refers to

. . .Frontinus, diuo Traiano ab eiusmodi comprobatus industria.
'. . .Frontinus, who was highly esteemed by the deified Trajan for his efforts in this field.'

Aelian also seems to be aware of the respect held for Frontinus by Trajan: hence his references to Frontinus at the very beginning of his work. Frontinus could indeed be one of the advisers referred to in the statement attributed to Trajan by the author of the life of Severus Alexander in the SHA.

The early career of Trajan offers many occasions when Trajan may have come into contact with Frontinus as a military man and thus gained a favourable impression of him. Trajan probably entered into the vigintivirate in circa AD 70 and the controversial claim of his service for ten years as a military tribune is well known. Even if this claim is hyperbole these years, whatever their number, may have brought him into contact with Frontinus.

Trajan went to Syria in circa 75 but he may have been in Britain or Germany before that point. Trajan was a tribunus laticlavius circa 73/74 but was presumably in the army before that point. Pliny talks, Panegyricus 15.1, about Trajan as tribune in the far flung boundaries of the empire. This could include Britain which would have given Trajan ample occasions to meet Frontinus. On the other hand, occasions might not have been necessary since Frontinus may have known Trajan's father very well. Trajan was also involved in the campaigns of Domitian to suppress Saturninus in 88. He may have come into contact with Frontinus then because of the former's experience in Germany just a few years prior. Trajan may have been in Domitian's army in Germany, or possibly in Dacia. When Nerva appointed Trajan governor of Germania superior he may have sought out Frontinus' advice. Nonetheless Trajan did hold Frontinus in high regard and there had been ample opportunities for Trajan to form that opinion.

Frontinus was co-opted as an augur at some time after his campaigns in Britain and the younger Pliny's succession to Frontinus' place in the college of Augurs in AD 103 or 104 gives us a probable date for Frontinus' death. Pliny had gained entry to the Senate around AD 90 through the influence of family friends such as Frontinus. Frontinus further supported Pliny's career after the death of Verginius, Pliny's tutor, in 97. Sherwin-White argues that Frontinus was the friend and champion of Pliny, a genuine friend not just a political amicus. Pliny preceded Frontinus as consul suffectus in 100, an office for which Frontinus surely would have supported him. Pliny also claims that Frontinus himself proposed that Pliny be co-opted to succeed him as augur. Candidates were normally nominated by the College of Augurs for co-option and Frontinus was a member of the college. Pliny wants to make the most of Frontinus' proposal(s). As well he should, for we can see in Pliny's succession to Frontinus' place in the College of Augurs Frontinus' influence even after his death.


Frontinus may provide a balance to the damnatio memoriae of Domitian in Pliny and Tacitus in the five stratagems of Domitian's Chattan war found in Frontinus' Strategemata. These stratagems present a Domitian unlike the one we are used to seeing. The picture that is presented by Frontinus may not be that of a sycophantic and careful courtier, writing while Domitian was still alive, but instead may be that of an astute statesman who understood Domitian's policies. Perl argues that 'Er spricht vom Kaiser in den diesem zukommenden Formen und berichtet sachlich und ohne Übertreibungen, obwohl die häufige Nennung Domitians und die günstige Beurteilung seiner Maßnahmen eine pflichtgemäße Huldigung zu dessen Lebzeiten darstellen. Seine knappen Notizen sind um so wichtiger, als die Hauptquellen nicht erhalten sind und die erhaltenen Autoren teils nichts als überschwengliche Lobsprüche auf den siegreichen Imperator verkünden, teils nach dessen Ende in das Gegenteil verfallen sind und den Chattenkrieg (83‑85) zur bloßen Farce herunterspielen.' Frontinus may therefore present us with the most balanced primary account of Domitian that we will ever possess.

Imperator Caesar Domitianus Augustus Germanicus, cum Germanos, qui in armis erant, vellet opprimere nec ignoraret maiore bellum molitione inituros, si adventum tanti ducis praesensissent, profectioni suae census obtexuit Galliarum; sub quibus in opinato bello adfusus contusa immanium ferocia nationum provinciis consuluit.
'When the Emperor Caesar Domitianus Augustus Germanicus wished to crush the Germans, who were in arms, realising that they would make greater preparations for war if they foresaw the arrival of so eminent commander as himself, he concealed the reason for his departure from Rome under the pretext of taking a census of the Gallic provinces. Under the cover of this he plunged into sudden warfare, crushed the ferocity of these savage tribes, and thus acted for the good of the provinces.'
Imperator Caesar Domitianus Augustus, cum Germani more suo e saltibus et obscuris latebris subinde impugnarent nostros tutumque regressum in profunda silvarum haberent, limitibus per centum viginti milia passuum actis non mutavit tantum statum belli, sed et subiecit dicioni suae hostes, quorum refugia nudaverat.
'When the Germans, in accordance with their usual custom, kept emerging from woodland-pastures and unsuspected hiding-places to attack our men, then finding a safe refuge in the depths of the forest, the Emperor Caesar Domitianus Augustus, by advancing the frontier of the empire along a stretch of one hundred and twenty miles, not only changed the nature of the war, but brought his enemies beneath his sway, by uncovering their hiding-places.'

The passage is unclear — Frontinus' phrasing at limitibus per centum viginti milia passum actis could mean either that he drove 120 miles of military roads into enemy country, or that he constructed fortified boundaries extending for 120 miles. Jones converts 120 Roman miles to 75 kilometres. Jones wants the former interpretation, in agreement with Isaac who argued 'convincingly' that limites at this time were not used in connection with frontier/border defence. Isaac sees these limites as military roads driven into enemy country enabling Roman troops to move safely. Luttwak summarises the situation: 'it is unclear whether this refers to a frontage, a linear penetration, or a set of separate penetration axes.' Perl translates this stratagem according to his interpretation of limes meaning 'künstlich gebahnte Wege,' 'artificially constructed path.' '. . . ließ der Kaiser Caesar Domitianus Augustus mehrere breite gerade Bahnen in einer (Gesamt-)Länge von 120 Meilen (177,5 km) quer durch den Wald aushauen. . .' However these interpretations have been superseded by Isaac. Limes does not mean any kind of permanent defensive structure for the first three centuries of the empire. Such an interpretation, that limites were roads with watchtowers or forts along them, was proposed long ago and still has its supporters, although it has caused many problems with Roman frontier studies. Southern argues that Frontinus' limites and the establishment of a frontier were two separate concept, 'one referring to the course of the war and the other a result of it.' There is also a complicating factor which may come from Frontinus himself. In the preface to his de agrorum qualitate Frontinus refers to the campaign and states that in it he performed in the capacity of land surveyor.

Erant dandi interveniente certo itineris spatio duo rigores ordinati, quibus in tutelam commeandi ingens vallorum adsurgeret moles.
'Two straight lines had to be laid out, a given distance apart, along which a great high rampart was to be constructed to protect our supply lines.'

This preface is problematic. It was excluded from the corpus agrimensorum texts of Frontinus as early as 1848, presumably because it was considered interpolated. However, there are elements which suggest its authenticity and what is more in this context Frontinus himself seems to refute Issac's interpretation.

Frontinus' Domitian stratagems continue:

Imperator Caesar Augustus Germanicus, cum subinde Chatti equestre proelium in silvas refugiendo deducerent, iussit suos equites, simulatque ad impedita ventum esset, equis desilire pedestrique pugna confligere; quo genere consecutus est, ne quis iam locus victoriam eius moraretur.
'The Emperor Caesar Augustus Germanicus, when the Chatti, by fleeing into the forests, again and again interfered with the course of a cavalry engagement, commanded his men, as soon as they should reach the enemy's baggage-train, to dismount and fight on foot. By this means he made sure that his success should not be blocked by any difficulties of terrain.'
Imperator Caesar Augustus Germanicus eo bello, quo victis hostibus cognomen Germanici meruit, cum in finibus Cubiorum castella poneret, pro fructibus locorum, quae vallo comprehendebat, pretium solvi iussit; atque ita iustitiae fama omnium fidem adstrinxit.
'When the Emperor Caesar Augustus Germanicus, in the war in which he earned the title of 'Germanicus' by conquering the Germans, was building forts in the territory of the Cubii, he ordered compensation to be made for the crops of the land which he was including within his fortifications. Thus the renown of his justice won the allegiance of all.'

II.11.7 seems to back up Suetonius' favourable assessment

Ius diligenter et industrie dixit, . . . Magistratibus quoque urbicis provinciarumque praesidibus coercendis tantum curae adhibuit, ut neque modestiores umquam neque iustiores exstiterint . . .
'He was most conscientious in dispensing justice, . . . and kept such a tight hold on the city magistrates and provincial governors that the general standard of honesty and justice rose to an unprecedented high level. . .'

Levick compares Frontinus' stratagem with a passage in Statius

exegit poenas, hominum cui cura suorum,

quo Pietas auctore redit terrasque revisit,

quem timet omne nefas.

'He wreaked the penalty who hath care of those who are his, at whose word Loyalty hath returned and come on earth again, he whom every sin doth fear.'

Levick argues that 'the emphasis put by contemporary writers such as Statius and Frontinus on Domitian's justice and even handedness does give some support to Suetonius' favourable estimate. Obsequious flattery the comments of Statius and Frontinus may be, but the very fact that they chose that material suggests that Domitian prided himself on his justice.' Frontinus' stratagems do seem to show that he was aware of either Domitian's good strategy and his justice or his wish to have them recognised.

Jones records that only three of the Domitianic senators left accounts of his reign, Pliny, Tacitus and Frontinus. Of those three, Pliny and Tacitus are 'unreservedly hostile,' whilst 'the more experienced Frontinus seems to have approved of, or at least understood, what Domitian was trying to do.' When we compare these German war stratagems with the accounts of Tacitus and Pliny we see a marked difference. Luttwak makes a very interesting point about Tacitus' ridicule of the German war with its false triumph and fake prisoners. 'Tacitus obviously did not understand that the Roman Army could fight most effectively as a combat engineering force.' Luttwak compares Tacitus' lack of understanding of an engineering offensive to one of Frontinus' Corbulo stratagems, IV.7.2, where

Domitius Corbulo dolabra hostem vincendum esse dicebat.

'Domitius Corbulo used to say that the pick was the weapon with which to beat the enemy.'

Could this be a tacit understanding, in both the Corbulo and the Domitian stratagems, of just this engineering offensive function of the Roman army? Surely it shows that Frontinus appreciated a feature of the Roman army which Tacitus did not and it may be this part of Domitian's foreign policy during the war that Frontinus understood which other historians did not.

Luttwak also provides a possible reason for the hostility of historical accounts of the war. The war was a slow moving, possibly relentless, engineering offensive involving the construction of roads and forts and the clearance of forests. It is therefore likely that few prisoners were taken and booty would also have been at a minimum. Any triumph therefore would have been very dreary and so may have been 'spiced up' with booty and prisoners and thus may have been branded a sham.

Jones, in Domitian and the Senatorial Order, laments the lack of Frontinus' balance for most of Domitian's foreign policy. However he later seems to have altered his opinion, and points out that Frontinus' comments indicate that he was malleable and adaptable and 'whether from conviction or fear, he would have encouraged Domitian's initiatives in foreign policy.' Jones earlier stated that by AD 88 it was by no means certain that every senator regarded Domitian's foreign policy as disastrous. 'Some may well have been dissatisfied with aspects of it, while the more intelligent probably assessed it in much the same way as Frontinus had described Domitian's activities in Germany.' Frontinus certainly does, in view of the other evidence for Domitian's reign, provide the most balanced account of the Chattan war.

Luttwak argues that Frontinus has some 'precise but abstruse data' concerning Domitian's German campaign. Campbell argues that Frontinus' anecdotes 'sound authentic and were presumably chosen to demonstrate the emperor's qualities as a general and his competence in fieldcraft.' Campbell's note on II.11.7 is the most interesting. Without analysing the two stratagems in any way Campbell argues that Domitian's conduct in II.11.7 recalls that a good general's conduct should be moderate, and also recalls Frontinus' conduct in IV.3.14 against the Lingones. Perhaps Frontinus wanted a tacit comparison between his conduct during a campaign waged auspiciis Domitiani and Domitian's own conduct against the Germans.

There are further connections between Frontinus and the campaigns of Domitian in Germany AD 82‑84.

In the preface to the De Arte Mensoria or Art of Surveying, called by C. E. Bennett and M. McElwain in the Loeb 'a work on farming', the editors claim Frontinus states that his writing was interrupted because he was obliged to become a soldier. The source of this reference in Bennett and McElwain would remain a mystery if not for Dederich. Lachmann's text does not contain any personal information on the career of Frontinus. Dederich not only refers to the passage but quotes the relevant sections because of the previous difficulties of the text.

Interea venit clara sacratissimi Imperatoris nostri expeditio, quae me in ipsa scribendi festinatione praepediit.

'Meanwhile our most sacred Emperor's famous expedition came about, and cut me off just as I was in the full flow of writing.'

Bennett and McElwain conjecture that this interruption may have been the occasion of Trajan's first Dacian campaign. If this was the campaign, then the esteem that Trajan held Frontinus in is understandable. Dederich argues that the interruption was the Dacian campaign of Domitian, not that of Trajan. What Dederich does not state is whether he considers the Dacian campaign to have been Domitian's first in 84/85 or the second in 86/87, then 88/89. The reason for assuming the interruption was a Dacian campaign is that later in the same passage Frontinus refers to the emperor's opening the way for the Dacian victory, and then achieving it. Indeed Dederich argues that these vallorum/ramparts were constructed by Frontinus for Domitian's Dacian campaign.

However, as was argued above, in the same passage Frontinus describes his conduct in the Chattan campaign not the Dacian. The passage does state that Frontinus returned to his writing after Domitian achieved victory in the Dacian campaign.

ego ad studium meum tanquam ad otium sum reversus, et multa, velut scripta foliis et sparsa in artis ordinem laturus, recollegi.
'I returned to my project just as if I was returning to leisure, and I collected up again many things as if to bring things written and scattered through my notes into a well-organised state.'

This is not proof that Frontinus was involved in the Dacian campaign. The interruption seems more probably to have been Frontinus' appointment as comes of Domitian in 82 for the Chattan war. Dederich does not consider that Frontinus was a comes of Domitian in that campaign. Indeed that suggestion was first made in 1886, almost fifty years after Dederich. It is quite possible that Frontinus operated in the capacity of a comes land-surveyor for Domitian in the Chattan campaign. The operations involved in such a position would have been quite normal for any general making in-roads into uncharted and hostile enemy territory, especially if those in-roads were intended to create a new frontier. The preface states that after starting the project of building ramparts into the mountains of the enemy (nothing is said of the projects completion), Frontinus returned to his writing. This return occurred after Domitian's Dacian victory (AD 86). It was probably this section which led Dederich to conclude that Frontinus was describing his conduct in the Dacian war. However, the project of building two sets of ramparts and bridges into the mountains of a hostile enemy would have taken some time, not to mention the felling of forests which Frontinus implies in the stratagem at I.3.10. It seems that Frontinus may have been left in charge of such an engineering offensive project after the German victory, possibly with not much more than an engineering force. This project may well have taken some time, possibly the two years until early AD 86 when Domitian celebrated his first Dacian victory. This interpretation could also go some way to explaining the problem with the interpretation of limites. Southern argues that limites refers to the construction of roads during the campaign not of frontiers after the campaigns conclusion. If Frontinus remained in Germany constructing limites after Domitian had left, limites may well refer to a fortified frontier. Such a long tenure in Germany could also help explain the inscriptions examined below. It may have been from this project that Frontinus returned seemingly expecting leisure to continue his writing and subsequently was sent to Asia. Dederich also argues that the Dacian campaign was Frontinus' last appointment, which we know it was not.

This preface could provide evidence that Frontinus was politically inactive before 82, and indeed the reconstruction of Frontinus' position between 78 and 82 is the least secure. He may therefore have been writing for some, if not all, of that time. Frontinus could still maintain the role of an adviser to Titus as a semi-retired senator or a senator on a hiatus from public office.

What then of the authenticity of the de agrorum qualitate passage? Dederich considered that both the stratagem and the preface were from the hand of Frontinus. However, even Goesius, the text Dederich seems to be following, came to the conclusion that the text was not Frontinus'. The passage, except in that it is referred to cryptically by Bennett and McElwain, has since disappeared from the corpus of information on the career of Frontinus. Lachmann omitted the preface without mention. However, the information given in it is not irreconcilable with Frontinus' career and what is more the ratio referred to rings true of Frontinus' conduct in his other offices.

Expugnandorum deinde montium altitudines ut scirem, mihi veneratis Diis ratio monstrabat, quam ego in omnibus temporibus annotabam.
'The ready-reckoner I have always kept enabled me, by the gods' help, to find the heights of the mountains which had to be captured.'

The apparent problems with Frontinus' epithets for Domitian also evaporate with close examination. Both sacratissimi and coelestia might seem out of place in the first century. Sacratus of Emperors is mainly poetic but does occur in a first century text at Seneca Suasoria 6.5. The formulation then should not seem so odd for circa AD 85. Also caelestis is used elsewhere in the first century for the works of emperors.

We may therefore have to reconsider this evidence's acceptability for the carer of Frontinus and entertain the possibility that it is from the hand of Frontinus himself.


Frontinus seems to have been politically active only at the beginning of Domitian's reign until circa 87, and he may have chosen to write in leisurely voluntary retirement during the remainder of the reign. The proconsul­ship of Asia was a post so prestigious that senators usually did not go on to hold any posts afterwards.

Bennett and McElwain report that an inscription from near Oppenheim in Germany dated to around 84 was dedicated by Julia Frontina, a possible daughter of Frontinus. There are however two extant inscriptions which could be being described.

Deo. Apollini. Et. Sirione. Iulia Frontina.

V.otum S.oluit P.ecunia L.aeta L.ibens M.erito

'To the gods Apollo and Siria Julia Frontina

fulfilled her vow with money gladly, properly, and freely'

The next inscription seems to have been dedicated by Frontinus' daughter's own child.




'Dedicated to Julia Frontina,

daughter of Sex. Frontinus,

my mother.'

These may be testimony to Frontinus' presence in Germany immediately before, after or during Domitian's Germanic wars. Wheeler argues that Frontinus 'probably also commanded in Lower Germany 82‑84, during which time he possibly served in the Emperor Domitian's war against the German Chatti.' If Frontinus was present during this campaign then he will have been in a very strong position to report stratagems from that war, as indeed he does. It was these references that led Syme to state that Frontinus was one of Domitian's military advisers in the Chattan war which was 'a considerable operation, securing the whole frontier of Upper Germany' but for which the credit must belong 'to the emperor's military advisers, among them persons like Julius Frontinus.' Frontinus' presence in the campaign would have been desirable and logical as he was a successful and experienced general, not only in Britain but also in Gaul and Germany from the Civilis campaign. His presence in the war would have facilitated the stratagems he provides and their insightful observations on Domitian's strategy for which he may have been largely responsible. What is more the above reconstruction based on the de agrorum qualitate preface allows for Frontinus' continued presence after the conclusion of the campaign as a frontier securing exercise. This would also allow for Frontinus to be Domitian's comes and then the governor of Lower Germany after Domitian's departure. This would have given Frontinus the appropriate office to organise the frontier.

H. Düntzer in 1896 analysed Frontinus' Domitian stratagems and added his support to the originator of the idea that Frontinus was an adviser to Domitian in the war, namely J. Asbach in 1886. 'Dies dürfte einen nähern Anteil Frontins am Kattenkriege mehr als wahrscheinlich machen, und so ein Gewicht in die Wagschale legen bei der von Asbach gegen Zwanzigers Einspruch besprochenen Frage . . . ob Frontin im Kattenkriege ein Kommando gehabt. Fehlt auch jede bestimmte Angabe, so widerspricht doch nichts der ganz von selbst sich aufdringenden Annahme, vielmehr ist es wahrscheinlich, dass er als tuchtiger Kriegsmann, wie ihm Tacitus nennt, dem Domitian auf seinem ersten Kriegszuge zur Seite gestanden.'

Certainly these two inscriptions from Oppenheim were within the region of operations for Domitian's Chattan war. Jones argues that Domitian and his court may have spent time at Mogontiacum/Mainz, the legionary base of both XIV Gemina and XXI Rapax. And if we can postulate the presence of the emperor at one such legionary base, it is also likely he visited the other major base on the Rhine at Vetera Castra.

Another inscription, found at Sanctena near the Roman legionary fort of Vetera Castra, is dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva seemingly in recognition of the recovery from illness of Sextus Julius Frontinus.

iovi optimo maxim iUNONI

minerVAE. PRO

salute sEXTI JUL


'Thank offering to

Jupiter Optimus Maximus and JUNO


the recovery of health of SEXTUS JULIUS


There is no reason to suppose that Frontinus himself had been unwell, as Bennett and McElwain do, however, and Eck's interpretation whereby salute is taken to refer to the well being of the province at the end of Frontinus' office is more attractive. This would also imply that the inscription was erected at the end of Frontinus' tenure of whatever office, either as comes or governor. What is more, the inscription, if we take it to date from the termination of Frontinus' duties, possibly the completion of the frontier limites, is more securely dateable to late 85 or early 86.

This inscription is certainly evidence of Frontinus' presence in Germany but the date has been argued by some to be much earlier. The inscription does not tell us if Frontinus was legatus legionis or legatus Augusti pro praetore. Some scholars have therefore emended the text to include the latter of these appointments and concluded that Frontinus was governor of Lower Germany in 73/74. As we have seen above it is more probable that he was legatus legionis during the Civilis campaign.

Vetera Castra was destroyed by Civilis during his revolt in 70, and afterwards a new fort was constructed. The inscription and Frontinus' presence in that campaign support the hypothesis that he may have been the one who reconstructed the fort. If this is the case the Julia Frontina inscription may also be much earlier. However, a later date for the inscription creates fewer problems and seems more attractive.

Frontinus may well have taken his family with him as the comes of Domitian. The one disturbing factor in this reconstruction is uncertainty about wether it would be likely that Frontinus would keep his family with him when he was operating in hostile territory. Frontinus talks of having to plan bridges and breadths of rivers

etiam si hostis infestare voluisset
'even if the enemy had chosen to oppose us.'

However, his family would have probably been safe at Vetera and Mogontiacum; it need not be postulated that they would follow him to advanced positions.

Frontinus was probably not the governor of Lower Germany between 78 and 82 despite comments like Syme's that the 'hypothesis that he was in Lower Germany circa 78‑82 would conflict with no known fact.' He may simply have been taking a respite from public office after Britain, since it is unlikely that he was out of favour with Titus; he could still advise Titus as a privatus. It was from this break that Domitian summoned him to be a comes in the war against the Chatti.

We may not need to conjecture that Frontinus was suffering from any kind of ill health during his German appointment, or that he retired after circa 87 because of his health. Given that Frontinus was thrust into a necessarily energetic post as proconsul Asiae almost immediately, this supports Eck's interpretation of the Vetera inscription as a celebration of the successful completion of appointment as governor of Lower Germany; the fact that Frontinus was hale and hearty would naturally have allowed for his almost immediate appointment to Asia.

The Appointment to Asia

The posting to Asia was the best and most prestigious appointment that the senate could award. Frontinus was appointed proconsul in Asia in either 85 or 86, but we have very few details of his tenure of the office. However, the events surrounding the appointment seem to point to a specific reason for Frontinus' being chosen.

Frontinus was succeeded in the office of proconsul Asiae by Gaius Vettulenus Civica Cerialis and it is his fate which provides the clue as to Frontinus' appointment.

Three false Neros appeared in the east during the Flavian era, the first in 69, when a slave or freedman seized the island of Cythnos, the second a certain Terentius Maximus who gained a few followers in Asia in 80 and then moved to Parthia where he was accepted by a Parthian pretender. It is the third false Nero who concerns us here. The exact date of this pretender's appearance is not known, although Jones argues for 87 based on Suetonius' Nero 57.2 where Suetonius states that

cum post viginti annos adulescente me extitisset condicionis incertae qui se Neronem esse iactaret, tam favorabile nomen eius apud Parthos fuit, ut vehementer adiutus et vix redditus sit.

'twenty years later, when I was a young man, a mysterious individual came forward claiming to be Nero; and so magical was the sound of his name in the Parthians' ears that they supported him to the best of their ability, and only handed him over with great reluctance.'

Tacitus also mentions the pretender but gives no details of date.

mota prope etiam Parthorum arma falsi Neronis ludibrio
'even the Parthians were almost roused to arms through the trickery of a false Nero.'

This pretender caused great problems for Domitian; not only were his energies concentrated on the Dacian campaign which was at last showing sign of success, but there was also a conspiracy against him at Rome in September 87. 'The merest hint of trouble in the east would have aroused imperial ire.' The inactivity of Cerialis in solving the problem of the pretender seems to have led to his execution as

molitor rerum novarum
'a promoter of revolution.'

Jones argues that Cerialis was an experienced administrator who 'may have preferred to ignore the False Nero, fearing that intervention might exacerbate the situation, involve war with Parthia and prejudice the successful conclusion of the Dacian campaign.' Jones argues that the false Nero arose in 87 and Cerialis was despatched to deal with the problem. Unfortunately Cerialis proved to be so ineffective that his inaction led to his execution. If we accept Cerialis' appointment as dating to 87/88 then it was made in order to deal with the false Nero. It is not too much of an extension to see Frontinus' appointment for the same purpose since both fit with the viginti annos of Suetonius. We need not necessarily see Suetonius' viginti annos as an exact figure. It can just as well be the casual narrative of 'about twenty years later.' Therefore it would also fit if Frontinus was active in his office thwarting or resisting the pretender threat post viginti annos. It would seem not too much of a problem, then, to see the pretender threat arising in early 86, possibly within the first six months, before the designation of new governors. Frontinus may very well have been an emergency appointment when news of the pretender threat first reached Domitian and when the emperor could least afford trouble elsewhere in the empire.

It would indeed seem that Domitian considered Cerialis' inaction tantamount to conspiracy. This is where Suetonius' passage praising Domitian's tight hold on provincial governors holds interest. If this was the generally accepted assessment of Domitian's dealing with governors, including Cerialis, then the belief that the latter's behaviour was worthy of punishment might well have been widespread. Domitian replaced Cerialis for the remainder of 87/88 not, as Jones points out, with one of his three legati, not with his quaestor, but with the emperor's Asian procurator Gaius Minicius Italus. This may show a general distrust and dissatisfaction with Cerialis' staff. Italus had presumably kept Domitian informed of Cerialis' lack of activity, which was deemed treason by an emperor who required vigorous action to stay the pretender/Parthian problem. By November 88 Domitian had increased the military strength in Syria from seven units to twenty to deal with the problem.

The date of 87/88 for Cerialis' Asian proconsulate seems to have won acceptance and this earlier date aids us for Frontinus' proconsulate.

Asia was ideal for the False Nero's purposes. It was Asia which had supported Terentius Maximus only a few years before, and now imperial attention was well and truly focused elsewhere, in Dacia. The administrators of Asia were not essentially viri militares, the governor his three legates and quaestor also having had little opportunity to gain experience since all were appointed for the term of only one year. Military support was slight, consisting of only a few cohorts at Eumeneia. It is all this that makes Frontinus' appointment very interesting.

In Frontinus Domitian had a conscientious administrator and diplomat, not to mention a man of unquestionable military excellence, which he had most recently shown in the German campaign. His appointment as proconsul Asiae may have arisen from Domitian wanting the senate to appoint a reliable and able administrator with a fearsome enough military reputation to hold any trouble at bay. Frontinus may have supplied the vigorous activity that Domitian required in Asia, but a year long commission had to come to an end and in Cerialis the emperor probably hoped that he had another reliable administrator and capable military man. The fact that Cerialis seemed to fail led to his execution — and we do not know the precise circumstances of his failure. Given the lack of adequate resources for the governor of Asia to deal effectively with a military threat, collusion or cooperation with the pretender or the Parthians is not out of the question.

Perhaps, therefore, the first sign of trouble in the east with another pretender came not under Cerialis but earlier, either under Frontinus, or before, so that Frontinus was despatched and was able to hold the situation at bay. This would hold especially if trouble arose in Asia before any success was apparent in Dacia, when Domitian could afford even less to deal with any kind of eastern trouble. The best solution was to despatch Frontinus, possibly the ablest man on Domitian's staff.

Dederich's argument that the interruption in Frontinus' writings referred to his going to the Dacian campaign of Domitian would make the appointment to Asia more intriguing still. If Frontinus was a comes of Domitian on the first Dacian campaign of 84/85, he would have been the man 'on the spot' when trouble arose in Asia. A capable, loyal commander in Dacia when trouble erupted, in the form of the third imperial pretender during the Flavian regime. Domitian probably wanted to quash this latest pretender faster than either his father or his brother had, and so wanted a capable man on the scene who he could rely on to do such a job and also not collude. What is more, as success was not forthcoming during the Dacian campaign, Domitian would have been more inclined to send an accomplished and capable commander. Having Frontinus on hand would have provided the perfect opportunity for such a solution — arguably the most suitable appointee on the spot able to be despatched straight from his position as comes in Dacia.

However, we have rejected the presence of Frontinus in the Dacian campaign and instead argued for his continued presence on the German frontier involving himself, until the Dacian victory of 86, with the construction of the limites. With this project well in hand, or even completed, Frontinus returned to his writings, only to be summoned to serve again to quash the pretender threat in Asia. Frontinus would most probably have maintained contact with Domitian concerning the German frontier and may also have proffered advice on the Dacian campaign. The same concerns are true for Domitian in this scenario and Frontinus was still the loyal and capable commander and still the man on the spot and free to be sent, as he was not involved in the Dacian campaign or any other public office and he was fit and energetic. This reconstruction has the advantage that Frontinus seems to have been trying to concern himself with writing since before 82. This activity was interrupted by two imperial summons from the emperor. He returned from constructing the limites expecting leisure, only to be summoned again. After Asia, Frontinus finally had the opportunity to return to his leisure and writing, and, what is more he also had the excuse that he had now been proconsul Asiae and so could retire in accordance with senatorial tradition.

John Evans has argued that Domitian restricted the appointment of governors to Asia and Africa. Evans argues that between 85 and 97 only two of the governors of Asia and Africa can be regarded as viri militares; Frontinus and L. Funisulanus Vettonianus (Africa 91/92). He argues that 'it was Domitian's policy to reserve the proconsul­ships of Asia and Africa for those senators pursuing a civil rather than a military career, a class which considered proconsul­ships the apex of the senatorial career.' It may be that Frontinus had given up the military life and wished for civil appointments from 86 on, hence his complaint about being interrupted. However, as a military man who had recently shown his worth yet again, if there was a specific need for his appointment to Asia to see to a potentially dangerous military situation, whom else would Domitian send of active eligible age and who was free of other commitments? It may well be that Domitian restricted the proconsul­ships to non-viri militares normally, but that the military threat of the false Nero in 86 necessitated a military appointment, not only of Frontinus, but also the ill fated Cerialis after him. Although Cerialis is rejected as a vir militaris by Evans, Jones has argued that he was. Gaius Cerialis was consul suffectus in 75 and followed soon after his brother Sextus as governor of Moesia. Jones argues that Cerialis' preeminence in Suetonius' list of Domitian's consular victims was not accidental, exemplifying the emperor's decline from clementia to saevitia. He argues 'enough has been said to indicate that the brothers were regarded by the Flavians as loyal and efficient administrators.'

It may have been Cerialis' predecessor who suggested his appointment. Both Frontinus and Cerialis' brother had experience in the east, and both may have been consuls in the same year. After successfully holding the influence of the pretender at bay, Frontinus may have been asked, since he was obviously trusted, who might be suited to do the same task for the following year. He may have been paying a debt to Sextus in suggesting Gaius Vettulenus Cerialis.

We can also see the appointment of vir militaris to such an unmilitary province as Asia as being specifically related to a perceived military threat. In AD 21 Tiberius advised the senate to choose a proconsul who was:

gnarum militiae, corpore validum et bello suffecturum
'an experienced commander and physically fit for active service'

to deal with an incursion by Tacfarinas into Africa. Although not exactly the same, the sentiments of Tiberius must have been similar to those of Domitian — find a man who could deal with a threat with the (perhaps limited) resources at his disposal and who was physically fit for the job. Tacitus' account shows the refusal of one of Tiberius' suggestions, Marcus Lepidus, and the acceptance of the other, Quintus Junius Blaesus. Tacitus' comment is that Blaesus, as Sejanus' uncle, was too powerful a competitor; but Marsh and Traub agree that Blaesus' obvious military experience had something to do with the appointment. It would be logical if there was a real or potential military crisis in a non-military province, to appoint a competent military administrator who could best deal with the problem given limited resources. If Tiberius could use such a solution for Africa in 21 there is no reason Domitian could not do the same in 86.

Evans argues that the governor of Syria in 88, P. Valerius Patruinus, induced the Parthians to surrender the pretender. Certainly the trouble was over by the time of the appointment of L. Mestrius Florus, a non-military senator, as proconsul Asiae for 88/89. Italus may have succeeded in holding the pretender at bay once again after Cerialis' removal.

Perhaps Frontinus was not successful and was replaced after a year; if he was successful one might have expected a continuation of his appointment until the threat had been dealt with, or until proper relief could arrive. However, granting successive one year commissions in such a prestigious post to the same man would have further strained Domitian's relation­ship with the senate, not to mention that it would have placed Frontinus in a dangerously strong position. One might expect such a consideration to be waived in such a grave situation, which seems to be what the pretender was considered, certainly by November 88. Frontinus may have refused to take an extension, being himself aware of the dangers of such a continuation. Possibly the situation was considered to have cooled down sufficiently to warrant Frontinus' replacement with a lesser, though still experienced, military commander.

It is after the proconsul­ship of Asia that Frontinus seems to go into the retirement from which he returns with Nerva in 96. It may be that Frontinus was sent into retirement, a man too important to execute; or that he went into retirement himself: he was now into his fifties and had been proconsul Asiae — the pinnacle of a senator's career. Alternatively he may have become disillusioned at the lack of appreciation for, or the failure of, his efforts, during his successor's time in office in Asia. It would seem unlikely that Cerialis' failure was held against Frontinus but he may certainly have taken the failure as his own especially if he had suggested Cerialis as his replacement.

His experience in Asia would have most probably told Frontinus one thing — that a war with Parthia was likely if not inevitable. She had used the previous two pretenders to aggravate and embarrass Rome and Frontinus had possibly seen in his own tenure of office how far things had deteriorated. Addressing Vitorius Marcellus, Statius suggested areas where the young officer might serve after his praetor­ship as a legionary legate

forsitan Ausonias ibis frenare cohortes

aut Rheni populos aut nigrae litora Thyles

aut Histrum servae datur metuendaque portae

limina Caspiacae.

'thou perchance shalt go to curb the cohorts of Ausonia, or 'tis thy task to guard the peoples of the Rhine or dark Thule's shores, or Ister and the dread approaches of the Caspian gate.'

This and other passages have been used to prove that Domitian intended to mount a campaign to the east in the 90s. If Frontinus believed that war with Parthia was inevitable, it may have been he who encouraged Domitian to lead such a campaign, and he certainly would have been able to advise Trajan with his administrative and diplomatic experience of the region. This places Frontinus' statements to Aelian concerning the composition and publication of a Tactica in a more comprehensible light.

We have two inscriptions from Frontinus' proconsulate of Asia. The first is a bronze coin from Smyrna.

ανθυπατου Φροντινου
'of the proconsul Frontinus'

The second is a bilingual inscription on both sides, north and south of the great gate at Phrygian Hierapolis.


IIII COS xii p p portaM ET TVrres faciundas curaviT Sex Julius
. . .εποιΗ
ΣΕΝ ΣΕξτος . . . .
'In the reign of Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Pontifex Maximus, Tribunician Power IIII, Consul [XII, Pater Patriae, Sex[tus Julius Frontinus] had the Gate and Towers] built


 . . . .CaesaRE AUG GERManico pont max Trib pot

 . . . .Καισαρι ΣεβασΤΩ ΓΕΡΜΑΝΙΚΩ ΑΡΧΙΕΡΕΙ ΜΕγισΤΩ


iiII COS XII P P PORTAM ET TVrres faciundas curAVIT




'In the time of Caesar Augustus Germanicus Pontifex Maximus Tribunician Power IIII, Consul XII, Pater Patriae, Sextus Julius Frontinus had the Gate and Towers built.'

With two fragments:



'Britannicus Pontifex Maximus, Tribunician Power.'


portaM ET TVrres

kaI ΤΟΥΣ ΠΥργους

'The Gate and the Towers.'

Wheeler argues that Frontinus capped off his career with this prestigious proconsulate. Indeed as a senator in his mid-fifties Frontinus would have good reason to believe that he had reached the pinnacle of a very effective and distinguished career. Frontinus was not then to know that a second consul­ship and a III consul ordinarius — both held together with the emperor — were also to be his. Frontinus himself seems to have held the job of curator aquarum as a very prestigious appointment. By the time of his appointment as curator aquarum the prestige equation was working in the opposite direction to that which it had under Domitian. Prestige was no longer something to avoid or fear. Frontinus was such a distinguished statesman that his appointment showed the great importance the emperor attached to an efficient water supply system — something, one presumes, it was not by AD 97.


Despite the apparent paucity of material concerning the career of Frontinus (which is not belied by this reconstruction), there is a surprisingly large amount of testimony to him personally which for the most part (unfortunately) does not add to our understanding of his career.

In discussing a testamentary dispute dated between AD 93 and 96 Pliny called Frontinus and Corellius Rufus

quos tunc civitas nostra spectatissimos habuit

'two of the most eminent citizens whom Rome at that time possessed'

Such a testament does seem to suggest that Frontinus did spend some time at the imperial court, in order to be considered eminent enough to be worthy of mention.

Pliny also records a saying of Frontinus, as an instance of the esteem he had for him,

Vetuit exstrui monumentum; sed quibus verbis? 'Impensa monumenti supervacua est; memoria nostri durabit, si vita meruimus.'

'He forbade a monument to be erected to him, it is true; but in what words? 'The expense of a monument,' says he, 'is superfluous; my memory will endure if I have deserved it in my life.'

Pliny also seems to praise Frontinus within his praise for Trajan. There seems to be explicit praise for both Trajan and Frontinus when Pliny states

. . . illum antiquum senatum contueri videbar, cum ter consule adsidente tertio consulem designatum rogari sententiam cernerem. Quanti tunc illi quantusque tu!

'. . . I thought I had the great Senate of past times before my eyes when I beheld a consul for the third time seated by your side, and a consul-elect, again for the third time, called upon to speak. This was their finest hour, as it was also yours!'

His praise of both men continues when he then states

. . . ut olim cum hostis in proximo, et in summum discrimen adducta res publica, expertum honoribus virum posceret, non consulatus hominibus isdem sed idem homines consulatibus reddebantur.

'. . . just as in times past, when the enemy at the gates and the republic's gravest hour of peril demanded men tried and tested in office, it was a case of returning the same men to the consulate rather than the consulate to them.'

Martial also seems to record the esteem in which Frontinus was held.

Anxuris aequorei placidos, Frontine, recessus

et propius Baias litoreamque domum,

et quod inhumanae cancro fervente cicadae

non novere nemus, flumineosque lacus

dum colui, doctas tecum celebrare vacabat

Pieridas; nunc nos maxima Roma terit.

hic mihi quando dies meus est? iactamur in alto

urbis, et in sterili vita labore perit,

dura suburbani dum iugera pascimus agri

vicinosque tibi, sancte Quirine, lares.

sed non solus amat qui nocte dieque frequentat

limina nec vatem talia damna decent.

per veneranda mihi Musarum sacra, per omnes

iuro deos: et non officiosus amo.

'When I dwelt in the calm retreat of Anxur by the sea and a Baian villa closer to Rome, [Frontinus], a town house on the beach and a wood unknown to cruel crickets when Cancer blazes, and a river-like pond, there was time to cultivate with you the poetic Pierides. Now mightiest Rome wears us out. When do I have a day to call my own here? I am tossed in the city's ocean and life goes to waste in fruitless toil, as I support some acres of land and a dwelling neighbouring yours, holy Quirinus. But he is not the only loving friend who haunts a threshold day and night, and such loss of time does not befit a poet. By the holy things of the Muses that I must venerate, by all the gods I swear: undutiful as I am, I love you.'

As Kappelmacher pointed out, since Frontinus was respected by Trajan, 'daß an einem so angesehenen, überdies literarisch tätigen Mann sich Martial heranmachte, ist natürlich.'

The picture in Martial shows Frontinus in time of leisure and may therefore be capable of being combined with the picture of Frontinus that emerges from Aelian. Ker translates et non officiosus amo 'careless client as I am, I love you yet' and although it would seem that 'undutiful' might suggest a client/patron relation­ship, Ker may have pushed the translation too far. We do not know if Martial was the client of Frontinus but given that the only other reference to him is as a chronological way of dating wine, it seems unlikely. Duff, somewhat enigmatically, stated that in the line

doctas tecum celebrare vacabat Pieridas
'there was time to cultivate with you the poetic Pierides'

Frontinus' friend Martial 'alludes to a poetic vein discernible in him during leisure hours at the coast.' This is rejected by McDermott. However, Frontinus' character and the relation­ships we know about with the literary figures of Aelian, Pliny, and Martial do not disallow the possibility that Frontinus, in retirement, dabbled in poetry. He may have done so for his own amusement or perhaps to dispel a belief that has been expressed in the modern era and that possibly also existed in antiquity. It has been said that the work the De Aquis 'must qualify as one of the driest ever written, and is wholly devoid of any literary pretensions or elegance whatever.' Indeed Hodge has described the De Aquis as having 'all the elegant prose style of a railway timetable.' Even if such opinions were true it is no reason to assume that Frontinus had no capability for literary endeavour. Indeed it might suit a respected Roman senator in retirement to engage in pursuits, literary or otherwise, that his career had given him no time for.

The dating of Martial's Epigrammata may allow us to place this picture of Frontinus at leisure into a firm historical context. Book IX was published in AD 95, possibly in the spring, and Book X possibly in December of that same year. When X.58 was actually composed is not known although a stay by Frontinus in Anxur around 95 fits with Aelian's picture of his being at Formiae in 96. The estates of Frontinus' family seem to be widespread; not only do we have evidence of estates in Anxur and Formiae but also, from Frontinus' descendants, evidence of estates in Tibur, Cirta in North Africa, and Minturnae. Indeed it is McDermott's main point that there is only one senatorial family which can be traced from the Julio-Claudian dynasty through to the Severan — seven generations, and that is the family of Sextus Julius Frontinus.

The picture that emerges form Aelian's Preface to his Tactica seems, at first glance, not to give much information about the life of Frontinus; a closer examination allows much to be inferred. In his preface Aelian records that he went to Formiae and saw the distinguished consular Frontinus.

Ἐπεὶ δὲ ἐπὶ τοῦ θεοῦ πατρὸς σοῦ Ηέρουας παρὰ Φροντίνῳ τῷ ἐπισήμῳ ὑπατικῷ ἐν Φορμίαις ἡμέρας τινὰς διέτριψα δόξαν ἀπενεγκαμένῳ περὶ τὴν ἐν τοῖς πολέμοις ἐμπειρίαν, συμβαλὼν <τε> τἀνδρὶ εὗρον οὐκ ἐλάττονα σπουδὴν ἔχοντα εἰς τὴν παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησι τεθεωρημένην μάθησιν, ἠρξάμην οὐκέτι περιφρονεῖν τῆς τῶν τακτικῶν συγγραφῆς, οὐκ ἂν ἐσπουδάσθαι παρὰ Φροντίνῳ δοκῶν αὐτὴν, εἴπερ τι ξειρον ἐδόκει τῆς Ῥωμαϊκῆς διατάξεως περιέχειν.
'After coming to pay my respects to your deified father Nerva, I was able to spend some days at Formiae with the distinguished consular Frontinus, a man of great reputation by virtue of his experience in war. Discovering in conversation with him that he had no lesser regard for Greek tactical science, I began not to despise their tactical writing, thinking that Frontinus would not pay attention to it if he indeed considered Roman tactical usage superior.'

The meeting seems to fall ἐπὶ τοῦ θεοῦ 'in the time of the deified' Nerva, presumably therefore when he was emperor, between 96 and 98, and presumably before Frontinus was appointed to the economic commission or curator aquarum, appointments which would have necessitated his diligent presence away from Formiae or indeed any of his estates. AD 96 then seems to be when this meeting took place. The passage also implies the presence of Nerva in Formiae. This might imply a semi-retired amicable relation­ship between two similar aged friends, Frontinus and Nerva, at their estates in Formiae. Their friendship is indeed evidenced by Frontinus' recall to active duty in the reigns of both Nerva and Trajan. The passage also provides evidence that Frontinus had become some kind of warfare sage by the end of Domitian's reign, something that in itself would encourage Trajan to hold such a man in esteem.

It might be possible to see men interested in warfare in the late first century making a kind of pilgrimage to Rome's oldest 'living legend' general to discuss anything military. The fact that Aelian states 'I was able to spend some days' with Frontinus can be taken as evidence that Frontinus and Aelian had some kind of relation­ship before the meeting. Again this would have probably been a relation­ship of like minded (possibly literary) pursuit. We know nothing about the other literary interests of Aelian but the wide ranging interests of Frontinus would make him the kind of man with whom, in his retirement, you could discuss practically anything. Aelian may have been the client of Frontinus but there is nothing to prove this except the favourable treatment of Frontinus in the Preface. The arguments of Alphonse Dain about who Aelian was take up only four pages of his entire study. Nonetheless he identifies, but gives no opinion on, the fact that the title given to Aelian in the Codex Laurentianus Graecus 55.4

Αἰλιανοῦ ἀρχιερέως τακτικὴ θεωρία
The tactical theory of Aelian the Archpriest

may imply that Aelian was the same man as Ti. Plautius Silvianus Aelianus the pontifex of AD 70 identified in Tacitus Historiae IV.53. Therefore, if they are the same man, Frontinus may have had a longstanding relation­ship with Aelian, possibly through the College of Augurs. However, this would make Aelian a very old man in AD 113, if he was a priest in 70, and the author Aelian seems to be a thoroughly Greek antiquarian, not impossible, but unlikely for a senatorial Roman priest of long standing. Dain resigns himself with a flourish 'Élien sera seulement pour nous le "Tacticien": heureux si par cette dénomination nous évitons de le confondre avec les autres Éliens.' The other Aelians, the author of the Varia Historiae, De Natura Animalium, and the Epistolae Rustica, the sophist Aelian mentioned by Philostratus, Aelian of Praeneste, and the Aelian mentioned in Martial, probably the same Aelian Casperius — the praetorian prefect under Domitian and Nerva and in whom Dain argues 'nous avons affaire à un personnage connu des milieux lettrés.' Although this Aelian is the most attractive possibility: contemporary, and a man of military standing — he seems also too Roman to be the Tactica author. And once again it seems best to concur with Dain 'on ne sait.' Despite our ability to date the Tactica accurately, it would seem most likely that the Tactica Aelian is not identifiable with any of these Aelians but should continue to stand alone until new information comes to light. Regardless of the frustration of Aelian's identification his relation­ship with Frontinus should not cause distress. As one of the most important men of his day such a littriste 'seeking Frontinus out' is not hard to envisage or understand. Aelian may have gotten into Frontinus' 'good books' by feigning, or earnestly having, an interest in things military, hence Frontinus' encouragement, an encouragement that was not ignored.

Aelian seems to have begun his Tactica before meeting Frontinus but completed it when encouraged by Frontinus.

Τὴν παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησι τακτικὴν θεωρίαν ἀπὸ τῶν Ὁμήρου χρόνων τὴν ἀχὴν λαβοῦσαν, Καίσαρ υἱὲ θεοῦ Τραϊανὲ Σεβαστέ, πολλοὶ τῶν πρὸ ἡμῶν συνέγραψαν οὐκ ἔχοντες ἦν ἡμεῖς ἐν τοῖς μαθήμασιν επιστευθημεν ἕξιν ἔχειν. Ἐμαυτὸν δὲ πείθων ἠβουλήθην <ἔνθεν> συντάξαι τὴν θεωρίαν ὅτι τοῖς ἡμετέροις οἱ μέθ’ ἡμᾶς πρὸ τῶν ἀρχαιοτέρων προσέξουσι συγγράμμασιν. 2Τῆς δὲ παρὰ Ῥωμαίοις περὶ τὸ μέρος τοῦτο δυνάμεως καὶ ἐμπειρίας οὐκ ἔχων γνῶσιν — δεῖ γὰρ ὁμολογεῖν τἀληθῆ — ὀκνῶ κατείχομεν περί τὸ συγγράψειν καὶ παραδιψιοναι τὸ μάθημα τοῦτο ὡς ἀπημαυρωμένον καὶ τάχα μηδὲν ἔτι χρήσιμον τῷ βίῳ μετὰ τὴν ἐφευρεθεῖσαν ὑφ’ ὑμῶν διδασκαλίαν.
'Tactical theory among the Greeks goes back as far as the time of Homer, Imperator Caesar son of the Deified [Nerva] Traianus Augustus, and has been written about by many whose standing in scholar­ship was not reputed equal to mine, on account of which I was persuaded to think it possible for me to expound this theory, so that posterity might have access to and appreciate my efforts, rather than those of the earlier writers who have covered the same material.

But in view of my own ignorance — the truth of which must be admitted — of that form of theory and practice current among the Romans, I was prevented by diffidence from handing down a science forgotten and moreover long out of use since the introduction of the other system by your predecessors.'

Aelian, then, left the Tactica unpublished until he felt it worthwhile to publish it.

Πεποιηκὼς οὖν πώποτε συγγράμματος διατύπωσιν, μήπω δὲ πρὸς ἔκδοσιν ἑτοίμην ἔχων, διὰ τὴν σὴν ἀνυπέρβλητον, αὐτόκρατορ, ἀνδρείαν τε καὶ ἐμπειρίαν, δι’ ὧν πάντας ἁπλῶς τοὺς πώποτε γενομένους κατὰ πόλεμον στρατηγοὺς ὑπερβάλλεις, παρωρμήθην τελειῶσαι τὴν πραγματείαν καλὴν σφόδρα καὶ τοῖς ἐσπουδακόσι περὶ ταύτην τὴν θεωρίαν παραγκωνίσασθαι δυναμένην τὰ τῶν ἀρχαίων Ἑλλήνων  συντάγματα.
'Having therefore projected this work some time ago, but yet not being prepared to publish it then on account of your unsurpassed valour and experience, Imperator, through which you excel all the other generals, without exception, who have ever been, I have taken up again and completed this exceedingly worthwhile study, which is capable of elbowing aside, as far as serious students of tactical theory are concerned, the writings of the ancient Greeks.'

Aelian does not provide us with the exact context of the Tactica's publication but its delay does seem to imply that Aelian waited until he considered it advantageous or necessary. Perhaps Aelian foresaw the winds of opportunity at court concerning the Parthian war of Trajan in AD 113. Dain dates the departure of Trajan for the Parthian campaign to A.D. 113 — a date which would make Aelian's publication of the Tactica extremely pertinent.

Aelian was obviously interested, intellectually, in Greek Tactica; something which would make his association with Frontinus very understandable. Frontinus, after his own experiences either in the east early in his career or in Asia, may have recognised the practical applications of the Tactica in Roman Imperial warfare. We have seen above that the major concern in Frontinus' stratagems of Corbulo's Parthian war was with giving discipline. His own experience may have reinforced a belief that discipline was essential in Asia. Therefore for Frontinus to encourage Aelian in the composition of what was to a large extent a drill manual used for the reinforcement of discipline of troops may strengthen such a perceived requirement of Parthian campaigns.

Aelian circulated in the highest social circles in the reign of Trajan and so had contact with the most important men of the day, hence his meeting with and encouragement from Frontinus. This would seem to be a relation­ship of like minded intellectual pursuit. It may explain discussions on tactics in Homer and the Greek Tactica. Aelian therefore seems to be writing what he has been told is a worthwhile and practical essay without knowing precisely why. He himself sees the practical aspect of his work as something slightly different from Frontinus.

ἐὰν δὲ ὡς Ἑλληνικὴν θεωρίαν καὶ Γλαφύραν ἱστορίαν, ἐν ἧ καὶ τοῦ Μακεδόνος Ἀλεξάνδρου τὴν ἐν ταῖς παρατάξεσιν ἐπιβολὴν θεωρήσεις, ψυχαγωγίαν παρέξει σοι τὸ σύγγραμμα.

'If, however, you think of it as a Greek theoretical work and a polished dissertation, the book will afford an evocation of the dead, since in it you will observe Alexander the Macedonian's endeavours in marshalling his forces.'

However, given Aelian's own statements about Frontinus who encouraged him to complete the Tactica, the impracticability of the treatise begins to dissolve. Frontinus assured Aelian that 'he had no lesser regard' for the Tactica, presumably, from Frontinus' point of view, meaning that it possibly had a contemporary practical use, although Aelian seems to have been unaware of it. Aelian may, however, be being modest.

Frontinus may have seen the value of phalangite tactics first hand on numerous occasions: in Parthia with Corbulo; in Judea, Syria, or Egypt under Vespasian; or during his own experience in Asia. This would have given him ample opportunity to see the value of phalanx tactics against the Parthians, and therefore possibly given him an appreciation of the Tactica which illustrated and taught such tactics.


The next position that we have any knowledge of after 86 is Frontinus' appointment by Nerva, as one of the emperor's first two choices for the economic commission to decrease public expenditure, Vvir Publicis Sumptibus Minuendis. This commission was not to cure the dilapidated treasury left by Domitian. Instead, as Syme argued, there was a large increase in imperial expenditure with the succession of Nerva on public buildings, the repair of roads and aqueducts, and in necessary donatives and congiarium. At the same time tax-remission and fiscal generosity of all kinds were practised. Therefore the economy commission was not to fill the empty treasury of Domitian but to curb the extravagances of the new regime. The date that is normally ascribed to the commission must also therefore be reconsidered. If it was to curb the new regime's spending it cannot have come into effect immediately. Syme cites the evidence of Verginius Rufus, consul III on January first 97 with Nerva as his colleague, who felt he was in danger of being considered for the commission after he fell and broke his hip whilst rehearsing a speech of thanksgiving to Nerva. Syme argues that this speech was either to be given during his third consul­ship or when he was laying it down. This seems logical, and what is more it does imply that the commission was not instigated until at least 97. This would have given the extravagance of the new regime time to have become a fiscal concern.

Frontinus was then appointed curator aquarum in 97, succeeding Acilius Aviola who had held the post since 74. Frontinus seems to play up the seniority of the position in his De Aquis Urbis Romae:

administratum per principes semper civitatis nostrae viros
'which has always been administered by the most eminent men of our State.'

Hodge argues that the importance of the position 'was in Roman eyes immense, for, prestige apart, upon it depended not only the health, comfort and sanitation of the city, but even in its safety; Rome was plagued with fires and the memory of the Great Fire of Nero was only forty years old.' If Frontinus' appointment to the curator aquarum followed immediately on from the economic commission, it may increase the importance of the latter appointment. If there was a program of repair undertaken for the aqueduct system, but at the same time a concern for fiscal efficiency, Frontinus may have been appointed as a capable, efficient, trustworthy, and thrifty administrator who could perform the repair and expansion of the aqueducts and at the same time keep costs to a minimum. Aviola may also not have been thought capable or trustworthy since so many of the abuses listed by Frontinus had occurred or continued under his administration. Therefore the aqueduct appointment may have sprung from and been a direct result of the economic commission. If we combine such a possibility with the health, sanitation, and safety issues, the appointment to curator aquarum may be more important than anyone has previously considered. Also, if the curator aquarum position was a direct result of the economic commission then it might be best to reconsider Syme's title of mild palliative. It may have had further insight and influence than previously considered.

We know nothing of what Frontinus was up to in the period between the termination of his proconsulate of Asia in 87 and his appointment as curator aquarum in 97. It may be that for the remainder of Domitian's reign Frontinus was out of favour, although, as was noted above, senators did not usually continue a public career after the pinnacle of the proconsul­ship of Asia. Frontinus may simply have returned to his literary endeavours. We have seen that he may have been yearning for the opportunity to spend time writing since before 82. The picture of Frontinus as a respected semi-retired statesman writing at his retreat is enhanced by the image of Frontinus in Martial, Aelian, his relation­ship with Pliny, and his respected position in the assessment of Nerva and Trajan.

It is from the period of Frontinus' appointment as curator aquarum that his famous De Aquis Urbis Romae dates. In this work we are given some valuable biographical information, such as his attitude to administrative positions and his policy of familiarisation with the subject of his position.

There is a lead fistula found near the Via Tiburtina inscribed with the genitive of his name:


which presumably dates from his tenure of this post.

It is most likely that Frontinus held the position of curator aquarum until his death in 103/4.

Hodge argues that the implications of Frontinus' appointment are wider than they at first appear. He argues that Frontinus was one of the first representatives of a new order under Nerva and Trajan in senior technical positions. Under the Julio-Claudian and Flavian emperors a policy was pursued whereby imperial freedmen with first hand experience of a particular trade were appointed to such positions: men with long training in the particular businesses they served. Nerva and Trajan changed the policy, appointing distinguished public servants from the senatorial ranks who were expected to manage whatever department was allotted to them. The issue was whether the art of management was enough, or whether specific knowledge was required. Indeed such a polarised position exists in almost every facet of the commercial world today. With respect to Nerva and Trajan, this new direction in political appointment may also have been concerned with fiscal responsibility. Senators experienced in bureaucracy may have been more in tune with the imperial need for stringent economics than experienced tradesmen in managerial positions, without experience of imperial finances were.

Hodge supports the belief that there were enemies of Frontinus' appointment; men who might otherwise have been appointed under earlier regimes. 'No doubt there were many at Rome who looked forward with both pleasure and confidence to watching Frontinus, out of his depth in this highly technical quagmire, foundering ignominiously and dragging down with him into obloquy the whole new official policy.'

There is also a possibility that many tradesmen would have been happy to see Frontinus appointed and to see water supply issues being taken seriously at the highest level of government. It may have been good for their business to have a curator aquarum of Frontinus' rank. Frontinus' reputation in itself would have brought a great deal of added dignity to the post. He probably took the appointment very seriously and so his prefatorial statements may, in fact, be less hyperbolic than they appear. He may even have believed in his favourable comparison between the aqueducts and the idle pyramids and useless works of the Greeks.

However, Frontinus did not fall flat on his face, no doubt to the bitter disappointment of many disenfranchised managerial-tradesmen, and although not an engineer nor a hydraulics man, Frontinus did master his hydraulics, did reform the office of curator aquarum, and so probably vindicated the whole new professional appointment policy. In such a light Frontinus' appointment may have been a test case of the new policy and in hindsight (and probably with some imperial foresight as well) Frontinus was the ideal appointee — a diligent, dedicated, loyal, and proven capable administrator. Nerva would have needed evidence that Frontinus was the right man for the job, so to speak, evidence he amply provided earlier in his career. For Frontinus to come back to public life after ten years of semi-retirement, after having held the proconsul­ship of Asia, no doubt would have involved no small measure of imperial persuasion. Persuasion which, luckily, Frontinus was open to. The publication of the treatise itself may have been part of the policy vindication. Frontinus states that the work was for his own guidance (quem pro formula administrationis respicere possem 'for me to look back at in the course of policy formation') but as Hodge argues, a justification of his emperor's new policy must have itself provided some motivation.

We can therefore see Frontinus as being indicative of both Nerva's and Flavian political appointment policy. It was Ward Perkins' point to show that, like other Flavian governors of provinces, Frontinus was selected for Britain because he had experience in that province. Now under Nerva we can see Frontinus being selected as a master of management rather than a master of what was being managed. In Frontinus we probably have close to a best case scenario for such a policy, indeed, for such policies: a man whose personal experience did prepare him for the governance of a province and a man whose administrative skill suggested him for the managerial role of curator aquarum. Frontinus' diligence and dedication meant that he was not satisfied simply to rest on his managerial laurels but that he strove to learn the craft of the curator aquarum so that his service would be the optimum that he could offer.


Not unexpectedly, Frontinus' writings are usually assigned to the periods when we have no knowledge of his career, namely 77/78–circa 82 and 87‑96. He most probably wrote the De Aquis whilst operating as curator aquarum, after AD 97. However, the writing of the De Aquis may show that Frontinus' writings do not necessarily need to be assigned to periods of political inactivity. We do not, for a start, have a full picture of Frontinus' activity around which to build a 'time off for writing schedule.' However, Frontinus' statements in his preface to the de agrorum qualitate may show that he did take a break from office after 77/78 which may have involved much writing.

As the above reconstruction and hypotheses show, Frontinus seems to have been politically active for a great deal of the period before AD 87. It may therefore be unwise to make his writings fit into years when we have no information on his career. Those periods also seem to shrink with likely, although conjectured, offices and appointments. The above reconstruction would, at best, leave a politically inactive period of only four or five years (77/78‑82) for writing before AD 87. Secondly, he may have been writing as he worked. Frontinus regarded producing the De Aquis as a necessary part of his appointment.

primum ac potissimum existimo, sicut in ceteris negotiis institueram, nosse quod suscepi.
'. . .I deem it of the first and greatest importance to familiarise myself with the business I have undertaken, a policy which I have always made a principle in other affairs.'

Since he states it himself, the same principle may perhaps be taken to apply to his other writings, especially his technical treatises. This picture Frontinus reinforces in the same preface.

Quapropter ea quae ad universam rem pertinentia contrahere potui, more iam per multa mihi officia servato in ordinem et velut corpus diducta in hunc commentarium contuli, quem pro formula administrationis respicere possem.
'Observing, therefore, the practice which I have followed in many offices, I have gathered into this sketch (into one systematic body, so to speak) such facts, hitherto scattered, as I have been able to get together, which bear on the general subject, and which might serve to guide me in my administration.'

Thus it seems not unreasonable to conjecture that Frontinus' writings, especially his technical ones, may have been written whilst Frontinus was in an office which he deemed required them. We must therefore rely more heavily on internal evidence to date the writings of Frontinus than on periods of apparent political inactivity.

We may compare Frontinus to Pliny the Elder. His nephew records an image of a man of inexhaustible and relentless activity who not only executed his official duties but also found time to study, not only during the day but also half the night. And he could also manage a pre-dawn visit to Vespasian. Pliny the Elder seems to have lived up to his own words:

vita vigilia est
'life is being awake'

Frontinus, whilst not necessarily as studious Pliny the Elder, and having no admiring nephew to record him as such if he were, may similarly have carried out his official duties at the same time as composing his writings, especially if those writings related to the office at hand. He may have composed writings of interest to himself, and possibly previous offices he had held, during a subsequent office.

As has been stated before the following works are ascribed to Frontinus: a book on agriculture, an 'Art of Surveying', the De Re Militari or 'Art of War', the Strategemata, and the De Aquis Urbis Romae. A possible work on tactics in Homer is also attributed since Aelian states:

καὶ περὶ τῆς καθ’ Ὅμηρον τακτικῆς ἐνετύχομεν συγγραφεῦσι Στρατοκλεῖ καὶ Ἑρμείᾳ καὶ Φροντίνῳ τῷ καθ’ ἡμᾶς ἀνδρὶ ὑπατικῷ.
'And concerning the subject of tactics in Homer we have come across the following authors: Stratocles, Hermeas, and Frontinus, the consular of our own time.'

Such a work would certainly not relate to any particular office but could be composed in Frontinus' spare time during any one of his offices or during a period of inactivity. Manuscripts of Aelian have at this point Frontwni Fronto, the name of the author and tutor of Marcus Aurelius, which Devine has emended to the more appropriate Frontinus. If the manuscript scribe took Aelian's date of writing to be Hadrian's reign, since the manuscripts have his name, and not between 107 and 113, then Fronto would be more appropriate than Frontinus who died in AD 103/4. However, manuscripts also have Nerva as the emperor's father, for which reason, along with the meeting with Frontinus, the time of writing is assigned to the reign of Trajan. Fronto was consul, not in the reign of Hadrian but in AD 143. However, since Aelian's time of writing has been shown to be the reign of Trajan, writings concerning tactics in Homer by M. Cornelius Fronto, the tutor of Marcus Aurelius, cannot be referred to here. Another Fronto could be meant, but the references to Frontinus in the Preface, and the secure dating of the Tactica to Trajan's reign, make Frontinus (unlike Fronto, a military writer) an appropriate emendation. The original reason for inserting Fronto may come from the ample references to Homer in Fronto's writings, unlike the comparatively few in Frontinus. Although only a very small fraction of Fronto's writings survives, the extant correspondence has many such references. The fuller corpus of Fronto's writings may have been available to the scribe who put in Fronto's name in place of Frontinus'.

Of the works ascribed to Frontinus the work on farming seems to have been lost and the Art of Surveying survives fragmentarily. The De Re Militari may survive through Vegetius, and there is no other trace of a work on tactics in Homer. We have Frontinus' Strategemata and the De Aquis Urbis Romae.

The Art of Surveying contains the following subjects: de agrorum qualitate, de controversiis, and de limitibus. This work seems to have become the standard authority on surveying for many years and citations point to Frontinus as a pioneer in practical surveying as well as the earliest extant writer on surveying. However, the text as we have it is truncated and mixed up with a commentary by Agennius Urbicus. The work is said to betray an education in the Alexandrian school of mathematics, influenced especially by Heron of Alexandria, and although we probably cannot tell 'it is not unlikely that [Frontinus] was educated in that city.' On the other hand there is nothing in the treatises to show conclusively that Heron must have influenced the surveying writings. However, Heron, if indeed a floruit date of AD 62 is correct, could only have educated Frontinus early on in his career (the normal time in one's life for an education). To take time off to study mathematics after Frontinus had started an active political and military career would have been damaging. Frontinus' success in that career, and the long selection process for it that he had been in since his late teens, tends to suggest that such a break did not occur and so his education, if indeed it did take place in Alexandria or the east, must have taken place when Frontinus was a young man — perhaps even before he was old enough to enter the vigintivirate at 17; therefore before circa AD 52. Hypothetically, therefore, Frontinus may possibly have been educated in Alexandria in the early 50's. However, if Frontinus was in the east, either during Corbulo's Parthian campaign or Vespasian's Jewish one, he may have had the opportunity to go to Alexandria and perhaps learn from Heron closer to his accepted floruit date of 62. If, as was argued above, Frontinus was involved with legio V Macedonica, X Fretensis, or XV Apollinaris, then he will have been at Alexandria sometime around AD 66 until Titus moved these legions to Ptolemais in 67. He may therefore have had the opportunity for some such education.

If such an educational excursion did take place it may be proper to place Frontinus' writings on surveying early in his authorial career, perhaps before any of his military writings. However, Dilke argues that Frontinus seems not to have interested himself in technical treatises until the mature part of his career. If Frontinus was in Alexandria and educated at Heron's school of mathematics, this might put paid to such a notion. It is possible, however, that Frontinus absorbed Heron's mathematical education or that he took notes and so retained his education to use it in his writings during the reigns of Titus and Domitian. There is nothing that prevents us from assuming that he did not. Indeed that is what any writer would expect to be able to do at any time in their writing career. If Frontinus was educated in Alexandria before AD 70, that education's influence could still show up in a treatise written roughly twenty years later.

Dilke argues that 'Frontinus's knowledge of land surveying was extensive, so that we may suspect he had been a land commissioner.' We have no other reason to believe that such an office was ever held by Frontinus but the suggestion does not seem implausible. If we only had the De Aquis in fragments, and no knowledge of the appointment, it would not be outrageous to assume that Frontinus had held either the position of curator aquarum or one of its subordinate appointments. Perhaps he was a land commissioner in the reign of Titus or more recently before he was appointed curator aquarum. Only the latter period, i.e. AD 87‑96, would fit with Dilke's dating, but ten years was ample time for Frontinus to hold the office and compose the treatises. Certainly the composition of such a technical treatise implies a specific reason for its composition, such as the holding of a pertinent office. Perhaps the treatise and the office may relate to Frontinus' construction of the limites in Lower Germany following Domitian's Chattan war.

Frontinus' writing(s)

περὶ τῆς καθ’ Ὅμηρον τακτικῆς
'concerning the subject of tactics in Homer'

may not necessarily be a separate book but may simply refer to comments about Homer in Frontinus' other works. Frontinus has a stratagem applying a tactical manoeuvre in Homer, and it may be this that is referred to.

Pyrrhus pro Tarentinis apud Asculum, secundum Homericum versum quo pessimi in medium recipiuntur, dextro cornu Samnites Epirotasque, sinistro Bruttios atque Lucanos cum Sallentinis, in media acie Tarentinos conlocavit, equitatum et elephantos in subsidiis esse iussit.

Contra consules, aptissime divisis in cornua equitibus, legiones in prima acie et in subsidiis conlocaverunt et his inmiscuerunt auxilia. XL milia utrimque fuisse constat. Pyrrhi dimidia pars exercitus amissa, apud Romanos V milia desiderata sunt.

'Pyrrhus, when fighting in defence of the Tarentines near Asculum, following the Homeric verse, according to which the poorest troops are placed in the centre, stationed Samnites and Epirotes on the right flank, Bruttians, Lucanians, and Sallentines on the left, with the Tarentines in the centre, ordering the cavalry and elephants to be held as reserves.

The consuls, on the other hand, very judiciously distributed their cavalry on the wings, posting legionary soldiers in the first line and in reserve, with auxiliary troops scattered among them. We are informed that there were forty thousand men on each side. Half of Pyrrhus's army was lost; on the Roman side only five thousand.'

There is also a reference in Vegetius to Homer stating that:

Ergo necessitas exigit non tam staturae rationem habere quam ui. et ipso Homero teste non fallimur, qui Tydeum minorem quidem corpore sed fortiorem armis fuisse significat.
'So if necessity demands, it is right to take account not so much of stature as of strength. Even Homer himself is not wanting as a witness, since he records that Tydeus was small in body but a strong warrior.'

Such a reference may well have come from Frontinus' De Re Militari and if this, with the Strategemata passage, are what Aelian referred to then it is some indication that Aelian had read Frontinus and so held him in high esteem himself.

We know Aelian appreciated Frontinus' attitude towards Greek tactical writing which may well have included an analysis of Homer. Frontinus, as a militarily educated Roman, undoubtedly knew Homer and so it would seem likely that his relation­ship with figures like Aelian (we have no clue how many they were) would involve discussions of the military, theoretical merits of Homer and other writers and individual generals.

Homer was an appropriate inclusion in military discussion and indeed writing; he was still the poet of antiquity and his subject was war including all the intertwining complexities of emotions and relation­ships involved therein. Aelian still began his Tactica with references to Homer as the originator of tactical theory. We have seen that Fronto, the Cicero of his day, also filled his writings with Homeric references. Homer was still an appropriate and traditional subject within tactical theory and military writings since for many, even in the imperial period and especially during the second Sophistic, a military and general education would still have begun with Homer.

Frontinus may have intended to write a Tactica but it is impossible to conjecture when. This may explain why Frontinus encouraged Aelian to compose a Tactica because in him he saw a like minded, no doubt youthful, enthusiastic student of military literature. The date of this meeting at Formiae must have been between fourteen and eighteen years prior to the publication of Aelian's treatise, since we have seen that the meeting probably dates to AD 96 and Aelian probably published the treatise between 110 and 113, and probably closer to the latter.

It is from the fourth century AD that we have the only example of an 'Art' or 'Science of War' from Antiquity — the De Re Militari of Flavius Vegetius Renatus. As it is the only surviving example of such a work some have tried to make Vegetius simply an abbreviator of earlier works such as Frontinus' De Re Militari.

Vegetius' statements at II.3 support the view that he used Cato and Frontinus as principal sources, supplementing them with Celsus, Paternus, and others.

Milner argues that Vegetius was probably only using an epitome of Frontinus and Paternus, who wrote under Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, and thus used no original sources. However, we cannot know if Vegetius only had epitomes as sources because we do not have the originals with which to compare Vegetius. Milner argues that Frontinus' De Re Militari covered both Roman and Greek systems of warfare which would fit with the Strategemata being examples illustrating the precepts of the De Re Militari, and slightly more than half of those stratagems coming from Greek history.

The date of Frontinus' Strategemata is placed within Domitian's reign between 84 and 96 because of Frontinus' references to Domitian as Germanicus, a title only given after the German wars of 82‑83. Some have dated the Strategemata to after the wars of 88. We have seen that Frontinus was probably too preoccupied to write during the period of 84‑87 and so composed the Strategemata after returning from Asia. Frontinus tells us himself that the De Re Militari came before it, and was written nearer to his recent military experiences in Britain. Therefore the date of 88 for the Strategemata may well be correct. To have written his De Re Militari after his successful campaigning in Wales would have been most appropriate. The De Re Militari was therefore probably written between 77/78 and 82 and the Strategemata after Frontinus' return from Asia in 87.

As we have it Frontinus' Strategemata consists of 583 anecdotes, presented in an organised way, at least for the first three books. Book I deals with what precedes a battle, Book II with stratagems in battle and their results, and Book III, stratagems concerned with sieges. Book IV is concerned with internal army discipline and the duties of the commander. The composition and authenticity of the fourth book has been doubted. It has been said to have been added to the first three books as late as the fourth or fifth century. It may have been added by Frontinus himself to include stratagems from the whole of Strategika since those in Book IV do come from that wider definition.

Namque omnia, quae a duce provide, utiliter, magnifice, constanter fiunt, strathgika habebuntur.

'For every thing achieved by a commander, be it characterised by foresight, advantage, enterprise, or resolution, will belong under the head of "strategy." '

What is more, the suggestion has been made that Frontinus appreciated the need for discipline in Asia for dealing with Parthians and it is discipline and leader­ship that are the major concerns of Book IV. Book IV until 4.7 has examples of στρατηγικά and then reverts to στρατηγήματα, which were the sole content of books I‑III. G. Bendz argues convincingly for the fourth book's authenticity in Die Echtheitsfrage des Vierten Buches der Frontinischen Strategemata.

Everett Wheeler argues that Polyaenus' Strategika, more often called Strategemata, and Sextus Julius Frontinus' Strategemata together 'constitute the only surviving specimens of an entire genre of Classical literature.' However, the two are different because Frontinus tells us that he wrote his Strategemata to supplement his De Re Militari, whereas Polyaenus wrote the Strategemata to stand alone. Frontinus' Strategemata begins

Cum ad instruendam rei militaris scientiam unus ex numero studiosorum eius accesserim eique destinato, quantum cura nostra valuit, satisfecisse visus sim, deberi adhuc institutae arbitror operae, ut sollertia ducum facta, quae Graecis una στρατηγημάτων appellatione comprehensa sunt, expeditis amplectar commentariis.
'Since I alone of those interested in military science have undertaken to draw up in writing the science of military matters, and since I seem to have fulfilled that purpose, so far as pains on my part could accomplish it, I still feel under obligation, in order to complete the task I have begun, to summarise in convenient sketches the adroit operations of generals, which the Greeks embrace under the one name στρατηγήματα.'

Although this is a preface, and so we can expect many of the statements made therein to be matters of convention and literary topoi and even specious statements of purpose, this does seem to be a real statement of purpose.

Frontinus provides us with a definition of the words stratagemata and στρατηγικά from within the genre of their use. These two words are important for the understanding of the Strategemata themselves. 'στρατηγικά as a neuter plural adjective used substantively denotes the properties of a general or general­ship and in book titles military affairs in general' whilst στρατηγήματα means principles or examples of general­ship, and later military tricks. Originally the two were synonymous. Frontinus strictly defines στρατηγήματα as a subset of στρατηγικά; 'στρατηγικά denote the deeds of generals done with foresight, expediency, steadfastness, restraint, and justice, but στρατηγήματα refer only to offensive or defensive acts characterised by craft and cleverness, in short the clever deeds of generals (sollertia ducum facta).' It is in Book IV that Frontinus includes stratagems from στρατηγικά (IV.7 onwards).

Si qui erunt, quibus volumina haec cordi sint, meminerint strathgikwn et strathghmatwn perquam similem naturam discernere. Namque omnia, quae a duce provide, utiliter, magnifice, constanter fiunt, στρατηγικα habebuntur; si in specie eorum sunt, στρατηγηματα. Horum propria vis in arte sollertiaque posita proficit tam ubi cavendus quam opprimendus hostis sit. Qua in re cum verborum quoque inlustris exstiterit effectus, ut factorum ita dictorum exempla posuimus.
'If there prove to be any persons who take an interest in these books, let them remember to discriminate between "strategy" and "stratagems," which are by nature extremely similar. For every thing achieved by a commander, be it characterised by foresight, advantage, enterprise, or resolution, will belong under the head of "strategy," while those things which fall under some special type of these will be "stratagems." The essential characteristic of the latter, resting, as it does, on skill and cleverness, is effective quite as much when the enemy is to be evaded as when he is to be crushed. Since in this field certain striking results have been produced by speeches, I have set down examples of these also, as well as of deeds.'

The intended practical use of Frontinus' Strategemata is reflected in this definition of στρατηγικά and στρατηγήματα, and in the preface passage

Ita enim consilii quoque et providentiae exemplis succincti duces erunt, unde illis excogitandi generandique similia facultas nutriatur; praeterea continget, ne de eventu trepidet inventionis suae, qui probatis eam experimentis comparabit.
'For in this way commanders will be furnished with specimens of wisdom and foresight, which will serve to foster their own power of conceiving and executing like deeds. There will result the added advantage that a general will not fear the issue of his own stratagem, if he compares it with experiments already successfully made.'

Immediately after the definition of στρατηγικά and στρατηγήματα, Frontinus ends the preface with a list of Book One's contents that are

Species eorum, quae instruant ducem in his, quae ante proelium gerenda sunt.
'Types of stratagems for the guidance of a commander in matters to be attended to before battle.'

These statements of purpose for the Strategemata seem difficult to dismiss as being impractical since Frontinus was a successful general and had an interest in practical handbooks. Frontinus also states in the preface that the Strategemata, like his others, was undertaken for the benefit of others rather than for his own renown.

Campbell argues that in the Strategemata we 'should not expect to find precise parallels between textbook stratagems and the ploys used by commanders in historical narratives.' This is strange when we examine Frontinus who draws his stratagems from those historical narratives, and when we examine the examples that Campbell himself gives. Campbell argues that for Frontinus general­ship was straightforward commonsense, and it could be prepared for by copying earlier stratagems. He argues that Frontinus showed that the techniques of warfare had changed little, that the same tactics were used and that the same countermeasures would be effective. These tactics and countermeasures should have been supplemented with knowledge of how to manoeuvre troops. This seems to be a rather simplistic view of Frontinus' general­ship, since he was the only surviving author in the entire genre of military tactical writing who we know was a successful general.

A more complex view can perhaps be seen in the Corbulo dolabra stratagem; an insight into the fighting engineering force which Luttwak sees.

Johannes Lydus writing circa AD 555 is the only source for a work De Officio Militari or On the Office of General.

μάρτυρες Κέλσος τε καὶ Πάτερνος καὶ Κατιλίνας, οὐχ ὁ συνωμότης ἀλλ’ ἕτερος, Κάτων <τε> πρὸ αὐτῶν ὁ πρῶτος καὶ Φροντῖνος, μεθ' οὓς καὶ Ῥενᾶτος, Ῥωμαῖοι πάντες· Ἑλλήνων δὲ Αἰλιανὸς καὶ Ἀρριανός, Αἰνείας, Ὀνήσανδρος, Πάτρων, Ἀπολλόδωρος ἐν τοῖς Πολιορκητικοῖς, μεθ' οὓς Ἰουλιανὸς ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐν τοῖς Μηχανικοῖς, ὧν ὁ Φροντῖνος ἐν τῷ De Officio Militari.
'[discussing names for retired soldiers adoratores/ἀδωράτορες, and those who have grown old in arms veterani/Βετερανοι] attesters are both Celsus and Paternus, and Catiline, not the conspirator but another, and the first Cato before them, and Frontinus, after whom also Renatus — all Romans; and of the Greek writers, Aelian and Arrian, Aeneas, Onesander, Patro, Apollodorus in his Siege Engines, after whom Julian the emperor in his Military Engines. Frontinus makes mention of them in his work De Officio Militari.'

This work may simply be an alternative version or misreading of the title of the De Re Militari. Wheeler however claims that the work's title was the De Officio Legati and that it was indeed a separate treatise that has been ignored by all writers on Frontinus. He claims that it 'belongs to a genre of juristic literature detailing the functions of specific public offices.' However, the office of general could just as easily and appropriately be explained in the De Re Militari, especially since Frontinus would be reiterating the same material and this he does not seem to do in any of his other technical handbooks. It would therefore seem most likely that the De Officio Legati/Militari was not a separate work.

The duties of the commander found in Book IV may have been excerpted to become Lydus' treatise or this may have been all that survived of Frontinus by the sixth century after Vegetius' use of him, although 'after whom Renatus' does seem to imply the survival of Frontinus himself. Lydus' list is made up of authors, not of those whom the Byzantine world of the sixth century most respected, but those which Lydus had access to or could remember. His writings were 'stuffed with names of authors, both Greek and Latin, whom he cites to display his erudition but often from memory, which in part explains the numerous mistakes which he makes.' Lydus was very proud of his Latin erudition and so it is this and his memory which would have secured Frontinus a place in his work.

Lydus may therefore be shown to have read the De Re Militari of Frontinus at some time in order for him to either remember it in circa AD 555 or to have had access to it in Constantinople at the time of writing. This would make Frontinus one of the few Latin military texts available in the eastern empire in the sixth century. As such Lydus' knowledge of Frontinus may in itself reflect his prestige and its longevity.

There is one further reference to Frontinus in De Magistratibus concerning the position of the commander in the battle line.

καὶ μέσος μὲν ἦν. ὡς εἴρηται, ὁ αὐτοκράτωρ, ὡς ὁ Φροντῖνος λέγει, ἐξ εὐωνύμου δὲ πλευρὰς ὁ ἵππαρχος ἢ γοῦν ὕπαρχος, . . .
'And whereas the supreme commander, as I have stated, was in the centre, as Frontinus says, the cavalry commander, or rather the prefect, was at the left wing, . . .'

This reference seems to support that Lydus was indeed fallible in his memory and may destroy somewhat the supposition that Lydus had read Frontinus; at least he had not read him recently. He almost certainly did not have him on hand. Nonetheless, we can still safely postulate the existence of Frontinus' works, in some form, in the eastern half of the empire in the sixth century. Lydus probably did read Frontinus, or an epitome, at some time, but his recollections were far from perfect by the time he composed De Magistratibus.

The work which we can almost certainly state was Frontinus' last was the De Aquis Urbis Romae.

By modern authors, Frontinus' treatise is considered 'completely reliable, a specialist writing in his own field.' Hodge argues that the treatise was inspired, at least in part, by political motives. We cannot disregard Frontinus' statement that he always familiarised himself in the business of other political offices; a familiarisation which seems to have found reflection in the composition of treatises. However, Hodge has most recently raised doubts as to the reliability of Frontinus' word and is currently involved in an investigation to discover whether the figures for Frontinus' increased efficiency are in fact correct.

The standard view of the De Aquis is that it records the many abuses solved by Frontinus. Should we take Frontinus' word at face value about the great administration he ran? It is a constant temptation to newly appointed officials to criticise their predecessors. In Frontinus' case his having taken over from earlier curators who were of the old 'practitioner' type is a further factor. He had an opportunity and a motive for highlighting elements in the situation which would put in a good light the imperial decision to appoint him.

We may be able to assume that the abuses listed by Frontinus of previous administrations continued to some extent under his own. The only truly effective preventative measure to stop abuses by aqueduct officials, whose expertise Frontinus admits is necessary, would be a total purging of all field staff. This is unlikely to have occurred since the expertise of such field staff would have been nigh on impossible to replace.

To counter such suspicion we must however consider the laudable attributes of Frontinus which presumably were the reason for his appointment in the first place and his trustworthy accounts of Domitian and his undeniable ability and skill as a commander and administrator. However, the De Aquis raises interesting issues for Frontinus' attitude to Domitian. He was now writing under a different, friendly regime, and many of the abuses Frontinus is describing reached their peak during Domitian's principate. Frontinus speaks of the income from water-right rentals amounting to 250,000 sestertii. This income which had formerly been lost through mismanagement

proximis vero temporibus in Domitiani loculos conversum iustitia Divi Nervae populo restituit
'was turned in recent times into the coffers of Domitian; but with a due sense of right the Deified Nerva restored it to the people.'

This passage does seem to blame Domitian for such fund diversion despite Southern's euphemistic explanation of Domitian's 'attention to detail.' It would certainly seem unlikely that Frontinus would have made such claim under Domitian's principate, nor it must be pointed out, would he have even been aware of the situation. Frontinus is still respectful of Domitian and uses the situation to praise Nerva rather than condemn Domitian.

Hodge surmises the strengths of Frontinus' De Aquis as being based in his personal experience as curator. 'He excels in the bureaucratic overview, comprehensively grasping the aqueduct system as a whole. One feels that he carried in his head a map of the entire network and could visualise, almost pictorially, the traffic it was carrying . . . He is always conscious of the needs of scheduling shutdowns for repairs . . . Facts and, even more figures, are meat and drink to him . . . he glories in them.' Indeed it is after recounting the facts and figures of water volume flow and distance that Frontinus makes the claim that:

Tot aquarum tam multis necessariis molibus pyramidas videlicet otiosas compares aut cetera inertia sed fama celebrata opera Graecorum.
'With such an array of indispensable structures carrying so many waters, compare, if you will, the idle Pyramids or the useless, though famous, works of the Greeks!'

Hodge further argues that administrative techniques are Frontinus' forte and he always pays heed to the techniques of measuring the quantity of water, aqueduct law, and the rights and duties of both consumers and landowners across whose land the aqueduct passed. 'Standing out above all is a hard-headed practicality . . . and also a clear-minded ideal of the responsibilities of the public servant that could and should serve as a pattern for any succeeding age.'

This kind of behaviour is what we should expect of Frontinus, and is reiterated in his other writings and also in his attitude towards a funerary monument reported by Pliny which Hodge also uses. Frontinus therefore comes across as a very earnest man, uncommonly thorough in preparation of himself and his subordinates, unbearably serious to our tastes, but eminently accomplished and valuable for his vast knowledge and experience in an unbelievably wide range of areas.

C. E. Bennett describes the De Aquis as giving us the picture of the faithful public servant, charged with immense responsibility. 'It depicts a man; it depicts motives and ideal, the springs of conduct.'

'Were one asked to point out, in all Roman history, another such example of civic duty and conscientious performance of simple duty, it would be difficult to know where to find it. Men of genius, courage, patriotism are not lacking, but examples are few of men who laboured with such whole-souled devotion in the performance of homely duty, the reward for which could certainly not be large, and might possibly not exceed the approval of one's own conscience.'

We can add that Frontinus was a man of courage and patriotism, although it would depend on your assessment of Frontinus' performance whether you considered him a genius or not.


We have seen above that the influence of Frontinus extended past his own lifetime, especially in the adlection of Pliny to the College of Augurs. His influence in the sphere of military literature seems to have had even more longevity. We have also seen above the relation­ship between Aelian and Frontinus, and Frontinus' encouragement of Aelian's composition of the Tactica. Frontinus' influence was also perpetuated by his connection to the Antonine imperial household.

Sextus Julius Frontinus' sister's son, P. Calvisius Ruso Julius Frontinus, consul circa 84, married a Dasumia, the daughter of Dasumius and Aelia, possibly an aunt of Hadrian. Their son, P. Calvisius Tullus Ruso, consul ordinarius 109, married Domitia Lucilla, the mother of Marcus Aurelius' mother of the same name. This marriage connection reflects Frontinus' importance in the late first century AD.

In the realm of the genre of military literature there is a perplexing occurrence after Frontinus' writings. After him there was a return to the writing of Greek Tactica, not written since the Roman Republic. On one level the reasons for this return are difficult to posit, and yet on another, very simple. We have the Tactica of Aelian written circa AD 110 and that of Arrian written in 136/7. The most recent attested previous Tactica was that of Asclepiodotus the student of Posidonius, written shortly after 50 B.C. From the period following Frontinus we also have two Greek Strategemata, that of Polyaenus of Macedon in eight books for the Parthian war of 161, and, sometime between Frontinus and Polyaenus, a Strategemata in two books by the sophist Hermogenes of Smyrna. Polyaenus' is the only other Strategemata from antiquity to survive.

The simple explanation for the production of these works is, along with Frontinus' specific encouragement of Aelian, the second century explosion of Greek literature incorporating every kind of Greek literary endeavour. There is also a less tangible cause for the writing of such supposedly antiquated, Greek works and that is their practical ramifications. We have alluded above to the possible uses of Greek phalangite tactics and the Tactica that taught them. What follows is an examination of whether such allusion stands up to the test of a plausible reconstruction.

It does modern scholar­ship no good to see the literature of the second century as unreal, insincere and shallow. Instead we must recognise that such activity 'was considered high art in the cultural leaders of the times eyes'.' The problem in dealing with the second sophistic is highlighted by E. Bowie; it is often only alluded to without explanation and it has been focused on in the past as linguistic Atticism. Also, previous examination has been undertaken by looking at individual authors such as Philostratus, Galen, Aelius Aristides, Lucian, or Dio of Prusa. The problem with examining a cultural movement from the standpoint of individual literary figures is that any individual author cannot be indicative of a movement which is not only literary. Bowie examines the wider tendency of the second sophistic to reflect on classical Greek history, and so is useful for an examination of the influences of the second sophistic.

The antiquarian aspect of the second sophistic involved a passion for the Greek past. The Greek writers of the second century considered themselves to be the inheritors of a glorious past whose values they tried to perpetuate. To show their respect they filled their own writings with allusion, quotation, imitation and verbal echo from the classical authors. The Roman empire in its stability promised Greek culture an indefinite extension in time which could be associated purely with the past, or to the present.

This nostalgia for the past can be seen in the writers of the genre of military literature. Aelian sees the practical aspect of his work in that it is meant as a theoretical work which would evoke Alexander the Great's marshalling of his forces. Polyaenus also shows a deliberate interest in Alexander the Great as well as expressing the advantage he himself has in being Macedonian.

Arrian, writing for Hadrian, was well aware of the emperor's antiquarian interests. His statement about the Macedonian formations of old shows that as an antiquarian he feels that

ὅστις μηδὲ τούτων ἀπείρως εψελοι ἔχειν.
'no one would want to be ignorant of them.'

His Tactica is to elucidate them, because

τοῦτο δὲ αὐτὸ ἔδοξε μοι πρῶτον ἰάσασθαι αὐτῶν τὴν ἀσαφείαν.
'to cure ignorance of these [things] seems to me the primary concern.'

However, Arrian omits those areas that only have interest for the antiquarian or the theoretician, such as the stories about elephants and chariots found in Aelian. Aelian on the other hand includes the elephants and chariots at Tactica 22.1‑23 but states that 'we' rarely find use for these arms, and he includes them only to complete his antiquarian study. Simply by writing Tactica both Aelian and Arrian were evoking the greatness of past authors — especially if they were using them as their sources.

One possible reason for the shift to Tactica, aside from the practical applications each may have held, is the encyclopaedic nature of Frontinus' works. He completed a De Re Militari of high repute and a supplementary Strategemata. We know he may have also written about tactics in Homer. However, we do not know of Frontinus writing anything in Greek. We have also seen that Frontinus seems to have attained a sage-like reputation in the 'art of war'. Frontinus' imperial family connections probably saved him from being belittled by other authors in the genre of military writing in favour of their own works. There is further reason why Frontinus himself was not maligned by Polyaenus in particular. M. Pontius Laelius Larcius Sabinus, the comes of Lucius Verus in the Parthian war, was married to another descendant of Frontinus': therefore the belittling of such an esteemed ancestor is all the more unlikely.

What Frontinus seems not to have written about is the phalanx and classical Greek warfare. He may have considered classical Greek warfare useful from his own experiences in Asia and/or those in Parthia and Judea. We know he encouraged Aelian in his plans to compose a Tactica, although we do not know the precise reasons for such encouragement. There are several factors which allow us to conjecture why Frontinus would encourage such composition, apart from his own interest.

To write a Tactica provided the author with a subject that had not recently been explored. The most recent Tactica that we know of is that of Asclepiodotus.

Aelian reinforces the military sage status of Frontinus. We have seen already Aelian's trip to Formiae and his tactical science discussions with Frontinus. It would seem that Frontinus 'brought Aelian around' to his way of thinking regarding Greek tactics. In Aelian, Frontinus may have found someone to whom he could entrust the composition of such a work; and so he encouraged Aelian's interest at Formiae. We have seen above that the meeting probably came when Nerva was emperor and most probably in AD 96 but Aelian's book did not appear until after Frontinus' death (see below). In this respect Aelian may be viewed as having let Frontinus down.

Aelian claims that he is more scholarly than previous writers, presumably including Asclepiodotus (although it is a brash claim if he is intending to imply that he is more learned than Posidonius), and when he did complete and publish his Tactica he claimed that it would elbow aside (παραγκώσασθαι) the writings of the ancient Greeks themselves, such was the clarity, order and method that Aelian had used. However, Aelian was diffident about the merits of his activity, since its practices were long out of use, and was encouraged by his meeting with Frontinus. Aelian does not state why he did complete and publish the Tactica, but suggests that it would be useful as an evocation of Alexander's phalanx and it may be that the winds of opportunity at court regarding Parthia may have urged Aelian into action regarding the publication of the treatise.

In Aelian and Arrian we are dealing with two authors of the second sophistic who, like Hermogenes and Polyaenus, wrote in a time when Greek culture and antiquarianism were highly valued. This is a serious consideration for the composition of two Tactica during the 'second sophistic.' There is no reason to reject the idea that the composition of these two Tactica could have involved a combination of antiquarianism and a practical military handbook — as Frontinus and Arrian realise.

Any contemporary practical considerations for the composition of a Tactica must be entertained, if only to reject them after due process. In order to ascertain why these two Tactica were written we must look at each in turn.

We have already seen an examination of Aelian's treatise and his claim that it would be useful to the emperor in its evocation of Alexander the Great may be Aelian's view of the practicality of the Tactica, and this view may have differed from Frontinus'. We must carefully consider the reasons behind Frontinus' encouragement.

Aelian's appeal to Alexander may also not have fallen upon deaf ears. In Dio Cassius' account of the Parthian war of Trajan in Book LXVIII he makes allusions to Trajan's competition with and emulation of Alexander. Trajan went to Babylon in 116 in order to sacrifice to the spirit of Alexander in the room in which Alexander died. As the ultimate strategic forbear against the Parthians such a fascination with Alexander on Trajan's part is not difficult to explain. Gibbon too argues that 'the praises of Alexander, transmitted by a succession of poets and historians, had kindled a dangerous emulation in the mind of Trajan.' Therefore, Aelian's claim that his Tactica should be read by Trajan because of its evocation of Alexander may have been a carefully calculated move.

We saw above that Frontinus may have observed for himself the necessity of good discipline for an effective fighting force in the east. He also seems to have appreciated the discipline of Corbulo in the Parthian campaign. One possible reason for his encouragement of Aelian may have been to promote the publication of a drill manual for the discipline of troops. But this was a specifically Greek drill manual for the disciplining of troops in Greek style warfare. Yet there may also be an explanation for this.

Arrian's Tactica is a combination of the Greek and Roman systems of warfare. This can be shown as a reinforcement of a belief in the practicalities of the Tactica rather than a sign that the two warfare systems were incompatible. Arrian himself states that the Tactica had contemporary use even though he had already composed a separate treatise on Roman infantry tactics.

Arrian states this practical purpose in the preface and in the break between his Greek and Roman sections.

ἔστι δὲ ξύμπαντα ταῦτα τὰ συγγράμματα ἐκείνῃ μάλιστα οὐκ ὠφέλιμα, ὅτι ὡς πρὸς εἰδότας συγγέγραπται. καὶ τοίνυν τὰ ὀνόματα τῆς τε ὁπλίσεως ἑκάστης καὶ τῆς τάξεως οἳ μὲν ὡς γνώριμα ἀνέγραψαν, τὰ δέ ἐστιν εἰ μὴ ἐξηγήσαιο πάντη ἄγνωστα. τοῦτο δὲ αὐτὸ ἔδοξέ μοι πρῶτον ἰάσασθαι αὐτῶν τὴν ἀσάφειαν.
'All these writings on that [subject] are not useful at all because they have been written for the already knowledgeable. Moreover, some have written the names of each [piece] of equipment and every formation as [if they were commonly] known. But if you do not explain [them], some [of these things remain] completely obscure. To cure ignorance of these [things] seems to me the primary [concern].'

Arrian implies here that knowledge of 'these things' is still necessary. This is strengthened by the statement in the middle of the work.

τάδε μέν, ὥσπερ ἐν τέχνῃ, δι' ὀλίγων ἐδήλωσα ἱκανὰ ὑπέρ γε τῶν πάλαι Ἑλληνικῶν καὶ τῶν Μακεδονικῶν τάξεων, ὅστις μηδὲ τούτων ἀπείρως ἐθέλοι ἔχειν· ἐγὼ δὲ τὰ ἱππικὰ γυμνάσια, ὅσα ῥωμαῖοι ἱππῆς γυμνάζονται, ἐν τῷ παρόντι ἐπεξελθών, ὅτι τὰ πεζικὰ ἔφθην δηλῶσαι ἐν τῇ συγγραφῇ ἥντινα ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ τοῦ βασιλέως συνέγραψα.
'I have revealed these things adequately in a few [lines], as in [military] art, about the Greek and Macedonian formations of old, since no one would want to be ignorant of them. At present I [will] go through the cavalry exercises which Roman horsemen perform because I have [already] revealed [their] infantry ones in the study which I wrote about the king himself.'

Arrian reiterates the necessity to not be ignorant of the Greek and Macedonian formations of old.

Arrian composed The Expedition Against the Alans or Ectaxis whilst he was the governor of Cappadocia. In 135 the Alani, a Sarmatian tribe, made incursions into the Roman province of Cappadocia whilst returning from a booty raid into Media Atropatene. Arrian was therefore compelled to make a demonstration of force. This fragmentary treatise is Arrian's record of that show of force. It is the 'most detailed account of Roman tactics extant for the Early Imperial period and demonstrates Roman deployment of the legion as a phalanx.' That the legion could be formed and armed as a phalanx to defend against a cavalry charge makes Arrian's Tactica, taken in combination with the Ectaxis, of immediate practical use to the warfare of AD 135.

If the Ectaxis was composed before the Tactica, which is probably the case, then the contemporary references to the Alani, Sarmatians, Parthians, and Armenians are of extreme importance. The two would probably have been composed very close together just before Arrian's tenure in Cappadocia ended in 137, and although the Ectaxis follows the Tactica in the manuscript it was probably composed first because that threat was met in 135 and we know that the Tactica was composed in 136/137. Despite missing the first page of the only manuscript we can accurately date the Tactica because Arrian states at the end of the treatise

. . . ἣν Ἁδριανὸς εἰκοστὸν τοῦτ’ ἐτὸς βασιλεύει
'the present reign [in] which Hadrian rules this twentieth year.'

Indeed it may have been Arrian's experience against the Alans in Cappadocia in 135 that led to the composition of the Tactica in 136/137. If phalanx tactics worked against the Alans then the contemporary practicality of Greek phalanx tactics and the Tactica will have been proven. However, the tactics that Arrian used in the Ectaxis were already in place in 135. Unless we consider Arrian to be a tactical innovator for the Roman imperial period we must postulate when such tactics could have been proposed and adopted as suitable for foes such as the Alans.

The question whether the military formation in the Ectaxis was or was not the same as a Hellenistic phalanx is central to establishing the nature of the relation­ship between the Ectaxis and the Tactica, and to establishing the contemporary usage of Arrian's Tactica. Bosworth's and Stadter's arguments, that the formations are similar in appearance but not in purpose, do not stand up to close examination. Stadter's position is that 'to resist the anticipated onslaught of the Alan armoured cavalry he (Arrian) established a mass of infantry eight deep, similar to the Hellenistic phalanx in appearance but not in purpose.' Arrian uses the term 'phalanx' instead of 'legion' for his formation where the first four ranks carry long pikes (κοντος), and the four ranks behind carry javelins, and the ranks behind them are the various archery contingents. The Alan army was composed entirely of cavalry, whether they were heavy cavalry or horse archers. The phalanx's purpose was to repel or absorb the charge of the Alani. Unlike the phalanx the infantry were not to pursue the retreating Alani until the cavalry had done so, and then very slowly, keeping formation. Arrian hoped his

. . . ἀδιηγήτου πλήθους τῶν βελῶν
'. . . indescribable amount of missiles'

would turn away the charge without further action. This has given rise to the arguments of Bosworth and Stadter that the formation cannot be compared to the phalanx because it was not intended as an offensive weapon, as the Hellenistic phalanx was. Bosworth also argues that the defensive techniques of Arrian are too rudimentary.

Good defence does not need to be complicated; as Arrian's 'phalanx' covered the whole plain, nothing more was necessary than a stable impenetrable block of infantry. Arguments such as Bosworth's and Stadter's are based on too narrow and simplistic a view of phalangite warfare and the Roman army's previous dealings with eastern adversaries. Although the Hellenistic phalanx was primarily an offensive weapon, it was attractive also because of its defensive capabilities, as is reflected in Arrian. What is more, the composition of a phalanx, and the Roman adoption of that formation, was not inflexible. The makeup of a phalanx could quite simply be varied according to the intentions of the commander.

Wheeler has endeavoured to show the enduring presence of phalanx tactics in the Roman army since its adoption of the Etruscan phalanx. Especially in their previous encounters with the Parthians and Armenians, the Romans had adopted phalanx-like practices.

Although unsuccessful, Crassus' defence at Carrhae in 53 B.C. looks similar to formations found in Greek tacticians. Caesar used a similar formation in North Africa at Ruspina. Mark Antony also adopted a phalanx for defensive purposes during his retreat from Parthia.

The progress of late Roman Republican battle tactics towards the greater use of cavalry against non-heavy infantry dependent foes meant that the defensive qualities of the phalanx were attractive and useful. It may not have been a common use of the legions but in the flexible organisation of those legions it could and did appear.

Wheeler argues that Suetonius Paullinus' battle against Boudicca in 61 looks similar to Arrian's phalanx. However, the best pre-Arrian phalanx is argued to be that of Agricola's auxilia victory at Mons Graupius. Using Dio Cassius LXII.8 and Arrian's Ectaxis, Parker argues that 'in the second century, however, if not before, a definite change took place in the tactical employment of the Roman troops in battle. Arrian's order of battle against the Alani leaves little doubt that the legions were no longer drawn up in lines of cohorts, but that recourse was had to the older formation of the phalanx.' The adoption of a phalanx necessitated the use of troops for the initial stages of attack so that the fresh solid formation of the phalanx could be employed in the later stages of the battle. At Mons Graupius this would seem to be the use intended for the auxilia. The period for the adoption of the Roman phalanx, sometime between the mid to late first century and the second century AD, was the time of Frontinus' military ascendancy both practically and theoretically, and therefore to propose that he had something to do with the real and obvious change in Roman tactics is warranted.

It is for these reasons that Frontinus may not have had contempt for the Greek system and Greek tactics, since those tactics may have proven useful in Britain, not to mention Frontinus' eastern postings. Frontinus states that he always prepared in full for any position he took up and so he would probably have been aware of any uses and practical applications of a Roman phalanx, if not from his own studies then, at the very least, from his preparation for his position in Britain. We do not, however, have any clue as to whether Frontinus used anything resembling phalanx tactics in Britain.

The possibility that Agricola may have adopted the phalanx after Frontinus' tenure as governor shows the usefulness of phalanx tactics both before and after Frontinus' governor­ship — increasing the probability that Frontinus was, at least, aware of their usefulness, if not involved in their adoption and use.

Tacitus also records that in AD 35 the Iberians had driven out the Parthians by similar tactics to those Arrian was employing in the Ectaxis. The legion that Arrian had with him, XV Apollinaris, had had recent experience in Mesopotamia repelling cavalry assaults and perhaps using the κοντός. Trajan may have used such 'eastern' methods of repelling cavalry in his Parthian campaign, for he did adopt Sarmatian heavy cavalry tactics then. The Iberians had Sarmatian auxiliaries in 35. To adopt the repulsion techniques effective against such an enemy would be logical.

Arrian was probably a tribune in Trajan's Parthian campaign and may have learnt there the tactics he himself would later use. Bosworth and Lepper argue that the legio XV Apollinaris, which accompanied Trajan on the Dacian campaign, was almost certainly used in the Parthian war as well. Trajan most probably developed these defensive tactics against the Parthian cavalry for his own Parthian campaign. Hadrian's army, and therefore Arrian's as well, were the inheritors of Trajan's modifications and developments — and so Arrian in the Ectaxis could 'immediately employ the techniques developed under Trajan — the defensive wall of infantry pikes backed by a hail of ballista missiles and arrows from the auxiliary troops, now largely archer corps developed during the Parthian Wars.' Wheeler argues that Trajan was a conspicuous reformer of the army, although his reforms are only evidenced by Vegetius' reference to the constitutiones of Trajan at I.8. However, Dio Cassius refers to Trajan's training his army and marching it poreia which in Greek tacticians means marching in phalangite formation. Wheeler argues that Trajan may have been interested in phalanx tactics at the time of the Dacian wars. This is of supreme interest since such a concern would fall within Frontinus' lifetime and we may be able to attribute some discussion between Frontinus and Trajan about the value of phalanx tactics, in what circumstances and against which foes they would be most useful. This could be a reflection of the regard Trajan had for Frontinus.

It is in this respect that Aelian's Tactica may take on a far more practical purpose. If Trajan too had adopted a phalanx style defence against the Parthian cavalry, it may be much more evident that Aelian's Tactica had a practical purpose. Since these tactics were known and used before Trajan, Aelian may have been encouraged by the contemporary situation to complete the Tactica with the Parthian campaign in mind — a view which would yield a date of composition closer to 113 when Trajan departed for the east. Although this purpose is conjectured and nothing in Aelian supports it, Frontinus recognised the practical nature of the Tactica and he may have known something we do not. Vegetius tells us that Trajan had a great respect for the military writings of Frontinus and, as Campbell says, 'although Aelian's treatise seems antiquarian and unrelated to contemporary military practice, Frontinus' interest may suggest that there was some practical benefit to be derived from it.' We have seen that Aelian seems to have been writing the Tactica knowing of a certain fascination with Alexander on the part of Trajan. He may also have known of Trajan's respect for Frontinus, and so have believed that mentioning him might also gain Trajan's attention and reader­ship. It is unfortunate that neither the fragments of Arrian's Parthica nor the epitomes of Dio Cassius' sixtyeighth book provide information regarding Trajan's troop deployment or give any clue to the possible use of phalanx style tactics. However, as such tactics were used both before and afterwards, it seems only logical to accept that Trajan probably used them too. The Tactica of Aelian may therefore have proved to be of contemporary practical use.

Despite Frontinus' encouragement, Aelian states that

Οὐκ ἐθαρροῦσα μέντοι πέμψαι σοι τὸ σύγγραμμα τηλικούτων πολέμων στρατηγῷ, μὴ πως εὐτελέστερα φανῇ τὰ δι’ ἡμῶν ὑφηγούμενα, ἂν ταῖς σαῖς ἐπινοίαις αὐτὰ παραβάλῃς.
'Nonetheless, I was not confident in sending this work to you who have commanded in such great wars, lest it should prove too paltry a present on our part to put before your view.'

As Devine points out the use of the plural 'in such great wars' implies it was published at a time when Trajan was in Rome after the Second Dacian War which ended in 106. However, Trajan was a military commander in wars before he was emperor such as Saturninus' revolt, in the 'series of campaigns' Pliny ascribes to him, or as governor of Upper Germany under Nerva.

Trajan was in Rome from 106 to 113 and the Tactica was probably published, addressed to him, then. It was probably published closer to the outbreak of the Parthian war when Trajan's Alexander interest was peaking and when a work possibly written specifically for an eastern campaign would be more beneficial. Also, Aelian, in his preface, states that after beginning the Tactica earlier he waited to finish and publish it presumably at a time when it was going to be acceptable, as seems to be the case in preface 6. Aelian wanted Trajan to read his Tactica as preparation before departing for the Parthian war. Therefore he included Alexander and possibly also Frontinus whom Trajan respected.

In summary then: Frontinus himself had been governor in Asia and may have seen the value of phalanx tactics first hand. If he served with Corbulo or Vespasian in the Parthian or Jewish wars he would have probably already have appreciated the value of phalanx tactics, and probably therefore the Tactica that taught them. He may have even used such tactics during his time in Britain. He may have used phalanx tactics again in Asia, and may have seen the approaching war with Parthia. Certainly the Parthian's role in supporting the false Nero would have confirmed that the Parthians were a persistent threat which would need to be dealt with eventually. The most effective strategy and tactics for dealing with the Parthians were known to be those adopted by those most successful against such an enemy — the Hellenistic kings and their phalanx. The value of Tactica and Greek phalanx tactics may therefore have become even more apparent to Frontinus. The applicability of the phalanx may have been clear to him although he may have been too busy in the nineties in his official position as curator aquarum to compose a treatise; he may therefore have encouraged Aelian to compose the Tactica, although Aelian did not appreciate, or was not told, the specific reason for its composition since the Tactica did teach phalanx tactics. Since Trajan probably used phalanx tactics it is not implausible to attribute some of the credit for their adoption to the Frontinus-inspired Tactica of Aelian. As a manual of Greek phalanx tactics it would have proved most useful as a guide for the training of troops in that style of warfare, if not for Trajan himself, then certainly for his subordinates.

The second major campaign against the Parthians in the second century began with the invasion of Armenia and Syria by Vologaeses III in 161 upon the accession of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. It was this war for which Polyaenus of Macedon composed his Strategemata. We have no information on how this war was fought.

However, when we look forward to future imperial Roman tactics against eastern enemies we can see that the phalanx was continually adopted. If the methods of reusing Hellenistic phalanx tactics against Parthians, Scyths, Armenians, and Sarmatians had been proven by the use of them earlier then later emperors would have had a method of dealing with the same enemy effectively. Marcus Aurelius' army, when they conquered the Iazyges adopted a phalanx type formation against the enemy cavalry. This was adopted on the frozen river Ister where the barbarian cavalry were used to the ice.

Caracalla adopted a phalanx of specially recruited Macedonians and although this seems to have been the product of an obsession with Alexander, the reintroduction of the Hellenistic phalanx was a serious reform. Caracalla may have been inspired by the defensive phalanx of Arrian. Severus Alexander adopted phalanx tactics in his Persian campaigns with a phalanx made of six legions, 30,000 men. The phalanx continued seriously in the reforms of Diocletian and Constantine, and in Julian and Vegetius.

Parker argues that the tactics of the second century represent the evolution of a system of warfare whose success lay in its willingness to learn from its enemies, and assimilate the gifts they had to offer. In the adoption of the phalanx we can see such a policy in practice. In the early stages of this process we can conjecture that a proportion of the credit go to Sextus Julius Frontinus.


We have now come to the end of our main examination of the career, writings, and influence of Sextus Julius Frontinus.

He was born in or around AD 35, to a non-patrician senatorial family most probably from Narbonensis. Before his first attested post as praetor urbanus in AD 70 Frontinus was probably selected as a IVvir viarum curandarum under Claudius. He was then probably a tribunus militum sometime in the mid to late fifties. After his quaestor­ship Frontinus possibly served in either Spain or Africa. He probably served in the army campaigning in Parthia under Corbulo from either AD 58 or AD 62. The legions involved in that campaign then moved to Egypt in AD 66 taking Frontinus with them. From there he was probably taken to serve in Vespasian's Jewish campaign in AD 67 until AD 69 when he moved back to Italy with Mucianus and Antonius Primus to face Vitellius. Frontinus' capacity during these campaigns must have involved command of a legion at some stage probably as an ex-quaestor legatus legionis.

Entering on his praetor­ship Frontinus resigned his position in favour of Domitian, and in return he was probably given command of a legion for Cerialis' Civilis campaign, during which time he took the surrender of the Lingones. This legion was probably II Adiutrix which Frontinus then would have taken to Britain in the spring of AD 71 with Britain's new governor, Cerialis.

Frontinus was next consul suffectus in AD 73, an office which made him eligible to succeed Cerialis as governor of Britain. The incredibly short gap between his praetor­ship and consul­ship suggests that Frontinus was selected for this job and also that he was a fast tracked senator. Indeed Frontinus did succeed Cerialis as governor of Britain from AD 74‑77/78. Whilst there he conquered the Silures, the most obstinate and troublesome of Rome's enemies in the British isles. He also probably conducted campaigns in central and northern Wales against the Ordovices, Deceangli and Demetae, not to mention consolidating the situation in northern England. Frontinus constructed many forts in Wales, the most famous being the fort of Isca at Caerleon. He probably also played a significant part in the foundation and planning of many towns in Britain that were further developed under Frontinus' successor Agricola, such as Verulamium.

After his return from Britain in AD 77/78 Frontinus seems to have contented himself with being a privatus for the reign of Titus, although he was probably part of the emperor's consilium as an experienced military and administrative senator. Frontinus seems to have been an amicus of all three Flavian emperors. During this period Frontinus was probably adlected to the College of Augurs. He also wrote his De Re Militari after his return from Britain.

Under the reign of Domitian Frontinus was called into service as a comes of the emperor for the campaign against the Chatti from AD 82‑84, a war for which Frontinus provides the most balanced historical account. Frontinus may also have been engaged as governor of Lower Germany after the departure of the emperor to the Dacian campaign to organise the establishment of the limites frontier of the new border. Frontinus probably also advised the emperor on his strategy for the Dacian campaign before returning to what he expected to be his leisure. This leisure did not last long because a crisis occurred in the province of Asia in the form of a false Nero who arose as a problem probably in early 86. Domitian could not afford time away from his Dacian campaign and so despatched Frontinus to deal with the pretender threat as proconsul Asiae for 86/87. Frontinus' successor did not continue to quell the pretender threat after Frontinus and was executed for his failure.

After his tenure as proconsul Asiae Frontinus went into retirement, as was expected for a senator who had achieved the pinnacle of a very effective and distinguished career.

During this period of retirement from AD 87‑96 Frontinus probably spent most of his time in literary leisure at his estates in Anxur and Formiae. He probably also spent some time at the imperial court. We have depictions of him from this period in Pliny the younger, Martial, and Aelian. Frontinus also spent time writing after 87. Most notably he composed the Strategemata. Most of Frontinus' writings are more difficult to date. The writings from the 'Art of Surveying' for instance may betray the influence of Heron of Alexandria's school of mathematics. Frontinus could only have been educated in Alexandria before he entered the vigintivirate, or during a brief sojourn in AD 66/67. Yet he did not compose his surveying works till much later in his career — just before departing for Germany in 82. A work on tactics in Homer could belong to almost any period.

Frontinus returned from the political wilderness with the accession of Nerva in AD 96. Frontinus was the same age as Nerva, and the two had had ample opportunities to know one another in the previous forty years, not to mention that they both had estates in Formiae. Frontinus was selected as one of the emperor's first two choices to be on the economy commission to decrease public expenditure, with the title of Vvir Publicis Sumptibus Minuendis. This commission was probably instigated in AD 97. Later that same year Frontinus was appointed curator aquarum. We can securely date Frontinus' treatise De Aquis Urbis Romae to this office and work on the book was ongoing throughout the tenure of the office.

Frontinus' career flourished under Trajan, another emperor with whom Frontinus probably had established a relation­ship earlier in his career. Trajan respected Frontinus' military writings and probably his ability as a general. Frontinus may have influenced Trajan's tactical decisions for the Parthian campaigns. Frontinus was consul II in 98 with the new emperor, and consul III ordinarius with Trajan also as III ordinarius in AD 100. Two such offices seem to suggest that Frontinus was being rewarded for some service. This service was probably securing the succession of both Nerva and Trajan.

Frontinus was important enough in the last years of the first century AD for his sister to secure a marriage contract for her grandson with the grandmother of Marcus Aurelius.

We can estimate the date of Frontinus' death from Pliny the Younger's succession to the College of Augurs in AD 103/104, a succession that Frontinus himself urged.

Frontinus therefore died as one of the most distinguished senators of his day; a successful general, administrator, diplomat, writer, and statesman.


In the preface to the Strategemata, Frontinus makes the following statement:

Quis enim ad percensenda omnia monumenta, quae utraque lingua tradita sunt, sufficiat? At multa et transire mihi ipse permisi . . .
'For who could prove equal to the task of examining all the records which have come down to us in both languages? And so I have purposefully allowed myself to skip many things. . .'

Given the diligence that we have observed in Frontinus' other writings and appointments we can possibly assume that he did his best to encompass a great deal of those writings. We have already examined the De Aquis above and Frontinus' statements in the preface seem to imply that there was no previous comprehensive account of the Roman aqueduct system for him to consult. Only Vitruvius seems to have paid any attention to aqueducts, although his account is very rudimentary and would not, it seems, have been of much use to Frontinus.

By contrast, the Strategemata necessitated a large amount of research; a fact Frontinus was aware of.

We have already seen and analysed above the numerous stratagems from Frontinus' personal experience, despite modern scholars' claims that he is 'reticent' about contemporary warfare.

However, he seems only to name one source explicitly in his Strategemata; Pyrrhus of Epirus.

Idem inter praecepta imperatoria memoriae tradidit, non esse pertinaciter instandum hosti fugienti, . . .
'The same Pyrrhus, among many other precepts on the art of war, recommended never to press relentlessly on the heels of an enemy in flight. . .'

These praecepta imperatoria could have been contained within Pyrrhus' Tactica. It was Pyrrhus who asked Cineas, his friend, companion, and minister, to epitomise Aeneas Tacticus' many books. This shows us his interest in tactical theory, an interest which is reiterated in his own composition of a Tactica. That Pyrrhus himself was respected as a tactical writer can be seen in his survival in tactical writer lists. The Tactica that we have in the form of Asclepiodotus, Aelian, and Arrian may all come from Pyrrhus' prototype.

Frontinus' possible reading of Pyrrhus' Tactica is further evidence of his interest in Greek phalanx tactics. It also supports his claim that he prepared thoroughly for any office he undertook, for if he allowed himself to 'skip many things' one hardly would expect that he would go so far as to read the Tactica of Pyrrhus.

Frontinus also seems to list Cato's De Re Militari as a source when he states:

M. Cato memoriae tradidit in furto comprehensis inter commilitiones dextras esse praecisas aut, si lenius animadvertere voluissent, in principiis sanguinem missum.
'Marcus Cato has handed down the story that, when soldiers were caught in theft, their right hands used to be cut off in the presence of their comrades; or if the authorities wished to impose a lighter sentence, the offender was bled at headquarters.'

There are twelve references to Cato in the Strategemata which could all come from the De Re Militari; there is however no way of knowing for certain.

Of the other sources of Frontinus, we must estimate and postulate what those are since no modern work seems to have undertaken a systematic analysis of them. Kappelmacher argues that Livy was the source for 10 per cent of the work, and that Caesar also was a major source. Frontinus himself implies the use of collections referring to the mass of material of earlier collections whereas he himself will only supply anecdotes that illustrate the situation selected in the various strategic categories.

In her analysis of Polyaenus' sources Rolly Phillips has a chapter devoted to the relation­ship between Polyaenus and Frontinus. This relation­ship itself is examined below. Phillips makes the assertion that Frontinus made little direct use of Greek historians, but instead restricted himself to Greek collections, the major Latin historians, especially Livy, Sallust and Caesar, and Latin collections such as Valerius Maximus and Florus. Given the errors of Phillips' analysis of Polyaenus and his technique, how far should we trust such a sketchy analysis of Frontinus' sources? However, by its very brevity Phillips' assumption that Frontinus used the major Latin historians, Latin collections, and Greek collections, must be in part correct. Frontinus probably used other sources as well as can be shown if we consider that Pyrrhus' Tactica was a source.

We can therefore postulate that as sources Frontinus used his own experience, and probably previous works in military literature including Pyrrhus and Cato, and the major Latin historians. He probably also diligently consulted other minor historians and collections, especially Valerius Maximus, despite his claim that he has allowed himself 'to skip many things.' We may also safely contradict Phillips and postulate that Frontinus consulted Greek historians, and Greek collections since he himself refers to reading works in both languages. It would seem that for the most part the source for each individual stratagem must be determined according to the possible sources for it and to this end the conspectus locorum is our most useful tool.

Appendix II:
Frontinus' Relationship to Vegetius' De Re Militari

The relation­ship of Frontinus' Strategemata to his De Re Militari has been much debated. Frontinus himself tells us that the Strategemata is a supplement to the, presumably, more theoretical De Re Militari. Frontinus' Strategemata begins by referring to this work.

We may have a surviving form of Frontinus' De Re Militari in the work of Vegetius. In his own De Re Militari, Vegetius admits that it is a compilation of earlier authorities although he does not make the effort to identify his sources. We know that Vegetius did not use Frontinus' Strategemata as a source.

This argument is not implausible but seemingly improvable since Vegetius claimed to use 'authorities' but never cited his source. He lists the 'military science' of Cato, and works by Frontinus, Celsus, Paternus, Augustus, Trajan, and Hadrian. However the only comprehensive study of Vegetius' sources recently has been Milner's D.Phil thesis Vegetius and the Anonymous De Rebus Bellicis. Milner argues for the influence of Frontinus on Vegetius throughout the De Re Militari through Frontinus' subsuming earlier sources such as Celsus and Cato, but he argues especially for the influence of Frontinus on Vegetius III.6-IV.30. Milner rejects Schenk's strict scheme whereby Frontinus is viewed as being a source for only books III‑IV. Instead Milner argues that Cato's De Re Militari was probably a source for much of Book I, although it is unlikely that Vegetius used the original. It is possible that Vegetius accessed Cato via Frontinus — but note that Celsus had probably also summarised Cato. Milner also argues that the castramentation chapters, I.21‑25, probably came from either Paternus or Frontinus, as indeed probably did most of I.9‑27. Given that Vegetius used mostly epitomes we can only use his De Re Militari to understand the tenor of Frontinus' work in the broadest sense.

Vegetius wrote after AD 383, in four Books, probably for Theodosius I. His work concentrates on the importance of maintaining discipline and morale, order and organisation, preparation, allowing enemies to flee, retreats, and the use of stratagems. The work closes with:

. . .quae nobilissimi auctores diuersis probata temporibus per experimentorum fidem memoriae prodiderunt
'. . . the principles which the noblest authors handed down to posterity as having won the approval of different ages in the test of experience.'

We cannot extract the exact nature by which Vegetius used Cato although Vegetius' specific references to Cato's De Re Militari tell of Cato advising on discipline and the benefit of good archers. Cato's work on military science would therefore be the first in Latin. Fronto also refers to an unknown work by Cato in a letter to Lucius Verus about the Parthian war.

Ipsum hoc tuum a te diutina prudentia consultum, quod non ante signis conlatis manum cum hostibus conseruisti quam levibus proeliis et minutis victoriis militem imbueres, nonne Cato docuit orator idem et imperator summus? Ipsa subieci Catonis verba, in quibus consiliorum tuorum expressa vestigia cerneres: Interea unamquamque turmam manipulum cohortem temptabam, quid facere possent: proeliis levibus spectabam cuiusmodi quisque esset: si quis strenue fecerat, donabam honeste, ut allii idem vellent, atque in contione verbis multis laudabam. Interea aliquot pauca castra feci, sed ubi anni tempus venit, castra hiberna <constitui> . . .
'This very precaution of yours, a lesson drawn from long study, not to engage the enemy in a pitched battle until you had seasoned your men with skirmishes and minor successes — did you not learn it from Cato, a man equally consummate as orator and commander? I subjoin Cato's very words, in which you can detect the express counter-part of your measures: Meanwhile I tested each separate squadron, maniple, cohort, to gauge its capabilities. By little combats I found out the calibre of each man: if a soldier had done gallant service I rewarded him handsomely, that others might have a mind to do the same, and in my address to the soldiers I was profuse in his praise. Meanwhile, I built a number of small camps, but when that time of year came, I <set up> winter quarters. . .'

This quotation from Cato's could well be from the De Re Militari since Vegetius records Cato's opposite side of such a precept that mistakes in affairs other than warfare can be corrected afterwards but in war such mistakes are punished immediately either by flight or death. In the passage quoted in Fronto, a similar concern can be seen in Cato's actions. He seems aware of the need, if not to cure, at least to discover, the calibre of his men so that their performance in battle can be seen and improved. By these actions Cato can avoid the problem highlighted in his De Re Militari. As such a solution it would appropriately come in the same work. Such a concern is also present in the actions of other great generals and military works.

Indeed discipline is a concern in Frontinus' Cato stratagem which was argued above to be from the latter's De Re Militari.

With the De Re Militari of Cato, the problem of recovering Frontinus from Vegetius' work is therefore amplified since not only must we remove Frontinus from Vegetius and his other sources, we must also be aware of the influence of Cato in Frontinus himself.

The Fragments of Cato's De Re Militari have been collected together although the collection excludes the Fronto passage above. The fragments do include the Frontinus stratagem, the Vegetius passages, and sections from Varro and Festus. Varro himself was a source for Vegetius, indeed Milner argues he was the only source Vegetius consulted directly.

Appendix III:
Frontinus and Polyaenus

As one would expect there are many cross-references between the only two surviving Strategemata from antiquity; Frontinus' and the work of Polyaenus of Macedon, a forensic rhetorician in the courts of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus.

The reason for these cross-references and the more numerous omissions between the two works are an interesting digression. The simplest and most common explanation is that the two authors, although both writing stratagem collections, had different foci but were perhaps using the same sources. Frontinus is not considered a source of Polyaenus. However, a reconsideration of this possibility may show that earlier commentators on Polyaenus' sources have neglected important evidence.

Polyaenus devotes only half of Book VIII to Roman stratagems (80 in total, divided into 25 chapters), and in fact couples them with his stratagems of illustrious women. His focus as a Greek antiquarian author of the second sophistic, writing for two emperors, Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius, who appreciated such antiquarianism, was to write a predominantly Greek Strategemata for the Parthian campaign of A.D. 162‑166. A campaign in the territory of ancient Persia was traditionally and 'sophistically' the realm of the Greeks. Polyaenus certainly takes this approach in his prefaces to Books I and IV.

ἐγὼ δὲ Μακεδὼν ἀνὴρ, πάτριον ἔχων τὸ κρατεῖν Περσῶν πολεμούντων δύνασθαι . . .
'I, a Macedonian, who have inherited the ability to conquer the Persians in war. . .'
τοῦτο μὲν δὴ καὶ ἥδιον τῶν ἄλλων συγγράψας, ἐν ὢ καταμάθοιτε ἂν τὰς ἀρετὰς τῶν ἡμετέρων προγόνων, οἱ τῆς Μακεδονίας ἐβασίλευσαν.
'More than the others, I enjoyed writing this book, in which you can learn the excellences of my ancestors, who ruled Macedonia.'

Polyaenus' approach is validated and reiterated once again in the preface to Book VII,

ἒν ῷ καταμαθοῖτε ἂν καὶ τὰς τῶν βαρβάρων γνώμας οὐ παντάπασιν ἀστρατηγήτους.
'in which you might learn that the minds of the barbarians are not at all incapable of general­ship.'

Polyaenus seems only to include the Roman stratagems for completeness' sake. Coupled with the women's stratagems, they provide the work with an anthropological account of the stratagem from Homer to Roman times. His inclusion of representative Roman and female stratagems probably allowed him to maintain that he had achieved such an anthology.

Polyaenus could not dare to declare his Strategemata's superiority over of Frontinus' example because, in addressing his work to Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, he would have been denouncing an ancestor of the emperors, and discrediting the ancestor of one of Verus' most capable comites. Simply as a matter of etiquette, Polyaenus could not attempt to surpass the military writings of Marcus' mother's great uncle. Another factor adding to the possibly delicate problem was that Domitia Lucilla was only recently deceased. Therefore to avoid obvious comparisons, but possibly also to retain the family connection to the Strategemata itself, Polyaenus concentrated on Greek stratagems which, although making up the slight majority in Frontinus, were not Frontinus' only focus. The title of Polyaenus' work in the manuscripts is actually Strategica, and this itself could have been to avoid obvious similarity. Polyaenus perhaps hoped that a specific anti-Parthian collection of stratagems would catch the attention of the emperors since their famous relation expounded the usefulness of such collections. Polyaenus also arranged his in almost the complete opposite way to Frontinus. Frontinus ordered his work according to subject: Polyaenus organised his chronologically, biographically and, to some extent, geographically. All of this may have been partly to avoid what probably would have been an obvious comparison at the Antonine court.

Polyaenus therefore may have succeeded in a supreme act of delicate diplomacy and a courtly stratagem of his own, cashing in on the genre's family connection whilst avoiding both a possibly damaging comparison and giving offence at an attempt at surpassing an imperial relative.

On the other hand, Frontinus' focus was to supplement his own De Re Militari with convenient sketches of generals' applications of the military theories that he had expounded in his earlier theoretical treatise. He was also not attempting Greek antiquarianism, was not obviously influenced by the second sophistic, and was not aiming his collection at a specific campaign or imperial audience.

Johannes Melber considered that Suetonius was Polyaenus' only Latin source. Rolly Phillips has a separate chapter in her Harvard PhD thesis on the repeated stratagems of Frontinus' and Polyaenus' collections. However, she argues that 'it is out of the question that Polyaenus used Frontinus; his limited knowledge of Latin is shown by the way he used Suetonius, the only Latin author he consulted.'

Phillips' statements to the effect that Polyaenus knew no Latin are wrong. Referring to Appian, Polyaenus' professional advocacy contemporary and possibly colleague, Champlin argues that 'we may presume a strong grasp of Latin language in a man pleading before the emperors at Rome.' If this is true for Appian, then it is also true for Polyaenus. He certainly knew Latin well. The problematic nature of Phillips' position can be shown with her arguments for the one Latin source she allows Polyaenus, Suetonius. She argues that only a few chapters of Suetonius have been used (Divus Julius 65‑68, 75, and 77; and Divus Augustus 24‑25) and that this shows Polyaenus had read very little of Suetonius. 'When compiling the material for the chapters on Caesar and Augustus he may have consulted someone who knew Latin better than he, who could have directed his attention to these chapters of Suetonius (and perhaps even helped Polyaenus with the translation).'

Melber's arguments are stronger but may also be flawed. He stated that Polyaenus did not use Frontinus as a source because, despite the similarities and concordances, 'denn warum hätte Polyän aus Frontin nur Strategeme der Griechen herübernehmen, die der Römer aber übergehen sollen?' 'Then why would Polyaenus only have taken over the Greek stratagems of Frontinus but overlooked the Roman ones?' Melber earlier observed that Polyaenus treated Roman history 'stief-mütterliche,' 'like a step-mother,' implying correctly that he neglects it. It is here that the answer lies. Polyaenus deliberately avoided the majority of Roman stratagems for the reasons given above, and so similarity was likewise avoided.

Polyaenus seems to have been successful into the twentieth century in this purpose because authors like Melber, Phillips and Martín García assume that the Frontinus and Polyaenus must have used the same intermediary Greek source because, if Polyaenus used no or little Latin, then, when his stratagems are the same as Frontinus', they must have come from a common Greek source. However, Phillips also argues that Frontinus made little use directly of Greek historians as sources but restricted himself to Greek collections, the major Latin historians, and Latin collections such as Valerius Maximus and Florus. She does not attempt to explain the similar Roman stratagems (not from Suetonius) between Polyaenus and Frontinus for which it would be strange, to say the least, if Frontinus used the same intermediary Greek collection as Polyaenus. We have seen above that the one source named by Frontinus was Pyrrhus of Epirus whose praecepta imperatoria memoriae could have been contained within Pyrrhus' Tactica and written in Greek. Phillips does not mention this work, and it could be considered a Greek collection, but it seems strange that Frontinus names a Greek source if he used predominantly Latin sources. The answer must be somewhere in the midst of this conundrum, for how can we have a common intermediary source that was seemingly neither Latin nor Greek?

Polyaenus may well have used Frontinus as a source but simply avoided Roman stratagems. This seems to answer a query of Melber's, who argues that if only Polyaenus had wanted to include Latin authors for his collection then he would have had ample material available from both Valerius Maximus and Frontinus.

One can assume that Polyaenus did use both earlier Latin collections, Frontinus as a Strategemata and Valerius Maximus, the latter a rhetorician like Polyaenus, the purpose of whose collection was to provide a source book of rhetorical anecdotes. The conclusion must be that Polyaenus knew Latin and could have translated the stratagems of Frontinus and Valerius Maximus into his collection, but simply and deliberately chose the Greek as opposed to the Roman.

Phillips seems to have misunderstood the purpose of Polyaenus entirely. 'The chief value of this work,' she says, 'lies in its preservation of information from historical sources now lost to us.' And: 'as a writer, Polyaenus exhibits little imagination and no historical judgement. His aim was to collect as many stratagems as possible, not to weigh the value of the various sources he used.'

Polyaenus' preference for Greek stratagems and more generally for drawing on the context of classical Greek history can far more reasonably be explained by the second sophistic and his genre; for even in Frontinus, slightly over half of the stratagems are Greek.

Nonetheless, Phillips does list the 28 most striking stratagems which she suggests both used the same source. She does not consider that the parallels arose from Polyaenus' using Frontinus, nor Valerius Maximus for that matter, despite the numerous striking parallels to both authors in Polyaenus' work.

Martín García, in his colossal 2000page Madrid University PhD thesis of 1980, rejects the use of Suetonius as a source by Polyaenus. He also examines the possibility of Caesar as a direct source in Polyaenus' 33 Caesar stratagems. He rejects the widespread belief that Polyaenus used Suetonius on two points:

i) 'Polieno se muestra más amplio que el latino y desdobla **, cuando no había necesidad de hacerlo, ya que, si lo hubiera seguido fielmente, tenía material aprovechable más que sufiomente.'
'Polyaenus seems more wide than the Latin and spreads out chapters when it is not necessary to do so, since, if he had followed it faithfully, he would have had more than enough useful material.'


ii) 'extraña igualmente el mal orden conservado en Polieno, pues los ** 20‑23 corresponden a Suetonio D. I. 67, pero la primera parte = * 21, la segunda = * 22, la tercera = * 20 y la cuarta = 23, lo que resulta impropio en un hombre que compila.'
'The badly retained order in Polyaenus seems equally odd since chapters 20‑23 correspond to Suetonius Divus Julius 67 but the first part equals chapter 21, the second part chapter 22, the third chapter 20, and the fourth chapter 23, which is improper in a man who is compiling.'

The suggestion should be made that we not reject the possibility of Latin sources but that we should instead reject the notion that Polyaenus was a mere compiler. He had a deliberate agenda and common-sense dictates that if he was avoiding some material he could just as easily adapt and edit that which he accepted. Polyaenus was not just a compilation machine and although he published the work very quickly (Wheeler's reconstruction argues that he published each book separately between autumn 161 and summer 162 — less than a year for all eight books), if he was merely compiling he could have easily published the whole work at once and in a much shorter space of time.

The inference can now be drawn that Polyaenus did use Frontinus and Valerius Maximus as sources, doing so with deliberate discretion and an editorial integrity for which he has previously not been given his due. He may have also done so with a view both to taking advantage of Frontinus' prestige and at the same time to avoiding damaging comparison with him. The subtlety involved in such a literary manoeuvre is impressive.

Frontinus' Relation to Marcus Aurelius.

(After A. Birley Marcus Aurelius2 (London 1993), Appendix II D: Domitia Lucilla)

[image ALT: Frontinus' family tree.]

The Family of Frontinus

(After W. McDermott 'Quid Stemmata Faciunt? The Descendants of Frontinus' Ancient Society 7 (1976), pp. 230‑261, at p. 261).

[image ALT: Frontinus' family tree.]

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Page updated: 7 Sep 12