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Levied in Cisalpine Gaul in 58 BC by Julius Caesar, the Sixth Legion served with him during his governorship and was withdrawn to Spain in 49 BC where it earned the title “Hispaniensis”.
LEG VI saw action at Pharsalus in 48 BC and Julius Caesar took the 6th to Alexandria to settle the dispute in Egypt with Cleopatra. The 6th was almost wiped out during the Alexandrian seige losing almost two thirds of its entire manpower. Julius Caesar eventually triumphed when reinforcements arrived.
Julius Caesar took his “Veteran Sixth Legion” with him to Syria and Pontus. The Legion then served in Pontus under Caesar in 48 BC and 47 BC. This culminated in the battle of Zela.
During Caesar’s African war against Scipio, the Sixth Legion deserted en masse from Scipio to reinforce Caesar and fought under him.
The legion was disbanded in 45 BC after Munda establishing a colony at Arelate (Arles), but was re-formed by Lepidus the following year (44 BC) and given over to Marcus Antonius the year after that. Following the defeat of Cassius and Brutus at Philippi in 42 BC and the subsequent division of control between Antony and Octavian, a colony was again formed from retired veterans at Beneventum in 41 BC (this is the colony which it is believed became Legio VI Victrix) and the remainder of Legio VI Ferrata was taken by Antony to the East where it garrisoned Judea.
Legio VI fought in the Parthian War in 36 BC.
Another Legio VI Victrix evidently saw action at Perusia in 41 BC, which presents us with a problem because the official Legio VI Ferrata was at that moment with Anthony in the East. This is explained in Lawrence Keppie's excellent book The Making of the Roman Army - from Republic to Empire (pp.134); “Octavian did not hesitate to duplicate legionary numerals already in use by Antony. The latter had serving with him legio V Alaudae, legio VI Ferrata and legio X Equestris. Soon we find Octavian's army boasting of a legio V (the later Macedonica), legio VI (the later Victrix) and legio X (soon to be Fretensis). Of these, legio V and legio X, and less certainly legio VI, bore under the empire a bull-emblem which would normally indicate a foundation by Caesar; but the true Caesarian legions with these numerals (Alaudae, Ferrata and Equestris) were with Antony.”
It would seem that Octavian had again used the veterans of Caesars Sixth Legion, this time from those left at Beneventum, to form the core of his own Sixth Legion used at Perusia.
Both Legio VI’s (Ferrata and Victrix) fought at the Battle of Actium, after this event the legio VI Ferrata was dispatched back to Judea and the next time we hear of the legio VI Victrix was in Spain.
Legio VI Ferrata was severely mauled at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC by the forces loyal to Octavian. Following the Battle of Actium, another colony of veterans seems to have been created at Byllis, probably together with soldiers from other legions, and the remainder of VI Ferrata was moved to Syria/Judea where it was to remain.
From 9 BC to 73 AD the VI Ferrata was garrisoned the area of Judea.
From 54 AD to 68 AD the Legion served under Corbulo at Artaxata and Tigranocerta against the Parthians. In 69 AD the Legion returned to Judea and fought in the Jewish Civil War. As the Jewish Civil War wound down, the sixth was placed under Mucianis and fought against Vitellius. Legion VI was largely responsible for Mucianis victory over the forces of Vitellius during the brief Roman Civil War .