The Lucius Artorius Castus Inscriptions: A Sourcebook

By Christopher Gwinn


  1. Introduction

  2. Reading the Inscriptions

  3. Commentary on the Inscriptions

  4. Lucius Artorius Castus' Career

  5. Comparison of Lucius Artorius Castus and King Arthur

  6. The Etymology of the Name "Artorius"

  7. Pictures of the Inscriptions

1. Introduction

Due to the surge in popularity of the hypothesis that the Roman soldier Lucius Artorius Castus was the "real" King Arthur (much of which is the result of the efforts
of authors Linda Malcor and C. Scott Littleton, who have written several articles and books about the man, as well as the release of the rather lackluster 2004 movie
King Arthur, for which Dr. Malcor was hired as a consultant), I have decided to gather together on this page as much information as I can find on the two Latin
inscriptions which provide us all that is actually known about this ancient Roman solder (which isn't very much!).

Some of the information contained here I have also added to the Wikipedia entry for Lucius Artorius Castus.

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

It is my hope that this page will offer a clear picture of what the inscriptions do - and don't - say and help to dispel some of the more tenacious myths surrounding
LAC's interesting career (notably that he lead an expedition of British troops against the Armoricans in the late 2nd century AD - the evidence points rather to him
leading "Britannicine" or "Britannician"* troops in an expedition against the Armenians!).

*i.e. units similar in nature to the ala/cohors Britannica [milliaria cives Romanorum] mentioned in numerous inscriptions, or the legio Brittan(n)icin(a) (CIL 03, 3228)
commemorated in an inscription from Pannonia (see below). The names of these units indicate that they were stationed in Britain at one time, but they do not imply that they were
units strictly comprised of ethnic Britons - judging from the limited inscriptional evidence where national origin is mentioned, ethnic Britons seem to have been the minority in them..
No such units are known to have active in Britain during the mid-2nd to mid-3rd centuries AD. ....during LAC's lifetime most probably stationed in Pannoni or in other regions
along the Danube. See:
David Kennedy, "The 'ala I' and 'cohors I Britannica'" Britannia, Vol. 8, 1977, pp. 249-255;
Geoffrey D. Tully, A Fragment of a Military Diploma for Pannonia Found in Northern England?, Britannia, Vol. 36 (2005), pp. 375-382;
A. Sadler, "British Auxiliary Troops in the Roman Service", Journal of the British Archaeological Association, Vol. 26, London, 1870, pp. 221-236;

2. Reading The Inscriptions:

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

For my reading of the first inscription, I worked from the pictures of the fragments taken by Ladislav Petrus (posted to the site - see below) -
as these photos do not show the last two lines of the inscription from the first fragment, so here I rely on the drawing found in Jackson, 1887, pg. 167 (see below).

I have not yet seen photos or drawings of the second inscription, so my reading of it is extrapolated from the expansion of it found in the
Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss-Slaby (EDCS), edited by Manfed Clauss,

Inscription 1- Sarcophagus
Province: Dalmatia
Find Location: Podstrana / Pituntium (Peguntium)
[Listed in some sources as having been found nearby at Stobrec / Epetium]

D ...........................................................................M
L ARTORI[…......................................]STVS 7 LEG
III GALLICAE ITEM […....................]G VI FERRA
TAE ITEM 7 LEG II ADI[…..........]TEM 7 LEG V M
VVS IPSE SIBI ET SVIS […...............…]ST[..........]

EDCS Expansion
[Based on CIL 03, 1919 (p 1030, 2328,120); CIL 03, 8513; CIL 03, 12813; D 02770 (p 180); IDRE-02, 00303]

D(is) [M(anibus)]
L(ucius) Artori[us Ca]stus |(centurio) leg(ionis)
III Gallicae item [|(centurio) le]g(ionis) VI Ferra-
-tae item |(centurio) leg(ionis) II Adi[utr(icis) i]tem |(centurio) leg(ionis) V M[a]-
-c(edonicae) item p(rimus) p(ilus) eiusdem praeposito
classis Misenatium [pr]aef(ectus) leg(ionis) VI 
Victricis duci(!) legg(ionum) [triu]m* Britan(n)ic{i}
-{mi}arum adversus Arme[nio]s proc(urator) cente-
-nario(!) provinciae Li[burniae iure] gladi(i) vi-
-vus ipse sibi et suis [3 ex te]stamento

[CG: Other possible reconstructions of this word are [duaru]m or [alaru]m.]

Normalized Expansion: Translation (click the links for external articles on the keywords):
Dis Manibus To/for the Divine Shades
Lucius Artorius Castus Lucius Artorius Castus
Centurio legionis III Gallicae [To/for the] Centurion of the legion III Gallica
item Centurio legionis VI Ferratae also Centurion of the legion VI Ferrata
item Centurio legionis II Adiutricis also Centurion of the legion II Adiutrix
item Centurio legionis V Macedonicae also Centurion of the legion V Macedonica
item Primus Pilus eiusdem (also primus pilus of the same unit)
Praeposito Classis Misenatium Provost [Praepositus] of the Classis of Misenum
Praefecto legionis VI Victricis Praefectus Legionis VI Victrix
Duci leggionum trium/duarum/alarum Britannici{mi}arum (sic) adversus Armenios Leader [Dux] of the Legions three/two/alae Britannici(n)iae against the *Armenians
Procuratori Centenario provinciae Liburniae.... iure gladii Procurator Centenarius of the province of Liburnia.... with the power of the sword [jus gladii]
vivus ipse sibi et suis....ex testamento in his life [he dedicated the monument] for himself and his own [family] stipulated...

Inscription 2 - Memorial Plaque
EDCS Reading
[Based on CIL 03, 12791 (p 2258, 2328,120); CIL 03, 14224; IDRE-02, 00304]
Province: Dalmatia
Find Location: Pituntium (Peguntium) / Podstrana
[Also listed as: Between Spalatum / Split and Almissa / Omis (see CIL III below)]


EDCS Expansion:
L(ucius) Artorius 
Castus p(rimus) p(ilus) 
leg(ionis) V Ma[c(edonicae)] pr-
-aefec[t]us leg(ionis) 
VI Victric(is)

Normalized Expansion: Translation (click the links for external articles on the keywords):
Lucius Artorius Castus Lucius Artorius Castus
Primus Pilus legionis V Macedonicae Primus Pilus of the legion V Macedonica
Praefectus legionis VI Victricis Preefectus Legionis VI Victrix
[...] [...]

Alternate Readings (in chronological order):

Francesco Carrara, “De scavi di Salona nel 1850”
(Abhandlung der koeniglichen Boehmischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, 5 s, 7, 1851/1852, p. 23)

CG: Carrara was the first to publish fragments of the inscription - his edition is a little idosyncratic in places (reading ATRORIS rather
than ARTORI{V}S), for example), but he had a solid reputation as an archaeologist and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand; it's possible,
anyway, that minor errors such as this crept in during the typesetting process. His reading is notable for ARME(...) at the end of line 7,
with ligatured -ME- (this is apparently no longer visible on the stone, thus the usual rendering of it as ARM(...); if Carrara's reading
is correct, the word cannot be expanded as *Armoricanos (as proposed by numerous scholars, though often without any apparent
knowledge of the original reading). *Armenios has been plausibly proposed as an alternative by some scholars (see the Commentary
section below).


Translation of Carrara's comments on the two inscription fragments:
IX: " Fragment of a sarcophagus, very ornate, in white marble, next to the church of St. Martin of Podstrana along the new road from Almissa (Omis)"
X " Another fragment of the same sarcophagus. It lies beside the road, collected by me."

CG: Carrara's second fragment seems rather to have been half of the memorial plaque, Inscription 2, above.

Johann Gabriel Seidl, "Beiträge zu einer Chronik der archäologischen Funde in der österreichischen Monarchie"
(Archiv für Kunde österreichische Geschichts-Quellen, Volume 13, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften., Wien, 1854, p. 143)

CG: A slightly modified version of Carrara's reading with a few extra notes thrown in, including support for the "adversus Armenios" hypothesis,
though Seidl dates the expedition to the era of Trajan, as opposed to the 3rd century dating favored by Loriot (see below).


Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Volume III, Inscriptiones Asiae, provinciarum Europae Graecarum, Illyrici Latinae,
Theodor Mommsen, ed. 1873

pars I
Inscriptiones Aegypti et Asiae. Inscriptiones provinciarum Europae Graecarum. Inscriptionum Illyrici

pars II
Inscriptionum Illyrici partes VI. VII. Res gestae divi Augusti. Edictum Diocletiani de pretiis rerum.
Privilegia militum veteranorumque. Instrumenta Dacica

Supplementum. Inscriptionum Orientis et Illyrici Latinarum supplementum,
Th. Mommsen, O. Hirschfeld, A. Domaszewski, eds.

pars I (fasc. I-III. 1889-1893). 1902 (impr. iter. 1961-1963).

pars II (fasc. IV-V). 1902 (impr. iter. 1967)

Inscription 1
CIL Volume III, 1919 adn. + (III 12791 cf. III p. 2258) = III 14224 cf. III p. 2328, 120
Location: Epetiumum (Stobrez), Dalmatia

D(is)...................... [M(anibus)]
L(ucius) Artori[us Ca]stus, (centurio) [leg(ionis)]
III Gallicae, item [(centurio) le]g(ionis) VI Ferrat-
-tae, item (centurio) leg(ionis) II Adi[utricis, i]tem (centurio) leg(ionis) V M[a]-
-c(edonicae), item p(rimus) p(ilus) eiusdem [leg(ionis), ex] praeposito
classis Misenatium, [item pr]a[e]f(ecto) leg(ionis) VI
Victricis, duci leg(ionem), c[ohort(ium), alaru]m Britanici-
-[n]iarum adversus Arm[oricano]s, proc(uratori) cente-
-nario provinciae Li[..... iure] gladi, vi-
-vus iрsе sibi et suis [...ex te]st(amento)

Inscription 2
CIL Volume III, 14224 (=12791).
Location: Between Spalatum (Split) and Almissa (Omis), Dalmatia
[Also given as: Ora a Narentae ostiis ad Salonas (Coast by the mouth of the river Neretva, towards Solin)]

L(ucius) Artorius
Castus, p(rimus) p(ilus)
leg(ionis) V Ma[c(edonicae)], pr-
-aefec(t)us leg(ionis)
VI Victric(is).

Sir Thomas Graham Jackson, "Dalmatia, the Quarnero and Istria"
( Volume 2, Oxford, 1887, pp. 166-7)

"In the wall of a farm house near Stobrez we saw a Roman tablet with an inscription, and in the churchyard wall of
S. Martino in Postrana, a hamlet a few miles farther on, are two large fragments of a Roman mortuary inscription
within an enriched border, broken and imperfect, and built into the wall upside down. I had no time to copy it, and
am indebted to Professor Bulié of Spalato for this transcript which he tells me is more correct than that published
in the Corpus Inscript. Lat.*."

*Mommsen, Corpus Iuscriptionum Latinarum, iii. No. 1919.


CG: a cleaner transcription than Carrara's, though it does contain some errors - notably AN for AD in line 3,
the inclusion of an -A- after V M at the end of line 3, -AEF- instead of AEFF in 5, LEG C instead of LGG in
line 6, and the inclusion of an extra -N- in Britanici- in line 6

Elimar Klebs, Hermann Dessau, "Prosopographia imperii romani saec. I. II. III"
(Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1897, p. 155)

L. Artorius.....stus (centurio) legionis
III Gallicae, item (centurio) legionis VI Fer-
-ratae, item (centurio) legionis II Adi[utricis], item (centurio) legionis V M[a]-
-c., item primus pilus eiusdem ...., praepositus
classis Misenatium ...., [pr]a[e]f. legionis VI
Victricis dux legg. c[ohortium] [alaru]m Britanici-
-miarum (sic) ad versus Arm[oricano]s, procurator cente-
-narius Lib[urniae] [iure] gladi.

Hans-Georg Pflaum, "Les carrières procuratoriennes équestres sous le Haut-Empire romain"
(Paris, 1960, p. 535)

D(is) M(anibus) L(ucius) Artori[us Ca]stus (centurio) leg(ionis)
III Gallicae item [(centurio) le]g(ionis) VI Fer-
-ratae item (centurio) leg(ionis) II Adi[utricis i]tem (centurio) V M(a-
-cedonicae) C(onstantis)  item p(rimi) p(ilus) eiusdem [legionis], praeposito
classis Misenatium, [item pr]aeff(ecto) leg(ionis) VI
Victricis, duci legg(ionum) [duaru]m Britanici-
-miarum adversus Arm[oricano]s, proc[uratori) cente-
-nario provinciae Lib[urn(iae) iure] gladi vi-
-vus ipse et suis [….ex te]st(amento)

Brian Dobson, "Die Primipilares. Entwicklung und Bedeutung, Laufbahnen und Persönlichkeiten eines römischen Offiziersranges."
(Köln; Bonn 1978. p. 267 f.

Inscription 1
[coming soon]

Inscription 2:
L. Artorius Castus, p(rimus) p(ilus) leg(ionis) V Ma[c(edonicae)] praefec[t]us leg(ionis) VI Victric(is)

Julian Medini, “Provincija Liburnija “[Provincia Liburnia]
(Diadora, v. 9, 1980, pp. 363-436)


Expansion Inscription 1  – pg. 366

D(is) M(anibus)
L(ucius) Artori[us  Ca]stus (centurio) leg(ionis)
III Gallicae item [(centurio le]g(ionis) VI Ferra -
-tae item (centurio) leg(ionis) II adi[ut(ricis) i]tem |(centurio) leg(ionis) V Ma
-c(edonicae) item p(rimi) p(ilus) eiusdem [legionis] praeposito
classis Misenatium [item  pr]aeff(ecto) leg(ionis) VI
Victricis duci legg(ionum) [duaru]m Britanici -
-miarum adversus Arm[orio]s proc[uratori) cente-
-nario provinciae Lib[urn(iae)  iure] gladi vi-
-vus ipse sibi et suis […… ex te]st(amento)

Expansion Inscription 2 – p. 366
L(ucius) Artorius
Castus p(rimi) p(ilus)
leg(ionis) V Ma[c(edonicae)] pr-
-aefec[t]us leg(ionis)
VI Victric[is]

Heidelberg Database [CIL 03, 12791; CIL 03, 14224; CIL 03, 14224 add. p. 2328, 120; IDRE 304; PIR (2. Aufl.) A 1184]

Inscription 1:

D(is) M(anibus)
L(ucius) Artori[us Ca]stus |(centurio) leg(ionis) 
III Gallicae item [|(centurio) le]g(ionis) VI Ferra-
-tae item |(centurio) leg(ionis) II adi[ut(ricis) i]tem |(centurio) leg(ionis) V Ma-
-c(edonicae) item p(rimus) p(ilus) eiusdem [leg(ionis)] praeposito 
classis Misenatium [pr]aef{f}(ectus) leg(ionis) VI 
Victricis duci(!) legg(ionum) [alaru]m Britan(n)ic{i}-
-{mi}arum adversus Arm[oricano]s proc(urator) cente-
-nario(!) provinciae Lib[urniae iure] gladi(i) vi-

Inscription 2:


L(ucius) Artorius 
Castus p(rimus) p(ilus)
Ma[c(edonicae)] pr-
-aefec[t]us leg(ionis)
VI Victric(is)

A Third LAC Inscription from Rome?

This is probably a false lead, but I thought I'd add it anyway, for curiosity's sake. Without further information on the inscription, we
cannot say whether or not it refers to our Lucius Artorius Castus, or simply another man of the same name.

The inscription (which is on a stamp) was discovered in Rome in the late 18th century by Gaetano Marini, prefect of the
Vatican Library and avid collector of ancient inscriptions.

Clauss-Slaby Database [CIL 15, 08090 ]
Type: signaculum aeneum (molded stamps in bronze, equipped with a ring on the back)
Province: Roma
Location: Roma

Luci / Artori / Casti

[CIL XV (Inscriptiones urbis Romae Latinae: instrumentum domesticum,
Heinrich Dressel,“Signacula Aenea”), #8090, p. 1002.]

“Romae aupud Iosephum Lelli (=Abbé Joseph Lelli), MAR. AGINC.,
iam Parisiis in mus. Louvre….

• LVCI •

“Contulit Bohn. (Gaetano) Marini Cod(ex). Vat(aticanus), 9110 p. 158
n. 26a qui vidit. (Seroux) D’Agincourt cod(ex). Vat(aticanus). 9846 
f. 3- imaginem.

3. Commentary (all emphases mine):

Xavier Loriot, "Un mythe historiographique : l'expédition d'Artorius Castus contre les Armoricains"
(Bulletin de la Société nationale des antiquaires de France‎, 1997)

Pg. 85
“Parmi  les fonctions exercées par ce personage figure un commandement
militaire exceptionnel, indiqué, au datif, sous la form suivante: duci legg(ionum)
c[ohort(ium) alaru]um Britanicimiarum – sic pour Britannicianarum – aduersus
Arm[oricano]s. Tel est du moins le texte que proposa Mommsen lorsqu'il inséra
cette inscription au C.I.L. , III, 1919 = 8153 = 12813, et cette lecture hasardeuse,
qui néglige le fait que les Armoricains, en tant que peuple, s'appellent en latin
Armorici et non Armoricani, fut dès lors adoptée par tous les editeurs ou
commentateurs du texte, en particulier par H. Dessau et H-G Pflaum.”

"La lecture qui semble s'imposer est donc aduersus Arme[nio]s"

Pg. 86
“lait l’attribuer au règne de Commode. Les parallèles épigraphiques montrent
sans équivoque que le formulaire utilisé appartient au IIIe siècle. Des fonctions
telles que praepositus classis ou procurator iure gladii ne se rencontrent pas
avant l’èpoque sévérienne et la première mention datée d’un dux legg(ionum)
se situe sous Philippe l’Arabe (244-249)*. Il est possible que l'expédition à
laquelle participa Artorius Castus soit celle que mena Caracalla en 215 sous
la conduite du « danseur » Theocritus et qui, selon Dio Cassius (LXXVIII, 21),
se solda par un grave échec. Mais on ne peut exclure une datation plus tardive,
par example à l’époque de Sévère Alexandre, sous le règne duquel, d’après
un inscription de Tomi (Mésie inférieure), un officier équestre, P. Aelius
Hammonius, fut chargé de conduire des opérations ἐν παρατάξει Ἀρμενιακῇ,**
voire plus avant dans le IIIe siècle. En tout état de cause, la «révolte de
Armoricains» dont parlent plusieurs ouvrages et article récents perd tout
support textual et semble devoir être releguée au rang des mythes.”

*CG: Here is the inscription, from the Clauss-Slaby database:

CIL 06, 01645 (p 854, 3163, 3811, 4725) = D 02773 = IDRE-01, 00019 =
EAOR-01, 00026 = AE 1965, +00223
Province: Roma
Locat:ion Roma

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

**CG: From the Packard Humanities Institute's Searchable Greek Inscriptions database

(IG X) IScM II 106 IScM II 105 IScM II 107 Belegstelle: IGRRP-01, 00623 = IScM-02, 00106
Province: Moesia inferior / Scythia Minor
Location: Tomis (Constanța) — Poarta Albă —
Date: 238-244 AD — cf. SEG 26.838

ἀγαθῆι τύχηι·
Πόπλ(ιον) Αἴλ(ιον) Ἀμμώνιον τὸν κράτισ-
τον ἐπίτροπον τοῦ Σεβ(αστοῦ), πράξαν-
τὰ τὴν ἐπαρχείαν πιστῶς, ἔπαρχον
χώρτης Ἑσπάνων, τριβοῦνον
χώρτης αʹ Γερμάνων, ἡγησάμενον
στρατιωτικοῦ ἐν παρατάξει Ἀρ-
στρατιωτῶν ἐπαρ-
χείας Καππαδόκων ἔπαρ-
χον ἄλης αʹ Φλ(αουίας) Γετούλων
ἡγησάμενον στρατιωτι-
κοῦ τῆς ἐπαρχείας ταύ-
της ἔπαρχον κλάσσης
Φλ(αουίας) Μυσικῆς Γορδιανῆς
Κατυλλεῖνος ἀπελεύθε-
ρος τοῦ κυρίου αὐτο-
κράτορος Μ(άρκου) Ἀντ(ωνίου) Γορ-
διανοῦ Σεβ(αστοῦ) λιβρά- ριος τὸν ἑαυτοῦ

Marie-Henriette Quet, "La "crise" de l'Empire romain de Marc Aurèle à Constantin" (Paris, 2006, p. 339):

Il est arrivé, en certaines circonstances, que des Britanniciani soient envoyés
sur le front d’Orient, comme le révèle, sous Caracalla ou Sévère Alexandre,
l’ inscription funéraire de L. Artorius Castus, dux legg(ionum) c(hortium)
[alaru]m(?)  Britanici<an>arum adversus Arme[nio]s.65  Mais, en l’
occurrence, il semble plutôt que l’état-major ait préferé détacher les
vexillations bretonnes en Gaule et en Pannonie, permettant le glissement
vers l’Est de troupes prélevées sur limes rhéno-danubien.
65. CIL, III, 1919 = 8153 = 12813 (= Dessau, ILS, 2770 et add., p. cixxx).
L’interpretation du cursus par Pflaum 1960, I, p. 535-537, no 196, ne peut
plus être retenue et doit être corrigée suite â la révision de la pierre par
J. Medini 1980, p. 363-434 : voir â sujet Loriot 1997, p. 85-87. La
photographie montre que la lacune où Mommsen et tous ses successeurs
ont restitué aduersus Arm(oricano)s ne peut comporter que 3 ou 4 lettres.
Il fau en revenir au texte du premier éditeur, Francesco Carrara, qui
déchiffrait avant la cassure un M et un E en ligature (Carrara 1851, p. 23
no ix), et lire aduersus Arme(nio)s. Il pourrait être question de l’expédition
lancée par Caracalla en 215 (Dion Cassius, LXXVII, 21).

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

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

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

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

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

80. See. e.g. Pflaum, CP, no. 196, followed by Dobson, Primipilares, no. 151, and
others. K. Malone, Modern Philology 22 (1925), 367ff., even suggested that Artorius
Castus’ supposed expedition to Armorica might be the historical kernel of the
Arthurian legend. The idea still seems to be viewed positively by N. J. Higham,
King Arthur: Myth-Making and History (2002), 75 f., 96, cf. 268. It must now lapse.
81. X. Loriot, BSNAF (1997), 855ff., refers to the photograph published by J. Medini,
Diadora, 9 (1980), 363 ff. For operations in Armenia under Severus Alexander he
cites IGR i. 623 = ILS 8851, Tomi.

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

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

CG: note that LAC's name was initially recontructed as L. Artorius Iustus before the full
memorial plaque inscription from Podstrana was pieced together and identified with him

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

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

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

*CG: From the Clauss Slaby database:

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

[Io]vi / Monitori <p=B>ro
salute adque
d(omini) n(ostri) Gallieni Aug(usti)
et militum
vexill(ationum) legg(ionum)
[e]t Brittan(n)icin(arum)
[cu]m auxili(i)s
[3 V]italianus
[pro]tect(or?) Aug(usti) n(ostri)

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

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

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

Linda Malcor
Lucius Artorius Castus: Part I: An Officer and an Equestian
Lucius Artorius Castus: Part II: The Battles in Britain

CG: It is my opinion that Linda Malcor's biography of LAC is error-laden and relies too much on
wild speculation to be used as a credible souce.
For an excellent critique of her flawed scholarship,
see :

Lucius Artorius Castus' Career:

Centurio of Legio III Gallica

The first unit mentioned on Artorius' inscription is the legio III Gallica - for most of the 2nd and
3rd centuries the unit was stationed in Syria. Artorius held the rank of centurion in this legion -
most Roman soldiers only achieved the rank of centurion after about 15-20 years of service,
but it was not unknown for some politically connected civilians of the equestrian class to be be
directly commissioned as centurions upon entering the Army, though these equestrian
centurions (known as "ex equite Romano") were in the minority.14 We cannot tell whether or
not Artorius had a lengthy career as a legionary soldier before attaining the centurionate, or
whether he was directly commissioned at this rank, as the vast majority of career centurion's
inscriptions do not mention any ranks that they might have held below the centurionate.9
Successful officer often omitted the record of any ranks lower than primus pilus,15, 9 as
Artorius did on his memorial plaque.

Centurio of Legio VI Ferrata

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

Centurio of Legio II Adiutrix

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

Centurio and Primus Pilus of Legio V Macedonica

The legio V Macedonica was based in Dacia throughout the 2nd century and through most
of the 3rd - the unit took part in battles against the Marcomanni, Sarmatians and Quadi; it
was while serving as a centurion in this unit that Artorius achieved the rank of Primus Pilus.

Praepositus of the Misenum fleet

Artorius next acted as Provost (Praepositus) of the Misenum fleet in Italy.

Praefectus of Legio VI Victrix

The Legio VI Victrix was based in Britain from c. 122 AD onward, though their history during
the 3rd c. AD is rather hazy. Artorius' position in the Legio VI Victrix, Prefect of the Legion
(Praefectus Legionis), was equivalent to the Praefectus Castrorum.24 Men who had
achieved this title were normally 50–60 years old and had been in the army most of their lives,
working their way up through the lower ranks and the centurionate until they reached
Primus Pilus
30 (the rank seems to have been held exclusively by primipilares5). They acted
as third-in-command to the legionary commander, the Legatus Legionis, and senior tribune
and could assume command in their absence.24, 30 Their day-to-day duties included
maintenance of the fortress and management of the food supplies, sanitation, munitions,
equipment, etc.14, 30 For most who had attained this rank, it would be their last before
retirement.14 During battles, the Praefectus Castrorum normally remained at the unit's home
base with the reserve troops,28 so it is unlikely that Artorius actually fought while serving in Britain.

It is interesting that the title is spelled (P)RAEFF on Artorius' sarcophagus -
doubled letters at the end of abbreviated words on Latin inscriptions often indicated the
plural and some legions are known to have had multiple praefecti castrorum.14, 30 The title
is given in the singular on the memorial plaque, though, so we might have a scribal error on
the sarcophagus. If not, then Artorius was likely one of two praefecti legionis/castrorum of
the VI Victrix.

Dux Legionum of the Alae(?) "Britanicimiae"

Before finishing up his military career, Artorius lead an expedition of some note as a Dux
, a temporary title accorded to officers who were acting in a capacity above their
rank, either in command of a collection of troops (generally combined vexillations drawn from
the legions of a province2) in transit from one station to another, or in command of a complete
unit 29(the former seems to be the case with Artorius, seeing that the inscription mentions
multiple units).

For many years it has been believed that Artorius' expedition was against the Armoricans
(based on the reading ADVERSUS ARM[....]S, reconstructed as "adversus *Armorcianos"
- "against the Armoricans" - by Theodor Mommsen in the CIL and followed by most
subsequent editors of the inscription), but the earliest published reading of the inscription,
made by the Croatian archaeologist Francesco Carrara(Italian) in 1850, was ADVERSUS
ARME[....],3 with a ligatured ME (no longer visible on the stone, possibly due to weathering,
since the stone has been exposed to the elements for centuries and was reused as part of a
roadside wall next to the church of St. Martin in Podstrana; the mutilated word falls along the
broken right-hand edge of the first fragment of the inscription). If Carrara's reading is correct,
the phrase is most likely to be reconstructed as "adversus *Armenios", i.e. "against the
Armenians", since no other national or tribal name beginning with the letters *Arme- is known
from this time period.18

It should be noted that the regional names Armoricani or Armorici are not attested in any
other Latin inscriptions, whereas the country Armenia and derivatives such as the ethnic
name Armenii and personal name Armeniacus are attested in numerous Latin inscriptions.
Furthermore, no classical sources mention any military action taken against the
Armorici/Armoricani (which was in origin a regional name that encompassed a number of
different tribes) in the 2nd or 3rd centuries. While there are literary references to (and a small
amount of archaeological evidence for) minor unrest in northwestern Gaul during this time
period8 - often referred to as, or associated with, the rebellion of the Bagaudae, there is
no evidence that the Bagaudae were connected with the Armorici/Armoricani, or any other
particular tribe or region for that matter, making any possible reference to the
Armorici/Armoricani somewhat strange (especially since Armorica was otherwise experience
a period of prosperity in the late 2nd century AD8 (when Malcor, et al. believe that Artorius'
expedition took place). Armenia, on the other hand, was the location of several conflicts
involving the Romans during the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

The alternate, "Armenian" translation was put forward as early as 1881 by the epigrapher
and classical scholar Emil Hübner11 and most recently taken up again by the historian and
epigrapher Xavier Loriot18, who (based on the contextual and epigraphic evidence) suggests
a floruit for Artorius in the early-mid 3rd century AD (Loriot's analysis of the inscription
has recently been adopted by the Roman historians Anthony Birley2 and Marie-Henriette


The name of the units that Artorius lead in this expedition, Britanici{m}iae,
seems to be corrupt - it might be reconstructed as *Britanniciniae or *Britannicianiae. If so, they
were probably units similar in nature to the ala and cohors I Britannica, which were stationed
in Britain at one time, but not generally composed of ethnic Britons13. No such units are
believed to have been active in Britain during thelate 2nd century - all had been removed to
the Continent by that time (we have record of some of them being stationed in Pannonia).13
In an inscription from Sirmium in Pannonia dating to the reign of the emperor Gallienus
(CIL 3, 3228), we have mention of vexillations of legions *Britan(n)icin([i?]ae) ("militum
vexill(ationum) legg(ionum) ]G]ermaniciana[r(um)] [e]t Brittan(n)icin(arum)
") - a form that is
very similar to the *Britan(n)ici{m}ia from Artorius' inscription.

Procurator Centenarius of Liburnia

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

Sources Cited and Further Reading:

  1. Birley, Anthony, The Roman Government of Britain, Oxford, 2005, p. 355
  2. Breeze, David John, Dobson, Brian , Roman Officers and Frontiers, Franz Steiner Verlag, 1993, p. 180
  3. Carrara, Francesco, De scavi di Salona nel 1850, Abhandlung der koeniglichen Boehmischen
    Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, 5 s, 7, 1851/1852, p. 23
  4. Dessau, Hermann, Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, Berlin 1892-1916 (Dessau 2770)
  5. Dobson, B., "The Significance of the Centurion and 'Primipilaris' in the Roman Army and
    Administration," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.1 Berlin/NY 1974 392- 434.
  6. Dixon, Karen R., Southern, Pat, The Roman cavalry: from the first to the third century AD,
    Routledge, London, 1997, p. 240
  7. Egbert, James Chidester, Introduction to the study of Latin inscriptions,
    American Book Company, New York, 1896, p. 447
  8. Galliou, Patrick, Jones, Michael, The Bretons, Blackwell, Oxford (UK)/Cambridge (MA), 1991
  9. Goldsworthy, Adrian Keith, The Roman army at war: 100 BC-AD 200,
    Oxford University Press, 1998
  10. Haverfield, Francis, The Romanization of Roman Britain, Oxford, 1912, p. 65
  11. Hübner, Emil, "Exercitus Britannicus", Hermes XVI, 1881, p. 521ff.
  12. Jackson, Thomas Graham, Dalmatia, the Quarnero and Istria, Volume 2,
    Oxford, 1887, pp. 166-7
  13. Kennedy, David, "The 'ala I' and 'cohors I Britannica'", Britannia, Vol. 8 (1977), pp. 249-255
  14. Keppie, Lawrence, The Making of the Roman Army: from Republic to Empire,
    University of Oklahoma Press, 1998, pp. 176-179
  15. Keppie, Lawrence, Legions and veterans: Roman army papers 1971-2000,
    Franz Steiner Verlag, 2000, p. 168.
  16. Klebs, Elimar, Dessau, Hermann, Prosopographia imperii romani saec. I. II. III,
    Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, p. 155
  17. Littleton, C. Scott, Malcor, Linda, From Scythia to Camelot: A Radical Reassessment of the
    Legends of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table and the Holy Grail, New York,
    Garland, 2000
  18. Loriot, Xavier, "Un mythe historiographique : l'expédition d'Artorius Castus contre les
    Armoricains", Bulletin de la Société nationale des antiquaires de France‎, 1997, pp. 85-86
  19. Malcor, Linda, "Lucius Artorius Castus, Part 1: An Officer and an Equestrian"
    Heroic Age, 1, 1999
  20. Malcor, Linda, "Lucius Artorius Castus, Part 2: The Battles in Britain" Heroic Age 2, 1999
  21. Malone, Kemp, "Artorius," Modern Philology 23 (1924-1925): 367-74
  22. Medini, Julian, Provincija Liburnija, Diadora, v. 9, 1980, pp. 363-436
  23. Mommsen, Theodor (ed.), Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL), vol. III, no. 1919
    (p 1030, 2328,120); no. 8513; no. 12813; no. 12791 (p 2258, 2328,120); no. 14224
  24. Mommsen, Theodor, Demandt, Barbara, Demandt, Alexander, A history of Rome under the
    emperors, Routledge, London & New York, 1999 (new edition), pp. 311-312
  25. Petolescu, C.C., Inscriptiones Daciae Romanae. Inscriptiones extra fines Daciae repertae,
    Bukarest 1996 (IDRE-02)
  26. Pflaum, Hans-Georg, Les carrières procuratoriennes équestres sous le Haut-Empire romain,
    Paris, 1960, p. 535
  27. Quet, Marie-Henriette, La "crise" de l'Empire romain de Marc Aurèle à Constantin,
    Paris, 2006, p. 339
  28. Smith, William, Wayte, William , Marindin, George Eden (eds.), A dictionary of Greek and
    Roman antiquities, Volume 1, Edition 3, John Murray, London, 1890, p. 798
  29. Southern, Pat, Dixon, Karen R., The Late Roman Army, Routledge, London, 1996, p. 59
  30. Webster, Graham, The Roman Imperial Army of the first and second centuries A.D.,
    University of Oklahoma Press, edition 3, 1998, pp. 112-114
  31. Wilkes, J. J., Dalmatia, Volume 2 of History of the provinces of the Roman Empire,
    Harvard University Press, 1969, pp. 328-9

The Etymology of the Name "Artorius":

Artorius was a Roman gentilic name of uncertain origin. It has been proposed by Malcor (see above) that it originated in the Campania region of Italy.
Earlier etymological speculation* on the name suggests that it may ultimately be derived from the praenomen Artor (the Latin suffix -ius in gentilic
names was used to indicate affiliation or descent, so Artorius would literally mean "beloinging to/descended from Artor)", which is plausibly a
Latinization of an Etruscan personal name Arnthur (the meaning of which seems to be uncertain, though it may be a derivative of the name Arnth, earlier Aranth, Latinized as Arruns).

An alternate, and perhaps more appealing, etymology, proposed by Italian linguists such as Ciro Santoro, is that in which Artorius is a Latinization of
the Messapic gentilic name Artorres (which seems to be a derivative of the Messapic name Artas, with the Messapic possessive suffix -or and the
relative suffix -jo- [in conjunction, producing -rr-]). Messapic seems to have been closely related to Illyrian, which is interesting, given the number or
Artorii attested in Illyrian areas, including Lucius Artorius Castus. The exact etymology of the Messapic root *art- is uncertain; it may be cognate with
Celtic arto- "bear", or Indic rta "cosmic law" (a connection with Greek artos "bread" has also been suggested, but I find this unconvincing).

An Artor is mentioned in an old Latin inscription from Praeneste (in Campania), a city with strong Etruscan connections:

[Courtesy of the EDCS]
CIL 14, 03100 = CIL 01, 00126 (p 715, 718, 870) = ILLRP 00852
Find location: Palestrina / Praeneste

M(s) Colionia Artoro Mai(oris) (uxor)

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

Marcella Chelotti, Vincenza Morizio, Marina Silvestrini, Le epigrafi romane di Canosa, Volume 1, Edipuglia srl, 1990, pg. 261, 264.

Ciro Santoro, "Per la nuova iscrizione messapica di Oria", La Zagaglia, A. VII, n. 27, 1965, P. 271-293.

Ciro Santoro, La Nuova Epigrafe Messapica "IM 4. 16, I-III" di Ostuni ed nomi in Art-, Ricerche e Studi, Volume 12, 1979, p. 45-60

Wilhelm Schulze, Zur Geschichte lateinischer Eigennamen (Volume 5, Issue 2 of Abhandlungen der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen,
Philologisch-Historische Klasse, Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften Göttingen Philologisch-Historische Klasse), 2nd Edition, Weidmann, 1966, p. 72, pp. 333-339

Gust Herbig, "Falisca", Glotta, Band II, Göttingen, 1910, p. 98

Olli Salomies: Die römischen Vornamen. Studien zur römischen Namenge­bung. Hel­sinki 1987, p. 68

4. Comparison of Lucius Artorius Castus and King Arthur:

It has become popular recently, especially on the internet, to find both scholars and laypeople stating (often unequivocally) that Lucius Artorius Castus was the "real" King Arthur. While there are certainly some interesting parallels between the two men (assuming that King Arthur has an historical basis and is not completely legendary, as some insist), there are also some serious diferences, which make an identification of the two rather implausible.

  Lucius Artorius Castus King Arthur
Floruit Unknown; probably late 2nd-early 3rd century AD. Traditionally assigned to the late 5th-early 6th century AD.
Name Artorius - LAC's family name, his nomen gentile. Arthur is potentially derived from Latin Artorius, but a Celtic origin is also possible. Treated as a native Welsh first name in medieval Latin texts.
Ethnicity The Artorii family have roots in Italy, potentially of Messapic or Etruscan origin; LAC might have been born to a branch of the family that settled in Dalmatia. Traditionally linked in Welsh literature and genealogies to the British nobility of Cornwall.
Religion Unknown; dedications to the Di Manes, as found on LAC's tomb, are found in both pagan and Christian inscriptions in the 3rd century AD. At the very least nominally Christian - according to the Historia Brittonum he bore an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary in one of his battles; though later texts depict him as antagonistic towards clergymen.
Military Status High-ranking, career officer in the Roman army, late in his career (likely as an older man) he served as Camp Prefect in Britain and finally as Dux Legionum (Leader of Legions) in a single military campaign. Called miles, "knight, armed horseman", in the medieval Latin of the Historia Brittonum (miles meant "common soldier, private, low-ranking foot soldier" in Classical Latin). Also, in the Historia Brittonum, Arthur is called dux belli (or dux bellorum in some MSS), "leader of the battle(s)" (specifically, the 12 battles that he fought with the aid of the British kings against the Saxons), but this is a conventional Latin phrase and does not indicate that Arthur held the title of Dux in the Roman army (in fact, non Roman war leaders are sometimes called dux belli/bellorum in Latin texts). In later medieval Welsh sources he is called both "emperor" and "king" (the latter title preferred in medieval Arthurian Romance).
British Battles During battle, Camp Prefects normally remained at their unit's base with the reserve troops, so it is unlikely that LAC fought while in Britain. LAC later oversaw an expedition of troops with some sort of British connection, either to Gaul or Armenia. In the Historia Brittonum Arthur was assigned 12 battles in Britain against the invading Saxons and allegedly slew copious numbers of Saxons by his own hand. In later texts Arthur is stated to have fought battles in Gaul.
Death Unkown date and circumstances; probably died at an advanced age, potentially during his procuratorship of Liburnia, where he was buried. Traditionally stated to have died during the battle of Camlann (of unknown location in Britain); his burial site was unknown to medieval Welsh.

5. Pictures of the Inscription:

Recently produced replica of the inscription from Podstrana:



Pictures of the fragments, courtesy of Ladislav Petrus:

Left Fragment



Left Fragment (Angled)



Right Fragment



Right Fragment with "Britanici" highlighted, courtesy of German television show Galileo Mystery


Fragments in wall next to church of St. Martin, Podstrana.



The fragments on display


Composite images of the LAC inscription.






Here I have traced all the letters that I could read, including reconstructed speculative ones (in green):


Grayscale with tracing of visible letters, plus select restorations of letters.

LAC Trace

Blowup of Arm[....] from the first fragment


Original images are © copyright 2007 Ladislav Petrus (, and are distributed under the license.
Modifications that increase readability in this chapter are allowed by the original author and are also to be distributed under the license.
Original article contents © 2010 Christopher Gwinn [last revision March 30, 2010]
Contact the author: cgwinn AT nyc DOT rr DOT com