X Fretensis symbols were the bull, the holy animal of the goddess Venus (mythical ancestor of the gens Julia), a ship (probably a reference to the battles of Naulochus and/or Actium), the god Neptune, and a boar. The symbol of Taurus may also mean that it was organized between 20 April and 20 May.
In 36 BC, the Tenth Legion fought under Octavian against Sextus Pompeius in the Battle of Naulochus, where it earned its cognomen Fretensis. The name refers to the fact that the battle took place near the sea Strait of Messina (Fretum Siculum).
In 31 BC, it fought in the Battle of Actium against Mark Antony. Although Actium was a battle at sea, the legion was able to board enemy ships that had been hooked close by means of an iron grapnel. Its key participation in this battle is probably the reason that the legion also used a trireme as one of its symbols. Actium marked the end of the civil war and the rise to power of Octavian, who was proclaimed Augustus some years later.
Tiles found in Caesarea Maritima, built in the second decade BC, suggest that the legion was at that time based in Iudaea. Later X Fretensis moved to Syria. In 6 it was stationed in that province together with legions III Gallica, VI Ferrata, and XII Fulminata. In the same year, Publius Sulpicius Quirinus, governor of Syria, led these legions in the suppression of the revolt that sprung out after the killing of Herod Archelaus.
In 66, the X Fretensis and V Macedonica went to Alexandria for an invasion of Ethiopia planned by Nero. However, the two legions were needed in Iudaea to suppress a revolt. After spending the winter in Ptolemais Ace (modern Acre, Israel), X Fretensis and V Macedonica relocated in the coastal city of Caesarea Maritima (67/68). This was due to the large number of legions being mobilized in Ptolemais, under Marcus Ulpius Traianus, future governor of Syria and father of the emperor Trajan. During that same winter, the Caesarea camp of Xth and Vth hosted Vespasian, who was forced the following year, to go to Rome to seize power. Vespasian's son, Titus ended the suppression of the revolt.
When Tarichacae and Gamala were conquered, the X Fretensis moved to Scythopolis (modern Bet She'an), just west of Jordan River. In the summer of 68, X Fretensis destroyed the monastery of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to have originated. Its winter camp was at Jericho.
By 70, the rebellion in all of Iudaea had been crushed, except for Jerusalem and a few fortresses, including Masada. In that year X Fretensis, in conjunction with V Macedonica, XII Fulminata, and XV Apollinaris, began the siege of Jerusalem, stronghold of the rebellion. The Xth camped on the Mount of Olives. During the siege, Legio X gained fame in the effective use of their various war machines. It was noted that they were able to hurl stones that weighted a talent (about 25 kg) a distance of two furlongs (400 m) or further. The projectiles of their ballistae caused heavy damage to the ramparts. The siege of Jerusalem lasted five months and the besieged population experienced all the terrible rigors of starvation. Finally, the combined assaults of the legions succeeded in taking the city, which was then subjected to destruction.
During the spring of 71, Titus set sail for Rome. A new military governor was then appointed from Rome, Lucilius Bassus, whose assigned task was to undertake the "mopping-up" operations in Iudaea. Naturally, he used X Fretensis to oppose the few remaining fortresses that still resisted. As part of this, X Fretensis took Herodium, and then crossed the Jordan to capture the fortress of Machaerus on the shore of the Dead Sea. Due to illness, Bassus did not live to complete his mission. Lucius Flavius Silva replaced him, and moved against the last Jewish stronghold, Masada, in the autumn of 72. He used Legio X, auxiliary troops, and thousands of Jewish prisoners. After his orders for surrender were rejected, Silva established several base camps and a wall of circumvolution completely around the fortress. When the Romans finally broke through the walls of this citadel, they discovered that the Jewish defenders had chosen death with a mass suicide.
After the conclusion of the Jewish revolt, Legio X was garrisoned at Jerusalem. Their main camp was positioned on the Western Hill, located in the southern half of the old city, now leveled of all former buildings. The camp of the Tenth was built using the surviving portions of the walls of Herod the Great's palace, demolished by order of Titus. The camp was at the end of the cardo maximus of Aelia Capitolina.
At the time, Legio X was the sole legion assigned to maintain the peace in Iudaea, and was directly under the command of the governor of the province, who was also legatus of the legion.
The revolt, originated with the decision of Emperor Hadrian to build a Pagan temple to Jupiter in Jerusalem. Simon Bar Kokhba started a revolt that occupied Jerusalem and inflicted many casualties to the Romans. The war ended when the Roman army — which included Fretensis many other and Danubian troops under the command of Sextus Julius Severus — reconquered Jerusalem and successfully besieged the last Jewish stronghold, the fortress of Betar.
In 193, the legion supported Pescennius Niger against Septimius Severus, and was possibly involved in a local struggle between Jews and Samaritans. The legion was still in Jerusalem at the time of Caracalla or Elagabalus.
The legion moved to Aila (close to modern Aqaba), probably during Diocletian's reforms, and is recorded as still camping there at the time of the compilation of the Notitia Dignitatum, in the 390s, when it is reported serving under the Dux Palaestinae.
Some fragments bearing the "L.X.F" mark of the Legio X Fretensis are present at the Tower of David in Jerusalem. Roman Law required all pottery to bear the maker's stamp, and the Legion pottery works just to the West of Jerusalem were obviously no exception. A huge production of pottery bearing the marks of the Legio X Fretensis has been discovered in Jerusalem.