Late Roman Shield Patterns

Intra Gallias cum viro illustri magistro equitum Galliarum

This page last modified: 23 November 2014 (Tomlin link added)


The following cavalry units are listed as being with the Master of Horse in his Gallic command:

Equites Batavi seniores (a vexillationes palatinae unit)
Equites Cornuti seniores (i.e. Equites Cornuti iuniores?, a vexillationes palatinae unit; see notes below)
Equites Batavi iuniores (a vexillationes palatinae unit)
Equites Brachiati iuniores (presumably a vexillationes palatinae unit; see notes below)
Equites Honoriani seniores (a vexillationes comitatenses unit)
Equites Honoriani iuniores (likely the Equites Honoriani Taifali iuniores, a vexillationes comitatenses unit)
Equites armigeri seniores (i.e. Equites armigeri, a vexillationes comitatenses unit)
Equites octavo Dalmatae (a vexillationes comitatenses unit)
Equites Dalmatae Passerentiaci (a vexillationes comitatenses unit)
Equites prima Gallia (a vexillationes comitatenses unit; Equites primi Gallicani in Seeck)
Equites Mauri alites (a vexillationes comitatenses unit)
Equites Constantiaci feroces (i.e. Equites Constantiani feroces, a vexillationes comitatenses unit)

along with the following infantry units, mostly drawn from those nominally under control of the Magister Peditum:

Mattiaci iuniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Leones seniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Brachiati iuniores (i.e. Brachiati, an auxilia palatina unit; see notes)
Salii seniores (i.e. Salii, an auxilia palatina unit)
Gratianenses (i.e. Gratianenses seniores, an auxilia palatina unit)
Brocteri (i.e. Bructeri, an auxilia palatina unit)
Ampsivarii (an auxilia palatina unit)
Valentinianenses (likely the Valentianenses iuniores, an auxilia palatina unit)
Batavi (an auxilia palatina unit; deleted by Seeck, see notes)
Batavi iuniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Britones (see notes)
Atecotti Honoriani seniores (i.e. Honoriani Atecotti seniores, an auxilia palatina unit)
Sagittarii Nervii Gallicani (an auxilia palatina unit)
Iovii iuniores Gallicani (an auxilia palatina unit)
Mattiaci iuniores Gallicani (an auxilia palatina unit)
Atecotti iuniores Gallicani (presumably an auxilia palatina unit)
Ascarii Honoriani seniores (i.e. Honoriani ascarii seniores, an auxilia palatina unit)
Armigeri defensores seniores (a legiones comitatenses unit)
Lanciarii Honoriani Gallicani (i.e. Lanciarii Gallicani Honoriani, a legiones comitatenses unit)
Lanciarii Sabarienses (a legiones palatina unit)
Menapii seniores (a legiones comitatenses unit)
Secundani Britones (i.e. Secunda Britannica, a legiones comitatenses unit)
Ursarienses (a legiones comitatenses unit)
Praesidienses (i.e. Praesichantes, a legiones comitatenses unit)
Geminiacenses (a legiones comitatenses unit)
Cortoriacenses (a legiones comitatenses unit)
Honoriani felices Gallicani (a legiones comitatenses unit)
Prima Flavia Gallicana (i.e. Prima Flavia Gallicana Constantia, a pseudocomitatenses unit)
Martenses (a pseudocomitatenses unit)
Abrincateni (a pseudocomitatenses unit)
Defensores seniores (a pseudocomitatenses unit)
Mauri Osismiaci (a pseudocomitatenses unit)
Prima Flavia (i.e. Prima Flavia Metis, a pseudocomitatenses unit)
Superventores iuniores (a pseudocomitatenses unit)
Defensores iuniores
Cornacenses (i.e. Corniacenses, a pseudocomitatenses unit)
Septimani iuniores (i.e. Septimani, a pseudocomitatenses unit)
Cursarienses iuniores
Romanenses (a pseudocomitatenses unit)

Disclaimer: remember, I'm not an expert in the field of Notitia studies, so take my comments with a grain of salt...

The Batavi placed before the Batavi iuniores were deleted by Seeck as a repetition , despite not having the same name. Perhaps Seeck was influenced by the fact that, as Ingo Maier reports (Maier, I.G., The Barberinus and Munich codices of the 'Notitia Dignitatum omnium': Latomus 28 1969 pp. 960-1035; available here), the entry was not present in the Bodleian and Trento manucripts, although it is present in the Parisian and Munich manuscripts, as well as the Vatican manuscript (which Seeck never consulted) and the Froben edition (and the other early printed editions). Seeck however didn't mention any of this in his edition...

The Equites Cornuti seniores is assigned to both the Gallic and the Italian field armies, while the Equites Cornuti iuniores is unassigned; clearly either the Gallic or the Italian unit is the seniores while the other is the iuniores. There seems no way of decisively determining which is which. For the sake of simplicity in illustrating their shield patterns below, I will assume that Equites Cornuti iuniores are in the Gallic army, and the Equites Cornuti seniores in the Italian army.

Only one of the two Equites Brachiati units has its pattern illustrated, and while it is not entirely clear if it is the Equites brachiati seniores or iuniores, it is much more likely to be the seniores given its position (the Equites Brachiati iuniores comes after the Equites Batavi iuniores in the Gallic list, while the shield pattern labelled Equites Brachiati comes, like the position of the Equites Brachiati seniores, before it in the Magister Equitum's cavalry roster). Similarly, only one of the two Mattiaci units has a matching illustration - see here for details.

There is a Brachiati listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry list, albeit in a position inconsistent with the position of the Brachiati iuniores in the above Gallic list, and its shield pattern is also not recorded. A Brachiates iuniores is also listed as being in the Magister Peditum's Italian command.

Similarly, a Valentinianenses is also listed under the Comes Illyricum; see the discussion under the Valentianenses iuniores.

The Britones are somewhat of a mystery, but see the discussion under the Batavi iuniores.

Both a Septimani iunioresSeptimani are listed under the Magister Peditum; as the iunories is a comitatenses unit, it seems that the Septimani iuniores of the Gallic list is not the same unit, but rather the Septimani, which is a pseudocomitatenses unit. Both would appear to be part of the old Legio VII Gemina Felix; see the comments under the Comes Hispenias.

The Martenses, the Abrincateni, the Prima Flavia Gallicana Constantia, the Mauri Osismiaci, the Superventores iuniores, the Garronnenses, and the Ursarienses all appear to be units drawn from the limitanei force of the Dux tractus Armoricani et Nervicani. The Balistarii, the Defensores iuniores, the Anderetiani. and the Acincenses (and possibly part of the Martenses) all appear to be units drawn from the Dux Mogontiacensis; the Romanenses possibly from the Dux Pannoniae secundae, and the Insidiatores from the Dux Valeriae ripensis. The Abulci and possibly the Truncensimani appear to be drawn from the men under the Comes litoris Saxonici per Britanniam (the Truncensimani are often instead equated with the Tricensimani of e.g. Ammianus 28.9.3); the Defensores seniores from the Dux Britanniarum, and the Exploratores from there and/or the identically named unit under the Comes litoris Saxonici per Britanniam. The Prima Flavia Metis were evidently stationed in Metis, a town in Belgicae Secundae, in the not too distant past, although they are no longer listed under the Dux of that region. The Secundani Britones seem to be also listed under the command of the Comes Britanniarum.

The origins of the Cursarienses iuniores are hard to discern. Jones thought the Cursarienses was a mistake for the Ursarienses in Armorica, since he had already assigned the Ursarienses in the Gallic army to the unit under the Dux Raetiae rather than from Armorica; this assigmnet is also supported by Tomlin, Seniores-Iuniores in the Late-Roman Field Army (1972), at p 274, note 3, available here). They could indeed be Ursarienses (from Amorica, or indeed, Raetia, or even the Auxilia Ursarensia from Valeria) but "Cursarienses" is a perfectly acceptable name ("the runners") so this is by no means proven.

The Musmagenses are no doubt from Mosomagus, modern Mouzon, another town in Belgicae Secundae, although they too are no longer listed under the Dux of that region. Archaelogical work there reveals Roman coins up to the date of Theodosius (to 395 AD), but not later.

The shield patterns that can be positively or plausibly identified are shown below, as taken from the Parisian manuscript, P. Note that many of the shield patterns listed matching the Magister Peditum's infantry list are in fact mislabelled; see here for more details. Where the label is clearly wrong, but the correct identity is not clear, I have given the illustrated label in quote marks. Where the label is clearly wrong, and the correct label is also reasonably clear, I have given illustrated label in quote marks, and the correct pattern for the correct label, which is identified by appending "i.e.".


The position of the Lanciarii Sabarienses indicates it was a comitatenses units when the Notitia was first drawn up, but later promoted to the palatine status it is recorded having under the list of the Magister Peditum. Half of the 12 palatine legions in the western empire are such recently upgraded units.

The following prefects and tribunes along with their limitanei units are also listed as being stationed in Gallia, but not under the Magister Equitum's direct command:

Praefectus classis fluminis Rhodani, at Viennae or Arelati
Praefectus classis barcariorum, at Ebruduni Sapaudiae
Praefectus militum musculariorum, at Massiliae Graecorum
Tribunus cohortis primae Flaviae Sapaudicae, at Calaronae
Tribunus cohortis Noevempopulanae, at Lapurdo
Praefectus classis Araricae, at Caballoduno
Praefectus classis Anderetianorum, at Parisius.

In addition to these units, a prefect of Sarmatian and Taifalian settlers is mentioned:

Praefectus Sarmatarum et Taifalorum gentilium, at Pictavis (Poitiers)

and the following prefects of Sarmatian settlers:

Praefectus Sarmatarum gentilium, throughout the Chora Parisios (Paris district)
Praefectus Sarmatarum gentilium, between Remos (Reims) and Ambianos (Amiens) in provinciae Belgicae secundae
Praefectus Sarmatarum gentilium, in the Rodunensem (Rennes?) and Alaunorum (Alanic?) tract
Praefectus Sarmatarum gentilium, at Lingonas (Langres)
Praefectus Sarmatarum gentilium, at Au[...missing]

and the following prefects in charge of German settlers:

Praefectus laetorum Teutonicianorum, at Carnunta (Chartres) in Senoniae Lugdunensis
Praefectus laetorum Batavorum et gentilium Suevorum, at Baiocas (Bayeux) and at Constantiae (Coutances) in Lugdunensis secundae
Praefectus laetorum gentilium Suevorum, at [...missing] and at Ceromannos (Le Mans) in Lugdunensis tertiae
Praefectus laetorum Francorum, at Redonas (Rennes) in Lugdensis tertiae
Praefectus laetorum Lingonensium, dispersed throughout Belgicae primae
Praefectus laetorum Actorum, at Epuso in Belgicae primae
Praefectus laetorum Lagensium, near Tungros (Tongres) in Germaniae secundae
Praefectus laetorum gentilium Suevorum, at Arumbernos (Auvergne) in Aquitanicae primae
(possibly more missing prefects).

These prefects may have commanded "their" laeti as separate military "units", but it is at least equally plausible that these prefects were not military officers at all, and if their settlers were conscripted to fight, it would have been in the same way as any other men in the area (see e.g. Hugh Elton, Warfare in Roman Europe AD 340 - 425 (1996), page 130) - but joining "regular" units.


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