Late Roman Shield Patterns

Intra Italiam cum viri illustris magistri peditum

This page last modified: 12 October 2014 (Placidi Valentiniaci felices commentary updated)


The following cavalry units are listed as being with the Master of Foot in his Italian command, drawn from those nominally under the command of the Master of Horse (Magister Equitum):

Comites seniores (a vexillationes palatinae unit)
Equites promoti seniores (a vexillationes palatinae unit)
Equites brachiati seniores (a vexillationes palatinae unit)
Equites Cornuti seniores (a vexillationes palatinae unit)
Comites Alani (a vexillationes palatinae unit)
Equites Mauri feroces (a vexillationes comitatenses unit)
Equites constantes Valentinianenses iuniores (i.e. Equites constantes Valentinianenses seniores?, see notes below)

along with the following infantry units drawn from his own infantry roster:

Ioviani seniores (a legiones palatina unit)
Herculiani seniores (a legiones palatina unit)
Divitenses seniores (a legiones palatina unit)
Tongrecani seniores (a legiones palatina unit)
Pannoniciani seniores (a legiones palatina unit)
Moesiaci seniores (a legiones palatina unit)
Cornuti seniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Brachiati seniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Petulantes seniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Celtae seniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Heruli seniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Batavi seniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Mattiaci seniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Iovii seniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Victores seniores
Cornuti iuniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Leones iuniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Exculcatores seniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Grati (an auxilia palatina unit)
Sabini (an auxilia palatina unit)
Felices iuniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Atecotti Honoriani iuniores (i.e. Honoriani Atecotti iuniores, an auxilia palatina unit)
Brisigavi iuniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Mauri Honoriani iuniores (i.e. Honoriani Mauri iuniores, an auxilia palatina unit)
Galli victores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Octavani (a legiones palatina unit)
Thebei (a legiones palatina unit, called Thebaei by Seeck)
Mattiarii iuniores (a legiones comitatenses unit)
Septimani iuniores (a legiones comitatenses unit)
Regii (a legiones comitatenses unit)
Germaniciani (i.e. Germaniciani iuniores, a legiones comitatenses unit)
Prima Iulia (i.e. Prima Alpina, a pseudocomitatenses unit)
Tertia Iulia (i.e. Tertia Iulia Alpina, a legiones comitatenses unit)
Placidi Valentinianici felices
Gratianenses iuniores (an auxilia palatina unit)
Marcomanni (presumably an auxilia palatina unit, see notes)
Pontinenses (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 Equites Cornuti seniores are assigned to both the Italian and the Gallic armies, while the Equites Cornuti iuniores are unassigned; clearly either the Gallic or the Italian unit is the seniores while the other is the iuniores. There seems no way of conclusively determining which is which. For the sake of simplicity in illustrating their shield patterns below, I will assume that iuniores are in the Gallic army, and the seniores in the Italian army. The Equites constantes Valentinianenses iuniores might well be the same as the Equites constantes Valentinianenses seniores, since this unit is recorded under the Magister Equitum but no equivalent iuniores unit is recorded. Only one of the two Equites Brachiates seniores/iuniores patterns is shown, and there is no conclusive way of telling if it is the correct one (although it is more likely to be that of the seniores).

The Marcomanni seems to be either the Honoriani Marcomanni seniores or the Honoriani Marcomanni iuniores, since both of these units are listed under the Magister Peditum; this means however that the other unit appears to have dropped out of the distribution part of the Notitia somehow.

The Placidi Valentiniaci felices is otherwise unknown. Jones suggested that they were recently raised by Valentinian III in ca. 420 AD or later, and so not yet entered in the appropriate place in this list, or indeed entered at all in the list of units under his nominal command. However, it seems to me more likely they were simply recently transfered to the Italian command. There is an otherwise unassigned Felices iuniores Gallicani, an auxilia palatina unit listed in the Magister Peditum's list that might be the very same unit; see that unit's page for details.

The Victores seniores are something of a mystery, and as they are not recorded in the list of units under the nominal command of the Magister Peditum, their shield pattern is missing (the Victores were an important unit in Theodosius' Gallic command in Britain according to the testimony of Ammianus). Jones identified them with the Victores iuniores Britannicianni (see the discussion of this unit under the Comes Britanniarum), but I am not sure I agree with this analysis. It seems to me they may simply have been destroyed during the time the Notitia was in use, and deleted from parts of the register but not in others.

The shield patterns of these units (save those of the Victores seniores and Exculcatores seniores, which are missing) are shown below:

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 roster 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 positions of the Octavani and Thebei indicate that they were comitatenses units when the Notitia was first drawn up, but were later promoted to the palatine status they are recorded as having under the Magister Peditum's infantry roster. Half of the 12 palatine legions in the western empire are such recently upgraded units.

5 prefects and their limitanei units are also listed as being stationed in Italia, although not under the command of the Magister Peditum:

Praefectus classis Venetum, at Aquileiae
Praefectus militum iuniorum Italicorum, at Ravennae
Praefectus classis Ravennatium cum curis eiusdem civitatis, at Ravennae
Praefectus classis Comensis cum curis eiusdem civitatis, at Como
Praefectus classis Misenatium, at Miseno

In addition to these military units, 17 prefects of Sarmatian settlers (Praefectus Sarmatarum gentilium) are listed as being stationed in various parts of Italy, although two of these appear to be duplicates.


Return to the Notitia index page.