The Batavi iuniores (Britones?)

This page created 14 October, and last modified: 29 October (Frankfurt fragment image added)


In the western half of the empire, the shield pattern of a (presumably auxilia palatina) unit is illustrated under the label Batavi iuniores; such a unit is assigned to the Magister Equitum's Gallic command although it is not listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster. The shield pattern as shown in various manuscripts is as below:

Shield patterns

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

Note that according to Ingo Maier (Maier, I.G., The Barberinus and Munich codices of the 'Notitia Dignitatum omnium': Latomus 28 1969 pp. 960-1035; available here), the unit's Gallic listing is absent from the Bodleian and Trento manuscripts; Seeck deleted it from his edition despite it being found in the Parisian and Munich manuscripts and the Froben edition (and the other early printed editions), as well as the Vatican manuscript (which Seeck never consulted). Immediately before its position in the Gallic list comes a unit of Batavi which is listed in the infantry roster, rather confusingly as the Batavi iuniores (Seeck deleted this previous entry from his edition; and did so without alerting the reader; see notes 84, 85 here). It would appear the first of these units corresponds to the first of the Batavi (iuniores) units illustrated, and the second unit (shown above) to the second.

The pattern has a green main field (faded to yellow in M); a white boss quartered with blue (O, P, and perhaps Ff), red (M, W), or white (B); a blue band encircling the boss (red in M, absent in W, B, (faded to?) white in Ff); a red rim (white in O), and a red-brown quadruped leaping over the boss, facing left (right in B, which being printed, reverses all the shield pattern facings). This is one of the few patterns for which O gives a version that is different from W in which P follows W and not O (here the shield rim); interestingly, both the patterns illustrated to either side are also like this (the Invicti iuniores Britanniciani and the Exculcatores iuniores Britanniciani).

Other patterns featuring similar animals over the boss are those of the Prima Flavia Gallicana Constantia, a pseudocomitatenses unit in the Magister Equitum's Gallic command; that ascribed to the Ascarii iuniores, a unit of auxilia palatina in Spain; and that of the Petulantes iuniores under the Magister Militum per Illyricum, as can be seen from a comparison of the following patterns taken from the Parisian manuscript:

Shield patterns

Although there is evidence that many labels attached to the shield patterns illustrating the western auxilia platina have been shifted from their proper place, it is not clear that this has happened to this unit; it may well be labelled with the correct shield pattern.

The name Batavi is tribal, coming from a Germanic tribe that lived in what is now the Netherlands; they provided the empire with many units of auxiliaries in the early empire in particular. As a result, a number of other units in the Notitia incorprate the "Batavi" name in addition to the ones mentioned above, One of these is the Equites Batavi iuniores, a cavalry unit in the Magister Peditum's Italian command. Its shield pattern is unrelated to either of the infantry Batavi iuniores units.

The placement of the second Batavi iuniores' shield pattern between those of two "British" units, the Invicti iuniores Britanniciani and the Exculcatores iuniores Britanniciani, suggests this unit may have been similarly British; this impression is reinforced when the shield patterns of the first two are compared,s they are very similar. Further, I note that the Gallic command lists the following:

in the Parisian manuscript, P:

Batavi iuniores.
Atecotti honoriani se
in the Munich manuscript, M:
Batavi iuniores
Britones . Atecotti
honoriani seniores
and in the Froben edition, B:
TAVI. BATAVI iuniores. BRITONES. ATECOTTI Honoriani seniores.
The Britones is not only not listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster, but does not have a shield pattern assigned to it either. I would suggest that it is in fact not a separate unit, and the Gallic listing should be read like this:
Batavi iuniores Britones
Atecotti honoriani seniores
This would not only make sense of the Batavi entries, but also remove the problem of the "missing" Britones. That Batavi iuniores Britones is a perfectly reasonable name for a unit can be seen from the Legio Secunda Britannica siue Secundani listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster, but labelled the Britannici, and called the Secundani Britones in the Gallic list; further, what is called the Invicti iuniores Britanniciani in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is called the Invicti iuniores Britones in the list of the Comes Africae, showing Britanniciani and Britones are essentially interchangeable.

Further, we know from the Notitia itself that a Batavian auxilary unit was serving in Britain when the document was first compiled, under the Tribunus cohortis primae Batavorum, at Procolitia (modern Carrawburgh); the Cohors I Batavorum is well attested there during the 3rd century, with 10 inscriptions known (see here). This unit was presumably withdrawn from the Wall along with many other units to reinforce the continental forces. If it had indeed achieved palatine status, as opposed to pseudocomitatenses, before the time the Notitia was last amended, this might imply it was withdrawn before most of the rest of the British forces. That is is not found in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster may just be an oversight, or it may indicate it was destroyed at some time following its assignment to the Gallic field amy.


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