The Batavi seniores (West)

This page created 2 April 2014, and last modified: 26 October (Frankfurt fragment image added)


The sixth auxilia palatina unit listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster in the manuscripts is called the "Batavi matriciaci seniores". This was split into a Batavi seniores and a Mattiaci seniores by Seeck, since these unit names appear in the appropriate positions under the Magister Peditum's Italian command and the Magister Equitum's Gallic command, respectively; shield patterns are also assigned separately (this was not Seeck's innovation, however; such an arrangement is also found in the Froben edition, B). The shield pattern of the Batavi seniores, under the plain label Batavi, is shown in various manuscripts 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...

The shield pattern shows a plain red ground; the boss (rather off-centred in P, W) is green (faded to yellow in M, and near white in W), but has a tear-drop shape (point downwards) and is surrounded by a blue band (more purple in B) that turns into a pillar under the boss that appears to have a split-line running vertically through it. It thus appears somewhat like many "boss and pillar" patterns found in the Notitia, but it isn't really like any of the others due to its free-flowing curves.

A number of other units in the Notitia incorprate the "Batavi" name, including two more units of Batavi seniores; one is the senior vexillationes palatinae unit (i.e. a cavalry unit) under the Magister Equitum's Gallic command; the other is the senior-most ranked auxilia palatina unit in the Eastern half of the empire, under the command of the first Master of the Soldiers in the Imperial Presence. The shield patterns of these three units do not appear to have any obvious similarities (other than the eastern unit being a "boss and pillar" design).

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.

Extensive inscriptional evidence for the western Batavi seniores comes from the cemetery at Colonia Iulia Concordia (modern Portogruaro in Veneto, Italy), which produced an inscription (ILS 544) mentioning the numero Bataorum seniorum; another (ILS 480) giving num Bat sen; another (CIL 5, 8752) the numero Bataorum [.]eniorum; yet another (CIL 5, 8759) the numero Batavorum seni; another (CIL 5, 8776) the numero Bataorum seniorum; another (CIL 5, 8773) giving the numeri Bataor sen; and yet another (CIL 5, 8761) mentioning the unit in the form of the n Bataorum seniorum. See here for Hoffmann's 1963 analysis (in German).

When "the" original Batavi was split between seniores and iuniores, and eastern and western units, is unknown; an inscription (RIU 3,699 = CIL 3,10891; images here and here) from Hungary mentioning a t Bat has been expanded to "t(ribunus) Bat(avorum)", and is dated to 303, showing the unit, like the Cornuti and Regii, was one of the first of the auxilia palatina to be raised; see M.P. Speidel, Raising New Units for the Late Roman Army (1996), available here.


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