The Constantiaci

This page created 14 June 2014, and last modified: 12 October 2014 (naming commentary updated)


The Constantiaci is one of the pseudocomitatenses units listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster. Its shield pattern 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 is very simple, showing a red field with a yellow boss sporting a pair of "horns". These horns look like a cut-down version of the twin-headed zoomorphic motif that is extremely common in the Notitia (over a dozen examples), especially amongst auxilia palatina. The twin-headed zoomorphic motif is known from a range of sources in northern Europe, such as on the ca. 6th century Torslunda bronze die from Sweden shown below, which looks more like that sported by the Constantiaci than most:

Torslunda die
Public domain image taken from 1903 book

Although there is a Constantiaci listed under the Comes Africae, there are solid reasons for believing this unit is not the Constantiaci under discussion here, but rather the Flavia victrix Constantina, which means this Constantiaci is apparently not assigned to any of the field commands in the Notitia, or at least, not under that name. Given however how frequently units called "Flavia" in the Notitia are are also called something along the lines of "Constant...", due to the Constantinian imperial dynasty, also called the Neo-Flavian dynasty, raising so many units during the first half of the 4th century, it is possible that this Constantiaci is the same as the men commanded by the Praefectus militum secundae Flaviae under the Dux Mogontiacensis. Its non-appearance among the units of the Gallic field army, in contrast to most of the other under the Dux' command, could then be put down to either clerical error, or, perhaps more likely, simply having been destroyed in the aftermath of the 407 invasion of Gaul. On the other hand, given its low position in the infantry roster, implying a late date, the unit may well have been named for Constantine III, western Augustus in 421, and father of Valentinian III, whose name was Flavius Constantius: one would expect legionary units bearing his name to have pseudocomitatenses status if they had been recently drafted from a garrison force (as opposed to newly-raised). However, since the unit bears a horned motif on its shield, this is evidence that it is more likely an auxiliary as opposed to a legionary formation, since no units described in the Notitia as being legionary carry the motif.


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