The Constantini Dafnenses

This page created 7 September 2014, and last modified: 7 September 2014


The Constantini Dafnenses is listed as one of the legiones comitatenses under the Magister Militum per Thracias. 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 has a double rim; the outer portion being variously depicted as being white (O), blue (P, M). red (W), or green (B), with the inner portion being yellow (blue in W). The boss has an outer white band (yellow in P), a blue middle band, and a white central dot (absent in M). The rest of the shield is a whirlygig design, with the arms trailing clockwise (but anticlockwise in B, which being printed, reverses the facings of all its shield patterns). There are sixteen arms, grouped into fours, coloured (clockwise) yellow, red, white, and green (O, P, M, except in M the green is faded to yellow); white, red, yellow, blue (W); and yellow, red (for two adjacent groups, white for the two others), green, red (B). Such a whirlygig pattern is unique in the Notitia, although that of the Prima Maximiana Thebaeorum is not so far removed, as it also shows a whirlygig, albeit with only four arms.

Interestingly, the Missorium of Valentinian, a silver plate depicting either Valentian I or II with various soldiers/guards, and now held in the Museum of Art & History in Geneva, while worn with use, shows one man carrying a shield whose pattern looks very similar to that of the Constantini Dafnenses.

Shield patterns
Background photo from the Museum of Genoa

Here I have mirror-imaged the shield pattern, and stretched it to conform with the proportions of the shields carried by the Missorium guards. The match is close, if not exact. But we should not expect it to be exact, for it is unlikely the Constantini Dafnenses, a relatively lowly-ranked comitatenses unit, would be a fitting candidate for portraying in such a scene (cf. the Lanciarii seniores, who do seem to be depicted on the same plate), and in any case, the exact details of the shield pattern could easily have changed in the three or so decades between he making of the plate and the compilation of the Notitia.

The Constantini Dafnenses shares the name Constantini with several other units in the Notitia: the Constantini seniores, another legiones comitatenses under the Magister Militum per Thracias; and under the Dux Scythiae, the Primi Constantini, the Secundi Constantini, and the Quinti Constantini, all limitanei auxiliary units. There are also many other units bearing slight variations on the name: Constantaci, Constantiaci, Constantiani, Constantici, and Constantiniani. In many cases, it is not clear if the unit concerned is named directly after a member of the Flavian (Constantinian) imperial dynasty, or indirectly, through being named after a place named after such a person. The Constantini Dafnenses seem to fit into the latter category, as Dafnenses refers to the fortress Daphne on the north bank of the Danube, from where Valens attacked the Goths in 367 (Ammianus 27.5.2); its full name may have been Constantiana Daphne, since it was Constantine I who established the fortification in the late 320s (Procopius, de Aedificiis, 4.7.7, who states it was built opposite "Trasmariskas" i.e. Transmarisca, modern Tutrakan in Bulgaria, and thus in the vicinity of Oltenita in Romania).


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