The Divitenses seniores

This page created 26 April 2014, and last modified: 3 November 2014 (Ammianus section updated)


The Divitenses seniores is third of the legiones palatinae listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned to his Italian command. Its shield pattern as shown in various manuscripts, under the simple label "Divitenses", 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...

The shield pattern is relatively simple, and shows, working from the centre outwards, a pale blue boss (white in W, B), a red band (maroon in P, white in O), a narrow yellow band, a broad red band (white in W), and a narrow yellow rim. It is thus very similar to the next unit in the Magister Peditum's list: the Tongrecani seniores, as can be seen by comparing their patterns as below, in this case using those from the Parisian manuscript (P):

Shield patterns

The only difference between them is the addition of a green rim to that of the Tongrecani seniores. Their adjacent positions in the list, and their similar shield patterns, imply these two units are a matched pair, and this is reinforced by Ammianus; in section 27.1.2 he mentions "the" Divitenses and the Tungrecani as being together in Gaul; more interestingly, he also mentions (26.6.12) the Divitenses Tungricanosque Iuniores - i.e. the "Divitenses and Tungrecani iuniores" as a contemporaneous unit pair in the east - incidentally the first time iuniores units are mentioned in his work; at 26.7.14 he calls this Divitenses iuniores unit the plain "Divitenses", showing that other mentions of iuniores names (or seniores for that matter) may well have been omitted by him in his work.

Interestingly, no Divitenses iuniores is mentioned in the Notitia. There is however a Divitenses Gallicani under the Magister Militum per Thracias, and it may be that the Divitenses Gallicani was called the Divitenses iuniores before it was moved from Gaul to Thrace, and was thereafter given the Gallicani moniker: the name Divitenses means "of/from Divitia" (modern Deutz in Germany), which was re-established as Castrum Divitia/Castrum Divitensium by Constantine I in 310 AD as a bridgehead across the Rhine opposite Colonia to better guard the Gallic frontier.

Units known to have occupied Divitia in the 4th century include (detachments of) both Legio VIII Augusta and Legio II Italica. Of these two, it appears the Divitenses seniores are a descendent of Legio II Italica, which was raised by Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century, since there are inscriptions in Italy mentioning "Legio II Italica Divitensium" (see AHM Jones, The later Roman Empire 284-602, hard-back version (1964), Vol.III, p 14, note 43). For example, AE 1982, 00258 gives (image here) legionis secunde Italice Divitensium; whereas CIL 06, 03637 (= ILS 2346) gives (image here) legionis secunde Divitensium Italice; and CIL 11, 04787 (= ILS 2777) gives (image here) leg II Ital Divit (CIL 11, 04085, from the same place as AE 1982, 00258 (Ocriculum), gives just plain leg II Ital, but undoubtably refers to the same unit).

Thus is appears Divitenses (an, by extension, the Tongrecani it was brigaded with) originated as detachments of legions of Constantine I at some point between 310 (when Castrum Divitia was established) and 312 (when Constantine invaded Italy). Incidentally, limitanei detachments of Legio II Italica are listed in the Notitia as garrisoning several places in Noricum, under the Dux Pannoniae primae et Norici ripensis, and other non-limitanei units descended from Legio II Italica in addition to the two Divitenses units appear to be the Secundani Italiciani under the Comes Africae and the Lanciarii Lauriacenses under the Comes Illyricum.


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