The Equites citrati iuniores

This page created 28 August 2014, and last modified: 28 August 2014


The Equites citrati iuniores is listed as one of the vexillationes comitatenses in the Magister Equitum's cavalry roster; it is assigned to the Comes Africae as the Equites crinati iuniores. Its 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 Seeck amended the unit's name to the Equites cetrati iuniores, with an "e" (and indeed, it is so-spelled in the illustrations accompanying the Froben edition).

The shield pattern has a blue boss quartered with white (W), with blue (O, P), or unquartered (M); B instead has white quartered with white. The main field is green (faded to yellow in M); it is charged with a blue disc (yellow in M, white in B) at the 9 o'clock position (3 o'cock in B, which, being printed, reverses all the shield facings), and also a large yellow draco - a military standard that was introduced to the Roman forces during the 2nd century AD as a result of the Dacian wars, and which became more popular with time, to judge from e.g. Vegetius, in which (section 2.13) a cohort is given its own standard, kept by a draconarius. Despite the name "draco" (serpent, dragon), the draco often seemed to feature a head that looked more wolf-like than serpent-like.

Draco from Trajan's column
Dacian draco coin
Draco on Arch of Constantine
Dacian draco from Trajan's column (113 AD).
Roman coin of ca. 250 AD showing a Dacian with a draco.
Dracones on the Arch of Constantine (ca. 315 AD)
Photo by Radu Oltean and used under CCA 3.0 license.
Photo by Rc13 and used under CCA 3.0 license.
Photo by MM and released into the public domain.

The disc, despite appearing plain, is probably intended to represent an imago - an imperial portrait. This can be seen by comparing some other shield patterns of draco-bearing units, using the patterns taken from the Paris manuscript:

Shield patterns showing dracones

The "unlabelled" pattern from the western Magister Officiorum is actually drawn much larger than the other two, allowing the imperial portrait to be clearly depicted.

The name cetrati refers to a small shield, a "cetra", and more classically a "caetra", and which was typical of Spanish light infantry in the Roman republican era. The word was used by Latin-writing authors to cover a multitude of shields smaller than a typical Roman "scutum", and while thus typically used for shields borne by light infantry, it also encompassed the heavy bronze-faced shields carried by Macedonian phalangites, which were however, "just" 60 to 75 cm in diameter. It is possible the men of the Equites cetrati iuniores carried smaller shields than standard cavalrymen, but it is also possible that the name was anachronistic in much the same way that scutarii had become: scutarii had come to have a secondary meaning of "guardsmen" by this date, and not just "scutum-bearers".


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