The Fortenses (in Spain)

This page created 20 May 2014, and last modified: 24 June 2014 (commentary updated)


A unit called the Fortenses is listed as the second of the legiones comitatenses in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster. 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...

The pattern is simple, showing a purple main ground (red in W) with a red rim, and a purple boss (red in B) with a white band surrounding it (yellow in W). As a result, it looks similar to a number of other patterns in the Notitia.

There are actually two units called Fortenses in the western half of the empire: one is assigned to the Comes Hispenias, while another is assigned to the Comes Africae. The relative positioning of the two within their respective command distribution lists indicates that the shield pattern shown above belongs to the Spanish unit. In addition, two units named Fortenses are also listed in the eastern half of the empire: the Fortenses under the Magister Militum Praesentalis I, and the Fortenses auxiliarii under the Magister Militum per Orientem.

The name Fortenses means "brave", or "steadfast", and many other units bearing the name Fortenses appear in the Notitia (see my alphabetical list), as being given the additional name "Fortis" was a common reward under the early empire for a unit that had performed well in battle. The Fortenses in Spain would thus appear to be a detachment or descendent of a old legion bearing the title Fortis. One such legion was the Legio II Traiana Fortis Germanica, detachments of which are listed under both the Comes limitis Aegypti and the Dux Thebaidos. Another possibility might be the otherwise unattested Legio X Fortenses mentioned by Ammianus (see the discussion under the Dux Palaestinae). Perhaps Legio VI Hispana, known only from possibly mid-third century inscriptional evidence (see here, in French), was called Fortis. Alternatively, it may be that the different Fortenses detachments acquired their names after being split off from a parent legion, in which case they could derive from Legio VII Gemina, long stationed in Spain, or any other legion for that matter. The position of the Spanish Fortenses, at the top of the list of legions under the Comes, would seem to indicate it had been in a field army for some considerable time.

Inscriptional evidence for a unit apparently named the Fortenses comes from the cemetery at Colonia Iulia Concordia (modern Portogruaro in Veneto, Italy), which produced an inscription (ILS 547) mentioning a unit in the form of the numero Eorten[.]orum, which has been interpreted to mean "Numero Fortensorum", which may refer to this unit. See here for Hoffmann's 1963 analysis (in German).


Return to the Notitia alphabetical unit list page.
Return to my Notitia index page.