The Martii

This page created 22 May 2014, and last modified: 6 September 2014 (Solenses comparison added, some links added)


The second of the eight Legiones comitatenses listed under the command of the Magister Militum per Illyricum in the eastern half of the Empire is called the Martii. 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 shows a red outer rim; a purple band inside this (but faded in M, and yellow in W, and white in B); and a green band inside this (absent in P, faded in M and W). The boss is yellow; the main ground is red, and features a 7-pointed white star (light blue in W, 6-pointed in M, and 8-pointed in B). Seven-pointed stars are very rare in the Notitia; the only other infantry example belongs to the Solenses seniores under the Magister Militum per Thracias: the units may have formerly been brigaded together.

Martii Solenses shield comparison

The name Martii refers to the god Mars (whence the English "Martian"); this unit is, perhaps surprisingly, the only unit so-named in the Notitia; there is also, however, a Legio IIII Martia under the Dux Arabiae). While the Martii presumably originated in a legion surnamed Martia, the far-away Legio IIII Martia is a much less likely candidate than Legio I Martia, whose tile stamps are well attested in the much closer-to-Illyricum town of Augusta Raurica (modern Kaiseraugst in Switzerland), along with a gravestone bearing the inscription (CIL 13, 5270) militavit in l p M, interpreted as "militavit in l(egione) p(rima) M(artia)"; and in various other sites along the Rhine and Danube, such as an inscription (RIU 3, 804) dated 372 from a fort near Aquincum (modern Visegrad near Budapest) referring to a pp legionis primae Martiorum, and another (AE 2000, 1223) from the same place dating to 371 referring to a pp legionis prim[......]tiorum; another (ILS 775 = AE 1999, 1264 = CIL 3.3653) from nearby Solva (modern Esztergom in Hungary), and dated to 371, also mentions a praepositus legionis primae Martiorum; while from Neuf-Brisach near Colmar in France, a record (AE 1977, 592) giving [..]g I Mar for"[Le]g(io) I Mart(tia)"; and from nearby Equisheim, another (AE 1941, 32) gives Leg I Mar. Additional inscriptional evidence for Legio I Martia comes from the cemetery at Colonia Iulia Concordia (modern Portogruaro in Veneto, Italy), i.e. very close to Illyricum, which produced an inscription (ILCV 473 = AE 1891, 00102) mentioning the unit in the form of the n prime Martie vic, which has been interpreted to mean "numero primae Martiae victricis"; see here for Hoffmann's 1963 analysis (in German).

It should be noted that the name "Martia", in addition to being associated with Mars, was also associated with the tetrarchic emperor Galerius (in the same way Jupiter was associated with Diocletian, Hercules with Maximian, and Sol with Constantius); so Legio IIII Martia was apparently founded during Galerius' reign as Caesar, and so might have been Legio I Martia.

Thus the Notitia's Martii is most likely a detachment of Legio I Martia; but it would be unwise to assume it was necessarily the main body descended from that unit, despite the lack of other Martii in the Notitia, since there are, however, several units named the very similar Martenses, such as the Martenses seniores under the Magister Militum per Orientem, and the Martenses, in the Magister Equitum's Gallic command. While the Martenses seniores likely derives from Legio IIII Martia, the Gallic Martenses is a very likely candidate for a unit that had been derived from Legio I Martia.


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