The Mattiarii iuniores (West)

This page created 7 June 2014, and last modified: 29 January 2015 (Maier reference numbers added)


In the western half of the empire, one of the legiones comitatenses listed (98/9.106 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) in the Magister Peditum's infantry list, and assigned to his Italian command, is called the Mattiarii iuniores. Its shield pattern (95#20) as shown in various manuscripts, where it is simply labelled (95.u) Matiarii, 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 the first set of pictures in the Munich manuscript, M, omits this pattern entirely. According to Ingo Maier, who has inspected the Vatican manuscript, V, that manuscript also contains the shield (and where it is labelled Matiarii, with a single "t"), despite the Vatican Manuscript's usual pictorial agreement with M, but the shield has has been illustrated in such a way that is is clear that the document had to be amended to do so; something similar can be seen in O, where you can make out an outline of a slightly larger shield underneath the illustration, reflecting the fact that originally the row concerned was to have had only four shields depicted, but 5 were subsequently illustrated. See Maier, I.G., The Barberinus and Munich codices of the 'Notitia Dignitatum omnium': Latomus 28 1969 pp. 960-1035; available here.

The pattern features a boss quartered in indigo and white, and rimmed in red; the shield's rim is also red. The main ground is radially divided into six sectors, alternating yellow and indigo (except in W where they alternate yellow, indigo, and red). Such 3+3 sector patterns are also ascribed to three other western legionary units: the Moesiaci seniores, the Armigeri propugnatores iuniores, and the Pacatianenses.

Note that there is also another unit called the Mat(t)iarii iuniores in the Notitia: one of the legiones palatina units in the eastern half of the empire, under the command of the Magister Militum Praesentalis I. Its shield pattern is completely different from that of the western unit, but is similar to that of the Mat(t)iarii seniores, also in the east, under the Magister Militum Praesentalis II. There is no unit called the Mat(t)iarii seniores in the western section of the Notitia to correspond to the western Mattiarii iuniores. Perhaps it had been destroyed before the original Notitia compilation was drawn up. Alternatively, it may have carried another nickname, by which it is recorded in the Notitia, obscuring any relationship. Since the Armigeri propugnatores iuniores has an obvious partner in the Armigeri propugnatores seniores, and the Moesiaci seniores is not a "nickname"-style title, the Pacatianenses would seem to be the best candidate for to be a potential Mattiarii iuniores in disguise.

The name Mattiarii seems to come from mattiobarbuli - the lead-weighted throwing darts (Vegetius 1.17) with which late Roman infantrymen were equipped. These were also known as plumbatae, from their lead weights, and as martiobarbuli; the latter meaning "Mars' little barbs".

A selection of plumbatae from Lauriacum. Photo by Wolfgang Sauber, and used under CCA 3.0U license.


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