The Mauri cetrati

This page created 2 August 2014, and last modified: 2 August 2014


The tenth of the legiones comitatenses units in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is called the Mauri cetrati; it is assigned to the command of the Comes Illyricum under the name Mauri citrati (at least in P, in the Munich manuscript it is Mauri cettnati). Its shield pattern in various manuscripts, also under the Mauri citrati label (except in B, with Mauri cetrati), is as shown 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 an indigo boss (white in M, W), encircled by a yellow band (maroon in M). The shield's rim is red, except in B, where it is indigo and broad. Inwards of the rim is a green (O, P) or white (M, W) band; this is lacking in B. Next inwards is a yellow band, and M & W feature a white band further inwards. The main ground is red (but white in B).

The name Mauri denotes the Moorish peoples, although there is every indication that by this sate the term, as used used in the Roman military, denoted not an ethnicity but a particular kind of military unit, although exactly what is hard to say (probably a light unit; whether of horse or, as in this case, of foot). However, it is also very likely that this meaning had also been superseded with time (most Roman infantry units likely having their own integral light troops by the time of the Notitia), leaving the name doubly fossilized!

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 Mauri cetrati carried smaller shields than standard legionaries, but it is also possible that this name too was anachronistic.


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