The Quartodecimani

This page created 29 March 2014, and last modified: 6 September 2014 (Froben added)


The Quartodecimani is listed as one of the Legiones comitatenses under the Magister Militum per Thracias. Its shield pattern, under the label Quarto decimani (except for B, where it is given as the Quartadecimani), is shown in various manuscripts 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...

This unit is evidently derived from the old Legio XIV / XIIII Gemina (both forms of numbering are attested), long stationed at Carnuntum (in what is now lower Austria); it was still stationed when the Notitia was compiled, under the Dux Pannoniae primae et Norici ripensis; another detachment was stationed at Arrabona.

The image of an eagle above a central ring (which would thus surround the shield's boss) brings to mind other examples of Roman imagery such as in the Arch of Galerius, where an eagle grasping a wreath of victory is shown over Galerius' (defaced) head:

Tertiodecimani shield patterns
(Picture by J. Matthew Harrington, used under CCA 2.5 license)

It may well be that the simple blue ring shown in the surviving Notitia manuscripts (except for B, where it is missing) was a wreath in the original document. In previous centuries, the symbol of the legion was a capricorn, as shown in the photo below of a 2nd/3rd century monument from Carnuntum.

Carnumtum capricorn
(Picture by Wolfgang Sauber, used under CCA 3.0 license)

The eagle may not be a reference to a change in "symbol" of the legion, but rather a depiction of the unit's aquila - its Eagle standard, since other shield patterns in the Notitia also show unit standards, such as that of the Herculiani iuniores. Below is shown the revrse face of a golden aureus depicting the Eagle of Legio XIIII Gemina; the coin was issued in 193 by Septimius Severus, celebrating the legion that elevated him to Emperor.

(Picture from CNG coins, used under CCA 3.0 license)

Three other Legiones comitatenses units under the Magister Militum per Thracias, the Tertiodecimani, the Constantini seniores, and the Divitenses Gallicani, have very similar patterns to that of the Quartodecimani, as can be seen below from the following patterns taken from the Paris manuscript:

Shield patterns

Given the seemingly unrelated nature of the names of units, this suggests a simultaneous issuance when all four were perhaps detached from their parent units to join a new formation (such as that of the Magister Militum per Thracias).


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