The Tertia Diocletiana Thebaeorum

This page created 23 March 2014, and last modified: 1 February 2015 (Column of Arcadius image added)


The Tertia Diocletiana Thebaeorum is listed the fourth of the legiones comitatenses under the Magister Militum per Thracias. Its shield pattern 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...

The pattern is relatively ornate, and shows a yellow boss encircled by a yellow band; the outer rim of the shield is red (white in P), while a yellow band (white in W) immediately inwards. The main ground is white (blue in M). Radiating out from the inner yellow band to the outer yellow band are seven yellow petals (six in M, B); in between each adjacent pair is a smaller red petal. A rectangular imago (imperial portrait) bearing two small black figures overlays the main field and the outer yellow rim at the 12 o'clock position; in the case of W, the original drawing of these figures has been crudely inked over so they look just like black lines (see Maier, I.G., The Barberinus and Munich codices of the 'Notitia Dignitatum omnium': Latomus 28 1969 pp. 960-1035; available here).

The seven-fold symmetry of the shield pattern is unusual; the long + short petal arrangement is known from the Column of Arcadius in Istanbul, the majority of which was demolished ca. 1717 due to earthquake damage, but whose decorative reliefs were recorded in sketches executed in 1574 by an anonymous German artist. The relevant pattern comes from left-most guardsman flanking the emperors Arcadius and Honorius illustrated on the west face of the column's base, as shown below:

Arcadius guardsmen

The symmetry is however different in this case. The shield pattern also bears a definite stylistic resemblance to that of the Quinta Macedonica under the Magister Militum per Orientem, as can be seem below from the following patterns taken from the Paris manuscript:

Shield patterns

Perhaps these two detachments were posted simultaneously to the same command and thus received similar shield patterns, but were later separated. Given the Legio quinta Macaedonica, stationed at Memfi under the Comes limitis Aegypti, and the Legio tertia Diocletiana stationed at Ombos under the Dux Thebaidos, an initial posting upon leaving Egypt seems likely in this case.

This unit is likely to have been one of the "Theban legions" that Ammianus refers (14.11.15) to as being stationed near Adrianople in Thrace in 354. There are five "Theban" legions in the Notitia:

Prima Maximiana Thebaeorum
Tertia Diocletiana Thebaeorum
Secunda Flavia Constantia Thebaeorum
Secunda Felix Valentis Thebaeorum
Of these, the Thebei in the Notitia is a western unit, and perhaps unlikely to have been in the east at the time; the Secunda Felix Valentis Thebaeorum had not yet been raised, and the Secunda Flavia Constantia Thebaeorum had probably yet to leave Egypt, leaving the Prima Maximiana Thebaeorum and the Tertia Diocletiana Thebaeorum as "the Theban legions".


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