The Tertia Herculea

This page created 1 August 2014, and last modified: 1 August 2014


One of the units of legiones comitatenses in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is called the Tertia Herculea; it is assigned to the command of the Comes Illyricum. Its shield pattern in various manuscripts 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 a yellow main ground with a red rim. The boss is red in O & P, but white in M, W, & B, and is encircled with yellow (O, P, W) or white (M, B). Between the main ground and the boss is a band that is plain red in B, but in O, P, M, & W is multi-coloured, in red, yellow (white in M, W) and blue (yellow in W); this multi-coloured band is unique amongst the patterns illustrated in the Notitia.

The name Herculea indirectly refers to the demi-god Hercules, via the Tetrarchic emperor Maximian, known as Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus Herculius. Maximian, like his colleague Diocletian, had many units named after him; examples still extent 100 years later in the Notitia include two incorprating the name Maximian, and 17 incorporating Herculea, Herculia, or Herculiani; many of the various units incorporating the name Valerian may also be named after him. Of the Herculean-named units, 6 are alae (mounted); of the infantry, 5 are (auxiliary) cohorts, and six are legionary.

Unlike most field army legionary units whose name incorporates a number, the Tertia Herculea appears to have no corresponding limitanei unit with a matching name and number. That its number is Tertia may indicate it was raised in (or for) a province that already had a second legion but not a third; Scythia would fit if it was for the fact its second legion was called Legio II Herculia; the province of Valeria, created from Pannonia Inferior in 296, would appear to be a good match, as Legio I Adiutrix and Legio II Adiutrix were stationed there. In the Notitia, the Dux Valeriae ripensis commands a legionary prefect whose legion name is missing, which might just possibly be Legio III Herculea, but since there whereabouts of half of Legio I Adiutrix is also missing, this is a more likely candidate to fill the missing bank.


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