The Thebei

This page created 9 April 2014, and last modified: 3 November 2014 (Froben image added)


The Thebei is listed 10th of the 12 legiones palatina in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster, and are assigned to his Italian command. Its shield pattern as shown in various manuscripts 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...

The unit's position in the Italian list - where one would expect to find legiones comitatenses rather than palatinae - would indicate it had only recently been promoted to palatine status when the Italian list was drawn up, whereas the Magister's list appears to be more up-to-date in this regard, as there the Thebaei are in the place one would expect a palatine unit to be. Some 6 of the 12 palatine legions in the western empire would appear to be such recently upgraded units.

The shield pattern, which appears later in Chinese Taoist symbolism as one form of the taijitu, is unique; no other unit in the Notitia bears has anything like it. The name of the unit, which was amended by Seeck to the "Thebaei" clearly refers to (Egyptian) Thebes, but how this unit relates to other units associated with the name is unclear: presumably this western unit is unlikely to have been one of the "Theban legions" mentioned by Ammianus (14.11.15) as being stationed near Adrianople in Thrace in 354, which would more likely to be the Prima Maximiana Thebaeorum and the Tertia Diocletiana Thebaeorum (the Secunda Flavia Constantia Thebaeorum had apparently not left Egypt by this date, while the Secunda Felix Valentis Thebaeorum has not yet been formed).


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