The Tongrecani seniores

This page created 26 April 2014, and last modified: 3 November 2014 (Ammianus section expanded)


The Tongrecani seniores is fourth of the legiones palatinae listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned to his Italian command. Its shield pattern as shown in various manuscripts, under the simple label "Tongrecani", 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 shield pattern is relatively simple, and shows, a green rim (except for the first Munich manuscript (M), which lacks this) bordering an interior yellow rim, then a red main ground with a yellow inner rim, a blue boss(white in B), and between the inner yellow rim and the boss, either white (O, W), maroon (P), or red (M, B). It is thus very similar to the previous unit in the Magister Peditum's list: the Divitenses seniores, as can be seen by comparing their patterns as below, in this case using those from the Parisian manuscript (P):

Shield patterns

The only difference between them is the lack of the green rim with the Divitenses seniores. Their adjacent positions in the list, and their similar shield patterns, imply these two units are a brigaded matched pair, and this is reinforced by Ammianus; in section 27.1.2 he mentions "the" Divitenses and the Tungrecani as being together in Gaul; more interestingly, he also mentions (26.6.12) the Divitenses Tungricanosque Iuniores - i.e. the "Divitenses and Tungrecani iuniores" as a contemporaneous unit pair in the east - incidentally the first time iuniores units are mentioned in his work; at 26.7.14 he calls this Divitenses iuniores unit the plain "Divitenses", showing that other mentions of iuniores names (or seniores for that matter) may well have been omitted by him in his work.

Interestingly, no Tongrecani iuniores is mentioned in the Notitia. There is a unit of Tungri, under the Comes Illyricum, but it is a unit of auxilia palatina and thus almost certainly unrelated, at least in terms of being a derived unit; that its shield pattern is rather similar is very interesting however, as a comparison of the patterns shown below taken from the Paris manuscript show:

Shield patterns

See that unit's entry for further details. There is also a Primi Tungri under the Dux Britanniarum, but again, this is an auxilia unit, as is would seem to be the Tungricani under the Comes litoris Saxonici per Britanniam. It may well be that the Tungrecani iuniores was simply wiped out at some point in the 50-odd years between Ammianus' work being finished and the final revisions to the Notitia.

The name Tungri is tribal, relating to a people that lived in the Belgic region of Gaul, and whose name lives on in many modern names, most notably the city of Tongres/Tongeren. However, since the Divitenses, the paired unit of the Tongrecani, is named after a place, it may well be that Tongrecani refers not to the ancient people, but the more contemporary (at least at the time of the Notitia) district name - the Civitas Tungrorum, which was in the 4th century part of Germania Secunda.

The original Tongrecani likely were a detachment of some legion stationed with the region. From units mentioned in the Notitia, Jones identified the Geminiacenses, a legio comitatenses unit, as coming from Geminiacum; the Cotoriacenses, a legio comitatenses unit, as coming from Cotoriacum; and the Prima Flavia (Metis), a pseudocomitatenses unit, as coming from Metis; all from the Belgic area (there is a Dux Belgicae secundae in the Notitia, but he commands very few units, as most appear to have been drafted into the Magister Equitum's Gallic command). However, the Tongrecani almost certainly come from a legion or legionary detachment stationed in the area in the more distant past rather than the end of the 4th century. For one thing, they are an elite palatine legion, whereas a recently drafted garrison unit would have pseudocomitatenses status (or, at best, comitatenses, if it had been subsequently promoted). Further, they are brigaded with the Divitenses, which not only also has a name relating to north-eastern Gaul (Castrum Divitia; modern Deutz in Cologne), but from inscriptional evidence is known to have participated in Constantine I's campaign in Italy in 312; Constantine's capital was Augusta Treverorum (i.e. modern Trier), less than 200 km south of Castrum Divitia. Thus is appears both the Divitenses and the Tongrecani originated as detachments of legions of Constantine I at some point between 310 (when Castrum Divitia was established) and 312 (when Constantine invaded Italy).

Inscriptional evidence (CIL 13.5190, photo here) for the Tongrecani seniors comes from Laupersdorf in northern Switzerland in the form of a building block built by the TUNGREC[...]RUM SENIO[...]; i.e. the "Tongrec(anor)rum senior(rum)".


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