The Undecimani (West)

This page created 16 May 2014, and last modified: 26 May 2014


Disclaimer: remember, I'm not an expert in the field of Notitia studies, so take my comments with a grain of salt...

In the western half of the empire, one of the legiones comitatenses in the Magister Peditum's infantry list is called the Undecimani ("the Eleventh"); it is assigned to the Comes Hispenias. 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 pattern is simple, showing an indigo or purple main ground (faded in M, W) with a red rim; the boss is white and bears quartering lines, but no other colours. As such, it bears a strong resemblance to many other patterns in the Notitia; indigo with a red rim being the most common colour combination in the document.

Another unit is called the Undecimani in the Notitia, one of the legiones palatinae under the Magister Militum Praesentalis II; its shield pattern is very different from that of the western Undecimani. Both this and the western legion clearly derive from Legio XI Claudia, dating from the 1st century BC; the only legion numbered "eleven". Under the Empire, this legion was long stationed at Durostorum (modern Silistra in northeast Bulgaria), which is where one of its detachments was still stationed according to the Notitia, under the Dux Moesiae secundae (other detachments of the same legion are listed as garrisoning other locations in Moesia II).

Shown below is the 4th century grave stele of Aurelius Sudecentius from Legio XI, exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum in Aquileia (Italy). He carries a pair of spears apparently suitable for throwing as well as thrusting. His oval shield unfortunately does not show a shield pattern; we have no way of telling which detachment of the 11th he served with.

Grave stele
Photo from the National Archaeological Museum

The western Undecimani likely derives from a detachment of Legio XI that seems to have served in Mauretania in 298, to judge from, e.g. the funerary stele in Aquileia of Aurelius Dizo, who was a soldier of the 11th, but who died in Mauretania (CIL V 893 = InscrAquil 2772 = CIL V 893??). Mauretania, or at least, the most western part it, called Tingitania at the time of the Notitia, was part of the province of Hispania, since it was easier to access across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain than along the long African coast from Carthage.


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