Late Roman Shield Patterns

Dux Mesopotamiae

This page created 1 January 2003, and last modified: 7 February 2015 (bottom four frontpiece illustrations added)


Frontpiece showing towns
Recto of the section from the Bodleian manuscript.
The stations depicted are:
Amida, Theodosiopolis, Amida,
Constantina, Apadna, Constantina,
Cartha, Assara,
Cephae, Thilbisme, Caini,
Ripaltha, Thannuri.
The following units, detachments of units, and prefects and their units are listed as being under the command of the Duke of Mesopatamia (the numbers beside the names refer to Ingo Maier's numbering scheme):

69.2 Equites scutarii Illyriciani, at Amidae
69.3 Equites promoti Illyriciani, at Resain-Theodosiopoli
69.4 Equites ducatores Illyriciani primi ducatores, at Amidae (see notes)
69.5 Equites felices Honoriani Illyriciani, at Constantina
69.5.1 [(... ..., at) Apadna] (see notes)
69.5.2 [(... ..., at) Constantina] (or Ripaltha? see notes)
69.6 Equites sagittarii indigenae Arabanenses, at Mefana-Cartha
69.7 Equites scutarii indigenae Pafenses, at Assara
69.8 Equites sagittarii indigenae Thibithenses, at Thilbisme
69.9 Equites sagittarii indigenae, at Thannuri
69.10 Praefectus legionis primae Parthicae Nisibenae, at Constantina
69.11 Praefectus legionis secundae Parthicae, at Cefae
along with the following units "from a lesser register":
69.13 Ala secunda nova Aegyptiorum, at Cartha
69.14 Ala octava Flavia Francorum, at Ripaltha
69.15 Ala quintadecima Flavia Carduenorum, at Caini
69.16 Cohors quinquagenaria Arabum, at Bethallaha
69.17 Cohors quartadecima Valeria Zabdenorum, at Maicariri
Frontpiece showing towns
Corresponding illustration from the Leiden fragment, "Fl".
The stations depicted are:
Constantina, Apadna, Lonstatina, Cartha,
Assara, Thilbisme, Laini,
Lephe, Ripaltha, Thannuri.
Note the absence of the river Tigris and the top 3 forts,
and how similar "L" and "C" are in the blackletter script used.

Disclaimer: Remember, a lot of what comes below is speculation. Hopefully informed speculation, but speculation nonetheless. Comments welcome! (lukeuedasarson "at"

Note that Seeck (OR.XXVI.21) bracketed the "primi ducatores" in the Equites ducatores Illyriciani primi ducatores for deletion, although without comment as to why - presumably because it looks like a duplication. As Ingo Maier has pointed out to me (personal communication) the form of the "Equites ducatores Illyriciani primi ducatores" somewhat resembles the Equites sagittarii indigenae primi Osrhoeni of the Dux Osrhoenae; however, the later may well be due to a textual corruption - see that Dux' page for details.

Like Boecking before him, Seeck interpolated (OR.XXVI.23-24) two units of Equites promoti (indiginae) between items 69.5 and 69.6, stationed at Apadna and Constantina, respectively, presumably because two such units are found in the neighbouring provinces next to a unit Equites Illyricani, and, in the case of Apadna, the location is represented in e.g. the Bodleian frontpiece shown above, while it is absent in the text. Nonetheless, to my eyes, the addition of two such units ill-suits a missing single fort (cf. the two missing locations for the Comes litoris Saxonici per Britanniam and the corresponding two extra forts illustrated there).

The inclusion of Ripaltha among the locations illustrated in the frontpiece is noteworthy, because in the textual list, this is only mentioned as being the location of a unit in the "lesser register". Nine of the twelve other eastern provincial commands have such "lesser registers", and not one of them has a location from such a register illustrated in the corresponding frontpiece without anoother unit from above such a lesser register also being also stationed at the same place (the Ala prima abasgorum under the Dux Thebaidos, is the one exception that proves the rule, because this unit, as opposed to another unit, is also stationed in the Dux' list above the "lesser register"). Thus I would posit Seeck is mistaken in interpolating a third instance of a location called Constantina into the main list (even if interpolating two units may be sound) in addition to Apadna; rather, the locations should be Apadna and Ripaltha. Note that Apadna also appears in the frontpiece for the Dux Osrhoenae (as Apatna), and there too, it has no corresponding mention in the following textual list. In any case, there seems to be no way of knowing whether these two lines, if interpolated, should comes directly below 69.5: the relative positioning of the forts in the frontpiece illustrations in the Notitia is generally in reasonably good agreement with their textual list position, but not always, and especially not for the Dux Mesopotamiae section.

The Dux Mespotamiae section is one of the very few portions surviving from the dismembered Frankfurt manuscript, "F". This particular portion is one of two folia ("Fl") currently located in the Leiden University library. The Frankfurt manuscript was apparently commissioned with space considerations in mind, as it squeezes into a single page what the other manuscripts take a double-sided folio to illustrate. This is perhaps why the Tigris river and the three locations above it are missing in the Leiden fragment; it is evidently not a complete copy of whatever version of the Notitia it was copied from. Also missing is "Mefane Cartha" as the location (or locations) after the entry Equites sagittarii indigenae Arabanenses (the Froben edition omits Mefane but retains Cartha, albeit in the form "Charta").

The men under the Praefectus legionis primae Parthicae Nisibenae are clearly Legio I Parthica, which is frequently presumed to have been based at Singara (modern Sinjar in Iraq) since the beginning of the third century until 360 AD, when the Persians captured the city, but see Lightfoot, 1982, p 74, available here: the name Nisibenae implies a long association with Nisibis rather than Singara. Ammianus records (20.6.8) that the entire defending force was led off in chains (it also included a Legio I Flavia, as well as various auxiliary units, but as the Notitia records the legion being based at Constanti(n)a (Viransehir in southeastern Turkey), either the prisoners were later returned, the entire legion was not present at the time, or a sizeable portion in fact escaped being captured.

Similarly, the men under the Praefectus legionis secundae Parthicae are Legio II Parthica Pia Fidelis Felix Aeterna, which was stationed at Bezabde (Cizre in modern Turkey) in 360 AD when the Persians captured that city (along with the Legio Secunda Armeniaca and a Legio II Flavia, according to Ammianus, 20.7.1). Like Legio I Parthica, Legio II Parthica has a continued existence in the Notitia, where its station, or to be more exact, its headquarters, is recorded as being at Cefae (Cepha, modern Hasankeyf on the Tigris in Turkey).

Fl, Trypho
Photo by Ortolf Harl, and used under CC 3.0 licence

Above is the shield pattern depicted on the gravestone found in Apamea (Qal'at al Madiq, in Syria) of one Flavius Trypho, a member of Legio II Parthica in the early 3rd century. Other gravestones from Apamea showing members of the legion show no shield decorations other than bosses. Of the legionary shield patterns preserved in the Notitia, only four bear a cross motif: that of the Prima Flavia gemina, under the Magister Militum per Thracias; that of the Secundani Italiciani, under the Comes Africae; that of the Constanti(a)ci, also under the Comes Africae: and that of the Regii, in the Magister Peditum's Italian command. None of these units has any obvious link to Legio II Parthica.

Below are shown the frontpieces from the Parisian manuscript, P; and the Froben printed edition, B:

Frontpiece showing forts Frontpiece showing forts

And below are shown the frontpieces from the first set of pictures in the Munich manuscript, M; and the second set, W.

Frontpiece showing forts Frontpiece showing forts


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