Late Roman Shield Patterns

Dux Thebaidos

This page last modified: 3 July 2015 (56/7.9-10 commentary revised)


Frontpiece showing towns
Frontpiece from the Parisian manuscript, P.
The stations are labelled:
Filari, Hermunthus,
Hermipolis, Lato,
Tentyra, Cussa,
Oasis maior, Asfinis, Thebas, Apollosia, Siena,
Presentia, Diospolis, Lyco, Copto,
Copto, Ambos, Maximianopolis.
The following units or detachments of units are listed as being under the command of the Duke of Thebes (the numbers in front of the names refer to Ingo Maier's numbering scheme):

56/7.2 Cuneus equitum Maurorum scutariorum, at Lico
56/7.3 Cuneus equitum scutariorum, at Hermupoli
56/7.4 Equites sagittarii indigenae, at Tentira
56/7.5 Equites sagittarii indigenae, at Copto
56/7.6 Equites sagittarii indigenae, at Diospoli
56/7.7 Equites sagittarii indigenae, at Lato
56/7.8 Equites sagittarii indigenae, at Maximianopoli
56/7.9 Equites promoti indigenae... (see notes)
56/7.10 Legio tertia Diocletiana, at Ambos
56/7.11 Legio secunda Flavia Constantia Thebaeorum, at Cusas
56/7.12 Legio tertia Diocletiana, at Praesentia
56/7.13 Legio secunda Traiana, at Appollonos superioris
56/7.14 Milites Miliarenses, at Syene
56/7.15 Legio prima Valentiniana, at Copto
56/7.16 Legio prima Maximiana, at Filas
56/7.17 Legio tertia Diocletiana, at Thebas
56/7.18 Legio secunda Valentiniana, at Hermunthi
56/7.19 Equites felices Honoriani, at Asfynis
56/7.20 Ala prima Abasgorum, at Hibeo-oaseos maioris (see notes)
along with the following units "from a lesser register":
56/7.22 Ala secunda Hispanorum, at Poisarietenidos
56/7.23 Ala Germanorum, at Pescla
56/7.24 Ala quarta Britonum, at Isiu
56/7.25 Ala prima Hiberorum, at Thmou
56/7.26 Ala Neptunia, at Chenoboscia
56/7.27 Ala tertia dromedariorum, at Maximianopoli
56/7.28 Ala octava Palmyrenorum, at Foenicionis
56/7.29 Ala septima Herculia voluntaria, opposite Lata
56/7.30 Ala prima Francorum, opposite Appollonos
56/7.31 Ala prima Iovia catafractan, at Pampene
56/7.32 Ala octava Abydum, at Abocedo
56/7.33 Ala secunda Herculia dromedariorum, at Psinaula
56/7.34 Ala prima Abasgorum, at Oasi maiore
56/7.35 Ala prima Quadorum, at Oasi minore - Trimtheos
56/7.36 Ala prima Valeria dromedariorum, at Precteos
56/7.37 Cohors prima Lysitanorum, at Theraco
56/7.38 Cohors scutata civium Romanorum, at Mutheos
56/7.39 Cohors prima Apamenorum, at Silili
56/7.40 Cohors undecima Chamavorum, at Peamu
56/7.41 Cohors nona Tzanorum, at Nitnu
56/7.42 Cohors nona Alamannorum, at Burgo Severi
56/7.43 Cohors prima felix Theodosiana, near Elefantinem
56/7.44 Cohors quinta Suentium, at Suene
56/7.45 Cohors sexta saginarum, in castris Lapidariorum
56/7.46 Cohors septima Francorum, at Diospoli

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

Note that 56/7.9 Equites promoti indigenae and 56/7.10 Legio tertia Diocletiana look like a single entry in the manuscripts, but, following Maier, are above separated out (as they were by Seeck, OR.XXXI.30-31) into two different units, the first unassigned, with the latter being based at Ambos (probably modern Kom Ombo, there being two different places called Ombos in ancient Egypt). However, it is more likely, to my mind, they are indeed a single entry. It is true that no other unit of Equites promoti listed in the Notitia has any cognomen following indigenae, and thus the form is unique. However, if the two are treated as a single unit, then the number of units above the lesser register, matches not only the number locations illustrated in the frontpiece, which would otherwise be mismatched, but also the names themselves. Thus, even if the entry is a mistaken conflation, it would seem the "mistake" was contained in the source material of the Codex Spirensis, and thus possibly the "original" Notitia compilation itself. Further, since the various Equites promoti units seem to have been formed from detachments of legionary cavalry, seeing the name of a legion appended, if a name was to be appended in the first place, should come as no surprise. Moreover, the manuscript readings need to be amended to make grammatical sense as two entries (giving Diocletiana; for what is actually given is:

Equites promoti indigene le
gionis tercie diocletionoambos
Equites promoti indigenae
Legionis tertiae Diocletiano ambos
EQUITES Promoti indigenae Legionis tertiae Diocletia
nae Ambo
O (according to Seeck, and with no indication of where line breaks may be; I have not seen the manuscript):
Equites promoti indigenae legionis tertie diocletionoambos
T (according to Seeck, and with no indication of where line breaks may be; I have not seen the manuscript):
Equites promoti indigenarum legionis tertie diocletianoambos.
Only the Froben "edition" gives an "a" ending, and it may have been edited (by Rhenanus, incidentally, not Froben) to do so. Unfortunately, epigraphic assistance is not at hand. A Tetrarchic inscription (CIL 3,6726 = AE 1993,1607) from Avatha (Al Bakhra' in modern Syria) mentioning an officer of the EQ PROMOT [...] INDG is the only inscription I am aware of mentioning a unit of Equites promoti that is specifically labelled as indigenae, so the unusual-looking nature of the Egyptian unit's name in the Notitia may not actually be indicative of it being unusual for units of Equites promoti outside of the Notitia. Nonetheless, even if the name Equites promoti indigenae legio tertia Diocletiana itself is not considered to be too unusual to be correct, there must still some suspicion about the accuracy of the textual list, due to the presence of the Ala prima Abasgorum not only at 56/7.20, but also in the lesser register (56/7.34) below.

Legio III Diocletiana was a Tetrarchic creation of Diocletian's in 296 AD, stationed in Alexandria, but it too had been sent south by the time of the Notitia's compilation; parts of it were also based at Thebes and at Praesentia. A detachment of this legion is also listed (18.15) under the Magister Militum per Thracias, and another (52.6) under the Comes limitis Aegypti.

Legio prima Maximiana was another Tetrarchic creation, named after Maximianus, Diocletian's colleague as Augustus. It is recorded in the Notitia as being based in Filas (i.e. Philae, now an island in Lake Nasser); in later Egyptian papyrological records it is simply called "the legion of Philae". A detachment of this legion is also listed (18.14) under the magister Magister Militum per Thracias, as the Prima Maximiana Thebaeorum. As no Legio I Maximiana is listed as being stationed at Thebes in the Notitia, the Thebaeorum in the Thracian unit's title apparently refers to the Thebaid as a whole rather than just the city itself; the same is presumably the case for the equivalent Thracian detachment of Legio III Diocletiana, the Tertia Diocletiana Thebaeorum (18.15).

Legio secunda Flavia Constantia Thebaeorum seems to be another Tetrarchic creation, named after Maximianus' Caesar, Constantius Chlorus, later Augustus, and founder of the Constantinian (neo-Flavian) dynasty. The Notitia records the units as being stationed at Cusas (Cusae, modern el-Qusiya). A detachment of this legion is found (15.22) under the Magister Militum per Orientem as the Secunda Flavia Constantia Thebaeorum.

Given legions in the Thebaid named after Diocletian, Maximianus and Constantius, one might expect another named after the other Tetrach, Galerius. However, not a single unit named after Galerius (or his successor Licinius for that matter) seems to have survived with its name intact to be recorded in the Notitia. That two such able and long-reigned emperors should have had no units named after them is wildly improbable, so it seems that their 'named' units were subsequently renamed, no doubt by the man who took over their territory: Constantine (while it is possible that some of the units named after Mars refer to Galerian units in the way Jovian units refer to Diocletian, Herculian units to Maximianus, and Solarian units possibly to Constantius, we would still expect to see genuine "Galerian" units given the instances of various legions named Diocletiana, Maximiana, and Constantia, if no systematic renaming had taken place).

Legio prima Valentiniana and Legio secunda Valentiniana may have been created by Valentinian I (reigned 364-375). They are less likely to have been old units renamed by Valentinian I, as the only usurper during his reign, Procopius, does not appear to have raised any new units, and the units he is recorded by Ammianus as bringing over to his cause are all attested with their names in the Notitia. Creation under the young Valentinian II is a possibility (375-392), but unlikely given he was in the west, and until 383 was very much a minor influence under Gratian (and there are already seemingly too few units named after Gratian), while from 379 the Eastern Augustus was the more vigorous Theodosius. Valentinian II did however suffer from a major usurper, the 5-year rebellion of Magnus Maximus who came from Britain. It is possible that these two units are ex-units of his: as he controlled not only Britain, but at one point Spain, Africa and Gaul and almost all of Italy as well, they need not be British units. However, the stationing of the Ala quarta Britonum (56/7.24) under the Dux Thebaidos suggests that they could be.

If this is the case, these units could potentially solve the mystery of the Primani iuniores (102/5.207) and Secundae iuniores (102/5.208) under the Comes Britanniae. The Secundae iuniores appear to be a rump of detachment Legio II Augusta, but evidently a good portion of the old legion was elsewhere. Speculatively, I would suggest they could be part of the second legionary unit that Magnus 'created', and that the first part, the seniores part, is the Legio II Valentiniana of the Dux Thebaidos, renamed because they had received a title such as Legio II Magnecensium under Magnus Maximus which had to be expunged (cf. a lost inscription (RIB 1825 = CIL 7.792) from Carvoran on Hadrian's Wall mentioning an otherwise unknown numeri Magnes, which has been interpretd as alluding to this usurper). The Primani iuniores would by this hypothesis then be the rump of the old Legio VI formerly stationed at York, the seniores part of which would have been Magnus' first legion, and consequently renamed Legio I Valentiniana when Maximus' rebellion against Valentinian II was finally crushed by Theodosius. Magnus' core British troops would under this hypothesis have been sent to far off Egypt to keep them out of trouble, in the same manner that Constantius II had sent Gallic legions of Magnentius and Decentius' off to Syria in the 350s (see Ammianus 18.9 for these Gallic units). However, this is all very speculative. Note that a detachment of Legio II Valentiniana appears (15.23) under the Magister Militum per Orientem as the Secunda Felix Valentis Thebaeorum. No such detachment of Legio I Valentiniana is easily identifiable in the eastern field armies, but the Valentinianenses (18.31) of the Magister Militum per Thracias is a candidate for such a unit.

Legio secunda Traiana is clearly (part of) Legio II Traiana Fortis Germanica, which had been stationed in Alexandria through most of the second and all the third centuries, but is recorded in the Notitia as being based in the south, in Appollonos superioris (more frequently known by it Greek name of Apollonopolis magna, and better still as Edfu). The legion, or a detachment of it, is also recorded (52.7) as serving under the Comes limitis Aegypti. As with Legio I Valentiniana, no detachment of Legio II Traiana Fortis Germanica is easily identifiable in the eastern field armies; however, some candidates might be the Secundani (21.19) and the Germaniciani seniores (21.18) under the Magister Militum per Illyricum.

The Dux Thebaidos controls three of the empire's four units of dromedarii (camel-mounted units, in other words); the other is under the Dux Palaestinae. The Ala secunda Herculia dromedariorum (56/7.33) is mentioned in a papyrus (P. Panop. Beatty 2) from Panopolis in upper Egypt as being stationed at not only Psinabla but also Toeto din ca. 300 AD. This papyrus mentions seven men from the unit, one of which is called a catafract(!). See Terence Coello, Unit Sizes in the Late Roman Army, BAR International Series 645, 1996, page 33.

The Equites sagittarii indigenae stationed at Diospolis (56/7.6) is mentioned in a mid-4th century papyrus dictated by one Abinnaeus, the commanding prefect of the ala Quinta Praelectorum (the same unit as found under the Comes limitis Aegypti in the Notitia), who mentions that he had served 33 years in the vexillatione Parthusagittoriorum degentium Diospoli. This is an example, rather commonly encountered, of a limitanei unit named in the Notitia proving to have a having a longer name in another source (see T.D.Barnes, The Career of Abinnaeus, Phoenix 39.4 (1985), p 368-374, and also D. Woods (2001); 'Some Eunapiania'; in Eklogai: studies in honour of Thomas Finan and Gerard Watson; Ed. K McGroarty; NUI Maynoothat page 92, note 26).

The shield patterns as shown in the Paris manuscript of the more easily identifiable detachments of the legionary detachments serving under the Magistri are given below:


These are unlikely to be the same as those borne by the detachments still under the Dux Thebaidos however. For example, that of Tertio Diocletiana Thebaeorum looks very similar to that of Quinta Macedonica (15.16) under the Magister Militum per Orientem. Perhaps these two detachments were posted simultaneously to the same command (outside Egypt, e.g. moving to Macedon at the start of Theodosius' reign) and thus received similar shield patterns, but were later separated. Likewise the pattern of the Secunda Felix Valentis Thebaeorum (15.23) under the Magister Militum per Orientem is closely related to that of the Prima Flavia Theodosiana (15.24) in the same command, but which does not appear to have any Egyptian connection.

A.M.Kaiser has recently (2014) conducted an analysis of the papyrological evidence for the Egyptian units mentioned in the Notitia: "Egyptian Units and the reliability of the Notitia dignitatum, pars Oriens", available here, which convincingly demonstrates the overall reliability of the Egyptian listings, and by inference, those of other eastern sections of the Notitia. She notes the following units under the Dux Thebaidos are attested in papyri as being mentioned by name, along with their station:

Legio tertia Diocletiana, at Thebas (other stations are as yet unattested in papyri)
Legio secunda Traiana, at Appollonos superioris (i.e. Apollonoplis Magnis)
(Cuneus) equitum Maurorum scutariorum, at Lico(polis, also attested in papyri at Hermoupolis Magna; in the early 4th century, they were at Oxyrhynchos)
Equites sagittarii indigenae, at Copto (i.e. Potekoptos; other stations are as yet unattested in papyri)
Ala prima Abasgorum, at Oasi maiore (i.e. Hibis)
Ala secunda Herculia dromedariorum, at Psinaula (i.e. Toeto-Psinabla)
Ala prima Hiberorum, at Thmou
Ala prima Quadorum, at Oasi minore - Trimtheos
Cohors undecima Chamavorum, at Peamu;
while the following units are mentioned by name, but without their station:
Ala secunda Hispanorum (at Poisrietemidos in the Notitia)
Cohors prima Apamenorum (at Silili in the Notitia);
and the following military stations are mentioned, but not the explicit name of the unit stationed there:
Philae (i.e. Filas, station of Legio prima Maximiana)
Syene (station of the Milites Miliarenses)
Hermonthis (station of Legio secunda Valentiniana)
Prektis (i.e. Precteos, station of Ala prima Valeria dromedariorum)
Elephantine (station of Cohors prima felix Theodosiana);
and, finally, the following partially identified units are mentioned:
Alamanni, possibly the Cohors nona Alamannorum at Burgo Severi
Palmyreni, possibly the Ala octava Palmyrenorum at Foenicionis
Franci, possibly either the Ala prima Francorum opposite Appollonos or the Cohors septima Francorum at Diospoli.
In contrast, Legio secunda Flavia Constantia Thebaeorum, is in the Notitia stationed at Cusae, while inscriptional evidence has it at Thebes (as befits its name); however the inscription is dated from 293, 100 years before the Notitia was compiled, and thus giving the unit plenty of time to have moved. In addition, detachments of Legio quinta Macadonica, which in the Notitia is stationed at Memfi under the Comes limitis Aegypti, are attested in papyri, not only there, but also in places in the Thebaid such as Philadelphia and Oxyrhynchos; the latter is also attested in papyri as hosting (presumably a detachment of) Legio prima Maximiana.

Below are shown the frontpieces from the Bodleian manuscript, O; and the Froben printed edition, B:

Frontpiece showing forts Frontpiece showing forts

Note that the label for Syene is missing from the Bodleian picture. 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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