Late Roman Shield Patterns

Magister Militum per Thracias

This page last modified: 3 January 2016 (Dea vexillata note added)


The following units are listed as being under the command of the Magister Militum per Thracias (i.e. the Master of the Soldiers in Thrace; the numbers in front of the names refer to Ingo Maier's numbering scheme):

Vexillationes palatinae III:

18.3 Comites Arcadiaci
18.4 Comites Honoriaci
18.5 Equites Theodosiaci iuniores

Vexillationes comitatenses:

18.7 Equites catafractarii Albigenses
18.8 Equites sagittarii seniores
18.9 Equites sagittarii iuniores
18.10 Equites primi Theodosiani

Legiones comitatenses:

18.12 Solenses seniores
18.13 Menapii
18.14 Prima Maximiana Thebaeorum
18.15 Tertia Diocletiana Thebaeorum
18.16 Tertiodecimani
18.17 Quartodecimani
18.18 Prima Flavia gemina
18.19 Secunda Flavia gemina
18.20 Constantini seniores
18.21 Divitenses Gallicani
18.22 Lanciarii Stobenses
18.23 Constantini Dafnenses
18.24 Balistarii Dafnenses
18.25 Balistarii iuniores
18.26 Pannoniciani iuniores
18.27 Tzanni
18.28 Solenses Gallicani
18.29 Iulia Alexandria
18.30 Augustenses
18.31 Valentinianenses
18.31.1 [Gratianenses] (see notes)

Of these, the shields of the 7 cavalry units are not illustrated. The shields of the 21 infantry units listed above are illustrated below from top to bottom, left to right, in the order given, using the Bodleian manuscript (O) pictures.

Insignia Insignia

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

The final (bottom right-hand corner) shield belongs to the Gratianenses, which is not actually listed in the textual list, just illustrated and labelled in the accompanying picture. This, as Jones says, would appear to be one of three related units, the Augustenses (18.30, referring to the eastern Augustus, Valens), the Valentinianenses (18.31, after his elder brother Valentinian I, the western Augustus) and the Gratianenses (after Valentinian I's son Gratian, the Caesar), raised and serving together. It thus seems that as the shield is included, the unit's omission from the list above is simply a mistake (Jones doesn't seem to comment that it is actually missing in the list as written however!). All the infantry units are listed under the legend "Legiones comitatenses", which would make the Thracian field force unique in being the only one without any auxilia palatina (or auxiliares pseudocomitatenses units for that matter). However, all may not be what it seems. In the Magister Militum per Orientem's list, the two auxilia palatina units are not actually listed are such, and the pseudocomitatenses units are enumerated differently in most manuscripts from what is actually listed; a similar situation may apply to the Magister Militum per Thracias. In particular, it may be that the Augustenses, the Valentinianenses, and the Gratianenses were actually auxilia units: their names to me resemble those of auxilia (especially auxilia palatina) units more than they do legionary units. Perhaps these three, raised together, were added as an illustrated block of units at the end of the list for simplicity rather than being inserted in the usual place for auxilia palatina (i.e. before the legiones comintatenses). Alternatively, they may simply had not been given auxilia palatina status, and instead have been pseudocomitatenses units, in which case they would be correctly positioned, and the only problem would be the relatively minor one of a line labelling them as such being missing.

The pattern of the Tertia Diocletiana Thebaeorum (18.15) 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 and thus received similar shield patterns, but were later separated. Certainly the clearly related patterns of the Tertiodecimani (18.16), the Quartodecimani (18.17), the Constantini seniores (18.20), and the Divitenses Gallicani (18.21), given the seemingly unrelated nature of the units, suggests a simultaneous issuance.

Below are the same units as illustrated in the Parisian manuscript (P).

Insignia Insignia

Note the inscription on the codicil: Dea vexillata, which is also found in M and B, but not O or W. Below are the corresponding pictures from the Munich manuscript: first portion (M) on top; second portion (W) below.

Insignia Insignia

Insignia Insignia

Below are the corresponding pictures from the Froben edition (B):

Insignia Insignia

In addition to the units enumerated above, the Notitia gives the Magister's staff as follows:

18.34 A chief of staff (princeps)
18.35 Two accountants (numerarii)
18.36 A custodian (commentariensis)
18.37 Chief clerks (primiscrinios) who become accountants
18.38 Clerks (scriniarios)
18.39 Secretaries (exceptores) and other attendants (apparitores)
The Magister's staff are, like those of the first Magister Militum Praesentalis and the Magister Militum per Illyricum, said to be drawn from those enrolled in his force; this differs from the staff of the second Magister Militum Praesentalis and the Magister Militum per Orientem, which are said to be permanent.



1. Maier, Ingo; "Appendix 4: Numeration of the new edition of the compilation 'notitia dignitatum' (Cnd)"; last accessed 26 October 2015. See also for here for numbering examples. Return

2. Jones, A.H.M.; "The Later Roman Empire, 284-602; A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey"; Blackwell, Oxford, 1964 (3 volumes); at vol 3, p 348. Return

Return to the Notitia index page.