Cohors IIII Gallorum

This page created 15 November 2015, and last modified: 10 December 2015 (RIB II reference added)


The ninth officer listed (154.25 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) under the command of the Dux Britanniarum following the subsection headed "along the line of the Wall" (item 154.16, per lineam valli), is the Tribunus cohortis quartae Gallorum, said to be stationed at Vindolana.

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

RIB 1686

Altar (RIB 1686) of Quintus Petronius Urbicus,
prefect of cohors IV Gallorum.
Public domain image taken from an
1867 book.

The men under the Tribunus cohortis quartae Gallorum are a unit more fully called the cohors IIII Gallorum equitata, i.e. "the Fourth Gallic part-mounted cohort". Its station, Vindolana (i.e. the fort of Vindolanda, formerly called Chesterholm), is famous for the 1973 finding of the Vindolanda tablets. Cohors IIII Gallorum appears to have been installed as the fort's garrison around the start of the 3rd century.

Judging from one votive altar from the site (RIB 1686, shown left), the emblem of the unit may have been a stork (or possibly a crane, the carving is not fine enough to distinguish the two).

Gravestones depicting two of its members survive (RIB 619, RIB 620), but unfortunately, neither are shown with a shield. Cohors IIII Gallorum is one of four Gallic cohorts recorded in Britain (the others being cohortes I, II, & V Gallorum), but is the only one clearly recorded in the Notitia. It is apparently recorded twice, since entry 76.32, under the Dux Moesiae secundae, lists a cohors quarta Gallorum as being stationed at Ulucitra in the province of Rhodopa; the entry does not give its officer. However, this identically and thus confusingly named unit would appear to be entirely distinct from the British unit, as it is well attested as being in Raetia (e.g. CIL 16,183) at the same time in the mid-2nd century as the British unit appears to have been at Castlehill in Scotland (RIB 2195), by the Antonine Wall.

Cohors IIII Gallorum would have originally been recruited from somewhere in Gaul, although exactly where is unknown. Although it may have received recruits from other places subsequently, especially locally, an inscription (RIB 3332) discovered at Vindolanda in 2006 demonstrates that Gauls were still being recruited into its ranks, as the text describes the "concord" between the Gallic and the British citizens that dedicated the piece, two centuries after the unit was first raised.

As with all limitanei units in the Notitia, the shield pattern of the cohors IIII Gallorum is not illustrated. The bird emblem mentioned above may have featured as part of the pattern. Interestingly, a lead seal (RIB 2411.100) from its sister unit, cohors V Gallorum, inscribed C V G, and found at South Shields (Roman Arbeia), also appears to feature a bird.


1. Ingo Maier; "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. John Collingwood Bruce; "The Roman Wall: A Description of the Mural Barrier of the North of England", 3rd edition; Longmans, London (1867); at p 213; online version available here (last accessed 14 November 2015). Return
3. R.S.O. Tomlin, R.P. Wright, & M.W.C. Hassall; "The Roman Inscriptions of Britain, Vollume III, Inscriptions on Stone"; Oxbow, Oxford (2009); at p 322 regarding RIB 3332. Return
4. S.S. Frere, Margaret Roxan, & R.S.O. Tomlin (Eds); "The Roman Inscriptions of Britain", Vol. II, Fasc. I; Allan Sutton, Gloucester (1990). Return


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