Numerus Longovicanorum

This page created 14 November 2015, and last modified: 15 November 2015 (RIB 3262 commentary added)


The thirteenth officer listed (154.14 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) under the command of the Dux Britanniarum is the Praefectus numeri Pacensium, said to be stationed at Longovici.

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

Entry 154.14, Praefectus numeri Longovicanorum Longovicio, is one of many examples in the Notitia of units being simply (but see below) listed under their station's name as opposed to being listed under some other name; in this case the station is the fort at Longovicium, modern Lanchester in County Durham. The unit itself is most likely to be equated with the cohors I Lingonum equitata. Other units have left inscriptional records at Lanchester, but not as extensive. The rank of prefect for the unit's commander might give pause, since in the Notitia, prefects as a rule command legionary, cavalry, or naval units, rather than auxiliary infantry, but RIB 1791 gives, from approximately 200 AD, an officer that was ranked as tribune while serving as a praefectus (a tribunate being higher at the time). Further, and perhaps more pertinently, cohors I Lingonum equitata is attested as being commanded by both tribunes (RIB 1075) and prefects (RIB 1091, RIB 1092) while at Lanchester. One might expect a mounted portion of a part-mounted unit, if it survived intact and separate, to have been commanded by a prefect in any case (mounted components of part-mounted units seem to have been detached from their infantry over the course of the late 3rd and early 4th centuries). Alternatively, the unit may have been upgraded from a part-mounted to a fully-mounted formation, in the manner that the men under the Praefectus numeri Maurorum Aurelianorum (154.30) seem to have been.

Cf. the cohors II Lingonum (154.31) and cohors IV Lingonum (154.17) stationed along the wall, and who are commanded by tribunes.

One of the most interesting inscriptions from Lanchester is RIB 1074, which gives a VEX SVEBORVM LON GOR, which appears to name a vexillation (i.e. detachment) of Suebians attached to (or who actually are) the I Lingones; they are given in the form LON(gones), just as the entry appears in the Notitia. The Lingones were originally a Gallic tribe, who lent their name to the Roman area around what is now modern Langres in France (the "Civitas Lingonum", attested as being part of the province of Lugdunensis I in the "Notitia Galliarum", a work that is included, together with several other works, in the codices bound together with the manuscripts of our "Notitia Dignitatum"); the unit was presumably originally recruited there. The Suebi, in contrast, originate from Germany; the name lives on as modern Swabia (German "Schwaben").

As with all limitanei units in the Notitia, the shield pattern of the numerus Longovicanorum is not illustrated. However, RIB 3262 (= AE 2008,804), a probably early-3rd century altar from Lanchester, records the unit, and on its side is a splendid 8-spoked wheel emblem. This may well have featured on the unit's shield: several shield patterns recorded in the Notitia for units with British associations show a similar wheel (most notably legio II Britannica, 98/9.115).

References and notes:

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. Entry 154.14, along with the subsequent 154.15 has a rather problematic manuscript reading. Ingo Maier reports (personal communication) the primary readings in the various manuscripts shown below.

ND 154.14-15 transcription

Transcription by Ingo Maier, and used with kind permission. O: Bodleian manuscript; P: Parisian manuscript; T: Trento manuscript; L: London (Victoria & Albert) manuscript; A: Alciatus (Basel 1546) printed edition; B: Froben printed edition; V: Vatican manuscript; M: Munich manuscript.

It can be seen that in some of the manuscripts, portions of their entries are simply missing, albeit with spaces left for them to be filled in: clearly the entries in whichever manuscript from which they were being copied were hard to read. The consensus appears to give Praefectus numeri Longovicanorum Longovicio, but the Trento manuscript splits this up as two separate entries, and the Parisian manuscript omits it entirely.

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 265-6. Return
4. Miranda J. Green; "The Wheel As a Cult-symbol in the Romano-Celtic World, with special reference to Gaul and Britain"; Latomus 183, Brussels (1984). Return


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