The western Batavi seniores

This page created 2 April 2014, and last modified: 26 December 2015 (references rearranged)


In the western portion of the Notitia compilation, the sixth auxilia palatina unit listed (98/9.39 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) in the surviving manuscript copies in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is called the Batavi matriciaci seniores. This was split into a Batavi seniores and a Mattiaci seniores (98/9.39.1) by Seeck (OC.V.163-164), since these unit names appear in the appropriate positions under the Magister Peditum's Italian command (102/5.65 and 102/5.66, respectively); shield patterns are also assigned separately (this was not Seeck's innovation, however; such an arrangement is also found in the Froben edition, B). The shield pattern (92#19) of the Batavi seniores, under the plain label (92.t) Batavi, is shown in various manuscripts as below:

Shield patterns

Disclaimer: remember, I'm not an expert in the field of Notitia studies, so take my comments with a grain of salt...

The shield pattern shows a plain red ground; the boss (rather off-centred in P, W) is green (faded to yellow in M, and near white in W), but has a tear-drop shape (point downwards) and is surrounded by a blue band (purple in B) that turns into a pillar under the boss that has a split-line running vertically through it (absent in P). It thus appears somewhat like many "boss and pillar" patterns found in the Notitia, but it isn't really like any of the others due to its free-flowing curves.

A number of other units in the Notitia incorprate the Batavi name, including two more units of Batavi seniores; one (102/5.218) is the senior vexillationes palatinae unit (i.e. field army cavalry unit) under the Magister Equitum's Gallic command; while the other (9.24) is the senior-most ranked auxilia palatina unit in the eastern half of the empire, under the command of the first Master of the Soldiers in the Imperial Presence. The shield patterns of these three units do not appear to have any obvious similarities (other than the eastern unit being a "boss and pillar" design).

The name Batavi is tribal, coming from a Germanic tribe that lived in what is now the Netherlands; they provided the empire with many units of auxiliaries in the early empire in particular.

Extensive inscriptional evidence for the western Batavi seniores comes from the cemetery at Colonia Iulia Concordia (modern Portogruaro in Veneto, Italy), which produced an inscription (ILS 544) mentioning the NUMERO BATAORUM SENIORUM; another (ILS 480) giving NUM BAT SEN; another (CIL 5,8752) the NUMERO BATAORUM [.]ENIORUM; yet another (CIL 5,8759) the NUMERO BATAVORUM SENI; another (CIL 5, 8776) the NUMERO BATAORUM SENIORUM; another (CIL 5,8773) giving the NUMERI BATAOR SEN; and yet another (CIL 5,8761) mentioning the unit in the form of the N BATAORUM SENIORUM.

Exactly when "the" original Batavi was split between seniores and iuniores, and eastern and western units, is unknown. An inscription (RIU 3,699 = CIL 3,10891; images here and here) from Hungary mentioning a T BAT has been expanded to "T(ribunus) BAT(avorum)", and is dated to 303, showing the original Batavi, like the Cornuti and Regii, was one of the first of the auxilia palatina to be raised. Since the Cornuti had been split into not only seniores and iuniores but also eastern and western components by 356 at the latest, it is entirely possible the Batavi had been so split similarly early. Evidence for such a split comes from Ammianus, who mentions "the" (Latin has no definite particle) Batavi four times in conjunction with another paired unit in his work. On three occasions (20.1.3; 27.1.6; 27.8.7), that unit is "the" Heruli - the Heruli seniores (98/9.38) of the Notitia - which in the Notitia comes immediately before the western Batavi seniores in both the Magister Peditum's infantry roster and his Italian command list. However, the other time (16.12.45), the paired unit is the Regii (12.23), which in the Notitia is the first unit of auxilia palatina in the command of the second Magister Militum Praesentalis, paralleling that of the eastern Batavi seniores in the command of the first Magister Militum Praesentalis. This implies this unit of Batavi is not the same as the unit paired with the Heruli (Ammianus mentions the Batavi a fifth time, at 31.13.9, but does not mention the unit, if any, they were paired with). The combined evidence of Ammianus and the Notitia thus implies the Batavi (seniores) had been split into (what became) eastern and western components units by 356, like the Cornuti had.


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. Seeck, Otto (Ed.); "Notitia Dignitatum accedunt Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae et Latercula prouinciarum", Weidmann, Berlin, 1876; available here (last accessed 26 October 2015). Return

3. Tomlin, Roger (contra Hoffman, below) ; "Seniores-Iuniores in the Late-Roman Field Army"; The American Journal of Philology, XCIII, 2 (1972), pp 253-278, at p 271; available here (last accessed 23 December 2015). Return

4. Hoffmann, Dietrich; "Die Spätrömischen Soldatengrabschriften von Concordia"; Schweizerische Zeitschrift für klassische Altertumswissenschaft, Vol. 20.1 (1963), pp 22-57; available here (last accessed 8 December 2015). Return

5. Speidel, M.P.; "Raising New Units for the Late Roman Army"; Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 50 (1996), pp 163-170; available here (last accessed 23 December 2015). Return

6. Drew-Bear, Thomas; "A Fourth-Century Latin Soldier's Epitaph at Nakolea"; Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 81 (1977), pp 257-274; at p 268, available here (last accessed 25 December 2015). Return

7. "Ammianus" (Ammianus Marcellinus); "Res gestae a fine Corneli Taciti"; available here in Latin and here in English translation (last accessed 25 December 2015). Return


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