The Cimbriani

This page created 21 June 2014, and last modified: 2 October 2015 (Maier reference numbers added)


The Cimbriani is listed (98/9.31 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as the 11th of the 12 legiones palatinae in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned (102/5.197) to Comes Africae. Its shield pattern (92#12), as found in various manuscripts under the matching label (92.m) Cimbriani, is shown below:

Shield patterns

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

The shield pattern is simple, showing a plain yellow boss, an unadorned red main ground (more maroon than red in O, and especially P, when compared to other patterns on the same page that are definitely more red), and a yellow rim. The pattern that is closest to that of the Cimbriani in the Notitia is that of the Lanciarii Sabarienses (98/9.28), another western palatine legion, but assigned to the Magister Equitum's Gallic command; it also features a yellow-rimmed plain maroon main ground, but with a large red boss.

The position of the Cimbrianis in the list of the units assigned to the Comes Africae (102/5.192ff) seems to indicate that it was a comitatenses unit when the Notitia was first drawn up (since it there not only comes after the command's sole auxilia palatina unit, and not before, it is surrounded by legiones comitatenses units), but was later promoted to the palatine status it is recorded having in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster. Six of the 12 palatine legions in the western empire appear to be such recently upgraded units judging by their anomalous positioning in the lists of the field commands they are assigned to. This is somewhat surprising, because their positioning in the illustrations section correctly corresponds to their position in the Magister Peditum's roster, and illustrations cannot be updated as easily as text. It may be that the list of the Comes Africae was drawn up quite some time before the list of the Magister Peditum was drawn up, but then we would be left with the problem that the list of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command, which also contains a misplaced legio palatina, seems to bear the hall marks of being modified even more recently than that of the Magister Peditum. This would imply that when the Gallic list was modified, it was not replaced in toto, but amendments were, at least in some cases, appended to it, in the manner of the US Constitution.

The name Cimbriani appears to be tribal in origin, from the Cimbri, a Germanic (or Celto-Germanic) group that inflicted devastating losses on the Romans some 500 years before the Notitia was first compiled, and who originated in Jutland (Denmark). Nonetheless, it is probably more likely to be named after the fort called Cimbriana in lower the Danubian province of Moesia Secunda (modern location uncertain, but identified with Canlia, a 2 hectare fort in southern Romania by J.J.Wilkes, The Roman Danube (2005), available here, at p 215); indeed, the Notitia lists (76.18) an auxiliary unit under the command of Dux Moesiae secundae called the Milites Cimbriani stationed there. If the Cimbriani did originate from Moesia II, then the unit is most probably a detachment of either Legio I Italica or Legio XI Claudia, since these are the two legions most closely associated with the province (76.21-26).

Inscriptional evidence for the Cimbriani comes from two epitaphs from Lucera in Italy, both mentioning a NUMERO CIMBRORUM (AE 1969/70, 159; AE 1983, 246), as well as an inscription from Setif in Algeria (AE 1984, 940) mentioning a COR CIMB, which has been expanded to read a "cor(nicularii) Cimb(rianorum)"; i.e. "an adjutant in the Cimbri".


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