The Corniacenses

This page created 28 September 2014, and last modified: 25 September 2015 (legionary/auxiliary commentary added)


The 4th of the 18 pseudocomitatenses units listed (98/9.146 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is called the Corniacenses; it is assigned (102/5.154) to the Magister Equitum's Gallic command. Its shield pattern (97#18) as shown in various manuscripts, under the label (97.s) Cornacenses, is as below:

shield patterns

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

The pattern shows a red main field without apparent rim, and a white boss; a white pillar is underneath the boss, but, except in B, it does not extend as far as the rim, and unlike the pillars in most "boss and pillar" designs shown in the Notitia, the "pillar" has essentially parallel sides (except for a slight widening in P). Extending out from each side of the pillar, and arcing upwards, are two extensions, also in white, that broaden toward the top; their ends are cut off. Exactly what the whole device is trying to depict, I currently have no idea, but read on...

The name Corn(i)acenses would seem to refer to Cornacum (modern Vukovar in eastern Croatia), which in the Notitia is given (141.11) as the station of a unit of Equites Dalmatae under the Dux Provinciae Pannoniae secundae ripariensis et Saviae. Presumably the unit was stationed there before joining the Gallic field army. Nonetheless, the presence of horn-like extensions in the shield pattern is suggestive, because the word in Latin for "horn" is cornu. Thus the shield pattern would seem to be a rebus of the unit's name. Such visual pun-containing shield patterns became an established feature of later medieval European heraldry, most famously in the arms of Castile (which feature a castle).

Whether the unit is legionary or auxiliary is hard to determine, although the pattern's "horns" suggest auxiliary, as no unit identified a legionary has anything like these (unless one counts the Valentinianenses, 18.31, under the Magister Militum per Thracias).


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