The Heruli seniores

This page created 20 May 2014, and last modified: 4 November (Inscription photo link added)


The fifth auxilia palatina unit listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster in the manuscripts is the Heruli seniores; it is assigned to his Italian command. Its shield pattern 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...

Note that the pattern is labelled the plain Heruli except in M and W. The pattern itself is very simple, featuring a plain white ground with a red rim; a broad red rim outside the boss, with the boss itself being white (or pale blue in P, perhaps representing steel?). Accordingly, there are a number of other shield patterns in the Notitia that resemble it to a reasonable degree.

In the history of Ammianus, "the" Heruli are found brigaded with "the" Batavi (20.1.3; 20.4.2; 27.1.6; 27.8.7); and in the Notitia, the Heruli (seniores) are indeed followed by a Batavi seniores (there is also another unit of Batavi seniores, in the east, under the Magister Militum Praesentalis I), so it would appear that the Heruli and Batavi in Ammianus correspond to the Notitia's Heruli seniores and (western) Batavi seniores. There is no Heruli iuniores listed in the Notitia; it may have been destroyed before the document was drawn up, possibly at the battle of Adrianople in 378, for example.

The name Heruli is a tribal one; but exactly what people it refers to is much debated, for while most of "the" Heruli lived in the east, near the Ukraine, there was also a group in the west, which may or may not be the same or a related people.

Inscriptional evidence for the Heruli seniores comes from the cemetery at Colonia Iulia Concordia (modern Portogruaro in Veneto, Italy), which produced an inscription (CIL 5, 8750) mentioning the unit in the form of the NVMERO EROLORVM SENIORVM; another (ILS 494) attesting a NVMERO HERVLVRVM SENEORVM; and another (ILS 548) giving N HERULORVM; this last could of course potentially refer to an as-yet unattested Heruli iuniores. See here for Hoffmann's 1963 analysis (in German). Another (AE 1890,148; photo here) gives N ERVLORVM SENI.


Return to the Notitia alphabetical unit list page.
Return to my Notitia index page.