The Invicti iuniores Britanniciani

This page created 27 June 2014, and last modified: 15 September 2015 (Maier reference numbers added)


In the western half of the empire, the Invicti iuniores Britanniciani is listed (98/9.81 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as one of auxilia palatina units in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it assigned to the "Comes" Hispenias under the name (102/5.179) Invicti iuniores Britones (note, however, that the Trento manuscript, if I understand Seeck's notes correctly, apparently gives Invicti iuniores Britanniciani). Its shield pattern (94#14), as shown in various manuscripts under the plain label Britanniciani (94.o), 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 shield pattern is relatively simple, with a red rim (white in O), a plain green main ground (faded to yellow in M), and a boss quartered red and white (only white in B). This is one of the few patterns for which O gives a version that is different from W in which P follows W and not O (here the shield rim colour); interestingly, both the patterns subsequently illustrated are also like this: the Batavi iuniores (98/9.81.1) and the Exculcatores iuniores Britanniciani (98/9.82).

The name Invicti means "invincible, indefatigable, unconquerable"; it was frequently paired with the divinity Sol in the time of Constantine I as "Sol invictus", "the unconquerable sun"; indeed Constantine used the name himself before Constantine espoused Christianity, when he changed his name to "Victor" (see Constantine: Roman Emperor, Christian Victor; Paul Stephenson, 2009, page 216).

Other units bearing the name are the Invicti iuniores (21.12) under the Magister Militum per Illyricum in the eastern half of the empire, and in the west, the Invicti seniores (98/9.57), also under the "Comes" Hispenias. Both are auxilia palatina units like the Invicti iuniores Britanniciani, but neither bear a similar shield pattern, whether to each other or to that of the Invicti iuniores Britanniciani.

Britanniciani and Britones naturally mean "British". As a copy of a rather fragmentary 5th century letter known as the Epistula Honorii has survived in the Rotense codex held in Madrid which mentions four units in Spain apparently in the early 5th century, one of which is called britanici, many have seen this as corroborating the presence of the Invicti iuniores Britanniciani in Spain. Unfortunately, there would appear to be no particularly cogent reason to link them with the Notitia's list of Spanish units (see Michael Kulikowski; The Epistula Honorii, Again; Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik 122 (1998) 247-252; available here). While the name raises the possibility the unit was raised in Britain, it is also at least as possible the units was just stationed there recently, in which case it could be any of a number of auxiliary units known to have been previously stationed in Britain simply renamed.


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