The Iovii seniores

This page created 1 April 2014, and last modified: 26 October (Frankfurt fragment image added)


The Iovii seniores is one of the auxilia palatina units listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned to his Italian command. Its shield pattern as shown in various manuscripts is 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 Iovii except in M and W. The pattern itself is extremely simple, being plain blue with a green (O, P, Ff), yellow (M, B) or white (W) boss. However, it is evident that this is the "wrong" shield pattern; like that of some other western auxilia platina units, it has been shifted from its proper place (or, to be more exact, the label has likely been shifted from its proper place). Rather, the pattern above belongs to the Ascarii iuniores, and the true pattern of the Iovii seniores appears to be that from the next unit in the list, the Cornuti iuniores, whose shield pattern as illustated in various manuscripts is as below:

Shield patterns

This pattern shows a winged Victory. Victory was one of the attributes of Jupiter, one of whose epithets was Iupiter Victor ("Jove the conqueror"), and a more suitable aspect of Jupiter for a military unit to associate itself with than e.g. Iupiter pluvius ("Jove the rain giver"). The Victory looks like a Christian angel, but that is only because Christian angels first starting gaining (immaterial) wings in the last quarter of the 4th century, i.e. only just before the original Notitia was compiled, and derived from those of classical Victories. One might imagine an angelic Victory was perhaps more acceptable to an increasingly Christianised military hierarchy than a more classical image of Jupiter, hurling lightning bolts. Winged Victories had long been a feature of Roman shields, as the example below, taken from the Arch of Constantine, shows:

Victory Shield on Arch of Constantine
1934 photo taken from the German Archaeological Institute in Rome (no. 34.2121) and used under CC 3.0 DE license

Note the Victory is shown standing on a globe, a standard piece of iconography, and apparently so important to emphasise that the artist has represented it separately rather than simply have the Victory standing over the round boss.

The historian Ammianus (25.6.3; 26.7.13; 27.8.7) pairs "the" Iovii with "the" Victores. When the Iovii were split into seniores and iuniores units is unknown (in the Notitia the Iovii iuniores is assigned to the Comes Illyricum). In the east, assigned to the first Master of the Soldiers in the Imperial Presence, is a unit called the plain Victores, but this is unlikely to be the unit paired with the Iovii in Ammianus - for one thing, its shield pattern is completely different from that of the Iovii, and other such paired units tend to have similar shields (contra Tomlin's 1972 claim, at page 259, footnote 20, here). Rather, the matching unit should be the Victores seniores, which is mentioned as being in the Magister Peditum's Italian command, and indeed, is listed immediately after the Iovii seniores, just as expected for a paired unit, but which isn't listed amongst the troops in his infantry roster, and neither does it have a shield pattern illustrated. Jones identified the missing Victores seniores with the Victores iuniores Britannicianni under the Comes Britanniarum (there already being a plain Victores iuniores under the "Comes" Hispenias), but I am not at all sure I agree with this analysis. It seems to me the missing Victores seniores unit may simply have been destroyed during the time the Notitia was in use, and deleted from two parts of the register (the Magister Peditum's list, and the corresponding illustrations) but not the other (his Italian command distribution). Indeed, it may even be the case that the shield pattern ascribed to the Cornuti iuniores belongs not to the Iovii seniores, but to the Victores seniores, since obviously a winged Victory would suit this unit at least as well, and it may be that it was the pattern of the Iovii seniores that was deleted.


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