The Lanciarii Gallicani Honoriani

This page created 26 July 2014, and last modified: 23 September 2015 (Legio III Gallica commentary added)


The Lanciarii Gallicani Honoriani is listed (98/9.113 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as the 16th of the 32 units of legiones comitatenses in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned (102/5.123) to the Magister Equitum's Gallic command as the Lanciarii Honoriani Gallicani. Its shield pattern (96#6), as shown in various manuscripts under the simple label (96.f) Lanciarii (except for in the Bodleian manuscript (O), which gives Lanciarii Gall.), 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's boss is yellow at the edge (but white in W), and variously coloured in the centre, depending on the manuscript in question. The main feature of the pattern is the numerous rays radiating from the boss (16 in O & B, 18 in P & W, 24 in M), alternating yellow (white in O) and green (very dark green in O, faded to dark yellow in M, and in W alternating with red rays as well). The pattern's closest match is that of the Septimani iuniores (98/9.142), which features the same pattern, but in different colours: its rays alternate red and white.

While the name Lanciarii comes from the lancea, a spear suitable for both thrusting and throwing, this does not necessarily imply the Lanciarii Gallicani Honoriani was equipped with this weapon, since the title lanciarii (or lancearii) had become the designation of elite guards in the later 3rd century; we even hear of mounted lanciarii, as attested by inscriptional evidence (AE 1981, 777) where the gravestone of one Aurelius Gaius describes him as an "ippeus lankiaris". There are a number of lanciarii units listed in the Notitia, some of which are obviously elite units, while some, like the Lanciarii Honoriani Gallicani, do not appear to be anything out of the ordinary.

The name Honoriani refers to the emperor Honorius, who succeeded his father Theodosius I in 395, around the time the Notitia was first compiled. Note that Honorius had however, been declared co-Augustus two years earlier, at the age of 7, so the presence of units bearing the name Honorius does not therefore prove they must have been entered into the document so-named at 395 at the earliest. Nonetheless, the presence of large numbers of units in the western half of the Notitia named after Honorius, compared to very few in the east, is one of the clearest indications the eastern portion was not amended much, after the death of Theodosius, while the western half was extensively updated.

The name Gallicani refers to Gaul; presumably the unit was either raised there, or had been serving there, perhaps as a limitanei unit, before joining the field army. If so, this would indicate that Honorius did not found the unit, but merely re-founded it or otherwise honoured it. Indeed, the position of the unit in the Magister Peditum's roster implies it had already been in the field army a long time when the Notita was compiled, as it comes immediately before Tetrarchic period Tertia Herculea (98/9.112), and well before the string of five "Flavian" legions (98/9.123-127), which cannot have been raised after the mid-4th century at the latest.

Given the name Gallicani, by far the best candidate as a parent legion is Legio III Gallica, which is attested in the Notitia (63.15) as being stationed at Danaba under the Dux Foenicis. As this legion was founded by Julius Caesar, it would have been strange if it had spawned no detachments in the 450-odd years since, and the Lanciarii Gallicani Honoriani, along with the Honoriani felices Gallicani (98/9.121), are by far the best candidates.


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