The Mauri tonantes iuniores

This page created 23 March 2014, and last modified: 30 October 2014 (Frankfurt fragment image added)


Like the Mauri tonantes seniores, the Mauri tonantes iuniores is listed as a unit of auxilia palatina in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster and is assigned to the Comes Tingitaniae. Its shield pattern as shown in various manuscripts is as below:


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 mis-labelled the Menapii seniores in the two Munich Manuscripts (M, W) - the adjacent Menapii seniores is, however, correctly labelled as such. In the Froben edition (B), the shield patterns for the Mauri tonantes seniores and iuniores have been swapped, but since both are simply labelled "Mauritonantes", this is not immediately apparent; I have shown them swapped back.

The pattern shows a red-rimmed shield with a purple ground and boss (more indigo in P, white in W), and with a yellow band surrounding the boss (white in B, and both white (inner) and yellow (outer) in M). Four charges decorate the shield - two voided billets to use the language of European medieval heraldry, and two mascles - i.e. rectangles and lozenges, respectively, with the centres of a different colour. These might be representations of the frames of imago (portraits) as featured on unit standards, but here shown too small to render the actual portraits; such portraits are found on a number of shields in the Notitia, but none clearly have multiple instances. The pattern shares a few features in common with that of the Mauri tonantes seniores: a red rim, and a purple boss edged in yellow, but the overall impression is very different.

The name Mauri denotes the Moorish peoples, although there is every indication that by this date the term, as used in the Roman military, denoted not an ethnicity but a particular kind of military unit, although exactly what is hard to say (probably a light unit; whether of horse or, as in this case, of foot), as it is also very likely that this meaning had also been superseded with time (most Roman infantry units likely now having their own integral light troops), leaving the name doubly fossilized! Tonantes means "the thunderers", a suitable enough name for a military unit.

An inscription (ILS 1356) from Cherchell (Caesaria in what is now Algeria) mentioning the EQVITVM ITEMQVE PEDITVM IVNIORVM MAVRORVM could refer to this unit, although the combination of both cavalry and infantry Mauri iuniores units gives cause for caution, as no corresponding "Equites tonantes" is found in the Notitia.


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