The Mauri tonantes seniores

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


The Mauri tonantes seniores is listed as a unit of auxilia palatina in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it 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 the unit is labelled the "Mauricoantes" in both the two Munich manuscripts (M, W) and the Frankfurt fragment (Ff); and in O and B the "Mairitoantes"; while in the Froben edition (B), the shield patterns for the Mauri tonantes seniores and the adjacent Mauri tonantes iuniores have been swapped, but since both are simply labelled "Mauritonantes", this is not immediately apparent; I have here shown them swapped back. In can thus be seen that in all the manuscripts, the name tonantes is not found; this appears only in B, the printed Froben edition (and which was taken up by Seeck in his 19th century edition).

The pattern shows a red-rimmed shield with an indigo boss, and simple bands; working in from the rim to the boss, they are coloured yellow, indigo, yellow , red, mauve, and yellow (W has a noticeably different arrangement, even for allowing for the usual indigo turning into red or pink of the two Munich manuscripts). The pattern shares little in common with the Mauri tonantes iuniores except for having a red rim and a purple boss edged in yellow; 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a light unit; whether of horse or, as in this case, of foot), as it is also very likely that this meaning had also been superseded with time (most Roman infantry units likely now having their own integral light troops), leaving the name doubly fossilized!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.


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