The Menapii seniores

This page created 23 March 2014, and last modified: 10 October 2015 (unit derivation section updated)


The most senior of the legiones comitatenses in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is listed (98/9.98 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as the Menapes seniores in the manuscripts O, P, M, and according to Seeck, T as well, but as the Menapii seniores in the printed Froben edition, B. It is assigned (102/5.135) to the Magister Equitum's Gallic command as the Menapi seniores in the manuscripts, but as the Menapii seniores in B. Its shield pattern (95#12) as shown in various versions of the compilation, under the label (95.m) Menapes sen. (O); Menapes (P); Menapii senior. (M); Menapi senio. (W); Menapii seniores (T, as per Seeck); or Menapii sen. (B); is as below:

Menapii Seniores 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 shows a green boss (faded to yellow in M, and white in W, B) encircled by a yellow band (white in W). The main ground is green (faded to yellow in M, and white in B) and the rim is red. The main ground features a yellow serpent-like figure arranged in a C-shape, with the head to the left (right in B, which being printed, reverses all of its shield facings), and the opening to the C at top of the shield. It thus looks very similar to the pattern of the Cortoriacenses (98/9.119), another of the legiones comitatenses in the Magister Equitum's Gallic command. The "serpent" is probably just a crude depiction of a regular draco, as borne by e.g. the Equites Honoriani Taifali iuniores (102/5.18), although the one in the Parisian manuscript, P, in particular, bears affinities with half of the ubiquitous twin-headed zoomorphic motif borne by, for example, the Cornuti (12.24).

The name Menapii / Menapes derives ultimately from the Belgic tribe the Menapii, no doubt via the Roman district into which part of their territory was later included, the civitas Menapiorum; this administrative unit later became the civitas Turnencensium. The Menapii seniores was presumably raised there, or had been stationed there recently before joining the field army. It is thus interesting that the Dux Mogontiacensis is noted as commanding a Praefectus militum Menapiorum (156/8.3) at Tabernas (presumably Tres Tabernas; modern Rheinzabern in the Rhein-Palatinate, Germany). The men under this prefect would appear to be the same as the Menapii seniores, or a perhaps more likely, a detachment thereof (as advanced by van Berchem, 'Some Chapters of the "Notitia Dignitatum"', 1995, available here), or vice versa.

Alternatively, the unit at Tabernis might be the same as the "missing" Menapii iuniores, as no such iuniores partner to the Menapii seniores is to be found in the Notitia, unless it is the unit in the east under the Magister Militum per Thracias simply called the Menapii (18.13). But since there are many instances of trios of units in the Notitia being divided along the lines of "X seniores" and "X iuniores" in the west, and plain "X" in the east, this might be considered unlikely, especially since the Menapii is the one of the most senior of the legiones comitatenses in the east, and a iuniores unit would be expected to be lower ranked: the highest-ranked iuniores comitatenses legion in the east, the Pannoniciani iuniores (18.26) is ranked just 15th out of 20 units in the list of the Magister Militum per Thracias. As might be expected, the shield pattern of the eastern Menapii is completely different to that of the western unit.

Given the plethora of legions (to say nothing of legionary detachments) that were stationed along the Rhine over the centuries, it mightd appear to be futile to try and discern which (former) legion was the forbear of the Menapes seniores based on deployment location. Nonetheless, since other legions with names deriving from the general area appear to derive from the time of Constantine I just before his invasion of Italy in 312 (notably the Divitenses seniores, 98/9.23), the four main legions stationed in Germany at the time appear to be the most likely candidates: Legiones I Minervia, VIII Augusta, XXII Primigenia, and XXX Ulpia Traiana.


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