The Pontinenses

This page created 15 June 2014, and last modified: 23 December 2015 (Tomlin reference added)


The 7th of the 18 pseudocomitatenses units listed (98/9.137 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is called the Pontinenses;it is assigned (102/5.090) to his Italian command as the Pontenenses. Its shield pattern (97#9) as shown in various manuscripts, under the label (97.i) Pontinenses, 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 pattern features a blue boss (white in B, and yellowish in M) encircled by white with a white pillar beneath. The main ground is green (faded in M, and white in B) and separated from a green rim (faded in M) by a yellow band (white in W).

The name Pontinenses might at first blush be assumed to derive from Legio I Pontica. An inscription dated 288 from Colybrassus (modern Ayasofya near Alanya (ancient Korakesion) on Turkey's south coast) mentions this unit; another Tetrarchic-period inscription (CIL 3, 6746) from Trapezus (modern Trabzon on the Black Sea cost of Turkey) also mentions the unit, as it reads LEG I P (image here), which can be expanded to "legio I Pontica"; the unit was still stationed there when the Notitia was compiled, under the Dux Armeniae (71.7).

However, why a detachment from far-off Pontus would have found its way into the Italian field army should need some explaining - no other units in the command appear to have a similarly eastern origin. Further, the boss-and-pillar shield pattern of the Pontinenses is more typical of auxiliary than legionary units (the main legionary examples do hale from the east, however; see those under the Magister Militum per Orientem). There were many other places named "Pontus" or similar in the Roman empire, since the word simply means "bridge". One example in the Notitia is the Ponte Aoni listed (147.3) as the station of the Equites stablesiani iuniores under the Dux Raetiae primae et secundae, i.e. Pons Aeni (modern Rosenheim in southern Germany), and indeed, this is place most commentators have taken to be the former station of the unit (e.g. Nischer; Jones; Tomlin). This has the attraction of being very close to the Italian field army into which the Pontinenses was drafted.

However, another Pontus mentioned in the Notitia is the Ponte Aeli recorded (154.18) as being the station of the Tribunus cohortis primae Cornoviorum under the Dux Britanniarum (Pons Aelius; modern Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England). This is a particularly promising example, as both being the base of an auxiliary unit, and that of a unit which was presumably withdrawn from Britain along with the other Roman units within the period the Notitia was being updated. The Cohors I Cornoviorum is attested only in the Notitia, and would seem to have been named after the British Cornovii tribe - apparently the only native unit stationed in Roman Britain. The Pons Aelius bridge was particularly unusual in that it seems to have been the only bridge outside Rome to bear an Imperial name (the emperor Hadrian's name was Publius Aelius Hadrianus), and thus uniquely well-suited to establishing a unique identity for any unit guarding it.


1. Ingo Maier; "Appendix 4: Numeration of the new edition of the compilation 'notitia dignitatum' (Cnd)"; last accessed 26 October 2015. See also for here for numbering examples. Return

2. Lenski, Noel; "Assimilation and Revolt in the Territory of Isauria, from the 1st Century BC to the 6th Century AD"; Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 42.4 (1999), pp 414-465, at p 421; available here (last accessed 23 December 2015). Return

3. Nischer, E.C.; "The Army Reforms of Diocletian and Constantine and Their Modifications up to the Time of the Notitia Dignitatum"; The Journal of Roman Studies, 13 (1923), pp 1-55, at p 36; available here (last accessed 23 December 2015). Return

4. Jones, A.H.M.; "The Later Roman Empire, 284-602; A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey"; Blackwell, Oxford, 1964 (3 volumes), at p 365, volume 3. Return

5. Tomlin, Roger; "Seniores-Iuniores in the Late-Roman Field Army"; The American Journal of Philology, XCIII,2 (1972), pp 253-278, at p 255, note 5; available here (last accessed 23 December 2015). Return


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