The Reti

This page created 19 July 2014, and last modified: 28 October (Frankfurt fragment image added)


One of the auxilia palatina units in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is listed as the Reti; it is assigned to the command of the Comes Illyricum. Its shield pattern in various manuscripts is as shown below (in M & W, the unit is labelled Rheti):

Shield patterns

Disclaimer: remember, I'm not an expert in the field of Notitia studies, so take my comments with a grain of salt...

The pattern has a red rim and an indigo main field (faded in M, W, and especially Ff). It further features what appears to be a head impaled on a red spike (white in B), a common motif for western units of auxilia palatina in particular, although many examples look less like a "head on a stick" and more like "the sun over a key-hole", so interpreting the imagery here is problematic.

However, it is evident that this might be the "wrong" shield pattern; like that of some other western auxilia platina units, it may have been shifted from its proper place (or, to be more exact, the label may have been shifted from its proper place), although which pattern (if any) among those shown properly belongs to the unit is not immediately apparent.

The name Reti would appear to be derived from Raetia - i.e. essentially modern Switzerland, prompting Seeck to amend the unit's name to Raeti in his edition, although the Notitia correctly calls the area itself Raetia. Raetia was also spelled Rhaetia, and indeed, as noted above, the two Munich manuscripts label the unit Rheti. Presumably the Reti were either raised in the province (in the Notitia it i split into Raetia I and Raetia II), or had been stationed there in the relatively recent past when the Notitia was compiled. Various other units in the Notitia take their name from the province, such as the Cohors quarta Raetorum, under the Dux Armeniae, and the Ala quinta Raetorum, under the Comes limitis Aegypti. Both of these are limitanei (garrison) units stationed in the eastern half of the empire, where is also found the R(a)etobarii, under the command of the Magister Militum Praesentalis I; this unit is however named after the Alamannic R(a)etobarii tribe that happened to establish themselves in Raetia. In the west, in addition to the Reti under the Comes Illyricum, are the ala prima Flavia Raetorum, the cohors sexta Valeria Raetorum, and the the cohors primae Herculea Raetorum, all under the Dux Raetiae primae et secundae, who also is noted as having a tribunus gentis per Raetias deputatae under his command, i.e. a tribune of the Raetian people. This may indicate an appointed commander of local irregulars (such as later came to called foederati), but it is at least equally plausible that this tribune was not a military officer at all, and if his people were conscripted to fight, it would have been in the same way as any other men in the area (see e.g. Hugh Elton, Warfare in Roman Europe AD 340 - 425 (1996), page 130) - by joining "regular" units.


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