The Romanenses

This page created 11 October 2014, and last modified: 26 September 2015 (Naming commentary updated)


The Romanenses is listed (98/9.148 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as the last of the 18 pseudocomitatenses units in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned (102/5.158) to the Magister Equitum's Gallic command. Its shield pattern (97#20), as shown in various manuscripts under the matching label (97.u) Romanenses, 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 shows a red boss (white in B) encircled by a white band. Surrounding this is a hubbed and tyred wheel in indigo (more purple in B, and faded to pink in M, W) with 8 (M), 9 (O, P, W) or 15 (B) spokes. The sectors between the wheel's spokes are red (but white in W); the shield's rim is also red. Several other units bear similar "spoked wheel" designs in the Noritia; the with the closest pattern in terms of shape, if not colour, is probably the Sagittarii lecti (21.11), a unit of auxilia palatina under the Magister Militum per Illyricum.

The name Romanenses is unlikely to refer to Rome directly; it probably refers to a unit with the name as part of its cognomen. In the early empire, the currently serving men of an auxiliary unit could all be awarded citizenship for some distinguished act of service: thereafter the unit would bear the title civium Romanorum, even if its subsequent recruits were not citizens. A huge number of units were awarded the honour before it became effectively obsolete following the granting of essentially all soldiers citizenship empire-wide in 212; nonetheless, three of the units listed in the Notitia are still recorded as bearing this title:

Cohors scutata civium Romanorum (56/7.38), under the Dux Thebaidos
Cohors Apuleia civium Romanorum (71.26), under the Dux Armeniae
Cohors primae Thracum civium Romanorum (141.39), under the Dux Provinciae Pannoniae secundae ripariensis et Saviae
Of these three, the Pannonian unit is the most obvious candidate to be identified with the Romanenses, not only because it is geographically much closer to Gaul, but also because two other units from that command appear to have been withdrawn from it and promoted to psudocomitatenses status: the Taurunenses (98/9.135) and the Antianenses (98/9.135). Nonetheless, many of the auxiliary units listed in the Notitia are known from epigraphic sources to have borne the title even though the Notitia does not record the fact, such as, to pick two at random, the men of the Ala Petriana (154.29) under the Dux Britanniarum, and those of the Cohors prima Gallica (156/8.50) in Spain. Any one of these could have been the Romanenses. No matter which of these units is to be equated with the Romanenses, if any is to be, it will be firmly established as an auxiliary instead of a legionary unit.


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