The Tungrecani seniores

This page created 26 April 2014, and last modified: 27 September 2015 (unit origins section updated; other minor edits)


The Tongrecani seniores is the fourth of the 12 legiones palatinae listed (98/9.24 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned (102/5.57) to his Italian command as the Tungrecani seniores. Its shield pattern (92#5), as found in various manuscripts under the plain label (92.e) Tongrecani, is shown below:

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 is relatively simple, and shows, a green rim (except for the first Munich manuscript (M), which lacks this) bordering an interior yellow rim, then a red main ground with a yellow inner rim, a blue boss(white in B), and between the inner yellow rim and the boss, either white (O, W), maroon (P), or red (M, B). It is thus very similar to the previous unit in the Magister Peditum's list: the Divitenses seniores (98/9.23), as can be seen by comparing their patterns as below, in this case using those from the Parisian manuscript (P):

Shield patterns

The only difference between them is the lack of the green rim with the Divitenses seniores. Their adjacent positions in the list, and their similar shield patterns, imply these two units are a matched pair, and this is reinforced by Ammianus; in section 27.1.2 he mentions the units Divitenses and the Tungrecani as being together in Gaul; more interestingly, he also mentions (26.6.12) the Divitenses Tungricanosque Iuniores - i.e. the "Divitenses and Tungrecani iuniores" as a contemporaneous unit pair in the east - incidentally the first time iuniores units are mentioned in his work; at 26.7.14 he calls this same Divitenses iuniores unit the plain Divitenses, showing that other mentions of iuniores (or seniores for that matter) may well have been omitted by him in his work.

Interestingly, no Tungrecani iuniores is mentioned in the Notitia. There is a unit of Tungri (98/9.93), under the Comes Illyricum, but it is a unit of auxilia palatina and thus almost certainly unrelated, at least in terms of being a derived unit; that its shield pattern is rather similar is very interesting however, as a comparison of the patterns shown below taken from the Paris manuscript show:

Shield patterns

See the page for the Tungri for further details. There is also a Primi Tungri (154.24) under the Dux Britanniarum, but again, this is an auxilia unit, as is would seem to be the Tungricani (132.3) under the Comes litoris Saxonici per Britanniam. It may well be that the Tungrecani iuniores was simply wiped out at some point in the 50-odd years between Ammianus' work being finished and the final revisions to the Notitia. However, it may be they are named something else in the Notitia.

The name Tungri is tribal, relating to a people that lived in the Belgic region of Gaul, and whose name lives on in many modern names, most notably the city of Tongres/Tongeren. However, since the Divitenses, the paired unit of the Tungricani, is named after a place, it may well be that Tungrecani refers not to the ancient people, but the more contemporary (at least at the time of the Notitia) district name - the Civitas Tungrorum, which was in the 4th century part of Germania Secunda.

The original Tungricani were likely a detachment of some legion stationed with the region. From units mentioned in the Notitia, Jones identified the Geminiacenses (98/9.120), a legio comitatenses unit, as coming from Geminiacum; the Cortoriacenses (98/9.119), another legio comitatenses unit, as coming from Cotoriacum; and the Prima Flavia (Metis) (98/9.143), a pseudocomitatenses unit, as coming from Metis; all from the Belgic area (there is a Dux Belgicae secundae in the Notitia, but he commands very few units, as most appear to have been drafted into the Magister Equitum's Gallic command). However, the T(o/u)ngricani seniores almost certainly derives from a legion or legionary detachment stationed in the area in the more distant past rather than the end of the 4th century. For one thing, they are an elite palatine legion, whereas a recently drafted garrison unit would have pseudocomitatenses status (or, at best, comitatenses, if it had been subsequently promoted). Further, they are brigaded with the Divitenses, which not only also has a name relating to north-eastern Gaul (Castrum Divitia; modern Deutz in Cologne), but from inscriptional evidence is known to have participated in Constantine I's campaign in Italy in 312; Constantine's capital was Augusta Treverorum (i.e. modern Trier), less than 200 km south of Castrum Divitia.

Thus is appears both the Divitenses and its sister unit the Tungricani originated as detachments of legions of Constantine I at some point between 310 (when Castrum Divitia was being established) and 312 (when Constantine invaded Italy). The legion stationed closest to the Civitas Tungrorum at the time was Legio XXX Ulpia Traiana, with its main base at Xanten in Westphalia, Germany. Other legions stationed in the general region at the time were Legio I Minervia, with its main base being at Bonna (modern Bonn); Legio VIII Augusta, with its main base being at Argentoratum (modern Strasbourg), and which is known to have to have had a detachment stationed as Divitia at some point in the 4th century; and Legio XXII Primigenia, with its main base being at Mogontiacum (modern Mainz), and which is also know to have to have had a detachment stationed as Divitia. The last-mentioned is particularly likely, because the tile stamps from Deutz attesting the legion have LEG XXII CV and not something like LEG XXII P for "Primigenia". This has been interpreted to mean Legio XXII Constantiana Victrix (see Limes XX: Estudios sobre la frontera romana (Roman frontier studies): 3, Anejos de Gladius 13, 2009, at p 753). Since the legion is apparently not attested after Constantine I, who was singularly victorious, and thus not somebody who lost legions, the unit must have acquired a new name in the meantime: Tungricani fits the circumstances most conveniently.

Inscriptional evidence (CIL 13.5190, photo here) for the Tungricani seniores comes from Laupersdorf in northern Switzerland in the form of a building block built by the TUNGREC[...]RUM SENIO[...]; i.e. the "Tongrec(anor)rum senior(rum)".


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