The Valentinianenses

This page created 9 September 2014, and last modified: 26 July 2015 (Maier reference numbers added)


The 20th and last of the units listed (18.31 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) under the heading (18.11) "legiones comitatenses" in the section of the Magister Militum per Thracias is the Valentinianenses. Its shield pattern (17#15) as shown in various manuscripts, under the matching label (17.p) Valentinianenses, 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 has a yellow main ground, and a green rim (faded to yellow in M, and absent in W). Two motifs adorn the main field. The first is a debased version of the twin-headed zoomorphic motif that is extremely common in the Notitia, especially amongst auxilia palatina: the version borne by the Valentinianenses lacks the the "heads", as do those of the several senior auxilia palatina units in the west, such as the Cornuti seniores (98/9.34), the Brachiati seniores (98/9.35), and the Petulantes seniores (98/9.36). Its colour is a greyish-blue (but white in P, W). The second motif is the forequarters of two canids, facing away from each other, each side of the pillar supporting the horned motif; they too are rendered in greyish-blue (but paler than the pillar in the case of M). Such twinned animals flanking a pillar are found in several other shield patterns in the Notitia, such as the Prima Flavia Theodosiana (15.24) and the Tervingi (12.35). Only the Valentinianenses combines the two, however.

Although the Valentinianenses is the last of the units listed under the command of the Magister Militum per Thracias, it is not the last illustrated as such; that honour belongs to the Gratianenses, whose pattern is illustrated (14#16) and labelled (14.q) after that of the Valentinianenses, and whose omission from the Magister's list (18.30.1) is perhaps inadvertent, since, as Jones says (page 348), the Gratianenses would appear to be one of three related units: the Augustenses (referring to the eastern Augustus, Valens), the Valentinianenses (after his elder brother Valentinian I, the western Augustus), and the Gratianenses (after Valentinian I's son Gratian, the Caesar), raised and serving together; it is always a possibility, however the units were merely "rebranded" with new names rather than being newly raised. The shield patterns of the three units, despite their related names and being in the same command, are not at all similar, as a comparison of the following patterns taken from the Parisian manuscript shows:

Shield patterns
Thus one should be wary of expecting every clearly "related" unit to have a related shield pattern.

Although the number of units named after Valentinian I in the Notitia is not huge (less than a dozen), they certainly outnumber those named after his brother Valens, who appears to have just a single unit directly and clearly named after him: the Tertii sagittarii Valentis (9.31, but see my discussion of the Sagittarii dominici, 12.30; and see also the Secunda Felix Valentis Thebaeorum, 15.23).

Since all the infantry units listed under the Magister Militum per Thracias come under the heading (18.11) "legiones comitatenses", one would expect the Valentianenses to also be a legionary unit; however, this would make the Thracian field force unique in being the only one without any auxilia palatina units, or pseudocomitenses auxilia units for that matter. However, all may not be what it seems. In the Magister Militum per Orientem's list, the two auxilia palatina units there are not actually listed separately as such, but appear under the heading (15.2) "Vexillationes comitatenses", i.e. as cavalry units. Further, the pseudocomitatenses units are also enumerated differently in most manuscripts from what is actually listed. Thus a similar situation may well apply to the Magister Militum per Thracias.

In favour of this, I would posit the Augustenses, the Valentinianenses, and the Gratianenses were actually auxilia units: their names to me resemble those of auxilia (especially auxilia palatina) units more than they do legionary units: note in particular the auxiliary palatina unit the Valentianenses iuniores (98/9.65) in the west. A further indication of auxiliary status is the twin-headed (pseudo-) zoomorphic device of the Valentinianenses, which, counting both headless and non-headless variants, is carried by 15 units, of which none are legionary, save the potential example of the Valentinianenses. Perhaps these three units, raised together, were added as an illustrated block at the end of the list for simplicity rather than being inserted in the usual place for auxilia palatina (i.e. before the legiones comintatenses), since that would require rewriting (and redrawing) the document. Alternatively, they may simply had not been given auxilia palatina status, and instead have been pseudocomitatenses auxiliary units, in which case they would be correctly positioned, and the only "problem" would be the then relatively minor one of a line labelling them as such (e.g. 18.29.1 "Pseudocomitatenses") being missing. This would also have the added bonus of making the textual omission of the Gratianenses perhaps less surprising. (It may be that the Gratianenses was simply soon removed from the command; this would leave an even number of infantry units, which seems to have been the typical pattern, so as to allow the brigading of units together in pairs.)


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