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Six Numeri for Honorius
#1
I've been thinking about the six military units sent from the east to reinforce Honorius at Ravenna in 409/10.

The event is described by both Zosimus and Sozomen, and we've discussed it fairly often in this thread, amongst others:


Sozomen 9.8: In 6 arithmoi, about 4,000 soldiers sailed to Ravenna at night from the east.

(ἐν ἓξ ἀριθμοῖς ἀμφὶ τετρακισχίλιοι στρατιῶται νύκτωρ τῇ Ῥαβέννῃ προσέπλευσαν ἐκ τῆς ἀνατολῆς·)

Zosimus 6.8.2: "Just then six tagmata sailed in which had been expected since the time of Stilicho but which had only now arrived from the East in accordance with the alliance; they numbered four thousand*."

(ἓξ τάγματα στρατιωτῶν προσωρμίσθησαν, πάλαι μὲν ἔτι περιόντος Στελίχωνος προσδοκώμενα, τότε δὲ πρὸς συμμαχίαν ἐκ τῆς ἑῴας παραγενόμενα, μυριάδων ἀριθμὸν ὄντα τεσσάρων.)

(*the text says myriads, but as we've discussed elsewhere the word should probably be chiliades - 4000 - which accords with Sozomen)


Both Z's tagmata and S's arithmoi should probably be translated into the latin numeri (units) - so we have six units of soldiers from somewhere in the east (ie the eastern empire), numbering 4000 men in total. I don't mean to get into another discussion about the unit numbers here - suffice to say that each unit, if they were around the same size, probably numbered about 600-700 men. Perhaps there were four of 600 and two of 800... we don't know.

But which units were they? Looking at the eastern army lists in the Notitia Dignitatum, I see that there's a rather anomalous group of six auxilia palatina units under the Magister Militum per Illyricum: the Ascarii Seniores, Ascarii Iuniores, Petulantes Iuniores, Sagittarii Lecti, Invicti Iuniores and Atecotti.

Could these have been the 'six numeri' sent west to help Honorius? If so, what might have happened to them?

Looking at the western Notitia, there's an odd concordance in the list for the Comes Hispanias. His units include the Ascarii Seniores, Ascarii Iuniores, and something called the Invicti Iuniores Britones. Is this a coincidence? The shield designs are different, although the one given for the western Ascarii Iuniores does look quite similar to the one for the (eastern) Petulantes Iuniores - and there's no unit of that name in the west...

Could it be, perhaps, that the six eastern numeri formed the nucleus of the reconstructed western field army that Constantius III led into Gaul, and that the Comes Hispanias Asterius (presumably) led two or perhaps three of these units into Spain in 419 to reconquer it from the Vandals and Alans? (the eastern section of the ND would not, of course, have been updated after c.395, so the units would appear as duplicates).

Interestingly, however, the list for the Comes Hispanias also includes three units which appear to be among those named by Claudian as the force sent to Africa to defeat Gildo in AD398: the Sagittari Nervii, Felices Seniores and Invicti Seniores... [Image: shocked.png]


(P.s. I notice, looking through the notes for Cromwell's Rise and Decline of the Late Roman Field Army, that Dietrich Hoffman (in Das Spätrömische Bewegungsheer, 1969) made the same guess about the six auxilia from Illyricum!)
Nathan Ross
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#2
It's not impossible, but the Comes Illyricum I'd imagine wouldn't want to have those units permanently removed when all best guesses said at some point Alaric was going to return to his settlement in Illyricum.
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#3
(04-30-2018, 07:33 PM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: the Comes Illyricum I'd imagine wouldn't want to have those units permanently removed

The units were under the command of the Magister Militum per Illyricum, who was - at least in c.399-401 and c.405-407 or thereabouts - Alaric himself! (or that seems to be the situation anyway - it's very confusing...) But perhaps the removal wasn't originally intended to be permanent?

It would be nice to know more about what Zosimus means by 'expected since the time of Stilicho' and 'in accordance with the alliance' - it sounds like this was some long-standing reinforcement deal, maybe connected with the transfer of bits/all of Illyricum from east to west?

It might have been Burns who suggested the arrival of the six units may have been connected to Varanes, Honorius's ex-magister peditum, taking up the consulship in Constantinople that year: presumably he may have been able to hurry on some plan or other that had become stuck in the works...
Nathan Ross
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#4
(04-29-2018, 11:22 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: I've been thinking about the six military units sent from the east to reinforce Honorius at Ravenna in 409/10.
[..]
But which units were they? Looking at the eastern army lists in the Notitia Dignitatum, I see that there's a rather anomalous group of six auxilia palatina units under the Magister Militum per Illyricum: the Ascarii Seniores, Ascarii Iuniores, Petulantes Iuniores, Sagittarii Lecti, Invicti Iuniores and Atecotti.
Could these have been the 'six numeri' sent west to help Honorius? If so, what might have happened to them?

Looking at the western Notitia, there's an odd concordance in the list for the Comes Hispanias. His units include the Ascarii Seniores, Ascarii Iuniores, and something called the Invicti Iuniores Britones. Is this a coincidence? The shield designs are different, although the one given for the western Ascarii Iuniores does look quite similar to the one for the (eastern) Petulantes Iuniores - and there's no unit of that name in the west...
Could it be, perhaps, that the six eastern numeri formed the nucleus of the reconstructed western field army that Constantius III led into Gaul, and that the Comes Hispanias Asterius (presumably) led two or perhaps three of these units into Spain in 419 to reconquer it from the Vandals and Alans? (the eastern section of the ND would not, of course, have been updated after c.395, so the units would appear as duplicates).
Interestingly, however, the list for the Comes Hispanias also includes three units which appear to be among those named by Claudian as the force sent to Africa to defeat Gildo in AD398: the Sagittari Nervii, Felices Seniores and Invicti Seniores... [Image: shocked.png]
(P.s. I notice, looking through the notes for Cromwell's Rise and Decline of the Late Roman Field Army, that Dietrich Hoffman (in Das Spätrömische Bewegungsheer, 1969) made the same guess about the six auxilia from Illyricum!)

I think Hoffmann treated at least some of these units as new ones (such as the Invicti), paid for by the defeat of Gildo.
The eastern Notitia was of indeed out of date by 410, so it's difficult to compare both documents in that sense - we can't tell if these units actually moved from East to West.

I once read an article about a list of units in Spain, independent of the ND, the Epistula Honorii.
One of these two:
Sivan, HS. (1985); 'An unedited letter of the emperor Honorius to the Spanish soldiers', Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, vol. 61, pp. 273—87.
Michael Kulikowski (1998); 'The Epistula Honorii, Again', Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, vol. 122, pp. 247-252, link here

Anyway, the sending of those 4000 men as part of a post-Stilicho treaty is interesting enough. Payment for the death of a threat to Constantinople?
Robert Vermaat
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#5
(05-01-2018, 08:57 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: The eastern Notitia was of indeed out of date by 410

Personally, I suspect the entire Notitia was out of date by 410, and probably had been since before the Frigidus... but the less said about that the better, perhaps!
[Image: wink.png]

(05-01-2018, 08:57 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: the Epistula Honorii.

Yes, I came across that one just a couple of days ago - very interesting. Seniores, Iuniores, 'Speculatores' and 'Britannici' - they certainly sound like genuine units, and if the letter itself is genuine and the presumed date accurate then we have perhaps the last evidence for regular Roman military units in the west...



(05-01-2018, 08:57 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: the sending of those 4000 men as part of a post-Stilicho treaty

Surely Zosimus is implying that the 'alliance' dated to before Stilicho's death, since the troops had been expected 'since his time'? But it's a very vague and hazy reference...
Nathan Ross
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#6
(05-01-2018, 11:09 AM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Personally, I suspect the entire Notitia was out of date by 410, and probably had been since before the Frigidus... but the less said about that the better, perhaps!
[Image: wink.png]

Surely Zosimus is implying that the 'alliance' dated to before Stilicho's death, since the troops had been expected 'since his time'? But it's a very vague and hazy reference...

@ Notitia. Possibly, but some parts may well have been altered between 394 and perhaps 420. Did you get a chance to read Ralf Scharf's book?
@ Alliance. When did Stilicho become a friend of Constantinople? His downfall ocurred because his last invasion, with the help of Alaric himself, could not take place. Any Alliance with Honorius so soon after Stilicho's death reeks of a payoff - Honorius permitted Stilicho to be killed, for the price of aid from the East.
We discussed this before - these 4.000 men could be yet another tipoff that the army of the West had ceased to exist. Sending them to Spain would not be my first choice had I been in Honorius' position.
Robert Vermaat
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THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
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#7
(05-01-2018, 01:00 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: some parts may well have been altered between 394 and perhaps 420. Did you get a chance to read Ralf Scharf's book?

Sadly, as my German is non-existent all I could do with Scharf's book is look at the pictures... [Image: tongue.png]

Certainly there must have been alterations and additions to the ND after 394 - but as I understand it the eastern half is 'frozen' around that point or a little beforehand, and I suspect the western half is a bit of a mess.

During the Frigidus campaign Theodosius took a large army west, and part of it - under Stilicho - apparently never returned east again. At the same time Arbogast and Eugenius presumably took many units from Gaul east to the Julian Alps; how many of them returned?

Six years later Stilicho was scouring the provinces for troops to oppose Alaric and then Radagaisus, even drawing units from Britain and limitanei from the Rhine and Danube, if we can trust Claudian (and so surely most of the Gallic field army too), and still only came up with 30 numeri. How many of them ever returned to their original stations?

All things considered, I believe the western Notitia is a compendium of alterations, charting a changing situation between c.370 and some time in the 420s but not accurately representing any single date.



(05-01-2018, 01:00 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: When did Stilicho become a friend of Constantinople? ... a payoff - Honorius permitted Stilicho to be killed, for the price of aid from the East.

Oh, a conspiracy! Yes, that would make sense... As for Stilicho I'm really not sure, as the whole period 395-408 is extremely baffling...

Presumably whatever 'alliance' was agreed (by eastern PP Anthemius?) was not honoured - because the east knew that Stilicho would just use any troops they gave to him against them! Only with Stilicho's downfall could the arrangement be concluded. But even then it took the east at least 18 months to follow up on it. Seeing how Honorius got on, perhaps, or just letting him sweat for a bit?


(05-01-2018, 01:00 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: yet another tipoff that the army of the West had ceased to exist.

Yes. The western field armies of the 5th century do seem a bit like 'the dog that did not bark in the night'! [Image: wink.png]


(05-01-2018, 01:00 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: Sending them to Spain would not be my first choice had I been in Honorius' position.

I doubt Honorius had much say on what went on!... But yes, that's a good point, whoever was in charge. Still, we seem to have the suggestion in the 'Honorius Letter' that some troops were sent by the central government to 'barbarian infested' Spain. And the ND's Comes Hispanias seems to have quite a powerful little army...

Maybe Flavius Constantius (or somebody) had the very prescient idea that allowing the Vandals to occupy Spain unchallenged was going to get problematic at a later date?
Nathan Ross
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#8
(05-01-2018, 03:09 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: During the Frigidus campaign Theodosius took a large army west, and part of it - under Stilicho - apparently never returned east again. At the same time Arbogast and Eugenius presumably took many units from Gaul east to the Julian Alps; how many of them returned?

All things considered, I believe the western Notitia is a compendium of alterations, charting a changing situation between c.370 and some time in the 420s but not accurately representing any single date.


Yes, it's certain I thing that the Eastern half might represent a single date (c.394) but the Western half shows a number of alterations, doublures and unaltered entries. Which gives us a lot of headaches but also the change to see the residue of units being hauled around!


(05-01-2018, 03:09 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Presumably whatever 'alliance' was agreed (by eastern PP Anthemius?) was not honoured - because the east knew that Stilicho would just use any troops they gave to him against them! Only with Stilicho's downfall could the arrangement be concluded. But even then it took the east at least 18 months to follow up on it. Seeing how Honorius got on, perhaps, or just letting him sweat for a bit?


The only alternative I can think of would be the spring of 408, just after Arcadius' death, when Stilicho was planning to attack Constantine III with the help of Alaric?


(05-01-2018, 03:09 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: I doubt Honorius had much say on what went on!... But yes, that's a good point, whoever was in charge. Still, we seem to have the suggestion in the 'Honorius Letter' that some troops were sent by the central government to 'barbarian infested' Spain. And the ND's Comes Hispanias seems to have quite a powerful little army...

Maybe Flavius Constantius (or somebody) had the very prescient idea that allowing the Vandals to occupy Spain unchallenged was going to get problematic at a later date?


Depend on the timeframe, again.. If Constantine III was already controlling the Provence, how would the troops have reached Spain? And before Constantine rebelled, Stilicho was an enemy of the East I think. Which would perhaps leave Africa as a source of the units?
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#9
(05-02-2018, 07:55 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: also the change to see the residue of units being hauled around!

Yes. I wonder if the various 'numeri' that appear as garrison troops in Gaul and occasionally in Britain might in fact be the residue of former comitatensis units of the field army? There doesn't seem to have been much of a field army left in Gaul after c.400, but presumably Constantius III might have re-mobilised some of the static limitanei units? (I know all this has been debated ad nauseum, by the way - but much of the scholarship is in German!)


(05-02-2018, 07:55 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: the spring of 408, just after Arcadius' death, when Stilicho was planning to attack Constantine III with the help of Alaric?

That would make sense - the threat of an actual usurper taking over the west might have spurred Constantinople to offer some assistance to Honorius... Regular roman armies of the 5th century do seem to have been happier fighting each other than fighting barbarians!


(05-02-2018, 07:55 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: If Constantine III was already controlling the Provence, how would the troops have reached Spain?

I was assuming that the 'Spanish operation' would have been after Constantius III's defeat of Constantine III, the Visigoths' brief occupation of Narbo and the defeat of Jovinus, and the Visigoths' subsequent moves first into Spain and then back into Aquitaine. So between about 416 and 420 or so.

By that time the central Roman authorities would have controlled a broad swathe of territory from northern Italy across the Pyrennes, and with a small mobile army based perhaps in Arles or Narbo they could have exerted control over the Goths to the north-west and the Vandals/Alans in Spain. Or so they hoped, perhaps!
Nathan Ross
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#10
(05-02-2018, 07:55 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: the residue of units being hauled around!

On the same subject of units being hauled around, I checked through the 'soldier' tombstones from the Concordia cemetery to try and work out where their units were supposed to be placed according to the Notitia Dignitatum. Interestingly, all but one were from the west, as you'd expect, but they come from different field armies.

The Mattiaci Seniores, Bracchiati (Seniores, probably?), Batavi Seniores, Mattiaci Iuniores, Heruli Seniores, Ioviani Legion and Equites Bracchiati Seniores are all from the field army of Italy.

The Leones Seniores, Bructeri, Equites Armigeri, Equites Batavi Seniores and Equites Octo Dalmatae are from the field army of Gaul.

The Sagittari Nervil, Fortenses Legion and Equites Scutarii are placed in Spain in the ND, under the Comes Hispanias.

The Iovii Iuniores are supposed to be with the Comes Illyricum.

The numerus equitum catafractariorum and three other units are of unknown origin.

One unit, the auxilia palatina numerus of Hiberi, comes from the eastern command in the ND.

Only one tombstone, of a soldier of the Batavi, has a date - the consulship of Arcadius and Honorius. This would make it either AD394, 396 or 402. Assuming that all these tombstones are from around the same date (which is a stretch, but not impossible), then they might represent western casualties from the battle of Frigidus in 394, or troops from the army assembled by Stilicho to fight Alaric in Greece in 395, having returned west again. More interestingly, perhaps, the third date might suggest that these units were among the 'thirty numeri' that Stilicho assembled for the battle of Pollentia in 402: his army would presumably have tracked Alaric's Goths back eastward after that battle, and he could well have based himself at Concordia or around Aquileia once they had crossed back into Pannonia.

Whatever the date, though, this appears to be concrete evidence that the various field army dispositions listed in the western Notia had become completely confused by the turn of the 4th-5th century!

(I don't know whether Dietrich Hoffman has any points to make about this - I scanned through his Die spätrömischen Soldatengrabschriften von Concordia on Luke Ueda-Sarsen's site link, but once again the text defeats me!)
Nathan Ross
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#11
(05-02-2018, 10:42 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: (I don't know whether Dietrich Hoffman has any points to make about this - I scanned through his Die spätrömischen Soldatengrabschriften von Concordia on Luke Ueda-Sarsen's site link, but once again the text defeats me!)


Hoffmann dates Concordia to the 6 months after Frigidus: Fall 394 to Spring 395.
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#12
(05-03-2018, 09:44 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: Hoffmann dates Concordia to the 6 months after Frigidus

Thanks Robert! Does he give any particular reason for the estimated date, do you know?

Of the three possible dates (for the one dated inscription!) it seems the least likely - a western soldier dating his death by the eastern consuls might be acceptable after the battle I suppose, but also Theodosius and Stilicho were in Milan by late 394-Jan 395, and presumably their comitatus field army would have gone with them. Not exactly critical, but it weighs in the balance...

(I realise that this would make it perhaps less likely that the six auxilia units I mentioned in my original post were likely to be where the ND says they were in c.410 - but they might still have been kept together as a sort of 'battle group', wherever they had ended up!)
Nathan Ross
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#13
(05-02-2018, 10:59 AM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Yes. I wonder if the various 'numeri' that appear as garrison troops in Gaul and occasionally in Britain might in fact be the residue of former comitatensis units of the field army? There doesn't seem to have been much of a field army left in Gaul after c.400, but presumably Constantius III might have re-mobilised some of the static limitanei units? (I know all this has been debated ad nauseum, by the way - but much of the scholarship is in German!)


Indeed, all those 'new' units named after town (Divitenses, etc.) enter the field armies after the recovery of Gaul between Julian and Valentinian I think? That's an interesting discussion. were all the limitanei units indeed defeated and wiped away during the disastrous period on 352-355, and were new units afterwards created from scratch, from town guards, or perhaps from dispersed remnants?
In my current study of Mr Lepontius I came across the same problem - was Legio VIII in Strasbourg wiped out and were the Octavani a new unit based on their heritage? Or were they the remnants of the old legion, perhaps split up in detachments long before? The Vesontes (Besancon) have the same shield design as the Octavani and could be a detachment, later named after the town they defended and ultimately ending up in the field army.

Which is why, at the moment, I'm leaning towards detachments of former legions, defending towns in inner Gaul after the enemy broke through the limes at some points.
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#14
(05-03-2018, 10:00 AM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Does he give any particular reason for the estimated date, do you know?

Of the three possible dates (for the one dated inscription!) it seems the least likely - a western soldier dating his death by the eastern consuls might be acceptable after the battle I suppose, but also Theodosius and Stilicho were in Milan by late 394-Jan 395, and presumably their comitatus field army would have gone with them. Not exactly critical, but it weighs in the balance...


Hoffmann dates this entire cemetary to the presence of the united armies of East and West, before they marched east again under Stilicho in January. That would fit with the 394 consular date as well with the Eastern consuls.

Hoffmann, Die spätrömischen Soldatengrabschriften von Concordia, p.26:

"At Concordia Cemetery, a series of indications suggest that the unit inscriptions were not distributed over a number of years or even decades, but probably originated all in the short period between autumn 394 and spring 395, ie in the first 6 months after the Battle of Frigidus [(about 30 km north of Trieste) on 5-6 September 394, where the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius I defeated the usurpers Eugenius and the army of the Western Empire lead by Arbogast], and the departure of the new Western Roman generalissimo of Theodosius' Grace, Stilicho, the following spring, after the death of the emperor in Milan on January 17 395, at the head of the two united imperial armies to the East to take control of the government in Constantinople.
The epitaphs of Concordia are thus likely to show the mere temporary residence of a large army detachment in Venetia, composed of the Eastern and Western troops, as they had been sent Theodosius to the winter camp after reconciliation with the defeated Western Army."

Beim Friedhof von Concordia läßt nun eine Reihe von Anzeichen darauf schliessen, daß die Truppeninschriften sich nicht etwa auf längere Jahre oder gar Jahrzehnte verteilen, sondern wahrscheinlich allesamt in den kurzen Zeitraum zwischen Herbstanfang 394 und Frühjahr 395 fallen, das heißt in das Halbjahr nach der Schlacht am Frigidus (etwa 30 km nördlich von Triest) vom 5./6. September
394, wo der oströmische Kaiser Theodosius I. die von den Usurpatoren Eugenius und Arbogast geführte Armee des Westreichs schlug, und dem Aufbruch des neuen weströmischen Generalissimus von Theodosius' Gnaden, Stilicho, der sich im folgenden Frühjahr, nachdem der Kaiser am 17. Januar 395 in Mailand gestorben war, an der Spitze der beiden vereinigten Reichsarmeen nach Osten
wandte, um auch die Regierung in Konstantinopel in seine Hände zu bekommen.
Die Grabschriften von Concordia dürften mithin vom bloß vorübergehenden Aufenthalt einer größeren, aus Ost- und Westtruppen zusammengesetzten Heeresabteilung in Venezien zeugen, wie sie Theodosius nach der Versöhnung mit der besiegten Westarmee ins Winterlager eingewiesen hat.


(apologies for the lengthy flowery sentence, the tekst is translated from German and over half a century old).
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#15
(05-03-2018, 10:19 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: were all the limitanei units indeed defeated and wiped away during the disastrous period on 352-355, and were new units afterwards created from scratch, from town guards, or perhaps from dispersed remnants?

I'm tending towards the idea that the Notitia Dignitatum was first drafted in c.AD370, and records the situation during the dual east/west rule of Valentinian I and Valens, with an approximate balance of forces in the two halves of the empire. Northern Britain would be out of date already by that point, still in chaos after the so-called 'barbarian conspiracy'.

This situation, I would think, remained roughly similar for a few decades after that - there would have been units moved to Africa against Firmus, others lost at Adrianople, maybe frontier units mobilised to plug the gaps, other new ones raised from Goths and other 'barbarians', and Magnus Maximus probably brought a lot of the Gallic army west in 388, before Arbogast took them back to Gaul again... But the (partially?) updated ND of AD390-4 probably would have resembled the ND of twenty years earlier pretty closely.

After that, though... I doubt we can trust it all that much. If Stilicho was pulling limitanei off the Rhine (entirely, according to Claudian!) then there wasn't a field army in Gaul he could have drawn upon - and the Rhine invasion of AD406 appears to have been completely unchallenged by any Roman forces.

Presumably there was still a field army of some sort in Britain, as Constantine III brought his 'celtic legions' (or whatever Zosimus actually calls them) across to Gaul and rapidly took control of the entire west...


(05-03-2018, 10:19 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: was Legio VIII in Strasbourg wiped out and were the Octavani a new unit based on their heritage?... The Vesontes (Besancon) have the same shield design... and ultimately ending up in the field army.

I would guess that the Octavani were the original mobile detachment of VIII Augusta, perhaps dating back to Constantine or even Diocletian. After the limitanei were withdrawn from the Rhine in c.401 whatever was left of the original legion might have ended up garrisoning Vesontio - or, as you say, the palatine legion might have ended up there. Interesting that the Vesontes ended up in Spain as well - they could have been 're-mobilised' by Constantius III in c.412, or taken across the Pyrennes by Asterius in 419 or the Magister Militum Castinus in 422 - if the Notitia was still being updated that late!

I'm just reading Oost's Galla Placidia Augusta, and he mentions that one Exuperantius, presumably one of Constantius's generals, apparently reconquered Armorica in 415-416. So perhaps there was quite a vigorous, if small, 'Gallic Field Army 2.0' (probably made up of former garrison troops) in existence around that time!



(05-03-2018, 12:13 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: the tekst is translated from German and over half a century old).

Thanks!

I still think the later date of 402 is as least as likely as 394, but there's no way of telling... I also suspect Stilicho would have wanted to keep all the field army units he could get his hands on together in one place, to counter the east and/or Alaric - so this mixed-up array of troops could have stayed together for several years anyway.
Nathan Ross
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