The Ampsivarii

This page created 23 September 2014, and last modified: 28 October (Frankfurt fragment image added) Spear

In the western half of the empire, one of the auxilia palatina units listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is called the Ampsivarii; it is assigned to the Magister Equitum's Gallic command. Its shield pattern in various manuscripts is as shown below:

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 features a red rim and a white main field (green in W). The boss is red with a somewhat cone-shaped red pillar beneath it. In O, P, and possibly Ff, the boss has a smaller central disc, also in red; M has the same but in white. The boss and pillar are together edged in white. The keyhole-shaped boss and pillar motif is relatively common in the Notitia, with over a dozen other examples, the great majority being auxilia palatina units. Nonetheless, 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 Ampsivarii is tribal: it comes from a German tribe that was active in the 1st century, and whose name is connected with the river Ems; they appear to have become part of the Frankish peoples along with their neighbours, the Bructeri, which also have a unit of auxilia palatina named after them; it too is listed as serving in the Magister Equitum's Gallic command. Indeed, in both the list detailing the Gallic command and the Magister Peditum's infantry roster, the Bructeri are listed immediately above the Ampsivarii; they may well have been brigaded together in the field.


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