The Armigeri propognatores seniores

This page created 15 June 2014, and last modified: 10 October 2015 (name derivation commentary updated)


The Armigeri propugnatores seniores is listed (98/9.27 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as the seventh of the 12 legiones palatinae in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned (102/5.194) to the Comes Africae. Its shield pattern (92#8) as shown in various manuscripts, under the label (92.h) Armigeri seniores, 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 shield pattern has a yellow rim, and red boss (with maroon centre in P; white in M, B) edged in yellow (white in M). The main ground is white, with four broad (narrower and with concave sides in B) green spokes (yellow in M, blue in W) in a saltire arrangement rather than a vertical cross; no other pattern has four such spokes at such an angle.

Armigeri has a broad meaning of "one who is equipped, especially for war", and probably implying armoured in particular. It is of course entirely possible that the men of this legion were particularly well armoured (at least, at the time they were formed); but another explanation could be that they earned the description as a nickname or badge of merit: see here for more details on armigeri. Propugnatores means "defenders" or "champions"; other units in the Notitia so-named are the Propugnatores seniores (102/5.183), a legio comitatenses assigned to the "Comes" Hispenias; the Propugnatores iuniores (102/5.108), a legio comitatenses assigned to the Comes Illyricum; and the Armigeri propugnatores iuniores (98/9.032), another legio palatina assigned to the Comes Africae. When the Armigeri propugnatores was split between seniores and iuniores divisions is unknown.

The position of the Armigeri propugnatores seniores in the list of the units assigned to the Comes Africae (102/5.192ff) seems to indicate that it was a comitatenses unit when the Notitia was first drawn up (since it there comes after the command's sole auxilia palatina unit, and not before), but was later promoted to the palatine status it is recorded having in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster. Six of the 12 palatine legions in the western empire appear to be such recently upgraded units judging by their anomalous positioning in the lists of the field commands they are assigned to. This is somewhat surprising, because their positioning in the illustrations section correctly corresponds to their position in the Magister Peditum's roster, and illustrations cannot be updated as easily as text. It may be that the list of the Comes Africae was drawn up quite some time before the list of the Magister Peditum was drawn up, but then we would be left with the problem that the list of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command, which also contains a misplaced legio palatina, seems to bear the hall marks of being modified even more recently than that of the Magister Peditum. This would imply that when the Gallic list was modified, it was not replaced in toto, but amendments were, at least in some cases, appended to it, in the manner of the US Constitution.

Possible inscriptional evidence for the Armigeri propugnatores seniores comes from the cemetery at Colonia Iulia Concordia (modern Portogruaro in Veneto, Italy), which produced an inscription (CIL 5, 8747) mentioning a NUMERO ARMIGERORUM; see here for Hoffmann's 1963 analysis (in German). Of course, this could well refer to one of the other Armigeri units mentioned in the Notitia, or even an Armigeri unit that is not mentioned in the Notitia, such as the unattested Armigeri defensores iuniores.

Since the names armigeri and propugnatores are rather generic, they give little clue as to which established legion, if any, may have given rise to the unit. Nonetheless, for reasons discussed under the under the Propugnatores seniores, the unit may well derive from a detachment of Legio I Minervia, long stationed at Bonna (modern Bonn in Germany), and which was overrun by the Franks in the early 350s.


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