This page created 1 April 2014, and last modified: 26 October (Frankfurt fragment image added)
The Ascarii seniores is one of the auxilia palatina units listed in the Magister Peditum infantry roster; it is assigned to the command of the "Comes" Hispenias. Its shield pattern as shown in various manuscripts is as below:
However, it is evident that this is the "wrong" shield pattern; like that of some other western auxilia platina units, it has been shifted from its proper place (or, to be more exact, the label has likely been shifted from its proper place). Rather, the true pattern is that from the next unit in the list, the Ascarii iuniores, as is illustrated below by the various manuscripts:
It is evident that, once this shift has been taken into account, the shield patterns of the Ascarii iuniores and the Ascarii seniores are closely related, as with the shift, it is the Ascarii seniores that takes the pattern labelled as belonging to the Ascarii iuniores while the Ascarii iuniores takes that labelled the Iovii (seniores). A side-by-side comparison on the Paris manuscript shields shows the relationship:
The origins of the name Ascarii are obscure: the only suggestion I have seen is that of Mommsen's back in 1889, deriving the the Greek "askos", meaning "skin, bag, hide", with the implication the unit was skilled in crossing rivers on them. A unit of Ascarii are mentioned by Ammianus (27.2.9) as capturing an Alamannic king, and plundering without orders; when "the" Ascarii were split between seniores and iuniores is unknown, beyond presumably being mid 4th-century.
Other units bearing the name Ascarii in the Nottia, in addition to the Ascarii iuniores mentioned above, are the Auxilia ascarii, a limitanei unit under the Dux Pannoniae secundae ripariensis et Saviae; the Honoriani ascarii seniores, an auxilia palatina unit in the Magister Equitum's Gallic command; the Ascarii seniores, an auxilia palatina unit under the Magister Militum per Illyricum, in the eastern alf of the empire; and the Ascarii iuniores, another auxilia palatina unit under the Magister Militum per Illyricum. It is of course possible that the eastern Ascarii seniores unit is one and the same as the western unit, but if so, the unit must have been assigned a new shield pattern upon transfer, since the patterns recorded for both in the Notitia are not at all similar.
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