This page created 7 April 2014, and last modified: 25 July 2015 (Maier reference numbers added)
The Balistarii Dafnenses is listed (18.24 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as the thirteenth of the legiones comitatenses under the Magister Militum per Thracias. Its shield pattern (17#8) as shown in various manuscripts, under the matching label (17.h) Balistarii Dafnenses, is as below:
The shield pattern has a fair degree of colour variation between the various surviving manuscripts. All agree in giving it a red main field. The boss is yellow (white in B) surrounded by a white band (green in B, absent in M), and, outwards of this, a further yellow band (which is actually yellow in B, and not green). The shield's outer rim is green (yellow in M, white in W), with a yellow inner rim (white in P, M). A star radiates from the outer boss; it has 7 (O, P) or 8 (M, W, B) points, and is white (O, P, M), faded blue-green (W) or yellow (B).
The unit's name appears to be taken from Dafne, a fort that has not yet been identified archaeologically, unlike many others in Roman Thrace, possibly because it has been swallowed by the shifting course of the Danube. The fortress was on the north bank of the Danube, and it is from there that Valens attacked the Goths in 367 (Ammianus 27.5.2); its full name may have been Constantiana Daphne, since it was Constantine I who established the fortification in the late 320s (Procopius, de Aedificiis, 4.7.7, who states it was built opposite "Trasmariskas" (Transmarisca, modern Tutrakan in Bulgaria), and thus in the vicinity of Oltenita in Romania. The Balistarii Dafnenses was presumably stationed there before joining the command of the Magister Militum per Thracias. The name Dafnenses is shared with the previous unit under the same commander: the Constantini Dafnenses (18.23), which presumably also come from the same place.
However, unlike the shield patterns of the balistarii under the Magister Militum per Orientem, the pattern of the Balistarii Dafnenses does not bear a close resemblance to another legionary unit under the same command, and especially not that of the Constantini Dafnenses. Its seven-fold symmetry (at least as in O, P) is unusual, and is shared with just three other infantry units, all in the eastern half of the empire: the Tertia Diocletiana Thebaeorum (18.15) and the Solenses seniores (18.12), both also under the Magister Militum per Thracias, and the Martii, under the Magister Militum per Illyricum (21.16), as the following patterns from the Paris manuscript show:
Of these, it is clearly most similar to that of the Martii. One might postulate the Balistarii Dafnenses originated as a detachment of the Martii, or were brigaded with them at one point, but have become separated after being posted to different commands.
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