This page created 6 April 2014, and last modified: 19 July 2015 (Maier reference numbers added)
The Balistarii seniores is listed (15.20 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as the fifth of the nine legiones comitatenses under the Magister Militum per Orientem. Its shield pattern (14#2), as shown in various manuscripts under the matching label (14.b) Balistarii seniores, is as below:
The shield pattern has a yellow boss encircled with a blue band, a red rim (white in M), a white main field (yellow in M), and an 8-pointed "Macedonian star" in the 12 o'clock position (6-pointed in B). It is thus clearly related to other units under the command of the Magister Militum per Orientem, as a side-by-side comparison of the Paris manuscript shields shows:
The Balistarii seniores would thus appear to be either a detachment of the Prima Flavia Constantia (15.21), or a balistarii unit that was brigaded with it and given a similar shield pattern to help integrate the two. Zosimus (IV.30-31) records Theodosius mixing up northern troops with the Egyptian garrisons both in Egypt and in Macedon/Thrace, which was currently being devastated by the Goths, it seems these units gained their shield patterns in his reign (from 379 to 395).
The fact that the pattern of the Balistarii seniores is differentiated from the that of the Legio Prima Flavia Constantia purely by the addition of a small 8-pointed star, the primary symbol of Macedonia, is very suggestive that this unit gained its shield pattern in Macedonia. Accordingly, these shield patterns should be dated to very early in Theodosius' reign, when the Egyptian units arrived in the Balkans; at some later time the Balistarii seniores was moved east, to join what became the command of the Magister Militum per Orientem, which, contrary to Zosimus' statements (IV.27), most scholars agree (see Burns, page 313, note 49, and pages 98-100) cannot have been formed until 386 at the earliest. That the Balistarii seniores is ranked immediately above the Legio prima Flavia Constantia is interesting; this may imply it is not a simple detachment.
Potential inscriptional evidence (AE 1808,178) for the Balistarii seniores comes from Kherson in the Crimea, from an inscription from the reign of Valentinina I (367-375) mentioning a S T V BAL[... ...]; the "BAL" part of which has been seen as a reference to the Balistarii seniores (e.g. by Roger Tomlin, Seniores-Iuniores in the Late-Roman Field Army (1972), at p 272, available here). However, given one of the largest cities in the Crimea in the 4th century was none other than Theodosia (modern Feodosia), I suspect that this might instead refer to the Balistarii Theodosiaci (15.34), which might have been stationed there, as opposed to being a reference to Theodosius I.
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