This page created 24 August 2014, and last modified: 7 December 2015 (references rearranged)
The Equites sagittarii Parthi seniores is listed (102/5.27 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as 15th of the 32 vexillationes comitatenses in the Magister Equitum's cavalry roster; it is assigned (102/5.237) to the Comes Africae as the Equites Panthosagittarii seniores. Its shield pattern (101#5) as shown in various manuscripts, under the label (101.e) Parthi seniores, is as below:
The pattern shows a red rim (white in P, yellow in B), and working inwards, a narrow yellow band, a broad blue band, another narrow yellow band (light green in W), a broad red band (green in O), and a boss quartered white and green (O), yellow and blue (M), or white and white (P, W, B).
The name sagittarii implies (but does not establish) the unit was bow-armed; while Parthi refers to the Parthian people, renowned horse archers, but who had been replaced by the Sassanid Persians as Rome's main opponents in the east in the 3rd century. The unit may originally have been recruited from Parthians, but note that the legions named Parthica were so-named in the late 2nd century in anticipation of fighting the Parthians! An alternative explanation, although less likely, is that the unit was particularly skilled in the "Parthian shot" - the ability to shoot to the rear while riding away from the enemy.
Also assigned to the Comes Africae is the Equites sagittarii Parthi iuniores (102/5.32); its shield pattern is completely different; rather, that of Equites sagittarii Parthi seniores more resembles that of the Equites quarto sagittarii (102/5.31), also under the Comes Africae, as the following patterns taken from the Bodleian manuscript show:
In addition to the Equites sagittarii Parthi iuniores / seniores, other units in the Notitia bearing the Parthian name are:
Ala prima Parthorum (67.16), a limitanei ala under the Dux Osrhoenae
Legio prima Parthica Nisibena (69.10), a limitanei legion under the Dux Mesopotamiae
Legio secunda Parthica (69.11), another limitanei legion under the Dux Mesopotamiae
Quarta Parthica (67.11), a limitanei legion under the Dux Osrhoenae
Sexta Parthica (15.32), a pseudocomitatenses legion under the Magister Militum per Orientem
Equites primi clibanarii Parthi (9.15), one of the vexillationes comitatenses under the Magister Militum Praesentalis I
Equites secundi clibanarii Parthi (12.14), one of the vexillationes comitatenses under the Magister Militum Praesentalis II
Equites quarti clibanarii Parthi (15.10), one of the vexillationes comitatenses under the Magister Militum per Orientem
A vexillatio Parthusagittariorum was stationed in Egypt in the first half of the 4th century (latest attestation: 340-2); this unit would appear to be either the parent unit of the Equites sagittarii Parthi iuniores / seniores, or a detachment thereof; when the parent unit was split between seniores and iuniores units is unknown.
1. Ingo Maier; "Appendix 4: Numeration of the new edition of the compilation 'notitia dignitatum' (Cnd)"; last accessed 26 October 2015. See also for here for numbering examples. Return
2. A.M.Kaiser; "Egyptian Units and the reliability of the Notitia dignitatum, pars Oriens"; Imperium and Officium Working Papers (2014); available here, at p 6 and note 32 (last accessed 6 December 2015). Return
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