The Iulia Alexandria

This page created 13 September 2014, and last modified: 26 July 2015 (Maier reference numbers added)


The 18th of the units under the heading "legiones comitatenses" (18.11 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) in the section of the Magister Militum per Thracias is listed (18.29) as the Iulia Alexandria. Its shield pattern (17#13) as shown in various manuscripts, under the matching label (17.n) Iulia Alexandria, 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 main ground of the pattern is yellow, and is bordered by a blue band (white in W), which is in turn bordered by the shield's rim, which is red. The boss is yellow, and is encircled by a green band (blue in W, and faded to yellow in M); radiating out from this band are 8 (11 in W) somewhat plant-like motifs in blue (yellow in M, and absent in B). Only two other units are illustrated in the Notitia with such a motif: the Septima gemina (15.18) and the Decima gemina (15.19); adjacent units listed in the Magister Militum per Orientem's command, as can be seen below from the following patterns taken from the Paris manuscript:

Shield patterns

The name Iulia Alexandria suggests the unit was raised by the emperor Severus Alexander (whose powerful mother was named Julia) early in the 3rd century. Since the Septima gemina and the Decima gemina appear to be a brigaded pair of units, and sharing similar shield patterns, it may have the Iulia Alexandria received its pattern as recorded in the Notitia at the same time as the Septima gemina and the Decima gemina got theirs, and that a fourth unit, formerly brigaded with the Iulia Alexandria, was created at the same time, but has been lost or given a new shield pattern in the interim.

Four other units bear the name Iulia in the Notitia: the three western legions the Prima Iulia Alpina (98/9.131), the Secunda Iulia Alpina (98/9.132), and the Tertia Iulia Alpina (98/9.122); and the Prima Iulia lectorum (63.26), a (presumably auxiliary) cohort under the Dux Foenicis. The first three would all appear to have taken their names from the Julian Alps, while the fourth could have be named for almost anything, since Iulia/Iulius was not only a common Roman name, but many localities were named after famous people carrying the name. No other units appear to have been named Alexandria, however.


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