The Moesiaci seniores

This page created 2 May 2014, and last modified: 31 December 2015 (CIL 5.1699 reference added)


The Moesiaci seniores is the sixth of the legiones palatinae listed (98/9.26 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned (102/5.59) to his Italian command. Its shield pattern (92#7) as shown in various manuscripts, under the label (92.g) Moesiciaci (except in the Froben edition: Moesiaci), 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 shield pattern has a red rim with a thinner yellow band inside. The boss is blue (O, P), white (B), or quartered (white in M, blue and white (?) in W), and is itself encircled by a blue (O, P, M) or white (W, B) band. The main ground is divided radially into 3 large red sectors alternating with three smaller white sectors (reversed in M, and W instead alternates red, white, and blue). Similar 3+3 sector patterns are shown by the western legionary units the Armigeri propugnatores iuniores (98/9.32), the Pacatianenses (98/9.104), and the Mattiarii iuniores (98/9.106), all of which are western legionary units.

The name Moesiaci refers to the two Moesiae provinces. Presumably the original Moesiaci members were recruited from there or had been stationed there at some point (when the Moesiaci seniores was differentiated from a presumed Moesiaci iuniores, which is not recorded in the Notitia, is unknown, but see 5 below).

As the previous legion (98/9.25) in the Magister Peditum's roster is the Pannoniciani seniores, this means they may well have been brigaded together with the Moesiaci seniores, and indeed, many have seen Ammianus' mention of "obviam legiones motae sunt duae, Pannonica et Moesiaca" as conformation of such a brigading. But as David Woods says, there

"are several objections to this identification. The first must be that their titles do not actually match [whereas] Ammianus records the names of other palatine legions in the exact form that they have been preserved by the Notitia [...] Finally, it must strike one as a remarkable coincidence that the first two palatine legions to arrive in response to attacks upon the Pannonias and Moesia Prima should have been named after those very regions".
Thus it is likely Ammianus is here simply referring to two of the limitanei units then stationed in the Pannonica and Moesia rather than legions named after the regions. For example, the Notitia lists both Legio IIII Flavia (78.20) and Legio VII Claudia (78.21) as being stationed in Moesia I. But it is not even sure Ammianus' usage of the word "legiones" means legionary units, as opposed to auxiliary, as he also calls the undoubtably auxila palatina units the Iovii and the Victores "legions". Note that Ammianus does mention (20.1.3) at one point "numerisque Moesiacorum duobus" i.e. "two units of Moesiaci"; they accompany the Heruli and the Batavi in crossing the Channel over to Britain. These might be seen as two detachments of a single Moesiaci legion (perhaps of old-style cohort size), but note that the Dux Moesiae secundae commands two auxiliary units called the Moesiaci: the Milites primi Moesiaci (76.15), headquartered at Candidiana, and the Milites Moesiaci (76.16), at Teglicio.
In any case, it should be noted that inscriptional evidence gives the name Moesiaci to Legio I Italica, e.g. a Tetrarchic-period inscription (SEG 31:1116 = AE 1981,777) from Kotiaeion (Kütahya in Turkey) giving (in Greek) Legio I Italica "Moesiatika", so it is this legion, founded by Nero in the 1st century, that would appear to be the progenitor of the Moesiaci seniores (in the Notitia, detachments of Legio I Italica are still found garrisoning Moesia II (76.21-23), along with Legio XI Claudia). Another example (CIL 6.2759 = ILS 2045), found in Rome and dated to the end of the 3rd/start of the 4th century, gives a soldier who had had served in the 10th Praetorian cohort; he initially had served in what is simply given as the LEGIONE MESIACA for five years, and in the LANCIARII for eleven.

A number of pieces of inscriptional evidence for legionaries from Moesia have been found at Aquileia, where the emperor Maximianus was based at the end of the 3rd century. This detachment was apparently inherited by his son, Maxentius, and thus fought against Constantine, who appears to have posted the unit to Metz in Gaul (Roman Divodurum Mediomatricorum / Mettis), as an inscription from there (CIL 13.4328) attests to a NUMERO MISIACORUM, but it seems to have found its way back to Aquileia by the time Constantius II consolidated his hold on northern Italy in 352. An exemplary inscription from Aquileia is CIL 5.1699 (photo here), giving NUMERO MISACORUM; another is CIL 5.914 (photo here), giving LEG PR IT MOES.

In this regard, of great interest is the picture shown below, showing a grafito from Aquileia (AE 1982, 383) dated by the inscription to 352. It depicts a man from Moesia, or, to be more exact, from Dardania, which was separated from Moesia Superior in Diocletian's reorganisation of the provinces (i.e. after the man's birth); the remnant was then called Moesia Prima. The deceased is shown in three stages of his life; after leaving Moesia he appears to have served in the Protectores (Imperial bodyguards) for five years. His shield pattern would appear to be the same as that of the Moesiaci seniores.

AE 1983, 383

AE 1982, 383; image courtesy of M.P. Speidel.

References and notes:

1. Maier, Ingo; "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. "Ammianus" (Ammianus Marcellinus); "Res gestae a fine Corneli Taciti"; 29.6.13, available here in Latin and here in English translation (last accessed 31 December 2015). Return

3. Woods, David; "Theodosius I (379-395 A.D.)", at note 8; last accessed 31 December 2015. Return

4. Speidel, M.P.; "The Army at Aquileia, the Moesiaci Legion, and the Shield-Emblems in the Notitia Dignitatum", Roman Army Studies II, Stuttgart 1992, pp 414-418. Return

5. E.A. Mehamadiev connects the introduction of the iuniores-seniores to the problem of replacing the casualties inflicted in the heavy fighting between Magnentius and Constantius II, and links it with the concerns expressed in the de Rebus Bellicis. See Mehamadiev, E.A.; "Anonymus de Rebus Bellicis and Latin inscriptions from Aquileia: the question of the formation and development divisions seniores-iuniores late Roman army in the 4th C"; in Mnemon, Research and publications on the history of the Ancient World; Ed. E.D. Frolova; Issue 13 (2013); pp 277-291, available here (in Russian; last accessed 31 December 2015).


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