The Pacatianenses

This page created 2 August 2014, and last modified: 14 September 2015 (Maier reference numbers added)


The seventh of the legiones comitatenses units listed (98/9.104 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is called the Pacatianenses; it is assigned (102/5.106) to the command of the Comes Illyricum. Its shield pattern (95#18), as found in various manuscripts under the matching label (95.s) Pacatianenses, is shown below:

Shield patterns

Disclaimer: Remember, a lot of what comes below is speculation. Hopefully informed speculation, but speculation nonetheless. Comments welcome! (lukeuedasarson "at"

The pattern shows an indigo boss (faded to pink in M, and white in W), encircled by a white band. The shield's rim is red, and the main field is divided into six equal sectors, alternating indigo and red, except in B, where two of the red sectors are much thinner, and in W, where the 6 sectors are white, indigo, red, white,indigo, red. Such 3+3 sector patterns are also ascribed to three other western legionary units: the Moesiaci seniores (98/9.26), the Armigeri propugnatores iuniores (98/9.32), and the Mattiarii iuniores (98/9.106).

The name Pacatianenses could derive from several possible sources. Pacis means "peace" in Latin, and while calling a military unit "peaceful" would be perhaps somewhat ironic, it stands in a long of examples; more modern ones include the "Peacemaker" revolver and the "Peacekeeper" intercontinental ballistic missile. More to the point, the Notitia has the Prima Flavia Pacis (98/9.123, another unit of legiones comitatenses listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster. But it should be borne in mind that "pacis" also means "treaty", and "reconciliation". Given the numerous civil wars that were fought over the course of the 4th century, giving a formerly hostile unit a name meaning "reconciliation" upon defeating them would make a certain amount of sense. However, Pacatianenses is somewhat of a grammatical stretch from pacis...

Given the grammar, a more likely origin is the locality Pacatiana in Africa: the Comes Tingitaniae is listed as having a Tribunus cohortis Pacatianensis (130.7), stationed at the eponymous Pacatiana, under his command; and it may well be the Pacatianenses had also been stationed there in the not-so-distant past when the Notitia was first compiled. Exactly what Pacatiana corresponds to in modern geography I have been unable to determine; it was presumably somewhere what is now northern Morocco.

Even more probable an origin, however, lies with the city in what is now southern Portugal called Beja: the former Colonia Civitas Pacensis. As a large community, sheer numbers dictate this as a more likely source of recruits than some (currently) unknown African outpost, if the unit was named after a recruiting area rather than a garrison spot. Further, the presence of a Tribunus cohortis secundae Flaviae Pacatianae listed in the Notitia (156/8.45) as being stationed in Spain shows that units not only could be but were named after the place. Of course, the Pacatianenses could easily have originated from a legionary detachment that was once stationed there as opposed to being recruited there; one of the Spanish legions being an obvious candidate, and in particular, Legio VII gemina (156/8.44), stationed at Leon.

Finally, it should be noted that Constantine I's consul of 322 was a certain L. Papius Pacatianus. While it would be unique, as far as I know, for a Roman legion to bear the name of a private (as opposed to imperial) individual, it must be considered as an option, since various non-legionary units were so named after non-imperial individuals (e.g. the Ala Petriana (154.29) under the Dux Britanniarum).


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