The Prima Flavia Pacis

This page created 10 June 2014, and last modified: 14 September 2015 (Maier reference numbers added)


The Prima Flavia Pacis is listed (98/9.123 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as 26th of the 32 legiones comitatenses units in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned (102/5.198) to the Comes Africae as the Primani. Its shield pattern (96#16), as shown in various manuscripts under the label (96.q) Prima Flavia Pacis, 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 features a red main ground and what might best be described a a four-spoked indigo wheel (faded to pink in M, W). The wheel's tyre does not reach the shield rim, and while the hub (i.e. the shield's boss) is indicated, it is not differentiated therefrom by colour, except in W and B, where it is red. The spokes are thick, and thicken further toward the hub so that their sides are curved. As a result, it bears little resemblance to any other pattern in the Notitia. In particular, it is different from the two very similarly named units that follow in both the infantry roster - the Secunda Flavia Virtutis (98/9.124) and the Tertia Flavia Salutis (98/9.125), and also that of the Comes Africae (where they are called the Secundani and the Tertiani, respectively), as a comparison of the following patterns taken from the Parisian manuscript show:

Shield patterns

The sequentially ordered names of these three units, plus their adjacent listing in the command lists, indicate that, despite their disparate shield patterns, they are a matching set, either raised at the same time by the same emperor bearing the name Flavius, or perhaps rather than raised, reformed; the most likely candidate is either Constantine I or II.

The Pacis part of the unit's name means "peace", a perhaps somewhat ironic name for a military unit, but one which stands in a long of examples; more modern ones include the "Peacemaker" revolver and the "Peacekeeper" intercontinental ballistic missile. 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...

Other units with similar names to the Prima Flavia Pacis are the Prima Flavia Constantia (15.21), a legiones comitatenses under the command of the Magister Militum per Orientem (seemingly unrelated, as presumably raised by Constantine Chlorus); the Prima Flavia Theodosiana (15.24), another legiones comitatenses under the command of the Magister Militum per Orientem; the Prima Flavia Gallicana Constantia (98/9.138), a pseudocomitatenses unit under the Magister Equitum's Gallic command; the Prima Flavia gemina (18.18), a legiones comitatenses under the Magister Militum per Thracias; the Prima Flavia Metis (98/9.143), another pseudocomitatenses unit under the Magister Equitum's Gallic command; the Prima Flavia Augustae (141.30), a fleet under the Dux Pannoniae secundae; the Prima Flavia Raetorum (147.11), an ala under the Dux Raetiae; the Prima Flavia Sapaudica (156/8.36), a cohort stationed in Gaul, but not part of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command; and the Prima Flavia (59.28), a cohort under the Dux Palaestinae. As can be seen, "the First Flavian..." was a very common title borne by units in the 4th century! Of these, the Prima Flavia gemina has a shield pattern closest to that of the Prima Flavia Pacis, as it features a four-spoked design.

Up to four detachments of Legio prima Flavia pacis might be listed in the Notitia. The first is the men under the Tribunus cohortis Pacatianensis (130.7), stationed at the eponymous Pacatiana, and who is in turn under the command of the Comes Tingitaniae. However, separate cohorts under tribunes are usually auxiliary rather than legionary formations in the Notitia, so this particular case is not particularly persuasive.

The second possible detachment is the men under the Praefectus militum Pacensium (156/8.2), stationed at Saletione (modern Seltz in Alsace, France), and who is in turn under the command of the Dux Mogontiacensis. His men would appear to be legionary troops since he is a Prefect rather than a Tribune. Given this, and the closer similarity in names, this identification must be considered much more likely than the above. Nonetheless, it is far from secure, because Pacensis was the name of a city in what is now southern Portugal, Colonia Civitas Pacensis, in full; it is now known as Beja. The milites Pacensium could easily have originated from a legionary detachment that was once stationed there; one of the Spanish legions being an obvious candidate. Further, the presence of a Tribunus cohortis secundae Flaviae Pacatianae (156/8.45) in Spain shows that units not only could be but were named after the place.

The third possible detachment is the men under the Praefectus numeri Pacensium (154.13), stationed at Magis (modern Burrow Walls near Workington in Great Britain), and who is in turn under the command of the Dux Britanniarum. His men would also appear to be legionary troops since he is a Prefect rather than a Tribune; despite some commentator's statements to the contrary, a "numerus" does not connote any particular kind of unit, (merely meaning "a number (of men)"); elite legions such as the Ioviani are called numeri on tombstones just as much as lowly garrison auxiliary units. Exactly the same comments about unit identification apply to these troops as to those stationed in Magis; indeed, they may even be the very same men, withdrawn from Britain and re-stationed on the continent.

The fourth possible detachment is the Pacatianenses (98/9.104), a legiones comitatenses under the Comes Illyricum. However, the name of this unit, less similar to pacis than to the locations Pacatiana or Pacensis, is again less likely to derive from the the title pacis in Prima Flavia Pacis; further, its higher ranking in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster make it likely it was formed before, rather than after, the Legio prima Flavia pacis. Of course it may be that at one time Legio prima Flavia pacis was itself stationed at Pacatiana in Tingitania - I am unaware of any modern identification for the location (that Constantine I's consul of 322 was L. Papius Pacatianus is suggestive...). In any case, it is also possible this Legio Pacatianenses is itself the same as the unit formerly stationed at Saletione, and now moved to Illyricum.

The Primani that features in Ammianus' account (16.12.49) of the battle of Strasbourg in 357, and which was responsible for stopping the Alamannic breakthrough in the Roman centre, are probably not to be equated with this unit; a more likely candidate is the legio palatina under the Magister Militum Praesentalis II called (12.19) the Primani.


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