The Propugnatores seniores

This page created 25 June 2014, and last modified: 10 October 2015 (naming commentary added)


The Propugnatores seniores is listed (98/9.100 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as the third of the legiones comitatenses in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned (102/5.183) to the Comes Hispenias. Its shield pattern (95#14) as shown in various manuscripts under the plain label (95.o) Propugnatores 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 patten is very simple, and features a yellow boss (white with a red centre in W), a red rim, and a green main field, at least in O and P; it is faded in M, maroon in W (faded indigo?), and white in B. As a result, it is similar to several other patterns in the Notitia, but most of all, that of the Minervii (21.21) under the Magister Militum per Illyricum; indeed, the two appear identical for manuscripts O, P and M.

The name Propugnatores means "defenders" or "champions"; other units in the Notitia so-named are the Propugnatores iuniores (102/5.108), a legio comitatenses assigned to the Comes Illyricum; the Armigeri propugnatores seniores (98/9.27), a legio palatina assigned to the Comes Africae; and the Armigeri propugnatores iuniores (98/9.32), another legio palatina assigned to the Comes Africae. When the (non-Armigeri) Propugnatores was split into seniores and iuniores divisions is unknown; the shield pattern of the seniores unit bears no resemblance to that of the iuniores.

The origins of the Propugnatores seniores are hard to discern, as the name gives no apparent clue as to the unit's origin. However, the correspondence of the shield patterns between this unit and that of the Minervii may hold a vital clue. The name Minervii clearly refers to the goddess Minerva, although indirectly, via Legio I Minervia, long stationed at Bonna (modern Bonn in Germany), but which was overrun by the Franks in the early 350s. Both units may be detachments of the same parent legion, and as Minerva was the goddess of (defensive) strategy and war (as opposed to the more aggressive and offensive Mars), a detachment from Legio I Minervia bearing the nickname Propugnatores would be entirely fitting. Legio I Minervia has apparently no left no trace in the limitanei units of the Notitia, which might suggest the whole unit was incorporated into various field army units at some point; the several Propugnatores units mentioned above could easily absorb an entire old-style legion's worth.


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