The Sabini

This page created 26 July 2014, and last modified: 10 December 2015 (RIB II, ala Sabiniana, and Savia commentary added)


The Sabini is listed (98/9.70 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as one of the units of auxilia palatina in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster; it is assigned (102/5.73) to his Italian command, as the Savini. Its shield pattern (94#4), as shown in various manuscripts under the plain label (94.d) Sabini (but Savini in Ff), is as below:


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

The pattern is relatively simple, and shows a green main ground (faded to yellow in M) with a yellow rim (these are separated by a white band in W). The boss is maroon (red in O, white in B, and either white or faded yellow in Ff), and encircled by a yellow band (possibly white in Ff) and then, further outwards, a red band. Yellow shield rims are relatively rare in the Notitia; this is the only unit to combine one with a green main field.

However, it is evident that this pattern is likely the "wrong" one for the unit; like that of some other western auxilia platina units, it appears to have been shifted from its proper place (or, to be more exact, the label may have been shifted from its proper place). Which pattern (if any) among those shown properly belongs to the Sabini is not immediately apparent. Since the previous unit in the Magister Peditum's list has a related name, Latini (like the Sabini, named after an Italian people - but see below), it would appear these two eagle-embellished shields belong to them, and thus the Sabini ought to bear pattern 94#3.

Latini pattern

Above: pattern 94#3 from the Paris manuscript, P. This is labelled Latini (94.c) but likely belonged to the next unit in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster in reality: the Sabini (98/9.70).

No other units are named Sabini in the Notitia. However, an ala Sabiniana is listed (154.21) under the Dux Britanniarum.Being a limitanei unit, its shield pattern is not illustrated, but I note that a lead sealing stamp (RIB 2411.85) recording this unit (in the form AL(a)E SAB) shows, on the other side of the seal, the image of an eagle. This does not refer to an aquila standard, since such aquilae were only carried by legionary units. If the coincidence (in the sense of similarity) of these two eagle images is not coincidental (in the sense of happenstance), then the conclusion one might draw from two units bearing very similar names and also presenting very similar imagery is they may well be related. If so this might cast doubt on the origins of the names of either - or both - of the units.

Of course, eagle imagery was omnipresent in imperial Rome, and these similarities in imagery and name may well be just... coincidental. It may be that Savini is in any case the more correct form of the name, and if so, the name probably originates from the Sava river (hence the Dux Provinciae Pannoniae secundae ripariensis et Saviae). And if so, then the similarity of Latini and Sabini may only be apparent, and not real.


1. Ingo Maier; "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. S.S. Frere, Margaret Roxan, & R.S.O. Tomlin (Eds); "The Roman Inscriptions of Britain", Vol. II, Fasc. I; Allan Sutton, Gloucester, 1990. Return


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