The Sagittarii iuniores Gallicani

This page created 9 April 2014, and last modified: 30 November 2014 (Maier reference numbers added)


The Sagittarii iuniores Gallicani is a unit of auxilia palatina under the command of the first Master of the Soldiers in the Imperial Presence (i.e. the Magister Militum Praesentalis I); it is the 7th so-listed (9.30 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme). Its shield pattern (8#5) as shown in various manuscripts, under the matching label (8.e) Sagittarii iuniores Gallicani, 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, showing a pair of winged Victories (albeit debased to birds in the Froben edition, B) flanking what appears to be an image of an imperial couple, is very similar to that of the previous unit assigned to the same command, that of the similarly-named Sagittarii seniores Gallicani, as the following patterns taken from the Paris manuscript should help to illustrate (except the middle one, which is taken from the Froben edition; the reasons for which are to be found here):

Shield patterns

Clearly, these two units are not only a related pair, but are also related to other Sagittarii units under the the command of the second Master of the Soldiers in the Imperial Presence. Incidentally, two other units that show similar paired Victories are the Domestici equites and the Domestici pedites, under the commands of the eastern Count of the Household Horse and Count of the Household Foot, respectively.

Paired Victories flanking an imperial image are a characteristic late Roman motif, and can also be found on. e.g. the Arch of Constantine (although in this case the imperial image has been lost; single Victories are also used on the same monument). The motif continued into the Byzantine era; the picture below of the early-6th century Barberini ivory in the Louvre shows how the Victories have been transformed into angels, and are now flanking a heavenly Christ rather than the emperor; the earthly emperor gets his own separate angel.

Barberini Ivory

Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen and released into the public domain.

The name Sagittarii iuniores Gallicani implies (but does not establish) the unit was bow-armed, and that it was recruited or otherwise came from somewhere in Gaul.


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