The Septimani

This page created 12 October 2014, and last modified: 22 September 2015 (missing Maier references added)


The 17th of the 18 pseudocomitatenses units listed (98/9.147 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is called the Septimani; it is assigned (102/5.155) to the Magister Equitum's Gallic command as the Septimani iuniores. Its shield pattern (97#19) as shown in various manuscripts, under the label (97.t) Septimani, 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 pattern is very simple, being a plain green main field (faded to yellow in M, and white in B) with a red boss (white in W) and a red rim. Other units with red rimmed plain green shields, but with different boss colours, are the Minervii (21.21), under the Magister Militum per Illyricum, and the Propugnatores seniores (98/9.100), under the "Comes Hispenias". Both of these have yellow bosses, however; various other units feature variants with additional banding around the boss.

Note that there is another unit of Septimani iuniores in the Notitia: a legiones comitatenses so-named is listed (98/9.116) in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster and apparently assigned to both the Comes Tingitaniae (102/5.191) and the Magister Peditum's Italian command (102/5.82). It is the lowly relative positioning of the Septimani iuniores in the Gallic list that indicates it can be safely equated with the pseudocomitatenses unit called the plain Septimani.

The name Septimani clearly derives from one the legions numbered VII: the question is which one? Legio VII Gemina Felix was long stationed at Legio (modern Leon in Spain), and indeed, a detachment is still stationed there according to the Notitia (156/8.44) - see under the "Comes" Hispenias. The other seventh legion is Legio VII Claudia, under the Dux Moesiae primae, and long stationed at Viminiacum (78.21; near modern Stari Kostolac in Serbia). The comitatenses legion the Septima gemina under the Magister Militum per Orientem clearly derives from Legio VII Gemina Felix, given its name. The Septimani seniores (98/9.102), assigned to the "Comes" Hispenias in Spain, would also seem to be surely derived from the same Spanish unit. And geography would certainly favour the Comes Tingitaniae's Septimani iuniores also being derived from the Spanish unit, since Tingitania was organisationally part of the Roman diocese of Hispania at the time the Notitia was compiled, rather than Africa (and thus the Italian unit as well, if they are one and the same). Since many other pseudocomitaneses units in the Magister Equitum's Gallic command appear to have come from the Danube, it is likely the Gallic Septimani (iuniores) is, in contrast, a detachment of Legio VII Claudia; that the Spanish unit would appear to have already provided three detachments to the Moesian unit's none also weighs in in favour of the unit being a detachment of Legio VII Claudia.

None of these various Septimani units have similar shield patterns, as the following comparison using the Parisian manuscript images makes clear:

Shield patterns

If the Gallic Septimani was a Moesian legion, one might have to explain what an eastern unit was doing being transferred to the west. This wouldn't be a particular problem under a unified empire (there is plenty of evidence for units being shuffled from one end of the empire to the other in the 4th century), but the unit's pseudocomitatensis rank, coupled with its relative low position in the Gallic list, even for a pseudocomitatensis unit, implies a recent transferral, almost certainly later than the units that are known to have been sent westwards in 410. Since the east and west were actively antagonistic in 421 to 423, the transferral presumably would have occurred some time before 421.

While it possible a transferral may have occurred after 423, this is perhaps stretching the date of the last amendment to the Notitia. The listing of a unit (102/5.87) called the Placidi Valentinianici felices in the Italian list connected with Valentinian III shows amendments were likely being made to the Notitia in the early 420s, for Flavius Placidius Valentinianus was born in 419, and a unit is unlikely to have been named after him until he had survived at least a few months, But there is no generally accepted reason to see amendments being made much further into the 420s: as AHM Jones notes (vol. 3, p 348) there is no reason to believe a unit would have had to have waited until, e.g., the boy was proclaimed Augustus (in 425) to be named after him, given the instance of an entire province being named after the not-yet-three-year-old Honorius in 387. On the other hand, I. Maier has recently (2013) argued (see here) that certain comments in the Notitia imply familiarity with a law of Anastasius of 492, in which case the dating of "the" document is thrown wide open...


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