The Sexta Parthica

This page created 6 September 2014, and last modified: 26 July 2015 (Maier reference numbers added)


The Sexta Parthica is listed (15.32 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as the seventh of pseudocomitatenses units under the Magister Militum per Orientem. Its shield pattern (14#13), as shown in various manuscripts under the matching label (14.n) Sexta Parthica, 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 has a red rim and a blue main field. The boss is yellow, with a yellow "pillar" underneath; the "keywhole" shape thus produced is a common motif in the Notitia. Also in yellow is a version of the twin-headed zoomorphic motif that is extremely common in the Notitia, especially amongst auxilia palatina units. In addition to its numerous appearances in the Notitia, the twin-headed zoomorphic motif is known from a range of sources in northern Europe, such as on the ca. 6th century Torslunda bronze die from Sweden shown below:

Torslunda die
Public domain image taken from 1903 book

The version carried by Sexta Parthica is the only one borne by an apparently legionary unit, however. What makes the shield pattern of the Sexta Parthica unique are the two loops in yellow below the boss. It might be tempting to see these as tails of the two "serpents" depicted above, but many other explanations could no doubt be advanced.

Legio VI Parthica was probably established at the same time as Legiones IIII & V Parthica, under the Tetrarchs, a hundred years before the Notitia was compiled. Its station before joining the field army is unknown, although Cepha, later the station of Legio II Parthica, and now Hasankeyf on the Tigris in Turkey, has been hypothesized; in the Notitia, this fort (69.11) and its garrison is under the control of the Dux Mesopotamiae. Another possibility is Constantina (see Lightfoot, 1982, p 106, available here), which in the Notitia is the station of Legio I Parthica (69.10). Legio VI Parthica probably joined the field army as a consequence of the shrunken Roman frontier following the losses of the 360s.


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