The Armigeri propognatores seniores

This page created 15 June 2014, and last modified: 15 June 2014


The Armigeri propugnatores seniores is the seventh of the 12 legiones palatinae in the Magister Peditum's infantry list, and is assigned to the Comes Africae. Its shield pattern as shown in various manuscripts, under the label Armigeri seniores, is as below:

Shield patterns

Disclaimer: remember, I'm not an expert in the field of Notitia studies, so take my comments with a grain of salt...

The shield pattern has a yellow rim, and red boss (with maroon centre in P; white in M, B) edged in yellow (white in M). The main ground is white, with four broad green spokes in a saltire arrangement rather than a vertical cross; no other pattern has four such spokes at such an angle.

Armigeri has a broad meaning of "one who is equipped, especially for war", and probably implying armoured in particular. It is of course entirely possible that the men of this legion were particularly well armoured (at least, at the time they were formed); but another explanation could be that they earned the description as a nickname or badge of merit: see here for more details on armgeri. Propugnatores means "defenders" or "champions"; other units in the Notitia so-named are the Propugnatores seniores, a legio comitatenses assigned to the Comes Hispenias; the Propugnatores iuniores, a legio comitatenses assigned to the Comes Illyricum; and the Armigeri propugnatores iuniores, another legio palatina assigned to the Comes Africae. When the Armigeri propognatores was split between seniores and iuniores divisions is unknown.

The position of the Armigeri propognatores seniores in the list of the units assigned to the Comes Africae seems to indicate that it was a comitatenses unit when the Notitia was first drawn up, but was later promoted to the palatine status it is recorded having in the Magister Peditum's infantry. Six of the 12 palatine legions in the western empire appear to be such recently upgraded units judging by their anomalous positioning in the lists of the field commands they are assigned to. This is somewhat surprising, because their positioning in the illustrations section correctly corresponds to their position in the Magister Peditum's list, and illustrations cannot be updated as easily as text. It may be that the list of the Comes Africae was drawn up quite some time before the list of the Magister Peditum was drawn up, but then we would be left with the problem that the list of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command, which also contains a misplaced legio palatina, seems to bear the hall marks of being modified even more recently than that of the Magister Peditum. This would imply that when the Gallic list was modified, it was not replaced in toto, but amendments were appended to it, in the manner of the US Constitution.

Possible inscriptional evidence for the Armigeri propugnatores seniores comes from the cemetery at Colonia Iulia Concordia (modern Portogruaro in Veneto, Italy), which produced an inscription (CIL 5, 8747) mentioning a numero Armigerorum; see here for Hoffmann's 1963 analysis (in German). Of course, this could well refer to one of the other Armigeri units mentioned in the Notitia, or even an Armigeri unit that is not mentioned in the Notitia, such as the unattested Armigeri defensores iuniores.


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