The Daci

This page created 12 April 2014, and last modified: 4 October 2014 (John Rufus reference added)


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

In the eastern half of the empire, the second out of six units of legiones palatina under the command of the second Master of the Soldiers in the Imperial Presence is called the Daci ("the Dacians"). Its shield pattern as shown in various manuscripts is as below:

Shield patterns

The pattern features an indigo boss (more purple in B, light blue in M, and faded to maroon in W, which also features a darker inner section) encircled by a yellow band. The main field is also indigo (more purple in B, and faded to maroon in M, W); it too too is encircled by a yellow band, which is edged by the shield's rim, also in indigo (light blue in B, and faded to maroon in M, W). A light blue star of 12 (P), 13 (B), 14 (O), 16 (W), or 17 (M) points radiates from the inner yellow band; it reaches the outer yellow band only in W (but partially in B).

The patter has some similarities with that of the next unit under the same commander, the Scythae, especially regarding the non-star portions of the shield, but the emblem of a 12-(or more)-pointed star is not unique in the Notitia, and is also shared by the Regii, also under the second Master of the Soldiers in the Imperial Presence, and by some of the Scholae units, both under the eastern Magister Officiorum, and the western Magister Officiorum.

No other legionary unit in the Notitia is named the "Daci", although there are two limitanei units of auxiliaries stationed in Dacia, the primi and secundi Dacisci, respectively, and another auxilary unit in neighbouring Moesia-II called the plain Dacisci. There is also the Cohors prima Ulpia Dacorum under the Dux Syriae, which is presumably an auxiliary limitanei unit, and the Ala prima Ulpia Dacorum under the Dux Armeniae, which is a cavalry unit.

It is possible the Daci originated as a detachment of one of the legions stationed in Dacia, under the Dux Daciae ripensis, perhaps Legio V Macedonica or Legio XIII Gemina (the Scythae may have originated with the neighbouring Legio I Iovia Scythica under the Dux Scythiae).

After the time of the Notitia, a unit called the Daci was apparently stationed in Egypt in 475 by the latest, being mentioned by John Rufus in his "Plerophoria" or collection of Christian anecdotes (section 27.1, see here, p 69). This Egyptian very likely refers to the palatine Daci legion, given the Equites sexto Dalmatae, also listed under the Magister Militum Praesentalis II in the Notitia, is likewise later recorded as being in Egypt (see A.M.Kaiser, Egyptian Units and the reliability of the Notitia dignitatum, pars Oriens (2014), available here, p 7 and notes 37, 38) .


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