The Lanciarii Sabarienses

This page created 21 June 2014, and last modified: 21 June 2014


The Lanciarii Sabarienses is listed as 8th of the 12 legiones palatina in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster, and is assigned to the Magister Equitum's Gallic command. Its shield pattern as shown in various manuscripts 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 is simple, showing a large red boss, an unadorned maroon main ground, and a yellow rim (the red and maroon are swapped in M). The pattern that is closest to that of the Lanciarii Sabarienses in the Notitia is that of the Cimbriani, another western palatine legion, but assigned to the command of the Comes Africae; it also features a yellow-rimmed plain maroon main ground, but with a smaller yellow boss.

The position of the Lanciarii Sabarienses in the list of the units assigned to the Gallic command 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, and the Magister Equitum's Gallic command list 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 constitution of the United States.

While the name Lanciarii comes from the lancea, a spear suitable for both thrusting and throwing, this does not necessarily imply the unit was equipped with this weapon, since the title lanciarii (or lancearii) had become the designation of elite guards in the later 3rd century; we even hear of mounted lanciarii, as attested by inscriptional evidence (AE 1981, 777) where the gravestone of one Aurelius Gaius describes him as an "ippeus lankiaris". There are a number of lanciarii units listed in the Notitia, some of which are obviously elite units, some less obviously.

The name Sabarienses comes from Sabaria (formerly Colonia Claudia Savariensum, and now modern Szombathely in Hungary), the main city of the province of Pannonia Prima. It is notable that two other western Lanciarii units havenames relating to locations garrisoned by units under the command of the Dux Pannoniae primae et Norici ripensis: the Lanciarii Lauriacenses and the Lanciarii Comaginenses, which in the Notitia are both pseudocomitatenses units assigned to the command of the Comes Illyricum. Lauriaco (modern Lorch, near Enns in Austria) is given as the location of a Praefectus legionis secundae (there is also a fleet stationed there, under the Praefectus classis Lauriacensis), while Comagenis (modern Tulln an der Donau, in Austria) is given as the location of a unit of Equites promoti rather than a legionary unit. Thus it may well be that the Lanciarii Lauriacenses originated as a detachment of Legio II Italica, and that the Lanciarii Sabarienses and Lanciarii Comaginenses orginated as detachments of one or more of the legions stationed in the same command: Legio X Gemina, Legio XIIII Gemina, and Legio I Noricum. It seems on the balance of probabilities that it was Legio I Noricum that was the origin of the Lanciarii Sabarienses and/or Lanciarii Comaginenses, given units elsewhere in the Notitia clearly named after the legiones decimae et quartaedecimae geminatae, while there are no units clearly named after Legio I Noricum.


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