The Pacatianenses

This page created 2 August 2014, and last modified: 3 November 2014 (L. Papius Pacatianus commentary updated)


The seventh of the legiones comitatenses units in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster is called the Pacatianenses; it is assigned to the command of the Comes Illyricum. Its shield pattern in various manuscripts is as shown 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 pattern shows an indigo boss (faded to pink in M, and white in W), encircled by a white band. The shield's rim is red, and the main filed is divided into six equal sectors, alternating indigo and red, except in B, where two of the red sectors are much thinner, and in W, where the 6 sectors are white, indigo, red, white,indigo, red. Such 3+3 sector patterns are also ascribed to three other western legionary units: the Moesiaci seniores, the Armigeri propugnatores iuniores, and the Mattiarii iuniores.

The name Pacatianenses could derive from several possible sources. Pacis means "peace" in Latin, and while calling a military unit "peaceful" would be perhaps somewhat ironic, it stands stands in a long of examples; modern ones include the "Peacemaker" revolver and the "Peacekeeper" intercontinental ballistic missile. More to the point, the Notitia has the Prima Flavia Pacis, another unit of legiones comitatenses listed in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster. But it should be borne in mind that "pacis" also means "treaty", and "reconciliation". Given the numerous civil wars that were fought over the course of the 4th century, giving a formerly hostile unit a name meaning "reconciliation" upon defeating them would make a certain amount of sense...

Perhaps more likely an origin, however, is the locality Pacatiana in Africa: the Comes Tingitaniae is listed as having a Tribunus cohortis Pacatianensis, stationed at the eponymous Pacatiana, under his command; it may well be the Pacatianenses were also stationed there in the not-so-distant past when the Notitia was drawn up. Exactly what Pacatiana corresponds to in modern geography I have been unable to determine.

Even more probable, perhaps, is the name of the city in what is now southern Portugal called Beja: the former Colonia Civitas Pacensis. As a large community, sheer numbers dictate this as a more likely source of recruits than some (currently) unknown African outpost, if the unit was named after a recruiting area rather than a garrison spot.

Finally, it should be noted that Constantine I's consul of 322 was a certain L. Papius Pacatianus. While it would be unique, as far as I know, for an Roman legion to bear the name of a private (as opposed to imperial) individual, it must be considered as an option, since various non-legionary units are so named (e.g. the Ala Petriana under the Dux Britanniarum).


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