The Prima Isaura sagittaria

This page created 6 September 2014, and last modified: 6 September 2014


The Prima Isaura sagittaria is listed as one of the pseudocomitatenses units under the Magister Militum per Orientem. Its shield pattern is shown in various manuscripts 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, with a blue main field, a red rim, yellow boss, and a yellow "pillar" underneath. The pattern is thus similar to several other units in the Magister Militum per Orientem's list: the Prima Italica, the Quarta Italica, and the Transtigritani. However, the basic "keyhole" shape produced by a boss with a "pillar" underneath is a very common motif in the Notitia, so perhaps not too much should be read into these similarities.

The unit is clearly the first in a series of three units, since the Comes per Isauriam commands a Legio secundae Isaura and a Legio tertia Isaura; evidently the first Isaurian legion had been transferred withdrawn from the province for posting into the field army; this must have happened no earlier than 354, as Ammianus affirms (14.2.14) that the Comes, a certain Castucius, had three legions under his command at that time.

Legio I Isaura sagittaria is the only legion to be given the moniker sagittarii in the Notitia. It would seem to imply the unit was armed with bows, but this is far from certain; there is no other source that so much as hints that a legion could be (entirely) bow-equipped. It may well be that the name refers to some past notable feat of archery by that portion of soldiers of the unit who were bow-armed; the roughly contemporary Vegetius says (1.15) that from 1/4 to 1/3 of legionaries should be archers.


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