The Prima Italica

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


The Prima Italica 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 yellow boss, and a yellow "pillar" underneath; the rim (absent in B) is also blue, but a lighter blue in M and W. The pattern is thus similar to several other units in the Magister Militum per Orientem's list: the Prima Isaura sagittaria, the Transtigritani, and the Quarta Italica. 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 would appear to be a detachment of Legio I Italica, portions of which according to the Notitia are still based along the Danube under the Dux Moesiae secundae, where they had been based since the first century. As might be expected given the legion's longevity, inscriptional evidence for the unit is both extensive and widespread; examples dating to the Tetrarchy, ca. 100 years before the compilation of the Notitia, come from for example Jordan (AE 1987, 964) and Kherson in the Crimea (AE 1994, 1539). Another detachment of the unit is the Primani, under the Magister Militum Praesentalis II; its shield pattern is unrelated, which is not surprising, as the Primani seem to have been detached from their parent legion in the early 4th century, whereas the pseudocomitatenses status of the Prima Italica implies it is a recent addition to the field army.


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