The Secunda Armeniaca

This page created 31 August 2014, and last modified: 7 September 2014 (Peltae references added)


The Secunda Armeniaca is listed as the second 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 relatively simple, having a yellow boss and a blue main field. The rim is blue in O, light blue in M, red in W, and absent in P and B. Surrounding the boss is an unusual design in red, which looks like a circle with two deep lobes cut out at approximately the 11 o'clock and the 1 o'clock positions. This would appear to be a mythological Amazonian shield.

Early amazon
Typical amazon
Roman mosaic
Amazon by Euphronios, late 6th century BC.
Amazon on late 5th century BC Lucanian vase.
An early 3rd century mosaic from Sousse in Tunisia (Roman Hadrumetum).
Photo by Bibi Saint-Pol and released into the public domain.
Photo taken by Marie-Lan Nguyen and used under CCA 3.0 license.
Photo by Ed Meskens, and used under CCA 3.0 license.

As can be seen from the above, Amazons, despite being mythologically located to the north-east, were first conceived by the Greeks as being armed like contemporary Greek warriors; in the 6th century, this meant a heavy Argive shield as depicted above-left. After the Persian invasions, however, Amazons were depicted with light crescent-shaped peltae as carried by the appropriately-located Scythians, although they frequently were shown with a slight "bump" in the middle of the convex section that real peltae did not seem to share, as shown in the middle picture above. This bump seems to have steadily grown, so that by the start of the 3rd century, it could be shown as a central "stalk", as shown above-right, and also corresponding to the motif shown in the Notitia; geographically appropriate for a unit named after Rome's most eastern province.

The shield pattern of the Secunda Armeniaca is thus very similar to that of the preceding unit in the Magister Militum per Orientem's list: the Prima Armeniaca. Two other units in the same command also carry shield patterns featuring this central motif: the Secunda Felix Valentis Thebaeorum and the Prima Flavia Theodosiana; these are both comitatenses legions. Outside of the Magister Militum per Orientem's command, it is carried by only two other units: the Menapii, under the Magister Militum per Thracias, and the unit that is said to be the Sagittarii seniores Orientales, under the Magister Militum Praesentalis II. All six can be compared below, using the patterns taken from the Parisian manuscript:

Shield patterns

Whether the Secunda Armeniaca was an auxiliary or a legionary pseudocomitatenses unit cannot be determined from its name alone, but from Ammianus' history (20.7.1) we learn that Bezabde in 360 was assigned to three legions: Secunda Flavia, Secunda Armeniaca, and Secunda Parthica, plus a large number of archers from the district around Bezabde. However, caution must be taken, as Ammianus elsewhere (25.6.3) also calls the Iovii and the Victores, both units of auxilia palatina, "legions". Nonetheless, the grouping of II Armeniaca between what is almost certainly a legion (II Flavia) and what is certainly a legion (II Parthica) does strongly suggest II Armeniaca was likewise. Presumably the unit was named after its original place of deployment, before being incorporated into the field army of the Magister Militum per Orientem.

An inscription, CIL 03, 13630 (=AE 1997, 1510), from Satala (modern Sadak in Turkey), giving (image here) [...]aiai [.]ecunda [.]on[.]tantia, which has been expanded to "[...]aiai [s]ecunda [c]on[s]tantia"; has been interpreted as pertaining to the Secunda Armeniaca, alas through an inaccurate reading (see M.A. Spiedel, The Development of the Roman Forces in Northeastern Anatolia (2009, available here, and T.B. Mitford, The Inscriptions of Satala (1997), available here); it apparently instead refers to a woman's "constantia" (i.e. perseverance).

Apart from the above-mentioned Prima Armeniaca, the only other unit is the Notitia named after Armenia is the Secunda Armenii, a cavalry ala under the Comes limitis Aegypti.


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