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Roman regiments of the VIth century.
Well,So once again:This painting is not mine ;-).But I will defend it although I agree it rather gives good impression of sixth century soldier.

I'm lazy to write it all down here(but I will give more details if you'll be interested.)so now I only write what I saw as realistic and documented:

1-His HELMET is Ok-such helmets are in the archeology the most commonly documented form of head protection for the 6th century and I have absolutely no doubt that they were used in great numbers by "Byzantines" as well.Not only by mercenary units but by regular army soldiers alike.At least One helmet of this type was even found in very specific byzantine situation and bearing what can be called imperial iconography.

2-His persian' TROUSERS (sarabara)are Ok and are documented very richly on many artistic depictions from 5th to 7th century.

3-His ARMOUR is Ok and as Benjamin already write such breast bra/armor harness(which function was probably to better distribute the weight of the armor)is again very richly shown in art of the 6/7th century(and its earlier examples are already shown in 3th and 4/5 century art, while this bra was in common use long into medieval time until very end of the empire).And it is well documented for the 6th century art.

4-PTERYGES:personally I believe it were indeed likely more common for guard units in an attempt to look more classic like to evoke old military traditions but more importantly I have no doubts about that they were still in use(also by common soldiery) and that it is not just an artistic convention at all and I would even dare to put my hand into fire for it.I also see no practical reason why this should be only artistic convention and especially at the time so close to period where it definitely was not just a convention.If I doubted this I would had to doubt also existence of armour under padding from which pteruges usually hanged.Same as Armour harness also pteryges are richly documented deep into medieval byzantine times.The only question is level of their use-how much usuall they were and for what type of soldiers?That's what I don't know,I guess it was rather less and less used with passing centuries but in the east probably never completely fell out of use.

SWORDConfusedword hilt is the only controversial thing to me,but I dont think its form is any major shift from from swords of that period(5/6cent).I have no idea on what source artist based this on(if on any...).The scabbard decoration by indentations is documented at least on two sorces of the period-as already Benjamin posted many scabbards of this shape are visible on carvings of Maximinus throne and the second source is Barberini ivory where scabbard of exactly the same shape is also clearly visible on figure of victorious general whos identification with Belisar is quite likely.

TORQUESConfuseduch items were symbols of officers and guardsman (for example it is evident from more mentions in writings it was usuall decoration for draconarii)but were also issued as reward for bravery even to common soldiers and of course common soldiers had also opportunity to get something like that as booty from enemy.Of course I dont claim every soldier had such decoration-certainly only very minority might occasionaly had them.I dont know no other details about this painting so I have no idea what type of soldier this is intended to be but except his torques there's nothing which would be out of reach of ordinary 6th century roman soldier.

DOGBig Grinog was not usuall part of soldiers equipment...but nobody mentioned it :wink: Big Grin

Well as I said at the beginning- I can support everything I said on actual art of the period but I'm lazy to put here at this moment.But I will take my time and find all those pictures if anyone believe its only result of my imagination.6th/7th century army get recently to by my priority in focus of my interest.
Thank you Pavel, a really good post Smile if I may ask, could you tell me some reliable literary modern source about the army of the period? Apart from my will to reenact, I'm trying to doing a serious research 'cause I want to use this subject as my degree thesis (I don't know if it's the correct word in english).

OT: Just to know, Pavel are you italian?

EDIT: just a thought (just to be a bit more annoying than before), as a probably future archaeologist and as a medieval reenactor that has this problem everyday: I'm not saying that a iconographical source cannot be reliable, but that unfortunately it loses a bit of its reliability if we don't have archaeological finds or written sources that could support them, especially if we talk about an era like the Late Antiquity, when byzantine art not totally but mainly tends to be very "classical". But that's only my opinion, of course.
To be honest I have no idea if "degree thesis" is the right expression but I understand what you mean with it(by the way I'm also aspiring Archaeologist).

No I'm not name Pavel so common in Italy? :grin: .But I very much like Italy,especially tuscany region and the whole atmosphere here is somewhat closer to my heart then for example France or germany which seems to me somewhat colder.I am from Czech republic,which is small country in central europe known to many still rather under name Czechoslovakia but I like much more Bohemia-the original name for this region derived from name given by Romans because of celtic Boii tribe who lived here.

Mattia I can assure you that I'm very aware of conception of so called artistic convention and I'm using art only with great caution,always giving more credit to archaeological findings and confirmations where it is possible and available.But there are cases that very limited amount of archaeological findings is available and -one such example is precisely 6th century Eastern army.So what to do in such case?The best we have are analogies with neighboring countries,written sources and of course pictorial art.

I got friend here from Italy Carlo Cappati-Carlo is usually very upset from almost automatically rejecting of every pictorial evidence as only artistic convention.Although I'm not so radical and much more careful in this than Carlo I agree wholeheartedly with him that this magical like term "artistic convention"is hugely overestimated and used much more often then it should be.Virtually every time when some scholar finds something which he don't know archaeologically he in many cases almost automatically rejected it as to be just an artistic convention.Just this magical all-solving formula and the case is closed-no other attempt to find out the truth which is very convenient approach.

About some reliable literary modern source:
I would like to help you,but i'm afraid very little was done in this field yet.Your fellow countryman Dr. Raffaele D'Amato done some works on this subject and certainly will produce others in the future.But at the same timeit is needed to approach his work with great caution because he relies sometimes very strongly on art and many of his theories are highly controversial.On the other hand there is no doubt that he knows the subject very well and knows what hes writting about.From his early byzantine focused books in english I can state Concord Publications The Eastern Romans 330-1461 AD and Roman military cloathing 3 from osprey publishing-both are also well illustrated with focus on what the soldiers might have looked like.But of course both are conceived "only" as an examples of Popular scientific literature for broader audience who did not care about this subject really into deep.In recent time also very very gratifying magazine Ancient warfare Magazine posted from time to time subject related articles with byzantines as its main topic(also in brother magazine Medieval warfare Magazine).Really beautiful issue of ancient warfare magazine was already devoted once to Belisarius-Volume IV, Issue 3, Justinian's fireman: Belisarius and the Byzantine Empire also with great illustrations.John Haldon wrote many interesting books about Byzantine army and they are definitely worthy of reading.

Apart from these someone like we are is only limited on collecting crumbs wherewer he can as opportunity arouse,from time to time scientific treatise is possible to encounter in the deeps of internet.
And of course there are ancient sources,though only very limited number of them focuse its attention directly on military things like Strategikon.But they are Worth reading all of them-because although military is not intention of its authors many describes in greater or lesser detail wars of the empire and it is very often possible to find details about tactic,equipment,battles,military life and all military related matters.Thats also what I tend to do do when reading authors of this era- Dumping all mentions of the army and related things I encounter in it while reading it.There are authors like Procopius of Caesarea or Agathius(his continuator)whos books are directly concentrated on describing military actions of the empire.But nice occasional details can be found in many others like :
John of Epifania,
Evargius Scholasticus,
Joshua of Amida,
Menander protector,
comes Marcellinus,
Zacharias rhetor,
John from Ephesus,
Peter Patricius
Theofilakt Simokatta,
Georgios of Pisidia,
Theodor syncellus,
Antiochos strategos,
Chronicon Paschale
armenians Sebeos and Movses
and Arabic-Persian sources like Al-Baladhuri and Al-Tabarí(both ethnic Persians)although last two should only be taken with extreme caution,but they give some nice(but heavily biased)info about battles of this age.

I also deal with this period in my own artistic attempts:

Finally I add illustrations by Igor Dzis made for Ancient warfare magazine.If you already dont know them they are all examples of best artwork ever created for sixth century Roman army at the current moment:

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By the way Mattia-you are definitely right that such trousers were not worn only by Persians but by many northern tribes alike.We called them Persian because its spead among Romans is probably mainly because of Persian influece which is olso supported in the usuall style of its decoration and archeological findings like that from Egyptan Antinuopolis where some pieces clothing is definitely decorated by Sassanid motifs to that affect some believe they are directly from Persia maybe taken as part of war booty.
Great Topic!

I just caught up with this. Thanks to Mattia and Pavel for their lists. My own interest is historical rather than re-enactment. (What became of the institution of the Roman Legion after the fourth century).

I noticed a query about the addition of "Felix, Felices, Felicum" to unit names. I've always taken the root word (Felix) to mean (in this context) "Lucky", "Successful" or "Fortunate" in the sense of always being able to accomplish something - regardless of the odds.

I'm studying Latin but I'm certainly no expert. There's a nice online tool I think every classical languages student knows, called Perseus. The "Latin Word Study Tool" ( and the "Greek Word Study Tool" ( are good fun to play around with as is the extensive Greek and Roman Document Collection (

I'm also finding the following book interesting as regards the naming of later army units - A.D. Lee (2007) War in Late Antiquity: a Social History. Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell. Well, at least Lee's discussion of the identifying of emperors with army units in the way they referred to units in speeches and documents and of course in the naming of units (pp. 61-66). Emperors who campaigned with troops (during the third/fourth centuries and again in the seventh) referring to them as "fellow soldiers" and palace-bound emperors referring to them as, for instance "our soldiers", "our valiant soldiers" and the like.

It is interesting the number of Justinian army units that ended up bearing his name. But I'm drifting away. I thought I'd have a go at analysing, for instance, "Numerus felicium Laetorum" and see whether others agree/disagree:

Numerus = (singular, nominative, described by "felicium" and "Laetorum"). unit, division, troop, band, number.
felicium = (adjective, genitive neuter plural of fēlīx). I'd regard the adjective as a substantive, so: of the successful ones.
Laetorum = (taken as a noun, plural, masculine, genitive). Can mean "joyful" as an adjective but, according to Lewis&Short on Perseus ( the noun means: a foreign bondman who received a piece of land to cultivate, for which he paid tribute to his master, a serf.

This might possibly translate as Unit of Laeti* - "The Successful Ones" or "The Lucky Ones". (*NB as opposed to foederati). Just out of curiosity, does anyone know what this unit's name might have been in Greek?

Anyhoo, Just wanted to say thanks and make a bit of a contribution back.


Howard/ Spurius
Spurius Papirius Cursor (Howard Russell)
"Life is still worthwhile if you just smile."
(Turner, Parsons, Chaplin)
Well Laeti were another name for Foederati. I believe the difference was that Laeti were settled on Roman Terms, while Foederati were Barbarian mercenaries recruited from outside the Empire (or later in the Empire) from groups bound by treaty.

Great post though!

What do you make of the Placidi Valentiniani Felices (Roughly Lucky ones of Placidius Valentinianus?)
Hi Evan

Yes, that (Laeti being settled, Foederati bound by oath) is the difference as I understand it.

Now - Placidi Valentiniani Felices. Hmmm. I'm going to have to put my thinking cap on for that.

Cheers for the moment

Howard / Spurius
Spurius Papirius Cursor (Howard Russell)
"Life is still worthwhile if you just smile."
(Turner, Parsons, Chaplin)
Successful ones of Valentinian could be right, but I don't know, I've only taken 2 years of Latin Tongue
Hi Evan

Well, I had a rather reasoned response to make to you about the Placidi Valentiniani Felices but, unfortunately, my computer crashed during the latest Windows Updates (Thank You Microsoft!) and everything’s gone. So, here goes again.

The Numerus Placidi Valentiniani Felices could – possibly - translate thus:
“The Unit of Placidius Valentinianus, ‘The Achievers’”; or rather, “The Unit of Valentinian III*, ‘The Achievers’”. (*Valentinian III’s name was Flavius Placidius Valentinianus).

My reasoning being:

1. Numerus: noun, singular, masculine, nominative, military unit.

2. Placidi: adjective/proper name, (a) singular, masculine-or-neuter, genitive AND (b) plural, masculine, nominative of placid-us, -a, -um, gentle, quiet, still, calm, mild, peaceful, placid. (So, one could read placidi as “of the peaceful one” or “the peaceful ones”, but it’s more important to regard Placidi as the declension of a proper name here).

Now, placidi has a long “i” at the end (placid-ī). And, if I remember correctly*, I think this can also sometimes indicate the contraction of a one-time double “i” (*I may stand correction here).

So, if it is the case that a double “i” is referred to in this placidi, then that would make its nominative form not placid-us but placid-i-us. That’s the comparative form of placidus (literally, “more peaceful” or “the more peaceful one”) and, of course, it’s one of Valentinian III’s names.

Note that Placidia (yes, as in Galla Placidia – Valentinian’s mother) is also the feminine comparative singular of placid-us, -a, -um. It’s probably no coincidence Valentinian has the masculine version of this as a name. It links him back to Galla and thus her father, Theodosius I, and the relative peace the latter brought to the empire.

3. Valentiniani: proper name, singular, masculine, genitive - Perseus doesn’t list this, but the final “i” makes it the most probable interpretation, i.e., of Valentinian. (NB. Perseus isn’t infallible. There are the occasional errors to be found – for instance, it lists placid-ius as neuter.)

4. Felices: adjective, plural, masculine-or-feminine, nominative of fel-ix, -icis, Lucky, happy, fortunate – and also I was forgetting – fruitful, productive. Taking it as a substantive adjective, one has: the lucky ones or the productive ones, the doers. Hence my calling them “The Achievers”; but it might have meant “The Lucky Ones”.

Regarding the linking of the unit’s name with the (non-campaigning) boy emperor, I hark back to A.D. Lee’s discussion (2007:61-66) I mentioned in my first post. Galla Placidia, the boy’s regent at the time the unit would have been formed (it was a very late addition to the Notitia) is probably deliberately remembered in the unit’s name.

And could, perhaps, one more person be (subtly) referenced in the unit’s name? Look at the Felices. Flavius Constantius Felix, an apparently ruthless politician, helped Galla Placidia install Valentinian III in 425 (under complex circumstances) and seems largely responsible for reorganizing the west militarily thereafter. Perhaps this unit was one he raised? And suggested a name for?

Food for thought


Howard / Spurius
Spurius Papirius Cursor (Howard Russell)
"Life is still worthwhile if you just smile."
(Turner, Parsons, Chaplin)
I had considered Placidia And Valentinian III, but never Felix (who was an incapable military commander that had no support from the army and a kniving politician.) It may have been named after him as well.

Thanks Spurius!
Most emperors were described as Pius et Felix - at least on their coins: "IMP. BLAHBLAHIUS PF AUG" . However, by the late 5th century the use of Pater Patriae, PP, seems to have replaced PF.

Fac me cocleario vomere!
Father of the Patricians, maybe as a way to claim they still had control over their Magister Militae
Quote:Father of the Patricians, maybe as a way to claim they still had control over their Magister Militae
Pater Patriae means Father of the Country/Nation and not Patricians.
aka T*O*N*G*A*R
The Numerus Placidi Valentiniani Felices probably refers to a unit that was raised during the reign of Valentinian III whose mother and real power behind the throne was Galla Palicida. So the unit may well be consider 'fortunate' in having been raised by both Valentinian and his mother.
Adrian Coombs-Hoar
Yeah AHM Jones established that, but I was interested in what the "Felix" referred to.

In the Notitia it's actually Placidi Valentiniaci Felices but I think the "c" is a typo (at least according to my Latin teacher the C is incorrect).

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