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"Julian's Persian expedition; Which Legions Were Involved?" Topic

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Atheling20 Oct 2021 5:34 a.m. PST


I'm fairly (re: very) new to Julian's Persian expedition and wanted to po a question if I may?

Do we know which Legions were involved in the expedition?

Same for the Cavalry units?

Is there a reference in any on the literature or online that is fairly accessible?

I'm trying to match up the Legions involved with the correct LBMS Transfers for the Middle Imperial Roman A&A Miniatures range

Any help in this matter be very much appreciated :)

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williamb20 Oct 2021 9:24 a.m. PST

Julian's expedition was in the 4th century A.D. (363A.D.). Late Imperial Roman figures would be what you need. LBMS shield patterns for the 3rd century A&A Romans are modifications of earlier designs and are purely conjectural. The Notitia Dignitatum would be your closest source for shield patterns though it is from 60 years later. Color images and listings of areas where units were stationed can be found at link

As for units that may have taken part in his expedition they would most likely have been from the listings for Magister Militum Praesentalis I and II and Magister Militum per Orientem. However, these are from a later period and units did get moved from one command to another.

For sources, the wikepedia listing for Julian's expedition lists what is available at the bottom of the page.

An English translation of Ammianus Marcellinus is available to read online at

Atheling21 Oct 2021 1:20 a.m. PST

Thanks Willie. I realised my faux pas almost immediately!

Talk about a brain/senior fog moment LOL

Thanks for the links.

I am of course familiar with the Notitia Dignitatum.

The Wiki sources will almost certain;y prove to be more fruitful as I'm not familiar with any direct sources for the period.

I've just ordered The Nisibis War: The Defence of the Roman East, AD 337-363, Harrel, John S which might prove to be of some value putting the sources, which can often obfuscate and much as elucidate, due to the all too often present bias.

I take it you mean Rerum Gestarum by Ammianus Marcellinus?

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Colonel Chabert21 Oct 2021 3:28 p.m. PST

Ammianus only mentions by name eight units in the context of the Persian expedition:
The Ioviani and Herculiani (Legiones Palatinae). He doesn't specify whether these are the Seniores or Iuniores regiments.
The Celtae and Petulantes (Auxilia Palatina). These were with Julian in Antioch where they misbehaved. They presumably accompanied him on the expedition.
The Iovi and Victores (Auxilia Palatina)
The Zianni (a legion of some sort)
The Tertiaci (a cavalry unit)
Eight names isn't much out of an army numbering somewhere between 60 and 90 thousand so for the rest there's going to be a lot of guesswork.
The expeditionary force was probably made up of units from four different sources:
1. Julian's old Gallic command. This command had been based around the senior Auxilia Palatina. Being the only troops he could really rely on, he probably took a large part of them with him, first when he moved against Constantius in 361 and then when he went on to Antioch the following year. The Celtae and Petulantes were part of this force.
2. The main Western Field Army, based in Italy. Some of these units joined Julian in the Balkans as he was preparing for war against Constantius and may have stayed with him for the Persian expedition. The Ioviani and Herculiani probably come from this group.
3. The main Eastern Field Army (or Praesental armies as they are referred to in the ND) usually based around Constantinople.
4. The Oriental Field Army stationed behind the frontier in the Middle East.
By far the larger part of the army would have come from the last two groups and lists of their units can be extracted with a reasonable degree of confidence from the ND. The fact that regiments within each category are listed by seniority helps a lot here.
One particularly interesting group of units are the four cataphractari regiments which appear in the East in the ND. Three of these are named for towns in Gaul, and the fourth possibly should be, so it seems they were raised or at least stationed in Gaul to begin with and then transferred East. As we know Julian had cataphractari under his command in Gaul it is tempting to imagine that it was he who brought them to the East along with his Auxilia.

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