The Notitia Dignitatum

Equites Mauri

This page created 27 June 2015, and last modified: 30 June 2015 (prefect commentary added)


The following ten units of Equites Mauri, i.e. "Moorish cavalry", are listed in the Notitia (the numbers in front of the names refer to Ingo Maier's numbering scheme):

56/7.2 Cuneus equitum Maurorum scutariorum, at Lico, under the Dux Thebaidos
59.5 Equites Mauri Illyriciani, at Aeliae, under the Dux Palaestinae
61.5 Equites Mauri Illyriciani, at Aereopoli, under the Dux Arabiae
63.2 Equites Mauri Illyriciani, at Otthara, under the Dux Foenicis
65.12 Equites Mauri Illyriciani, at Neocaesareae in Augusto Eufratensi, under the Dux Syriae et Eufratensis Syriae
67.4 Equites Mauri Illyriciani, at Dabana, under the Dux Osrhoenae
102/5.215 Equites Mauri feroces, a vexillationes comitatenses assigned to the Magister Peditum's Italian command
102/5.228 Equites Mauri alites, a vexillationes comitatenses assigned to the Magister Equitum's Gallic command
143.9 Equites Mauri, at Solua, under the Dux Provinciae Valeriae ripensis
145.11 Equites Mauri, at Quadrato, under the Dux Pannoniae primae et Norici ripensis.

Disclaimer: Remember, a lot of what comes below is speculation. Hopefully informed speculation, but speculation nonetheless. Comments welcome! (lukeuedasarson "at"

In addition to the ten units listed above, there is one other unit of Moorish cavalry listed in the Notitia, albeit one that is not explicitly called a unit of Equites, the

154.30 Numerus Maurorum Aurelianorum, at Aballaba, under the Dux Britanniarum.
This unit can be inferred to be a cavalry unit rather than infantry as it is commanded by a prefect, rather than a tribune as would typically command an auxiliary infantry unit (prefects also commanded legionary units, but it that option is scarcely credible in this case, not least because the unit is quite likely one and the same as the Equites scutarii Aureliaci (102/5.252) under the Comes Britanniae). Only the shield patterns for the two vexillationes comitatenses are shown:

Shield patterns
Shield patterns

Those under O come from the Bodleian manuscript in Oxford, those under P from the Paris manuscript, those under M from the first portion of the Munich manuscript, those under W from the second portion of the Munich manuscript, and those under B from the Froben edition.

Not all "Moorish" units listed in the Notitia are cavalry; the following units of infantry are also to be found:

102/5.77 Mauri Honoriani iuniores, in the Magister Peditum's Italian command (i.e. the Honoriani Mauri iuniores, an auxilia palatina unit)
102/5.102 Mauri Honoriani seniores, under the Comes Illyricum (i.e. the Honoriani Mauri seniores, an auxilia palatina unit)
102/5.107 Mauri cetrati, a legionary comitatenses unit, also under the Comes Illyricum
102/5.146 Mauri Osismiaci, a pseudocomitatenses unit in the Magister Equitum's Gallic command
102/5.188 Mauri tonantes seniores, an auxilia palatina unit under the Comes Tingitaniae
102/5.189 Mauri tonantes iuniores, another auxilia palatina unit under the Comes Tingitaniae
151.4 Milites Mauri Beneti, at Benetis, under the Dux tractus Armoricani et Nervicani
151.5 Milites Mauri Osismiaci, at Osismis, and also under the Dux tractus Armoricani et Nervicani.
Of these, the 102/5.146 Mauri Osismiaci would appear to be same unit as the Milites Mauri Osismiaci; thus later unit, like the Milites Mauri Beneti, is listed as being commanded by a prefect, as opposed to a tribune or a praepositus, and was therefore almost certainly a legionary rather than an auxiliary unit.

That one of the cavalry units (56/7.2) is also called scutarii is interesting: this might imply this particular unit carried relatively large shields (caveat - the word could also be used to just to mean "guardsmen"). On the other hand, two of the infantry units are called cetrati - which similarly implies they might have carried relatively small shields! The name Mauri denotes the Moorish peoples, although there is every indication that by the date of the Notitia that the term, as used used in the Roman military, may have denoted not an ethnicity but a particular kind of military unit, although exactly what is hard to say. In the far-off days of the Roman republic, Moorish horse were almost exclusively light cavalry, with their riders not even using bridles to control their mounts; "Moorish" cavalry may still have indicated some kind of light cavalry unit four or five hundred years later, but evidence is lacking. That five of the cavalry units are also called Illyriciani is intriguing - but, alas, what "Illyriciani" meant in the context of late Roman military terminology is similarly unclear!


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