Ala Sabiniana

This page created 14 November 2015, and last modified: 10 December 2015 (RIB II reference and Sabini commentary added)


The fifth officer listed (154.21 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) under the command of the Dux Britanniarum following the subsection headed "along the line of the Wall" (item 154.16, per lineam valli), is the Praefectus alae Sabinianae, said to be stationed at Hunno.

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

The men under the Praefectus alae Sabinianae are more fully known (see e.g. CIL 16,69 and AE 1997,1779a; photo here) as ala I Pannoniorum Sabiniana, i.e. an auxiliary cavalry regiment. The unit's station, Hunno (i.e. Onnum) is the fort at modern Halton Chesters in Northumberland. The Sabiniana portion of the unit's name probably refers to the unit's first (?) commander in the same way that the ala Petriana (154.29) refers to T. Pomponius Petra (but see further below). Just which Sabianus this refers to is currently unknown; but I do note that an inscription (CIL 3,4183) from Savaria (modern Szombathely in Hungary) dedicated by one T. Cnorius Sabinianus refsr to himself as EX PRAEF ALAE CONTARIO, i.e. a "former prefect of a squadron of lancers", which would fit quite nicely.

In contrast, Pannoniorum refers to the Balkan province of Pannonia, where the unit was presumably first raised. An apparently early-3rd century inscription (EE VIII 128) from the Halton Chesters refers to the brother of one of the unit's members as being from Noricum, showing the Balkan connection suggested by the unit's name had not been entirely lost by this date. The unit may have been stationed in Hispania before coming to Britain, to judge from a tombstone (RIB 1433, photo here) from Aldeia Nova, Portugal.

As with all limitanei units in the Notitia, the shield pattern of the ala Sabiniana is not illustrated. However, I note that a lead sealing stamp (RIB 2411.85) recording this unit (in the form AL(a)E SAB) shows on the other side of the seal the image of an eagle. This does not refer to an aquila standard (since such aquilae were only carried by legionary units). It is noteworthy that the auxilia palatina unit called the Sabini (98/9.70) would appear, once pattern shifts are accounted for, to have carried a pattern (94#3) bearing an eagle. If the coincidence (in the sense of similarity) of these two eagle images is not coincidental (in the sense of happenstance), then the conclusion one might draw from two units bearing very similar names and also presenting very similar imagery is they might well be related. If so, this might cast doubt on the origins of the names of either - or both - of the units. In any case, it would raise a serious possibility that an eagle featured on the shield of the ala Sabiniana.

Latini pattern

Above: pattern 94#3 from the Paris manuscript, P. This is labelled Latini (94.c) but likely belonged to the next unit in the Magister Peditum's infantry roster in reality: the Sabini (98/9.70).


1. Ingo Maier; "Appendix 4: Numeration of the new edition of the compilation 'notitia dignitatum' (Cnd)"; last accessed 26 October 2015. See also for here for numbering examples. Return
2. Leiva Petersen & Klaus Wachtel (Eds.); "Prosopographia Imperii Romani saec. I. II. III., Pars VI"; Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 1998; entry 744. See also CIL 11,969. Return
3. S.S. Frere, Margaret Roxan, & R.S.O. Tomlin (Eds); "The Roman Inscriptions of Britain", Vol. II, Fasc. I; Allan Sutton, Gloucester, 1990. Return


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