Equites Catafractarii (at Morbio)

This page created 9 November 2015, and last modified: 9 November 2015


The fourth officer listed (154.5 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) under the command of the Dux Britanniarum is the Praefectus equitum catafractariorum, said to be stationed at Morbio.

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

The modern location of Morbio is unidentified as yet, but is likely to be either the Roman fort at modern Piercebridge, or that at Greta Bridge, both in County Durham, although neither place has turned up any apparent inscriptional evidence for non-legionary units. The men under the Praefectus equitum catafractariorum from Morbio are a rare example of a limitanei unit of equites catafractarii (extra-heavily armoured cavalry); the only two others to be found in the Notitia are in the eastern half of the empire. Another unit of equites catafractarii is to be found in Britain according to the Notitia: the equites catafractarii iuniores (102/5.251) recorded under the Comes Britanniae, and thus a comitatenses (field army) unit. As it is, 154.5 and 102/5.251 are the only units of catafractarii in the western half of the Notitia, and are very likely one and the same unit, separated in time (and no doubt space, although, as with all comitatenses units, it is given no location in the Notitia, being a non-garrison unit). The existence of an equites catafractarii iuniores implies the existence of an equites catafractarii seniores, although no such unit is to be found in the Notitia; however, such a unit is indeed mentioned on a gravestone (CIL 13.1848; photos here) from Lyons, which reads NUM(ero) EQ(uitum) CATAF(ractariorum) SEN(iorum).

Although no inscriptional evidence for a unit of equites catafractarii has been preserved from Britain, this may because the unit was usually known by another name before the time of the Notitia's compilation. Although it is common for limitanei units named in the Notitia to have longer names when inscriptional evidence is found for them, judging from the evidence, inscriptions recording equites catafractarii units seemed to have stressed the fact they were catafracts, rather than omitting the point, so this seems unlikely. It is perhaps more likely that the unit had simply not been stationed in Britain long enough to establish an epigraphical record.

As with all limitanei units, the shield pattern of the Dux' equites catafractarii is not illustrated in the Notitia.


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. D. Woods; "Some Eunapiania", in 'Eklogai: studies in honour of Thomas Finan and Gerard Watson'; Ed. K McGroarty, NUI Maynooth (2001); p 93-94. Return


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