Equites Crispiani

This page created 8 November 2015, and last modified: 8 November 2015


The third officer listed (154.4 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) under the command of the Dux Britanniarum is the Praefectus equitum Crispianorum, said to be stationed at Dano.

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

Dano (Danum) is modern Doncaster. I initially thought the equites Crispiani was named after Crispus, Constantine the Great's eldest son, who was executed in 326 AD. I was no doubt influenced in this by A.H.M. Jones, who stated this is "certainly" the case. But, given Crispus' damnatio memoriae, I now think it is much more likely they were actually named after Crispiana, a town on the upper Danube in Pannonia (a much less likely candidate is Crispitia, another locality, along the lower reaches of the Danube, where the Auxilium Crispitienses are recorded (80.14) as being stationed under the command of the Dux Daciae ripensis).

Although no inscriptional evidence for the unit has been preserved, this may because the unit was usually known by another name before the time of the Notitia's compilation. The ala I Pannonianorum Tampiana, for example, is of clearly Pannonian origin, and is attested as being in Britain in two diplomata from the early 2nd century (CIL 16,48 = RIB 2401.01; CIL 16,69), but is not recorded in any inscriptional evidence. The unit may not even have been originally stationed on the continent, for we know of at least one case of a British unit sending a detachment ("vexillatio") to Raetia which returned only many years later. One could envisage a detachment from Britain serving in Pannonia, and keeping the name of its temporary continental station when it returned, especially if it was assigned to a different station from its parent unit upon returning to Britain. One unit that I could easily imagine having done exactly that is ala I Pannoniorum Sabiniana, as this is both known to have stayed on in Britain, as it is recorded in the Notitia, as the ala Sabiniana (154.21), and which might have an incentive to go to Pannonia specifically - on a recruiting drive for example, to keep up its "home" traditions.

In addition to the possibility of an ala having been renamed, one should consider the possibility of the unit being the ex-equites component of an old cohors equitata unit: at least 20 units of cohortes equitatae have left epigraphic evidence in Britian, and only a minority of these can be positively related to units listed in the Notitia. It may even have been the mounted component of a unit whose foot component never served in Britain.

Another possible source would be one of the various cunei or mounted numeri or vexillationes that have been placed in Britain during the 3rd century (or even one that has not been identified)

As with all limitanei units, the shield pattern of the equites Crispiani 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. A.H.M. Jones; "The Later Roman Empire, 284-602; A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey"; Blackwell, Oxford, 1964; vol. 1 of 3, at p 99. Return
3. R.W. Davies; "Roman Scotland and Roman auxiliary units"; Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 108 (1976-7), 168-173, at p 169; available here (last accessed 8 November 2015). Return
4. Guy de la Bédoyère; "Companion to Roman Britian"; Tempus, 1999; see on-line portion regarding "The Roman Army in Britain" here (last accessed 9 December 2015). Return


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