Numerus defensorum

This page created 12 November 2015, and last modified: 13 December 2015 (Jones commentary added)


The tenth officer listed (154.11 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) under the command of the Dux Britanniarum is the Praefectus numeri directorum, said to be stationed at Braboniaco.

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

The entry Praefectus numeri defensorum Braboniaco is rather generic: defensores just means "defenders", and thus in full "the prefect of the garrison of Bravoniacum" (modern Kirkby Thore in former Westmoreland).

Epigraphic records attest the garrison of the site was, at least for some time, an ala or cavalry squadron. E.g. CIL 8.4800, the tombstone of a cavalryman in Africa who served IN BRITANIA EQ ALARIS MILITANS BRAVNIACO - i.e. "in Britain as a trooper in the squadron of the soldiers at Bravoniacum"; and RIB 765 from Kirkby Thore itself: a pedastal dedicated by a decurion in an alae, although which one is not able to be identified (although the unit's name might have started with a "L"). While an ala would fit with having a prefect in charge, so would a legionary unit. Moreover, given the meaning of the name defensores, an identification with a cavalry unit, the classic ancient unit of offense, would suit less well than a more defensive infantry unit. Indeed, of the five other units of defensores listed in the Notitia, four are explictly infantry (the Defensores (9.32) under the first Magister Militum Praesentalis/a>, and the Armigeri defensores seniores (98/9.101), the Defensores seniores (98/9.141), and the Defensores iuniores (102/5.145), all in the Magister Equitum's Gallic command; and the fifth is implicitly infantry: the milites defensores (156/8.11) under the Dux Mogontiacensis. Accordingly, the probability of the British unit being an infantry must considered to be very high indeed, and consequently, given a prefect being in charge, a legionary unit (or possibly a naval or ex-naval unit).

It is entirely possible, given the Defensores seniores and the Defensores iuniores are pseudocomitatenses units, that the British numerus defensorum can be equated with one of these units, while the other could well be one and the same as the Dux Mogontiacensis' milites defensores, stationed at Confluentibus, i.e. Confluentes, modern Koblenz).

As with all limitanei units in the Notitia, the shield pattern of the numerus defensorum Braboniaco is not illustrated. That of the Defensores seniores is however:

Defensores seniores shield patterns

However, even if the Defensores seniores = numerus defensorum Braboniaco equation is accepted, it by no means follows the pattern of the unit was as shown above while it served in Britain, as there are many indications in the Notitia that limitanei units that were given pseudocomitatenses status received new shield patterns.


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 , for example, considered the British unit to be the seniores unit, and the German unit the iuniores unit, although with no explanation why this was preferable to the converse arrangement: Jones, A.H.M.; "The Later Roman Empire, 284-602; A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey"; Blackwell, Oxford, 1964 (3 volumes); at p 365 of vol. 3. Return


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