The Notitia Dignitatum

Domestici and other non-Scholae guards units

This page created 8 January 2004, and last modified: 16 November 2014 (Olympiodorus citation added)


There are a number of units whose names denote (or may denote) various types of guardsmen in the Notitia. Two of these are infantry units (pedites):

Domestici, under the eastern Comes Domesticorum pedites
Domestici, under the western Comes Domesticorum pedites
The rest are cavalry units (equites). In addition to 13 units of Scholae, there are the:
Domestici, under the eastern Comes Domesticorum equites
Domestici, under the western Comes Domesticorum equites
Prima praetoria, an ala under the Dux Armeniae
Secunda Valeria singularis, an ala under the Dux Raetiae
Bucellarii iuniores, a comitatenses vexillation under the Magister Militum per Orientem (see notes)
The Scholae units are now listed under their own page.

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

It is unclear to what extent, if any, the four Domestici units were military guard units at this date as opposed to being purely ceremonial. In the 350s AD, Ammianus records Constantius II being protected on the field by 'praetorian' foot guards who may well be the same as (one of the?) the above Domestici pedites (see also below), but whether this guard survived into the 5th century as a military force is unclear.

The Prima praetoria might appear to be a former Praetorian guards cavalry unit, but it is rather interestingly described as being 'nu[p]er constituta', i.e. newly organized, so in this case "praetoria" may be something of a red herring.

The Secunda Valeria singularis unit has a much stronger case for being a former cavalry guards unit, since singulares where cavalry escorts under the principate. Even so, it clearly is no longer a guards unit, being stationed as it as a border garrison.

SGurad from Kerch Missorium
The Bucellarii iuniores would appear to be the earliest mention of a unit of bucellarii in the regular army, as opposed to a private force. According to Olympiodorus (fragment 74), it was in Honorius' reign that "the name Bucellarii was given not only to Roman, but also to foreign soldiers", which may be an illusion to this very unit. Note there is some textual confusion about the name of this unit - some manuscripts conflate it with the Comites catafractarii as the Comites catafractarii Bucellarii iuniores. See my discussion under the Magister Militum per Orientem. In any case, the existence of a iuniores unit implies the existence (or previous existence) of a seniores counterpart.

In addition to the units mentioned above, Ammianus makes many mentions of protectores and candidati guardsmen. How they fit in with the Notitia's organisational scheme, if at all, is unclear. To the left is a detail from the Missorium of Kerch, a silver dish from the eastern Crimea now residing in the Hermitage, showing a guardsman, who accompanies an emperor that is believed to be Constantius II. Note the prominent chi-rho monogram, which is noticeably absent from the Notitia.

Public domain image, taken from an 1892 book.


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