The Comites Alani

This page created 21 June 2014, and last modified: 10 December 2015 (Maier reference numbers added)


The Comites Alani is listed (102/5.9 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as the seventh of the vexillationes palatinae in the Magister Equitum's cavalry roster; it is assigned (102/5.214) to the Magister Peditum's Italian command. Its shield pattern (100#8), as shown in various manuscripts under the plain label (100.h) Alani, is as below:

Shield patterns

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

The shield pattern shows a red boss (blue in B) with a red pillar underneath; the two together are surrounded by a white border. The rest of the shield is plain white, except in W, where it is blue. It thus bears a close resemblance to that of the Equites constantes Valentinianenses seniores (102/5.11), another unit of vexillationes palatinae, at least in shape, if not colour, as the following patterns taken from the Parisian manuscript show:

Shield patterns

The name Comites means "companions"; specifically, companions-in-arms of the Emperor; it is where the aristocratic title "Count" comes from; all units of Comites in the Notitia are cavalry.

The name Alani is tribal, taken from the Sarmatian Alans who migrated westwards from north of the Caucasus in various stages. During the period the western part of the Notitia was being amended (ca. 395 - 420), one particularly bold and large group of Alans pushed through Roman Gaul and into Spain in conjunction with the Germanic Vandals. At least one group of Alans may have already been settled in Gaul prior to this, as the Notitia lists (156/8.85) a Praefectus Sarmatarum gentilium, per tractum Rodunensem et Alaunorum in Gaul (Brittany in particular even today has several places named Allainville). The Comites Alani were likely recruited, at least initially, from among the Alans.


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. Bernard S. Bacharach; "A History of the Alans in the West: From Their First Appearance in the Sources of Classical Antiquity Through the Early Middle Ages", University of Minnesota Press, 1973; at p 136-8. Return


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