The Equites promoti seniores

This page created 22 June 2014, and last modified: 12 December 2015 (references rearranged)


The second of the vexillationes palatinae listed (102/5.4 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) in the Magister Equitum's cavalry roster in the western half of the empire is the Equites promoti seniores; it is assigned (102/5.211) to the Magister Peditum's Italian command. Its shield pattern (100#3), as shown in various manuscripts under the simple label (100.c) Promoti, 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 is very simple, with plain red main field, and a boss quartered white and blue. As a result it looks very similar to some other shield patterns in the Notitia; in particular, that of the Equites sagittarii Parthi iuniores (102/5.32), and among the infantry, the Taurunenses (98/9.135), differ only in having the boss quarterings white with either black or green, respectively, for example. That of the similarly-named Equites promoti iuniores (102/5.35) is also similar, but with a purple main field.

The name Promoti means 'advanced, promoted', and seems to have originally been applied to individual soldiers, but as time went on, groups of such select legionaries appear to have been given training as horsemen. This seemingly gave rise, especially during the 3rd century, to the formation of legionary cavalry units, which then seem to have been increasingly detached for use as independent units, leading to the large numbers of Equites promoti units found in the Notitia - albeit mostly in limitanei roles rather than serving with field armies.

"The" Equites promoti seniores may have originated as the mounted portion of the legionary component of the original Imperial comitatus in the 3rd century (another identically-named unit is listed (9.3) as the highest-ranked unit serving in the eastern half of the empire under the Magister Militum Praesentalis I). As with all eastern cavalry units, the shield pattern of the eastern Equites promoti seniores is not recorded. It is of course possible that the two units are actually one and the same, separated by time as well as by space, but this to me appears no more likely than them simply being duplicates - we know of other high-ranking units that definitely are duplicates, for example (e.g. the two different infantry Cornuti seniores units). Indeed, I would posit that the higher-ranking the unit, the less likely it would accept giving up its identity upon being split into western and eastern halves, thus leading to duplicate names. In the west, the Equites promoti seniores is outranked as a field army unit only by the Comites seniores (102/5.3).


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


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