The Equites stablesiani Africani

This page created 3 August 2014, and last modified: 7 December 2015 (references rearranged)


The Equites stablesiani Africani is listed (102/5.23 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as the 11th of the 32 vexillationes comitatenses in the Magister Equitum's cavalry roster; it is assigned (102/5.233) to the Comes Africae as the Equites stablesiani seniores. Its shield pattern (101#1), as shown in various manuscripts under the plain label (101.a) Stablesiani, 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 number of concentric bands; working from the rim inwards, they are white, yellow, red (widest, main colour), yellow, indigo (faded to pink in M, W; white in B), and green (faded to yellow in M; absent in O, B); the boss is blue (purple in B).

The precise meaning of the name stablesiani (pertaining to stables) in the context of the late Roman army is unsure. Various theories have been propounded; see my discussion herefor more information. Africani might appear to pertain to the unit's current station, although it should be pointed out that there is another unit of Equites stablesiani under the command of the Comes Africae: the Equites stablesiani Italiciani (102/5.41), which is clearly not stationed in Italy; it seems more likely the names instead refers to the places where the units were initially stationed and/or raised.

Epigraphic evidence for units of Equites stablesiani in Africa come from two inscriptions from Sitifis (modern Setif in Algeria); one (CIL 8.8490) mentions an "EQUITVM STA[..]ESIANORVM; the other (AE 1916.7) mentions an EQUITVM STABLESIANORVM. Another inscription (AE 1937.35) from Thamallula (modern Ras el Oued in Algeria) mentions an EQVES STABLISANORVM. Since all three inscriptions are dated to the Tetrarchy, they presumably pertain to the Equites stablesiani Africani, and not the Equites stablesiani Italiciani, which is likely to have been a recent arrival in Africa when the Notitia was first compiled (or last updated).

The unit's shield pattern is somewhat similar to that of the Tertio Augustani (98/9.128), one of the legiones comitatenses allocated to the Comes Africae, as a comparison of their patterns taken from the Bodleian manuscript, O, shows:

2 shield patterns

Since the origins of Equites stablesiani may be as units of ex-legionary horsemen, it might well be possible to see in this similarity the origins of the Equites stablesiani Africani as a detachment of Legio III Augusta. Given the names recorded for the unit in the Notitia, the units full name may well have been the Equites stablesiani Africani seniores.


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. Philip Rance; "The Third Equites Stablesiani at Cyrrhus"; Chiron 42 (2012), pp 347-360; available here, especially at page 348, note 5 (last accessed 7 December 2015). Return


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