The Notitia Dignitatum


This page created 8 October, and last modified: 30 June 2015 (commentary about infantry/cavalry expanded)


The following units of numeri are noted in the Notitia (the numbers in front of the names refer to Ingo Maier's numbering scheme):

Under the Comes litoris Saxonici per Britanniam:
132.2 Numerus Fortensium
132.4 Numerus Turnacensium (possibly = the Truncensimani (102/5.160) of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command)
132.9 Numerus Abulcorum (likely = the Abulci (102/5.161) of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command)
132.10 Numerus exploratorum (possibly = the Exploratores (102/5.162) of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command)
Under the Dux Britanniarum:
154.6 Numerus barcariorum Tigrisiensium
154.7 Numerus Nerviorum Dictensium
154.8 Numerus vigilum
154.9 Numerus exploratorum (possibly = the Exploratores (102/5.162) of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command)
154.10 Numerus directorum
154.11 Numerus defensorum (likely = the Defensores seniores (102/5.145) of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command)
154.12 Numerus Solensium
154.13 Numerus Pacensium
154.14 Numerus Longovicanorum
154.15 Numerus [name unsure (or two names; see below)]
154.30 Numerus Maurorum Aurelianorum
And under the Dux Raetiae primae et secundae:
147.20 Numerus barbaricariorum (see notes).
None of their shield patterns are shown (unless one counts that of the Defensores seniores).

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

Numerus simply means "unit" (hence English "numeral"); when Greek supplanted Latin as the language of the military of the Eastern Roman empire, the Greek equivalent "arithmos" was used. When first used in Roman military usage, numerus was seemingly used only for barbarian auxiliary units, especially of cavalry, possibly ad hoc in nature; however, by the time of the Notitia, it was used for every kind of military unit, from border garrisons to elite palatine legions. An example of the latter comes from the cemetery at Colonia Iulia Concordia (modern Portogruaro in Veneto, Italy), which produced an inscription (ILS 551) mentioning a soldier EX N MILIT IOVIANORUM, and which clearly means "ex numero militum Iovianorum"; see here for Hoffmann's 1963 analysis (in German).

Despite the widespread usage of the word outside the Notitia, only 16 units (or 17; see under the Dux Britanniarum for the troublesome 154.15) are so-called in the Notitia, and all but one are British limitanei units. The lone non-British unit is somewhat unusual not just for having the word numerus as its unit identifier, but also its name: barbaricariorum would appear to mean "an embroider working with gold". Although there are several Fabricae barbaricariorum (gold embroidery workshops) mentioned in the civilian sections of the Notitia, its apparent usage as a military name is surprising. However, its name is probably simply a scribal mistake for Numerus barcariorum (cf. 154.6, the Numerus barcariorum Tigrisiensium); barcariourum means "bargemen", and would be a far more apt description for a unit stationed at two locations on Lake Constance.

Why the British sections should have many of their units denoted as numeri, while other sections prefer cunei, alae, cohortes, etc., is unknown. Of course some sections do not even go this far, and just use the formula milites X, i.e. "the soldiers at X".

That the numerus bar[bari?]cariorum and all the the numeri under the Dux Britanniarum are commanded by prefects, as opposed to tribunes, implies they are either legionary or cavalry units, since auxiliary infantry units are commanded by tribunes. The numerus Maurorum Aurelianorum (154.30) would appear to be a cavalry unit (it is quite likely one and the same as the Equites scutarii Aureliaci (102/5.252) under the Comes Britanniae), while the other units are more likely to be infantry detachments, and thus legionary. The four numeri under the Comes litoris Saxonici per Britanniam are each listed as being commanded by a praepositus (as indeed are all the units save two under his command), which does not help in identifying whether the units are legionary, cavalry units, or auxiliary infantry units, because praepositus was a position in the Roman army, a commander of a (detachment of a) unit, and not a substantive rank, like praefectus or tribunus, in much the same way any commander of a modern naval ship holds the position of "captain", while very few such captains hold the substantive rank of "captain".


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