This page created 17 May 2014, and last modified: 4 November (inscription photo link added)
The Equites octavo Dalmatae is listed as third of the vexillationes comitatenses under the Magister Equitum's list and assigned to his Gallic command . Its shield pattern is shown in various manuscripts with the simple label Dalmatae, is as below:
The shield pattern is rather complex. It features a white ground with a white central disc, from which radiate seven spikes. It appears there is spacing for eight, albeit the 12 o'clock position is instead taken up by a purple voided billet, to use the language of medieval heraldry (i.e. a rectangle with the centre taken out). The central disc shows a green six-petalled flower with a blue (O, P), white (W, B) or green (but faded to yellow) central portion (M), where the boss would be positioned. Each of the spikes is shaded in purple, with the purple being on the trailing edge going clockwise around the shield. The rectangular box probably represents a small imago - an Imperial portrait, albeit at a scale too small to have been successfully drawn. The 12 o'clock position is typical for such portraits (e.g. see the Sagittarii iuniores Gallicani), and was a particularly common position for shield decorations to appear during the Tetrarchy, 100 years before the Notitia was compiled; an example of a cavlaryman's shield showing such a motif can be seen in the Piazza Armerina mosaics in Sicily, as shown below:
The name Dalmatae comes from Dalmatia, from where a dozen or so auxiliary infantry cohorts were recruited in the first century; a few of these kept their names intact long enough to make it into the Notitia, such as the men under the Tribunus cohortis secundae Dalmatarum, responsible to the Dux Britanniarum. However, the great majority of Dalmatae units in the Notitia are, like the Equites octavo Dalmatae, cavalry units. They seem to have been a major component of the much-expanded cavalry forces raised in the 3rd quarter of the 3rd century; exactly how Dalmatae cavalrymen were distinguished from those of other units is not yet understood.
The Equites octavo Dalmatae (i.e. "the Eighth Dalmation Horse") is part of a series of numbered Dalmatian horse units in the Notitia; one can also find the:
Equites tertio Dalmatae, one of the vexillationes comitatenses units under the Magister Militum per OrientemMost Dalmatian cavalry units however are not so-numbered; a few have a name, such as the Equites Dalmatae Passerentiaci, but most limitanei units that are just described as "Equites Dalmatae", along with their garrison station.
Equites quinto Dalmatae, one of the vexillationes comitatenses units under the Magister Militum Praesentalis I
Equites sexto Dalmatae, one of the vexillationes comitatenses units under the Magister Militum Praesentalis II
Equites nono Dalmatae, another of the vexillationes comitatenses units under the Magister Militum Praesentalis I
Inscriptional evidence for the Equites octavo Dalmatae comes from the cemetery at Colonia Iulia Concordia (modern Portogruaro in Veneto, Italy), which produced two inscriptions mentioning the unit; the first (CIL 5, 8777) in the form of the nu(mero) E[Q]VI(TVM) VIII DALM[...], and the second (ILS 2805; photo here) in the form NVMERO OCTAVA DALMATAS . See here for Hoffmann's 1963 analysis (in German).
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