The Equites stablesiani italiciani

This page created 5 August 2014, and last modified: 10 November 2014 (Maier numbers added)


The Equites stablesiani italiciani is listed (102/5.41 in Ingo Maier's numbering scheme) as 29th of the 32 vexillationes comitatenses in the Magister Equitum's cavalry roster; it is assigned (102/5.231) to the Comes Africae. Its shield pattern (101#19) as shown in various manuscripts, under the label (101.t) 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 plain red main ground with a black spiked boss (pink in M) on a red base (pink in M, missing in W); the boss is encircled by a number of small black dots that may represent rivets but are perhaps more likely to be merely decorative. One other cavalry unit illustrated in Notitia bears a spiked boss: the Equites armigeri iuniores , also under the command of the Comes Africae, and whose shield pattern is also (mostly) red.

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 here for more information. Italiciani would appear to indicate the unit was either raised in Italy, or stationed there in the not-so-distant past; this distinguishes it from another unit of Stablesiani in the same command: the Equites stablesiani (Africani) seniores. It is interesting that the Equites stablesiani italiciani is listed first in the list of cavalry units assigned to the Comes Africa, but nearly last in the Magister Equitum's cavalry roster; this may be because some of the cavalry units apparently assigned to the Comes Africae may in fact have been assigned to Spain.

Inscriptional evidence for what well may be the Equites stablesiani italiciani comes from Aquileia in Italy mentioning (AE 1974,342) an N STABL, which expands to a "numero Stablesianorum", and another (CIL 5.4376) from Brescia, also in Italy, mentioning a VEXIL EQ STABLESIANORVM, which expands to a "vexillatione equitum Stablesianorum". Equating these inscriptions with the Equites stablesiani italiciani assumes that no other units of Stablesiani were stationed in Italy, which is not a particularly safe assumption, given units of Stablesiani not recorded in the Notitia certainly existed (see: Philip Rance, "The Third Equites Stablesiani at Cyrrhus", Chiron 42 (2012), 347-360, available here, at page 348, note 5).


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