The Notitia Dignitatum


This page created 8 October, and last modified: 8 October 2014


The following units of numeri are noted in the Notitia:-

Under the Comes litoris Saxonici per Britanniam:
Numerus Abulcorum, at Anderidos (likely = the Abulci of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command)
Numerus exploratorum, at Portum Adurni (possibly = the Exploratores of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command)
Numerus Fortensium, at Othonae
Numerus Turnacensium, at Lemannis (possibly = the Truncensimani of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command)
Under the Dux Britanniarum:
Numerus barcariorum Tigrisiensium, at Arbeia
Numerus defensorum, at Barboniaco (likely = the Defensores seniores of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command)
Numerus directorum, at Verteris
Numerus exploratorum, at Lavatres (possibly = the Exploratores of the Magister Equitum's Gallic command)
Numerus Longovicanorum, at Longovicio
Numerus Maurorum Aurelianorum, at Aballaba
Numerus Nerviorum Dictensium, at Dicti
Numerus Pacensium, at Magis
Numerus Solensium, at Maglone
Numerus supervenientium Petueriensium, at Deruentione
Numerus vigilum, at Concangios
And under the Dux Raetiae primae et secundae:
Numerus barbaricariorum, at Cofluentibus or Brecantia
None of their shield patterns are shown (unless one counts that of the Defensores seniores).

Numerus simply means "unit"; 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, 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 15 units are so-called in the Notitia, and all but one are British limitanei units. The lone non-British unit is somewhat unusual in 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 usage as a military name is surprising.

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".


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