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Notitia Dignitatum - British section
( ca AD 395-430)
Robert Vermaat

The Notitia Dignitatum for BritainInsignia of the Dux Britanniarum, British Museum MS Misc 378

For Britain, the Notitia lists several military commands (the dux Britanniarum, the comes litoris Saxonici per Britannias and the comes Britanniarum), the governors of the five British provinces and the staff of the vicarius in London.

  • dux Britanniarum This limitaneus (frontier) command consisted of the region along Hadrian’s Wall and the coast from Cumbria, possibly even down to Wales. The problem with this section is that it is incomplete - we assume that the part concerning Wales is lost. It consisted probably of three parts, one containing the forts of the Wall (per liniam valli) and the Cumbrian coast, the other the units in Yorkshire. The third part, which may have contained the units and forts in Wales, was lost either lost, or the units discontinued at an earlier date. Either way, this extremely valuable information is no longer there. The map (right) represents several cities or forts, representing only a part of the commandas including the whole island. Starting from the top (l-r) is Sextae (York), home of the sixth legion (which is not mentioned in the Notitia). Following are several forts, located south of Hadrian's Wall, starting with Praesidium (?), Danum (Doncaster), Morbium (?), Arbeia (South Insignia of the Comes Litoris Saxonici per Britannias, British Museum MS Misc 378 folio 153v.Shields), Dictum (?), Concangis (Chester-le-Street), Lavatris (Bowes), Verteris (Brough), Bravoniacum (Kirkby Thore), Maglona and Magis (Old Carlisle or ?), Longovicium (Lanchester) and Derventio (Malton). In fact, the command of the Duke stretched along Hadrians Wall (per liniam valli), west of the Pennines and probably into Wales.
  • comes litoris Saxonici per Britannias The Notitia is the only historical source for the Saxon Shore, an otherwise unknown military command. The Saxon Shore consisted of several forts built around southeast Britain in the later third and fourth centuries, which were probably started by the usurper Carausius or even earlier. The explanation for the term 'Saxon' is not clear. It might mean ‘the coast defended against the Saxons’, but also ‘the coast defended by the Saxons’,  or ‘the coast settled by the Saxons’. Equally enigmatic is the exact role of the command. Though mostly explained as a coastal defensive system, the inclusion in the Notitia might also warrant an system for tax-collection! This is based mainly on the structure of the forts, which seem to be less useful as naval stations than warehouses for storing taxes. The map (right) represents the coastal command of the Count, showing the forts of the Saxon Shore. Starting from the top (l-r) is Othona (Bradwell), then Dubris (Dover), Lemannis (Lympne), Branodunum (Brancaster), Gariannum (Burgh), Regulbium (Reculver), Rutupiae (Richborough), Anderida (Pevensey) and Portus Adurni (Portchester).Insignia of the Comes Britanniarum, British Museum MS Misc 378.
  • comes Britanniarum There had been a comes Britanniarum in the early fourth century under Constantine, but it had been discontinued long before. As related above, it was probably Stilicho who recreated this command, for we can date the eastern half of the Notitia relatively surely to 394, after which Stilicho was in command of the West from that time. Miller has dated the rather vague references to Stilicho’s work in Britain from Claudian and Gildas to 395, which would very neatly fit this solution. The map (right) shows one 'city' called 'Britannia', thereby probably showing that the command of the Comes stretched across the whole diocese.
  • vicarius Britanniarum The civil commander of the British diocese had a body of troops to command, but no regular units. The map (below) represents the command of the Vicar, showing the provinces of Britain. Starting from the top (l-r) is Maxima Caesariensis, Valentia, Britannia Prima, Britannia Secunda and Flavia Caesariensis.Insignia of the Vicarius Britanniae, British Museum MS Misc 378 folio 150v.
  • Army units The problem with this section of the Notitia is that, apart from being incomplete (we assume that the part concerning Wales is lost), it also seems extremely outdated, for most of the units listed for the wall forts are seemingly anachronistic third century cohortes and alae. In the light of the disaster in 367 and the following desertions, most historians think it very unlikely that all units returned unchanged; instead the consensus is that the list was not updated after the fourth century and kept only for administrative purposes. But is this view correct?

The opinion that the wall was deserted after the late fourth century has, in the light of recent archaeological work, been abandoned for a continuous use well into the fifth century. Also, see Ammianus Marcellinus for a different opinion of the so-called ‘disaster of 367’. It was very possible for ‘anachronistic’ units from the times of Severus, Constantine and Theodosius to survive to a later date. If we assume that the frontier was relatively quiet, such units did not need to be changed or replaced, which was often the case in areas prone to foreign attack or civil wars. We cannot simply limit this problem to the British sections, as Severan and Theodosian army units are mentioned in the other provinces as well, albeit not on the same scale. A similar display of older types of units exits on the Danube frontier, an area which is not likely to have been lost to the Empire as well.

'New' units are mentioned for Britain, which clearly came from the Rhine and which were introduced by count Theodosius after 368-9. Also, units such as the Sixth Legion in York are not mentioned in the latest update. The only difficulty is that we have no knowledge about the precise date when these units arrived or disappeared, and if their units were dropped from the list or not. Some evidently were, as the units named after 'tyrants' (usurpers) aren’t mentioned; these were probably annihilated or re-named when the tyrants were defeated. Concluding, we can say that (few) new units occur in Britain, and that (more) older units remain. Britain seems to have been a quiet province (in spite of the so-called 'disaster of 367), so it is likely that the older style units are not anachronistic, but actually served in Britain at the time of or shortly before the Notitia was drawn up.

Listed below is a list of the offices and troops for Britain. The chapters represent the Western part of the document (Occ.). This list is incomplete as to the units stationed in Britain, their number representeting a rough guide to date of creation, upgrade from the limitanei into the comitatenses or degradation:

Chapter 1:
REGISTER OF THE DIGNITARIES, BOTH CIVIL AND MILITARY, IN THE DISTRICTS OF THE WEST

Six vicars:
… of the Britains.

Six military counts:
… of the Britains;
of the Saxon shore of Britain.

Thirteen dukes:
… of Britannia

Twenty-two consulars:
in the Britains two:
of Maxima Caesariensis,
of Valentia.

Thirty-one presidents:
in the Britains three:

Occ.I:
NOTITIA DIGNITATUM OCCIDENTIS

.

Vicarii VI:
Vicarius Britanniae

Comites rei militaris VI:
Comes Britanniarum
Comes Litoris Soxonicum per Britannias

Duces XIII:
Dux Britanniarum

Consularii XXII:
Britanniae II:
Consularis per Maxima Caesariensis
Consularis per Valentia

Presidii XXXI:
Britanniae III:
Praesidis per Britannia prima
Praesidis per Britannia secunda
Praesidis per Flavia Caesariensis


Chapter 3:
THE PRAETORIAN PREFECT OF THE GAULS

Dioceses: … the Britains.

Provinces: … of the Britains five:


Occ.III:
PRAEFECTIS PRAETORIANIS PER GALLIAS

Britanniae

Provinciae, Britanniae V:
Maxima Caesariensis
Valentia
Britannia prima
Britannia secunda
Flauia Caesariensis.


Chapter 5:
THE MASTER OF FOOT IN THE EMPEROR'S PRESENCE

The counts of the frontiers:
… the Britains;
the Saxon shore toward the Britains.

The ten dukes of the frontiers:
… the Britains;


Occ. V:
MAGISTER PEDITUM PRAESENTALIS

Comites limitum infrascriptorum
Comes Britanniarum
Comes Litoris Saxonici per Britanniam

Duces limitum infrascriptorum X
Dux Britanniarum

185. Victores Iuniores, auxilia palatinae
207. Exculcatores Iuniores Britanniciani, auxilia
palatinae
241. Secunda Britannica, legio comitatenses


Chapter 6:
THE MASTER OF HORSE IN THE EMPEROR'S PRESENCE


Occ. VI :
MAGISTER EQUITUM PRAESENTALIS

59. Equites Honoriani Taifali Iuniores, vexillatio
comitatenses
60. Equites Honoriani Seniores, vexillatio
comitatenses


Chapter 7:
DISTRIBUTION OF THE FORCES ABOVE NAMED
AMONG THE VARIOUS PROVINCES

In the Britains with the worshipful count of the
Britains
:

[One palatine auxilium,
One legion of the line,
One unclassified body.]
Also squadrons of cavalry:

.

In Britain with the worshipful count of the Britains.
[Three of the line,
Two unclassified.]


Occ. VII :
DISTRIBUTIO NUMERORUM

.

Intra Britannias, Comes Britanniarum
.

84. Secunda Britannica, legio comitatenses
154. Victores Iuniores Britanniciani auxilia palatinae
155. Primani Iuniores, legio comitatenses
156. Secundani Iuniores, legio comitatenses
200. Equites Catafractarii Iuniores, vexillatio
comitatenses
201. Equites Scutarii Aureliaci, vexillatio comitatenses

202. Equites Honoriani Seniores, vexillatio
comitatenses
203. Equites Stablesiani, vexillatio comitatenses
204. Equites Syri, vexillatio comitatenses
205. Equites Taifali, vexillatio comitatenses


Chapter 11:
THE COUNT OF THE SACRED BOUNTIES

Under the control of the illustrious count of the
sacred bounties.
The accountant of the general tax of the Britains.
In the Britains:
The provost of the storehouses at London.

The procurator of the weaving-house at Venta (?) in Britain.


Occ. XI :
COMES SACRARUM LARGITIONUM

.
.
.

.

Londinium

Venta (Silurum, Icenicorum, Belgarum ?)


Chapter 19:
THE COUNT OF THE BRITAINS
(Office, no troops)


Occ. XIX :
COMES BRITANNIARUM PROVINCIA BRITANNIA
officium


Chapter 23:
THE VICAR OF THE BRITAINS

Under the control of the worshipful vicar of the
Britains:
Consulars:
of Maxima Caesariensis,
of Valentia.
Presidents:
of Britannia prima,
of Britannia secunda,
of Flavia Caesariensis.

His staff is as follows:
A chief of staff from the school of confidential agents
the first class,
A chief deputy,
Two receivers of taxes,
A chief clerk,
A custodian,
A chief assistant,
A keeper of the records,
Assistants,
Secretaries,
Notaries, and the rest of the staff.


Occ. XXIII :
VICARIUS BRITANNIARUM

.
.

Consularii

Consularis per Maxima Caesariensis
Consularis per Valentia
Praesidii
Praesidis per Britannia prima
Praesidis per Britannia secunda
Praesidis per Flavia Caesariensis


Chapter 28:
THE COUNT OF THE SAXON SHORE

12. Troops and Offices of the Count of the Saxon Shore

13. (Bradwell)
14. (Dover)
15. (Lympne)
16. (Brancaster)

17. (Burgh Castle)

18. (Reculver)
19. (Richborough)
20. (Pevensey)
21. (Portchester?)


Occ. XXVIII :
COMES LITORIS SAXONICI PER BRITANNIAM

12. Sub dispositione uiri spectabilis comitis litoris Saxonici per Britanniam:
13. Praepositus numeri Fortensium, Othonae
14. Praepositus militum Tungrecanorum, Dubris
15. Praepositus numeri Turnacensium, Lemannis
16. Praepositus equitum Dalmatarum Branodunensium, Branoduno
17. Praepositus equitum stablesianorum Gariannonensium, Gariannonor
18. Tribunus cohortis primae Baetasiorum, Regulbio
19. Praefectus legionis secundae Augustae, Rutupis
20. Praepositus numeri Abulcorum, Anderidos
21. Praepositus numeri exploratorum, Portum Adurni


Chapter 40:
DUKE OF THE BRITAINS

17.Troops and Offices of the Dux Britanniarum:.
18. (York)
19. (?)
20. (Doncaster)
21. (Ilkley?)
22. (South Shields)

23. (Old Winteringham?)
24. (Chester-le-Street)
25. (Bowes)
26. (Brough Castle)
27. (Kirkby Thore)
28. (Old Carlisle)
29. (Drumburgh)
30. (Lanchester)
31. (Malton)

32. Units along the line of the Wall:
33. (Wallsend)
34. (Newcastle)
35. (Benwell)
36. (Rudchester)
37. (Halton Chesters)
38. (Chesters)
39. (Carrawburgh)
40. (Housesteads)
41. (Chesterholm)
42. (Great Chesters)
43. (Carvoran)
44. (Castleheads)
45. (Stanwix or Wreay)

46. 'Carlisle' - Seeck's emendation
47. (Burgh-by-Sands)

48. (Kirkbride)
49. (Maryport)
50. (Workington)
51. (Bowness)
52. (Ravenglass)
53. (Lancaster)
54. (Ribchester)
55. (?)
56. (?)


Occ. XL:
DUX BRITANNIARUM

17. Sub dispositione uiri spectabilis ducis Britanniarum:
18. Praefectus legionis sextae
19. Praefectus equitum Dalmatarum, Praesidio
20. Praefectus equitum Crispianorum, Dano
21. Praefectus equitum catafractariorum, Morbio
22. Praefectus numeri barcariorum Tigrisiensium, Arbeia
23. Praefectus numeri Nerviorum Dictensium, Dicti
24. Praefectus numeri uigilum, Concangios
25. Praefectus numeri exploratorum, Lauatres
26. Praefectus numeri directorum, Uerteris
27. Praefectus numeri defensorum, Braboniaco
28. Praefectus numeri Solensium, Maglone
29. Praefectus numeri Pacensium, Magis
30. Praefectus numeri Longovicanorum, Longouico
31. Praefectus numeri superuenientium Petueriensium, Deruentione
32. Item per lineam ualli:
33. Tribunus cohortis quartae Lingonum, Segeduno
34. Tribunus cohortis primae Cornouiorum, Ponte Aeli
35. Praefectus alae primae Asturum, Conderco
36. Tribunus cohortis primae Frixagorum, Uindobala
37. Praefectus alae Sabinianae, Hunno
38. Praefectus alae secundae Asturum, Cilurno
39. Tribunus cohortis primae Batauorum, Procolitia
40. Tribunus cohortis primae Tungrorum, Borcouicio
41. Tribunus cohortis quartae Gallorum, Uindolana
42. Tribunus cohortis primae Asturum, Aesica
43. Tribunus cohortis secundae Dalmatarum, Magnis
44. Tribunus cohortis primae Aeliae Dacorum, Amboglanna
45. Praefectus alae Petrianae, Uxelodunum or  Petrianis
46. 'Luguuallii'
47. Praefectus numeri Maurorum Aurelianorum, Aballaba
48. Tribunus cohortis secundae Lingonum, Congauata
49. Tribunus cohortis primae Hispaniorum, Axeloduno
50. Tribunus cohortis secundae Thracum, Gabrosenti
51. Tribunus cohortus primae Aeliae classicae, Tunnocelo
52. Tribunus cohortis primae Morinorum, Glannibanta
53. Tribunus cohortis tertiae Neruiorum, Alione
54. Cuneus Sarmatarum, Bremetenraco
55. Praefectus alae primae Herculeae, Olenaco
56. Tribunus cohortis sextae Neruiorum, Uirosido

Internet Medieval SourcebookFor an abbreviated (English) text see: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/notitiadignitatum.html


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