Notitia Dignitatum

Notitia Dignitatum
Page from a medieval copy of the Notitia Dignitatum, depicting shields of Magister Militum Praesentalis II, a late Roman register of military commands.

The Notitia Dignitatum is a unique document of the Roman imperial chanceries. One of the very few surviving documents of Roman government, it details the administrative organisation of the eastern and western empires, listing several thousand offices from the imperial court down to the provincial level. It is usually considered to be up to date for the Western empire in the 420s, and for the Eastern empire in 400s. However, no absolute date can be given, and there are omissions and problems.

There are several extant fifteenth and sixteenth-century copies (plus a colour-illuminated 1542 version). All the known and extant copies of this late Roman document are derived, either directly or indirectly, from a codex (Codex Spirensis) that is known to have existed in the library of the cathedral chapter at Speyer in 1542 but which was lost before 1672 and cannot now be located. That book contained a collection of documents (of which the Notitia was the last and largest document, occupying 164 pages) that brought together several previous documents of which one was of the 9th century.[citation needed] The heraldry in illuminated manuscripts of Notitiae is thought to copy or imitate no other examples than those from the lost Codex Spirensis. The most important copy of the Codex is that made for Pietro Donato (1436), illuminated by Peronet Lamy.[citation needed]



For each half of the empire, the Notitia enumerates all major 'dignities' (i.e. offices) in its gift, often with their location and even their exact officium (staff, enumerated except for the most junior). These are organised by:

The most recent editor of Notitia Dignitatum is Robert Ireland, in British Archaeological Reports, International Series 63.2.


Shield pattern of the armigeri defensores seniores (4th row, third from left), the earliest representations of the symbol known today as Yin and Yang.[1][2][3]

The Notitia presents four main problems, as regards the study of the Empire's military establishment:

  1. The Notitia depicts the Roman army at the end of the 4th century. Therefore its development over the 4th century from the Principate structure is largely conjectural, owing to the lack of other evidence.
  2. It was compiled at two different times. The Eastern section apparently dates from c395 AD; the Western from considerably later, c420. Furthermore, each section is probably not a contemporaneous "snapshot", but relies on data stretching back as far as twenty years. The Eastern section may contain data from as early as 379, the start of the rule of Theodosius I. The Western section contains data from as early as c400: for example, it shows units deployed in Britain, which must date from before 410, when Roman troops were evacuated from the island. In consequence, there is substantial duplication, with the same unit often listed under different commands. It is impossible to ascertain whether these were detachments of the same unit in different places at the same time, or the same whole unit at different times. Also, it is likely that some units only existed on paper or contained just a skeleton personnel.[4]
  3. The Notitia has many sections missing and lacunae (gaps) within sections. This is doubtless due to accumulated text losses and copying errors as it was repeatedly copied over the centuries: the earliest manuscript we possess today dates from the 15th century. The Notitia cannot therefore provide a comprehensive listing of all units in existence.
  4. The Notitia does not contain any personnel figures. Therefore, the size of individual units, and of the various commands, cannot be ascertained, as we have little other evidence of unit sizes at this time. In turn, this makes it impossible to assess accurately the overall size of the army. Depending on the strength of units, the late 4th century army may, at one extreme, have equalled the size of the 2nd century force (i.e. over 400,000 men);[5] at the other extreme, it may have been far smaller. For example, the forces deployed in Britain c400 may have been just 18,000 against c55,000 in the 2nd century.[6]


The Notitia contains the earliest known depictions of the diagram which later came to be known as yin and yang symbol.[1][2][3] The infantry units armigeri defensores seniores ("shield-bearers") and Mauri Osismiaci had a shield design which corresponds to the dynamic, clockwise version of the symbol.[1] The emblem of the Thebaei, another Western Roman infantry regiment, featured a pattern of concentric circles comparable to its static version. The Roman patterns predate the earliest Taoist versions by almost seven hundred years.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Giovanni Monastra: The "Yin-Yang" among the Insignia of the Roman Empire?, Sophia, Bd. 6, Nr. 2 (2000)
  2. ^ a b Isabelle Robinet: "Taiji tu. Diagram of the Great Ultimate", in: Fabrizio Pregadio (ed.): The Encyclopedia of Taoism A−Z, Routledge, Abingdon (Oxfordshire) 2008, ISBN 978-0-7007-1200-7, pp. 934−936 (934)
  3. ^ a b Helmut Nickel: The Dragon and the Pearl, Metropolitan Museum Journal, Bd. 26 (1991), S. 146, Fn. 5
  4. ^ A. Goldsworthy Roman Warfare (2000) 198
  5. ^ P. Heather, Fall of the Roman Empire (2005) 63
  6. ^ D. Mattingly An imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire (2006) 239

Sources and references

  • Westermann Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte contains many precise maps
  • Pauly-Wissowa (German-language encyclopaedia on all classical Antiquity) provides articles and further bibliography on almost every term or name one might wish to know more about
  • Notitia dignitatum: accedunt Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae et Laterculi provinciarum, edidit Otto Seeck, Berolini: Weidmann, 1876.
  • A.H.M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire, 284-602. A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8018-3285-3

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Notitia Dignitatum — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Escudos del Magister Militum Praesentalis II. En este caso un página de la Notitia Dignitatum, una copia de los mandos militares del Imperio Romano de Occidente. La Notitia Dignitatum es un documento único d …   Wikipedia Español

  • Notitia Dignitatum — • The official handbook of the civil and military officials in the later Roman Empire Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Notitia Dignitatum     Notitia Dignitatum      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Notitia dignitatum — Page d une copie médiévale de la Notitia Dignitatum, représentant des boucliers des armigeri defensores seniores. On remarquera sur la 4e ligne, 3e en partant de la gauche, l une des première représentation d un symbole connu aujourd hui sous le… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Notitia dignitatum — Seite aus der Notitia Dignitatum die Einheitsbezeichnung und Schildemblem der Truppen (Comitatenses) unter dem Kommando des magister equitum (OB der Kavallerie) darstellt. Die Notitia Dignitatum (ND) ist die Kopie eines mehrfach ergänzten… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Notitia Dignitatum — Seite aus der Notitia Dignitatum die Einheitsbezeichnung und Schildemblem der Truppen (Comitatenses) unter dem Kommando des mag equitum (OB der Kavallerie) darstellt …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Notitia Dignitatum — Страница средневековой копии Notitia Dignitatum с изображением щитов Magister Militum Praesentalis II, списка римских воинских соединений Notitia Dignitatum (сокращенно ND, рус. Список должностей)  докумен …   Википедия

  • Notitia dignitatum — Página de una copia medieval de la Notitia dignitatum con los escudos del Magister Militum Praesentalis II, registro de los mandos militares del Imperio. La Notitia dignitatum es un documento único de la cancillería imperial romana. Se trata de… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Notitia Dignitatum — Page d une copie médiévale de la Notitia Dignitatum, représentant des boucliers des armigeri defensores seniores. Certains auteurs voient dans le troisième insigne de la quatrième ligne une des premières représentations d un symbole connu aujourd …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Notitia Dignitatum — ▪ Roman document       official list of all ancient Roman (ancient Rome) civil and military posts, surviving as a 1551 copy of the now missing original. It is a major source of information on the administrative organization of the late Roman… …   Universalium

  • Notitia dignitatum —          (лат.), государств, справочник, свод всех военных и гражданских должностей с описанием организации рим. сухопутного войска. Относится к 5 в. н. э., однако содержит некоторые данные о более раннем периоде до 3 в. Важный источник по… …   Словарь античности

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