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Hastatus of dominatus era

Тукеев П.Д.

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By the end of the third and beginning of the fourth centuries A.D., the Roman state's military machine had undergone drastic changes. The basis of the combat formation of the army was now the heavy marching infantry, which Ammianus Marcellinus and Vegetius called hastati. The Hastati were armed with shields (scutum) and universal spears (hasta), suitable for both throwing and hand-to-hand combat. In addition to the spear, each Hastat of the Dominat era could be armed with a long sword (spatha), as well as, depending on the needs of the specific situation, javelins of one of two types: a light javelin (verutum), designed to fight light infantry and cavalry, and a heavy one (spiculum), which was a direct analogue of the pilum of the principate era. In addition, they could be used and plumbats (plumbatae) - darts half a meter long, weighted with lead weights and equipped with jagged tips and plumage. Such a complex of weapons allowed the heavy infantry of the dominat to adapt to a wide range of situations, which, combined with traditional army discipline and regular training, gave the Romans an advantage in battle with any enemy, from the Germans to the Sassanid Persians.

It is believed that the Roman heavy infantry of the Dominata era was formed in six ranks (ordines), and the first, second, third and sixth ranks were hastati. Moreover, the Hastati of the first two and sixth ranks necessarily wore body armor, whether it was chain mail (lorica hamata) or scales (lorica squamata). Often, the first rank soldiers wore both greaves (ocrea) and right hand protection (manica). Plate armor (lorica segmentata) fell out of use by the second half of the III century AD.The third rank of Hastati did not have body armor and, according to some versions, consisted of recruits. The fourth and fifth ranks could be javelin throwers (lancearii) and archers (saggitarii), which will be discussed in other articles.


The equipment of the Hastati of the dominant era could consist of the following elements::

Fabric and leather products:

Elements of protective equipment made of metal and wood:

Elements of offensive weapons:

Other elements:

Not all the items of equipment mentioned above were found simultaneously on each Hastat. As already mentioned, the Hastati from the third rank did not have body armor or javelins, and sometimes swords. Some of the Hastati might not have spears, but in this case they were certainly armed with swords and javelins.

Roman soldier with sword and javelins, image from a fresco of the catacombs of Via Latina, Italy, IV century AD.
Roman soldier with gasta, an image from a fresco from the catacombs of Via Maria, Sicily. IV century AD


If we consider the most traditional image of Hastat as a spearman, then we should start with the set of hastat from the third rank, consisting of clothing, helmet, shield and spear. Clothing collection should start with a red wool manikat tunic, a white linen manikat under tunic, campagi shoes, and a military belt (cingulum militare). As a raincoat, sagum is suitable, as it is simpler and cheaper to manufacture, but with the development of the kit, it makes sense to replace it with chlamys.

Related topics

Dominant, Soldier of the Roman Empire of the Dominant era, Late Roman Empire


1) The Roman Army in the IV century. From Constantine to Theodosius. A.V. Bannikov

2) Armies of the Late Roman Empire. AD 284 to 476. History, Organization and Equipment. G. Esposito

3) De Re Militari, Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus

4) Rerum Gestarum, Ammianus Marcellinus


Roman soldier with gasta and spata in a sling, Schlossmuseum Linz. III century AD
Roman soldiers with ghasts, Chiaramonti Museum, Vatican City. IV century AD
Roman soldiers with ghasts, illustration from the manuscript Vergilius Vaticanus, IV-V centuries AD.