Limitans (Latin Limitanei, adj. Limitatenses - soldiers of the Roman army units of the Dominate period, serving on the border.
Limitans were located in border areas near or inside the border fortifications and fortresses of Limes. Soldiers of the river fleets of the Rhine and Danube, rivers that served as natural frontiers of the state, were also called ripenses. Soldiers from the garrisons of large fort-castellums were also known as castellani, small outposts-burgs-burgarii. The task of the limitans was, as in the days of the principate, to protect the border. However, in times of The defense of the empire's borders was based on the principle of defense in depth, and in the event of a serious threat, the forces of the field army could be brought to the rescue of the Limitans from the depths of the province or diocese whose limes were threatened.
The term limitanei is also mentioned in the time of the principate, but it has no other meaning than the location of a military unit on the limes of the empire. During the dominant period, some scholars believe that Roman army units were divided into limitans, comitatenses, and Palatines. Limitans, as mentioned above, served on Limes, komitatensov can be conditionally attributed to parts of mobile field armies that can quickly come to the aid of the Limitans, suppress an uprising within the empire and launch an offensive campaign into enemy territory, and palatine units served directly under the emperor and acted as his personal guard.
However, there is an example of the Legio XIIII Comitatensis, which served as a border guard on the Danube as part of the ripenses, river infantry, flotilla and coastal border forces. Ammianus Marcellinus, a Roman general and chronicler of the second half of the fourth century AD, mentions the term "comitatus" exclusively in the sense of the troops currently under the direct command of the emperor. Thus, the clear division of the Roman army of the dominant period into stationary limitans and mobile comitatens may be a simplification that does not fully reflect reality.
Depending on the specifics of a particular area of Limes, limitans could include infantry legions and auxiliaries, which in the IV century included both heavy combat infantry and archers and skirmishers, alas and vexillations of cavalry, river vessels up to galleys, throwing guns with their own calculations, and so on.
1. Benjamin Knör. Das spätantike Offizierskorps (4./5. Jahrhundert), Verlag Grin, 2010,
2. Michael Whitby. Army and Society i.d. later Roman World, 2007, in: Averon Carneron/B.Ward Perkins/M.Whitby (Hrsg.) The Cambridge Ancient History Nr.14,
3. Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe (Hrsgb.): Erben des Imperiums in Nordafrika. Das Königreich der Vandalen, darin: Yann Le Bohac: Africa in der späten Kaiserzeit, Die Provinz am Vorabend der vandalischen Eroberung, S. 65-78, Verlag P.v.Zabern, Karlsruhe 2009
4. Ammianus Marcellinus. Rerum Gestarum
5. A. V. Bannikov. Roman Army in the fourth century from Constantine to Theodosius