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Notitia Dignitatum

Багерман А.Я.

Notitia Dignitatum is a list of positions in the late Roman Empire, comprising several hundred thousand offices ranging from palace positions to provincial ones, functioning in both the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire. The positions included both civil and military appointments.

Creation of Notitia Dignitatum

The document was presumably compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century CE.

The section pertaining to the Eastern Empire was compiled between 399 and 401 CE, while the section dedicated to the Western Empire was supplemented multiple times due to changing geopolitical circumstances. The latest revisions to the Western section date back to 425 CE.

The document was kept and updated by the primicerius notariorum, the chief notary of the empire, who made amendments to it when necessary.

Primicerius (primikherios) notariorum (Latin: primicerius ton notarion) was a title that belonged to the chancellor or head of the state chancellery, where acts were drawn up by notaries (in terms of adhering to strictly prescribed formulas in the text) and transcribed by qualified scribes (scribae). Content of Notitia Dignitatum

Notitia Dignitatum contains the administrative divisions of the late Roman Empire, civil and military offices, as well as the organization of troops, including the dioceses of the late Roman armies in both parts of the empire. Notitia Dignitatum also features illustrations depicting stylized views of cities and fortresses that existed at the time in both parts of the empire.

Several copies of Notitia Dignitatum made in the late Middle Ages (15th-16th centuries) have survived. All these copies were made from the Codex Spirensis, published in 1542 and kept in the library of Speyer Cathedral, but lost by 1672. The end of Codex Spirensis includes a copy of Notitia Dignitatum.

The "copiers" of the late Middle Ages preserved the illustrations from Notitia Dignitatum but added their own elements, thus slightly distorting the original drawings. Several copies of Codex Spirensis have survived to this day.

Page of a medieval copy of the Notitia Dignitatum featuring shields of the Magister Militum Praesentalis II, a list of Roman military formations

Lists of armies

Notitia Dignitatum contains 2 lists of field army troops (comitatus). The first list enumerates the combat units (numeri) and their commanders (magister peditum for infantry formations and magister equitum for cavalry), while the second list details the locations of these units and their high command.

However, the question of troop numbers arises since Notitia Dignitatum provides scarce data on the numerical strength of the units and the overall forces. Moreover, in several instances, the relevance of the placement of specific units in the designated deployment zones as stated in Notitia Dignitatum raises questions and doubts.

Structure of the Document

Notitia Dignitatum comprises 90 chapters. Each chapter contains text and between 5 and 20 illustrations per page of text.

The illustrations depict stylized fortresses and cities without specific geographical reference, which were under the authority of particular high-ranking officers (duces or comites). Thus, the illustrations represent the number of troops under their command.

On the pages referring to duces and comitatus (commanders of border troops), there is always an inscription in the upper left corner: "[Fl]oreas [int]er [ali]is [com]ites [ord]inis [pr]imi" — "May you prosper among the other distinguished associates of the first order," placed on a white tablet in the form of a book.

All chapters begin with the same phrase: "sub dispositione viri spectabilis" — "under the authority of the honorable dux/comes..." The troop lists follow a similar structure: first, the rank of the officer commanding the unit is mentioned, followed by the name of the unit and its location. After the information about the unit, the high officials in the dux's office (officium) are listed.

One of the copies of Codex Spirensis, which includes Notitia Dignitatum at the end.

One of the copies of the Codex Spirensis, at the end of which is presented Notitia Dignitatum
Notitia Dignitatum presented in a copy of Codex Spirensis

Related topics

Late Roman Empire, Fall of the Western Roman Empire, Soldiers of the Roman Empire during the Dominate period


1. Tkachenko A. A. "Notitia Dignitatum" kak istochnik po pozdneantichnoi emblematike ["Notitia Dignitatum" as a source for late antique emblematics]. Signum: Scientific and Informational Bulletin of the Center for Herbological and Genealogical Research of the IVI RAS], Moscow, 2000, issue 2, pp. 33-40. Archived from the archive on April 23, 2013.

2. Heather P. The Fall of the Roman Empire, Moscow: AST, 2011, pp. 380-383.

3. Bury J. B. The Notitia Dignitatum // Journal of Roman Studies. N 10. 1920. P. 131—154.

4. Polaschek E. Notitia Dignitatum // Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft. 17. 1. 1936. Coll. 1114—1116.

5. Jones A. H. M. Notitia Dignitatum // Jones A.H.M. The Later Roman Empire, 284—602. A social, economic, and administrative survey. V. 1 — 3. Oxf., 1964. (Appendix II. P. 347—380)