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date: 09 December 2022

armies, Roman, late empirelocked

armies, Roman, late empirelocked

  • R. S. O. Tomlin


The army of the late empire is brilliantly described by *Ammianus Marcellinus, and its order of battle (c. 395 ce) survives in the *Notitia Dignitatum, but its evolution is obscure. As pressure upon the frontiers grew, *Septimius Severus increased the number of legions and, by recruiting the praetorian guard from them, protected himself from other usurpers and formed a strategic reserve. This was supplemented on campaign by the usual frontier detachments. Emperors assumed personal command and, if they proved incompetent like *Severus Alexander, the army replaced them. Promotion of professional soldiers culminated in *Gallienus' exclusion of senators from military service, and the premium on mobility in his creation of a separate cavalry force.This ‘élite’, as *Aurelian's army is called, was used by *Diocletian to reinforce frontier armies now increasingly commanded by professional duces (see dux). But despite his emphasis on fixed defences, Diocletian retained a small mobile army of new units like the comites cavalry and the Ioviani and Herculiani legions.


  • Late Antiquity

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