Hello everyone! I’m trying to keep the pace of writing on my blog almost every day, in order to give you guys interesting facts about Romans.
Today I’m going to speak about a really ancient book written in the late Roman Empire, whose name is Notitia Dignitatum, otherwise “The list of offices”. From a general perspective, it represents the administrative organisation of the late Roman empire, considering the imperial court, the provincial government, diplomatic missions and army units. It is believed to be accurate, for what the Western Roman Empire is concerned, in 420 AC and for the Eastern Roman Empire in 395 AC.
Generally speaking, the book refers to a Roman Empire split in two by the emperor Theodosius, who divided it in 395 AC leaving the Western Roman empire to Honorius and the Eastern one to Arcadius. This was the situation in 395 AC.
The two sides were intended to be guided by the Vandal general Stilicho, who was appointed by Theodosius as a tutor for his sons after his death. The truth of the matter is that Stilicho, although was a brave and competent general, was considered a stranger for his barbaric origins and the Eastern Roman emperor Arcadius freed himself from his cumbersome presence. Moreover the Eastern Roman empire always diverted barbaric invasions at its borders to its Western neighbor, making him fall in 476 AC under the pressure of Germanic tribes.
But that is another story, let’s go back to our book! It was written by an anonimous author who perhaps was a high official in the Roman administration, because he gained access to information that were not so easy to trace. The striking point of the book is that it describes the military situation in the late Roman Empire. Let’s forget about Romans easily conquering cities and territories, because the Roman army at that time was struggling to defend the empire’s borders. According to the book, which does not record the number of soldiers, it can be supposed that they were less than 400,000 men. It seems to much, but they are few, comparing them with the 2,750 millions of km² to defend. In addition, some places had seen the Roman army’s presence decreased: for instance Britain had about 55,000 soldiers during the 2nd century AC, while in the 5th century AC they were less than 18,000.
The last key fact that is worth – highlighting is that the book represents symbols and emblems of each unit in the army. Luckily, all the book was copied during the Middle Age and today it is perfectly preserved, making us enjoying the Amazing drawings depicted on Romans’ shields at that time.