Part 1: Introduction
The Notitia Dignitatum is an official listing of all Late
Roman civil and military posts. It survives as a 1551 copy of the
now-missing original and is the major source of information on the
administrative organisation of the late Roman Empire.
This edition is a translation by William Fairley: the Notitia
Dignitatum, or Register of Dignitaries, in Translations and
Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol 6 No 4,
University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. Pagination from the
translation has been preserved here.
Extracts from William Fairley's introduction to the
The Notitia Dignitatum is an official register of all the
offices, other than municipal, which existed in the Roman Empire.
It suggests a year-book and other such publications. But this
register was official, prepared, as will be seen, by the "chief of
the notaries" in the East and West respectively.
It differs from its modern representatives in that it gives only
the offices, and not in any case the name of the incumbent. Gibbon
gave to this document a date between 395 and 407 when the Vandals
disturbed the Roman regime in Gaul. Bury, following Hodgkin (Italy
and her Invaders, Vol 1, p717), thinks that 402 is the probable date
from the fact that the twentieth legion, which was in that year
transferred from Britain to Italy, is not mentioned as being in
either of these divisions of the empire.
But Dr Otto Seeck (in Hermes, Vol XI, pp71-78) finds some
conditions, principally in the disposition of the troops which could
be true only of a time before the battle of Adrianople (378) and
others which are as late as 427. He infers that the Notitia
was drawn up as early as the time of Valens, and corrected from year
to year here and there, while left in many parts unchanged; and
that, therefore, does not give the exact military status at any one
The text comes to us through four manuscripts, now at Oxford,
Paris, Vienna, and Munich respectively. The last named is of the
sixteenth century, the other three of the fifteenth. The four are
exact copies, even in form, of a manuscript once preserved at
Spires, but lost in the latter part of the sixteenth century.
This Spires manuscript contained several other documents besides
the Notitia Dignitatum, one of them known to be of the year
825. Thus the earliest possible date for the Spires MS. is fixed,
and its palaeographic form, reproduced in the four copies mentioned,
shows that it was written not later than the eleventh century.
The Notitia Dignitatum has preserved for us, as no other
document has done, a complete outline view of the Roman
administrative system in the early fifth century. The hierarchic
arrangement is displayed perfectly. The division of prefectures,
dioceses and provinces, and the rank of their respective governors
is set forth at length. The military origin of the whole system
appears in the titles of the staff officers, even in those
departments whose heads had, since the time of Constantine, been
deprived of all military command.