download PDF


The article deals with the issue of the attachment of the Roman army to the plots in the 3rd–4th centuries AD that is directly related to the assessment of its mobility and combat effi ciency. The analysis of historical and legal sources makes it possible to reject the thesis of the militia nature of military service because of the Severus’ reforms. The Duces limitanei, specifi ed in Severus Alexander’s biography expose the anachronism of the Scriptores Historiae Augustae, and therefore cast doubt on the information of giving land to the soldiers.

The lots attributed to the legions (prata legionis) were used mainly as pastures and for the construction of fortifi cations. The source of the existence of a legionnaire’s family was veterans’ military settlements that occurred near the territory of the legion.

The land ownership by legionnaires and warriors of auxiliary forces dated back only to the beginning of the 4th century AD, and even then the soldiers could not cultivate their plots during the active service. This referred to both the fi eld (comitatenses) and the border (limitanei or riparienses) forces.

The first evidence of the cultivation of the land by the soldiers date back only to the beginning of the 5th century AD. In the meantime, the practice of the giving the plot to veterans disappeared, which can be attributed to the terminative attachment of the soldiers to the land, although they were still paid a poor emolument.

Thus, it is necessary to reconsider the viewpoint on the Roman army of the 2nd – 4th centuries AD as a kind of an organization of military settlers, half-peasants and half-soldiers. The peasantization process commenced only in the 5th century AD, and was fully manifested in the parts of limitanei, located along the borders of the Empire.


The Late Roman Empire, army, combat capability, sedentariness, prata legionis, comitatenses, limitanei

Sergey A. Lazarev

South Ural State Humanitarian Pedagogical University, Chelyabinsk, Russia

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Alföldi, A. 1940: Epigraphica. III. Archaeologiai Ertesito. III. F. 1, 195–235.

Bormann, E. 1901: Epigraphischer Anhang. Der romische Limes in Oesterreich. II. Wien, 141–150.

Egger, R. 1963: Aus dem Leben der donaulandischen Wehrbauem. Römische Antike und Früdes Christentum II, 51–68.

Egger, R. 1963: Bemerkungen zum Territorium pannonischer Festungen. Romische Antike und Fruhes Christentum II, 135–153.

Gage, J. 1964: Les classes sociales dans l’Empire Romain. Paris.

Grant, M. 1968: The climax of the Roman Empire. Boston–Toronto.

Grant, M. 1974: The army of the Caesars. London.

Grosse, R. 1920: Römische Militärgeschichte von Gallienus bis zum Beginn der byzantinischen Themenverfassung Roman history. Berlin.

Grump, G.A. 1973: Ammianus and the late Roman army. Historia 22, 91–113.

Hirschfeld, 0. 1905: Die Kaiserlichen Verwalungsbeamten bis auf Diocletian. Berlin.

Ignatenko, A.V. 1980: Armiya v Rime v period krizisa III v. (Politicheskaya rol’ armii i izmenenie ee organizatsionnykh osnov) [The Roman army during the 3rd century BC (The political role of the army and changing its organizational basis)]. In: Pravovye idei i gosudarstvennye uchrezhdeniya [Legal ideas and state institutions]. Sverdlovsk, 20–32.

Jones, А.Н.М. 1964: The later Roman Empire, 284–602. Oxford.

Klindert, W. 1949: Die diokletianisch-konstantinische Heeresreform. Wien.

Kolobov, A.V. 1999: Rimskie legiony vne poley srazheniy (Epokha ranney Imperii) [The Roman legions outside the battlefi elds (The era of the early Empire)]. Perm.

Kolosovskaya, Yu.K. 1969: K voprosu o sotsial’noy structure rimskogo obchshestva I–III vv. n. e. (collegia veteranorum) [On the issue of social structure of the Roman society during 3rd – 5th centuries BC]. Vestnik drevney istorii [Journal of Ancient History] 4, 122–129.

Kolosovskaya, Yu.K. 1973: Pannoniya v I–III vv. [Pannoniya in the 1st –3rd centuries BC] Moscow.

Kulakovskiy, Yu. 1881: Nadel vetetranov zemley i voennye poseleniya v Rimskoy imperii [Empowering veterans with land and military settlements in the Roman Empire]. Kiev.

Marqardt, J. 1884: Römische Staatsverwaltung. II. Leipzig.

Mocsy, A. 1966: Das lustrum primi pili Germania und die Annona militaris. Germania 64, 312– 326.

Mеуеr, P. 1895: Der rцmische Konkubinat. Leipzig.

Oliva, P. 1962: Pannonia and the onset of crisis in the Roman Empire. Praha.

Paulovics, I. 1936: La table de privilleges de Brigetio. Archeologia Hungarica 20, 43–62.

Premerstein, A. 1902: Römische Soldaten als Landpachter. Wiener Studien 24, 373–377.

Rischer, E. 1923: Die Romer im Gebiete des etemaligen Osterreich-Ungarn. Vienna.

Rostovtzeff, M. 1926: The Social and Economic History of Roman Empire. V. II. Oxford.

Schulten, A. 1894: Das territorium legionis. Hermes 29, 481–516.

Seyfarth, W. 1974: Römische Geschichte: Kaiserzeit. Bd. I. Berlin.

Sirotenko, V.T. 1973: Vvedenie v istoriyu mezhdunarodnykh otnosheniy v Evrope vo vtoroy polovine IV – nachale VI vv. [Introduction to the history of international relations in Europe during the second half of the 4th to the early 6th century]. Pt 1. Perm.

Tomlin, R. 2000: Mobil’naya armiya [The mobile army]. In: P. Konnoli (ed.), In: Gretsiya i Rim. Entsiklopediya voennoy istorii [Greece and Rome. Encyclopedia of the military history]. Moscow, 249–258.

Varady, L. 1961: New evidences on some problems of the Late Roman militari organization. Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae IX, 333–396.

Velkov, V. 1955: Svedeniyata na Temistij za Trakiya [Themistius’ information about Thrace]. Pt 2. Sofi a.