Palatini (Roman military)

The palatini (Latin for "palace troops") were elite regiments of the Late Roman army mostly attached to the comitatus praesentales, or imperial escort armies. In the elaborate hierarchy of troop-grades, the palatini ranked below the scholares (members of the elite cavalry regiments called the scholae), but above the comitatenses (regiments of the regional comitatus) and the limitanei (border troops).

The term derives from palatium ("palace") a reference to the fact that the regiments originally served in the imperial escort armies only. Later they were also found in the regional comitatus (mobile field armies). There, however, they continued to enjoy higher status and pay than the rest of the comitatus regiments. At the time the Notitia Dignitatum was written (ca. 395 for the Eastern Empire), 80% of the regiments in the eastern comitatus praesentales were graded palatini and 14% of those in the regional comitatus.

The palatini were created by Constantine I after he disbanded the Praetorian Guard in AD 312, and originally comprised former praetorians. As with all comitatus regiments, palatini cavalry regiments were called vexillationes (from vexillum = "military standard") and infantry regiments were either legiones or auxilia. Vexillationes palatinae are believed to have contained 400-600 men, legiones palatinae 800-1,200 and auxilia palatina either 800-1,000 or 400-600.

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