Soldiers and equestrian rank in the third century AD

Caillan Davenport*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article considers a group of inscriptions, ranging in date from the late second to late third centuries ad, which indicates that low-ranked members of the Roman army gained access to equestrian rank in this period. The inscriptions attest two interrelated phenomena: (1) the promotion of soldiers to posts in the militiae equestres, a series of officer commands usually held by men from the ordo equester; and (2) grants of equestrian status to soldiers' sons, many of whom were only very young. These developments represent a marked departure from the circumstances that prevailed in the early Empire, when equestrian rank could be bestowed only by the emperor on men who possessed a census qualification of 400,000 sesterces. In this article, I propose that successive emperors gave soldiers greater access to the militiae equestres, and in some cases awarded equestrian rank to their sons, because they recognized the widespread desire for social mobility among the ranks of the army. The widening of access to equestrian rank within the Roman army contributed to the devaluation of this status over the course of the third century ad.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-123
Number of pages35
JournalPapers of the British School at Rome
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Soldiers and equestrian rank in the third century AD'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this