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The Army on the Frontiers

The limitanei, or frontier troops were stationed permanently on the borders of the empire. They were t0.he first line of defense against barbarian raids and invasions. They were usually recruited from landless peasants and barbarians who had entered Rome to settle on land in exchange for imperial service. They were usually given land to farm in exchange for service but were not usually paid in money. The idea was to relocate barbarians from one area to another area so that they were not defending Rome against their own relatives. Sometimes, Roman officials overlooked this detail (or were bribed to do so) and the results were somewhat similar to what you might expect if you let a large, very hungry fox into a crowded henhouse! This was the case with Fritigern's Goths in A. D. 376 - 378.

The limitanei were considered second class soldiers and were looked down on by the elite troops of the Comitatensis, or central mobile field army who were paid regularly and much better equipped. Also, these soldiers who lived out on the fringes of the civilized world stood a good chance of being annihilated totally if a barbarian invasion of any size occurred in their sector. Any help that could be provided by the professionals in the mobile field army would most likely be a week’s march away.

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