The equites constituted the second of the property-based classes of ancient Rome, ranking below the senatorial class. A member of the equestrian order was known as an eques. — Description — During the Roman kingdom …
A Roman senior officer (centre) of the time of Polybius, as depicted on a bas-relief from the Altar of Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus, ca. 122 BC. Probably a tribunus militum (joint legionary commander), the officer wears a decorated bronze cuirass, pteruges, mantle, and Attic-style helmet with horsehair plume. The sash around his cuirass probably denoted knightly rank. In the republican army, tribuni were elected by the comitia centuriata (main people's assembly) from the members of the equestrian order. Musée du Louvre, Paris.
A Roman coin issued during the Second Punic War (218–201 BC) showing (obverse) the god of war Mars and (reverse) probably the earliest image of a Roman cavalryman of the republican era. Helmet with horsehair plume, long spear (hasta), small round shield (parma equestris), and flowing mantle. Roman cavalry was levied from the equites, and from volunteers of the second property class, until the early 1st century BC. Bronze quincunx from Larinum mint.
Bridle ornament inscribed Plinio Praefecto ("Property of the prefect Pliny"), found at Castra Vetera legionary base (Xanten, Germany), believed to have belonged to the classical author Pliny the Elder when he was a praefectus alae (commander of an auxiliary cavalry regiment) in Germania Inferior. Pliny was a hereditary Roman knight of the imperial era who became celebrated for his writings on geography and natural history. He also had a distinguished career as a public servant, in a series of posts reserved for equestrians. He served as a military officer in 44–54, as equestrian governor (procurator Augusti) of two minor provinces in the period 70–77 and then as a secretary of state in Rome to the emperor Vespasian. By 79, he was praefectus classis (admiral commanding) of the main imperial fleet at Misenum in the bay of Naples. In that year, the nearby volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the surrounding towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. From his base across the bay, Pliny led out his fleet in an attempt to rescue thousands of survivors trapped by lava-flows on the shore beneath Vesuvius. But after reaching port at Stabiae, Pliny's ships were prevented from putting to sea again for several hours by a strong in-shore gale. Whilst awaiting a change of wind-direction, Pliny died on a nearby beach from inhaling toxic gases. (Source: British Museum, London)
Tombstone of the knight Titus Cornasidius Sabinus, detailing a typical equestrian career in the imperial period. Sabinus initially held posts in the local government of Lavinium, a town in Latium, then served as a military officer, first as praefectus (commander) of cohors I Montanorum (in Pannonia), then tribunus militum of legio II Augusta (in Britannia), and finally praefectus of ala veterana Gallorum (in Aegyptus). Then, after a stint as subpraefectus classis (deputy commander) of the imperial fleet at Ravenna, Sabinus was governor of the Alpes Poeninae and then of Dacia Apulensis provinces. His son, who erected the memorial, is described as of equo publico rank. Dated to the early Severan period (193–211).