Palatini (legio palatina), meaning literally “palace soldiers”, were an elite Roman detachment of the late empire that usually belonged to comitatus praesentales or bodyguards emperor. In the military hierarchy, palatins were below scholares (soldiers of the elite cavalry, called scholae), but above comitatenses (troops regional comitatus) and limitanei (border soldiers).
The term comes from palatium (“palace”), as the detachment originally served as the emperor’s bodyguard. Later, palatini also appeared in the regional comitatus (field armies). There, however, they still enjoyed a high status. At the time of the founding of Notitia Dignitatum (around 395 CE), 80% of the eastern branches of comitatus praesentales belonged to the rank of palatini.
The branch was created by the emperor Constantine I after the liquidation of the praetorian branch in 312 CE. The palatini cavalry was called vexillationes and the infantry was mostly legionaries or auxilia. It is believed that vexillationes palatinae consisted of 400-600 people, legiones palatinae 800-1,200 and auxilia palatina either 800-1,000 or 400- 600 people.