The term Eques fully eques Romanus ( German, ( Roman ) rider ', from Latin equus ' horse' equites, plural, often called " Knights" translated) designated in the Roman Empire, the member of the equester ordo, one equipped with special privileges article. He came in the social ranking after Senator stand ( ordo senatorius ).
In the early days of the Roman Republic, the richest citizens, who could afford their own horses and related equipment, as a rider in the army served. Their military role disappeared later, but the Equites remained a politically prominent group. In the late Republic, as the Senators were officially no longer exert any commercial transactions, many Equites operated economically, for example, through the acquisition of government contracts ( publicani ). Political importance came the knights especially since Gaius Sempronius Gracchus, the BC tried 122 equites build as a counterweight to the Senate.
For Equites it was in contrast to the "ordinary" citizens easier to get into political office, which was associated with a rise in the senatorial class. Persons who, like Marcus Tullius Cicero was the first of her family came to the rank of consul, were homines novi (singular homo novus, a new man ') called.
Up to Augustus every person belonging to a senatorial family was in principle as long as a knight until he become a member of the Senate - especially since the imperial era, there was a stricter separation of ordo senatorius and equester ordo. In imperial times the equites to a clearly defined status with a minimum of 400,000 sesterces Census and professional badges were ( Knights ring, anulus aureus; narrow purple border on the tunic, the so-called angustus clavus ). Members of the ordo equester practiced prominent activities in administration and the military (only the top positions remained generally the senators reserved).
Members of this state under the Empire were, among others, Virgil, Ovid, Seian, Pliny the Elder, Suetonius and Timesitheus. Even the nobles Cheruscan son Arminius was added to knighthood.
There was also continued the purely military sense of the word eques, which could mark the tab of an auxiliary troops unit or legion. Furthermore, there was mounted gladiators, who were also referred to as the equites.
During the 1st and 2nd century AD, the importance of the Knights took to specifically within the imperial administration. Since Septimius Severus, the character of the equestrian order changed then increasing: From now on you could be on a military career knighted. Not a few of these "new " Knights managed a rise in the Senate, some even came to the throne. While the 3rd century can therefore be described as " the great age of the Roman equestrian class " ( Géza Alföldy ), took its meaning from the 4th century, because most so far chivalrous offices now have senatorial until it finally disappeared.