Historically more significant, "Comes" became a secular title granted to trusted officials of the Imperial Curia ("Court"), present or former, and others as sign of Imperial confidence. It developed into a formal, dignitary title, derived from the "Companions" of Alexander the Great and rather equivalent to the Hellenistic title of "philos basilikos" or the paladin title of a knight of the Holy Roman Empire and a Papal Palatinus. Thus the title was retained when the titulary was appointed, often promoted, to an office away from court, frequently in the field or a provincial administration. Subsequently, it was thought logical to connect the title to specific offices that demanded an incumbent official of high dignity, and even to include it as part of the official title.
As the Imperial Roman Curia increased in number and assimilated all political power, the Roman Emperors instituted a casual practice of appointing faithful servants to offices. This had been done elsewhere, e. g. regarding the Prefect of the Praetorian Guard and the amici principis. As Imperial administration expanded, however, new offices became necessary and decentralization demanded modifications. The result was the institution of the rank of "comes".
The "comites", often translated "counts", though they were neither feudal nor hereditary, became principal officials of the later Roman Empire. They held offices of all kinds from the army to the civil service, while retaining their direct accesses to the Emperor. Emperor Constantine I finalized them as the governmental echelon of "comites provinciarum" ("Counts of the Provinces"); the comites of the new echelon were assigned alongside the vicarii in the civil dioceses of the latter so that the comites became permanent fixtures of Imperial government. The comites were fully enumerated as early as the beginning of the AD 5th century in the Notitia Dignitatum, but as offices were later added, it is not historically exhaustive.