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John cubicularius, imperial spatharius, and magister of Byzacena (sixth/seventh century)

Accession number BZS.1947.2.1454
Diameter 22 mm
Field diameter 18 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 1, no. 6.1.
Cf. similar seals from different boulloteria published in Laurent, Médaillier, no. 91, and in Zacos-Veglery, no. 2885.


Inscription of three lines preceded and followed by decoration. Border of dots.


Θεοτόκε υοέτι Ἰοάννῃ


Inscription of four lines with decoration above and ending in decoration. Border of dots.


cuuiculario inperiali spathario et magistro Buzacenae


Θεοτόκε υοέτι Ἰοάννῃ cuuiculario inperiali spathario et magistro Buzacenae.

Theotokos, help John cubicularius, imperial spatharios, and magister of Byzacena.


The obverse inscription is principally in Greek letters, and the reverse inscription is exclusively in Latin letters. A major disagreement concerns the interpretation of line 2 (rev.). In his publication of the Vatican specimen, Laurent has postulated that the chrisma are purely decorative and that the  simply represents a suspension mark to be read with inperialis. On the other hand, Zacos-Veglery read inperiali spathario, the ligature being understood as a Ρ in combination with an abbreviation sign. This second reading seems more convincing, because on his Greek seals John bears the titles κουβικουλάριος καὶ βασιλικὸς σπαθάριος (Laurent, Vatican, 84 note 1). Since John is a very common name, there is no compelling reason to identify the owner of this seal with John Troglitas.

In the wake of Belisarios' conquest of Africa in 534, Byzacena was placed under the civil administration of a consular governor and under the military control of a doux. Its administrative boundaries corresponded to the Diocletianic province of Valeria Byzacena. In a rescript of 534, Justinian decreed two ducal headquarters: one at Capsa and the other at Thelepte. A third ducal residence was established at Sufetela by the seventh century, if not earlier. The Thracian Himerius, who campaigned against Stotzas in 545, is the first attested doux. Yet one has to note that on their seals the known military governors of Byzacena bear the title of magister militum, and not the (inferior) one of dux mentioned in the Justinianic legislation. Is this a change that came with time? Cf. Pringle, Byzantine Africa, 62 and 63.