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Demetrios Belitzates, imperial spatharokandidatos and tourmarches (mid-tenth century)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.2018
Diameter 1 mm

Obverse

Patriarchal cross on two steps. Circular inscription, beginning at 7 o'clock, between two borders of dots.

κετοσοουλ

Κ(ύρι)ε β(οήθει) το σο δούλ(ῳ)

Reverse

Inscription of six lines. Border of dots.

δημ
ητρˊσπ
αθκαν ͂κ
αιτρμα
ρχ,ελ
ατι

Δημητρ(ίῳ) β(ασιλικῷ) σπαθ(αρο)κανδ(ιδάτῳ) καὶ τουρμάρχ(ῃ) (τῷ) Βελ(ι)τζατι

Translation

Κύριε βοήθει το σο δούλῳ Δημητρίῳ βασιλικῷ σπαθαροκανδιδάτῳ καὶ τουρμάρχῃ τῷ Βελιτζατι.

Lord, help your servant Demetrios Belitzates, imperial spatharokandidatos and tourmarches.

Commentary

A family or place name is found on the final two lines of the reverse inscription, and although most of the letters are legible, its resolution is uncertain.

The first letter is square-shaped, perhaps a Π, R, or Ζ, followed for certain by an E. Comparing the first letter to others on the seal, beta seems the most likely candidate. The final character seems to be a ligature of T and Z (). The combination of tz is almost invariably preceded by a vowel (e.g., Melitzanes), a rho (Artzesion), or a lambda (Keltzene). The letter here appears to be square, but it could also be a squashed A or Λ, yielding: REA or RΕΛ.

There are remains of three letters visible on the final line, but space perhaps for a fourth at the beginning. Those letters appear to be ΑΤΡ, but looking at the third line, the iota in ΚΑΙ has a serif at the top that is not unlike the final letter of the inscription.

Keeping in mind that the suffix -atos/-iates (e.g., Attaleiates) was a way of forming a family name from a toponym, we may very tentatively suggest that the final two lines represent a family name based on a place name beginning Βελτζ-. A search yields the Macedonian village near Radolibos, Beltzista, attested in Athonite documents from the twelfth century, but more promising is Velitza, to which Kliment of Ohrid was named as bishop before (or possibly concurrently with) his appointment as Archbishop of Bulgaria.

When we consider the misspelling on the obverse (το σο for τῷ σῷ), it is possible to see the final letter as an example of iotacism, τι instead of τῃ. Without pushing the issue too far, we would therefore suggest the final word is in fact the name "Belitzates."

A potential difficulty with this identification would be the relatively early appearance of a family name. The motif of the cross on steps without fleurons generally dates to the last third of the ninth century. While they are attested in sources much earlier, on seals family names generally do not appear until the last third of the tenth century. We therefore face the question of whether we should accept the suggestion of the "Belitzates" as a family name, and perhaps move the dating into the later-tenth century, or reject this reading.

There is a potential solution. The uneven workmanship, noticeably the variable heights of letters on the reverse as well as the misspellings on the obverse, could indicate provincial origins, where an older design might still serve as a model. For this reason, we propose a date of the mid-tenth century.

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.2018
Diameter 1 mm

Bibliography

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.2018
Diameter 1 mm

Notes

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.2018
Diameter 1 mm

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