You are here:Home/Resources/ Byzantine Seals/ Search the Catalogue/ N., patrikios and strategos of the Karabisianoi (seventh/eighth century)

N., patrikios and strategos of the Karabisianoi (seventh/eighth century)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.843
Diameter 24 mm
Condition Chipped; blank too small for die.


Cruciform invocative monogram (of intedeterminate type); visible in the lower quarters: .ΛΩ. Wreath border.

Κύριε/Θεοτόκε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ


Inscription. No visible border.


.... πατρικίῳ καὶ στρατηγῷ τῶν Καραβησιάνων


Κύριε or Θεοτόκε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ .... πατρικίῳ καὶ στρατηγῷ τῶν Καραβησιάνων.

Lord or Theotokos, help your servant N. patrikios and strategos of the Karabisianoi.


There is no compelling reason for placing the Karabisianoi together with the south of Asia Minor except: (a) in the few instances where this unit is attested in the sources, it appears to be provincial, not Constantinopolitan; (b) when this unit was abolished, the main provincial naval command that remained was that of the Kibyrraioitai; (c) its commanders bore the same titles, strategos, ek prosopou, as did the commanders of all other themes; (d) the name of the command comes from the names of its soldiers, as in all early themes; and (e) in the enumeration of the various "armies" of the empire, contained in the iussio of Justinian II to Pope Conon (687), the Karabisianoi (if this is the word to be understood under the Cabarisiani of the text) are mentioned alongside the other themes (Liber Pontificalis I, 368). Now this does not necessarily mean that there was a "theme" of the Karabisianoi (and in any case, it is anyone's guess what the meaning of the word "theme" was in the 7th century?); but it seems to us that there was certainly a naval theme of that name, the soldiers of which were recruited in regions with a maritime tradition, such as the Aegean and the southern littoral of Asia Minor, and served on the warships (κάραβοι)--for that reason they were called the Karabisianoi. In later times, a scholarly equivalent, due to Constantine Porphyrogennetos himself (De Them., chap. XVI, line 9), will be the term πλωïζόμενοι used as a complement to the word θέμα, but this usage could very well be anachronistic. In any case it is related to Samos (cf. DO Seals 2, no. 44.10).

The Karabisianoi, probably created after 678, are first mentioned in 687 and again in 710 in the miracles of St. Demetrios and in the text of the Liber Pontificalis. We know of several seals of strategoi, all dated to the early 8th century (Zacos-Veglery, nos. 1981, 2614, 2656; Lihačev, Molivdovuly, 144, pl. 67, 6), and of one ἐκ προσώπου εἰς Καραβησιάνους (Zacos-Veglery, no. 2488a). However, we do not know whether this command was dissolved because of its inability to defend Constantinople in 717/18, as Ahrweiler has hypothesized, nor can we propose any defensible relation between their existence or disappearance and the 8th-century seal of a strategos of Samos (see DO Seals 2, no. 44.10). But it is certain that there is no further mention of the Karabisianoi in the 8th century, and their seals also point to the first half of the century.

See H. Antoniadis-Bibicou, Έtudes d'Histoire maritime de Byzance: A propos du "thème des Caravisiens" (Paris, 1966); Ahrweiler, Mer, 19ff; P. Lemerle, Les plus anciens recueils des miracles de saint Démétrius II (Paris, 1981), 154ff; Winkelmann, Ämterstruktur, 96; ODB II, 1105-06.