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John imperial protospatharios and strategos of Cherson (tenth century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.4036
Diameter 22 mm
Condition Chipped.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 1, no. 82.14.
Alekseyenko, L'administration Byzantine de Cherson, no. 50.


Cross potent on steps with fleurons (rising to transverse bar). Traces of circular inscription along border of dots.


Κύριε βοΐθη τῷ σῷ δούλ


Inscription of four lines. Border of dots.


Ἰωάννης βασιλικὸς πρωτοσπαθάριος καὶ στρατηγὸς Χερσῶνος


Κύριε βοΐθη τῷ σῷ δούλῳ. Ἰωάννης βασιλικὸς πρωτοσπαθάριος καὶ στρατηγὸς Χερσῶνος.

Lord, help your servant. John imperial protospatharios and strategos of Cherson.


In a letter to Symeon of Bulgaria in 917, Nicholas Mystikos refers to a Βωγᾶς, strategos of Cherson (ὁ τῆς Χερσῶνος στρατηγός; Nicholas I, Letters, no. 9, lines 99-100), who continually reported to him that Symeon was attempting to persuade the Petchenegs to join forces with the Bulgarians. On the other hand, in September 914, a Ἰωάννης ὁ Βογᾶς (Skylitzes, 201, lines 51-53), undertook a mission to the Petchenegs with the hope of turning them against the Bulgarians. It is quite likely that in both cases references made to the same person. There is a possibility, then, that any of DO Seals 1, no. 82.13-16 (including this seal) may have belonged to John Bogas, strategos of Cherson. We note, however, that in 914 John Bogas held the title of patrikios, and accordingly, if this or any of the following seals were issued by him, they would have been struck before this date since they all mention the title of imperial protospatharios. Alekseyenko publishes a number of seals of John strategos of Cherson, including our seals, when holding the titles of protospatharios (no. 85), imperial protospatharios (nos. 40, 41, 44, 50, 51, 61, 62), imperial protospatharios and epi tou Chrysotriklinou (nos. 69, 76, 84), and imperial spatharokandidatos (no. 49). In Sig., 237, there is mention of another seal of a strategos of Cherson named John; but this is probably an error; according to Birch, no. 17796, the first editor failed to note the letters ΙΩ, which he reads as Ἱωάννης, are part of a longer inscription.

The city of Cherson, on the western coast of the Crimea, became the seat of a strategos during the reign of Emperor Theophilos ca. 833. This strategos was initially called στρατηγὸς Κλιμάτων (cf. DO Seals 1, § 81) and later στρατὴγος Χερσῶνος; in 1059 we find στρατηγὸς Χερσῶνος καὶ Σουγδαίας (VizVrem 2 [1895] 184-87). He held supreme command over local officials. We do not believe that the strategos necessarily replaced the archontes or other local officials (as suggested by W. Treadgold, Greek Roman, and Byzantine Studies 2 [1980] 278 and Winkelmann, Ämterstruktur, 113).

In the Uspenskij Taktikon (Listes, 57, line 13), we also find the ἄρχοντες Χερσῶνος, who are known from many seals, put together by Sokolova, Zbor. Rad. 18 (1978) 81-97 and in ibid., Monety. See also Alekseyenko, L'administration Byzantine de Cherson.  The De Adm. Imp., 184, specifically states that the administration of the metropolis of Cherson devolved upon a πρωτεύων and a group of counselors known as "fathers of the city" or "archontes," who are also mentioned in Nikephoros, Opuscula, 44 (with reference to the year 710). After the ninth century, we cease to encounter the seals of the archontes of Cherson, an indication perhaps of an erosion of the local social and political infrastructure. It is interesting to note, however, that when mining resumed at Cherson during the reign of Michael III (842-867), the issues seem to have been municipal and did not, on the basis of mint marks, become imperial until 866/67 (see Grierson, Catalogue III/1, 91).

The title of proteuon (equivalent to ἄρχων: Listes, 353 and note 379) is still met as late as the tenth century, as, for example, in the case of the patrikios Kalokyros, the son of the proteuon of Cherson, who was sent on a diplomatic mission in 967 (Skylitzes, 277); cf. also the seal of Michael the proteuon of Cherson (DO Seals 1, no. 82.10).

On the contrary, we do not think that an exousiates Chersonos is attested by DO seal BZS.1958.106.3767, which had been published with that reading by Zacos-Veglery as no. 2526. As Seibt has noted (ByzSl 36 [1975] 212), the end of the inscription should read τῶν Περσῶν.

Archaeological excavations suggest that in the period when Cherson was established as a strategeia, its economy began to grow and flourished until the city was devastated by the Russian prince Vladimir in 988/9; but it seems to have recovered quickly and enjoyed a measure of prosperity in the eleventh century (see J. Smedley, "Archaeology and the History of Cherson," Ἀρχεῖον Πόντου 35 [1978] 180-86). Cherson occupied an important place in Black Sea commerce, and this is reflected in the seals of kommerkiarioi; for the most part these seals date from the ninth and tenth centuries (see, e.g., the seal of the kommerkiarios Damianos published by I. Sokolova, Actes, 229, no. 6, cf. Višnjakova, 124, no. 4; Sig., 238; Laurent, Orghidan, no. 257 and ibid., "Sceaux Byzantins inédits," 342-43).

The sigillographic material concerning Cherson is conveniently put together by Sokolva, Monety, and more recently by Alekseyenko, L'administration Byzantine de Cherson.