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Peter hypatos and archon of Hellas (seventh/eighth century)

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Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 8.2.
Zacos-Veglery, no. 2300.


28 mm


Peter hypatos and archon of Hellas (seventh/eighth century)

Cruciform invocative monogram (type V); in the quarters: ΤΔ|Λ. Wreath border.

Θεοτόκε βοήθει τῷ δούλῳ σου


Peter hypatos and archon of Hellas (seventh/eighth century)

Inscription of five lines. No visible border.


Πέτρῳ ὑπάτῳ καὶ ἄρχοντι Ἑλλάδος


Θεοτόκε βοήθει τῷ δούλῳ σου Πέτρῳ ὑπάτῳ καὶ ἄρχοντι Ἑλλάδος.

Mother of God, help your servant Peter, hypatos and archon of Hellas.



Line 3 (rev.): no formal abbreviation sign follows the letter Κ, but its lower oblique leg is twisted. Line 4 (rev.): the two lambdas appear in ligature.

Zacos-Veglery dated this specimen to the 8th century; V. Šandrovskaja and I. Sokolova proposed a late 7th-first quarter 8th century date (Winkelmann, Ämterstruktur, 93), which we feel is correct (note the short Ω in Dated Seals, nos. 11, 12, 13, 14, all of the 7th century; and the Α with the left bar practically vertical, last appearing in Dated Seals, nos. 32, 33 of the first half of the 8th). The whole presentation of the seal, and the monogram inscribed with τῷ δούλῳ σου, argue for a date no later than the early 8th century.

Archon means the "governor" in the most generic sense; it also has been used to designate the chieftains of ethnic groups inside or outside the empire, and commanders of naval bases (cf. ODB I, 160; Listes, 342-43). In the case of the 8th century archon of Hellas, one cannot but think of the seal of Δαργασκάβου ἄρχωντος Ἑλλάδος, first published (with erroneous reading) by Schlumberger, Mélanges, 201, then by Konstantopoulos, no. 49. We examined the original seal at the Athens Numismatic Museum and can certify that its epigraphy dates it to the 8th century. The name of the archon is obviously Slavic (we think that it should read Δαργασκλάβου or Δαργασκλάβου) and corresponds with Dragoslav, in a form prior to the phonetic metathesis of the liquids in Slavic, which was accomplished by ca. 800. He was certainly a Slav chieftain of the 8th century. Would this mean that he was the archon of all the Slavs of the theme of Hellas, as Seibt (ByzSl 36 [1975] 211) has suggested? But in this case, it would presuppose that these Slavic tribes, who are usually identified by their own name or by a placename, must have had a kind of federation or confederation that is not attested as far aw we know. Moreover, if it were so, what would the relations have been between this archon and the strategos of Hellas, attested from 695? Would this one have to assume that Constantinople ceased appointing such a strategos for some time, as Winkelmann (Ämterstruktur, 93 ff) suggests?

It seems to us that there is no reason to question the coexistence of a strategos and an archon of the same administrative unit: the Taktikon Uspenskij (842-843) mentions simultaneously a strategos of Crete and an archon of Crete (Listes, 49, 53), the distinction between the two presumably being in the nature of their attributions. The distinction becomes even clearer when the archon is defined by a placename more limited than the one of the strategos (e.g., the archon Chrepou in the theme of Hellas, see Cer., 657). In the case of our seal and that of Dargasklavos, the authority of the archons is defined by the same term as the strategos. Consequently, one might think that a specific group of Slavs was for some reason named after Hellas and the owners of our seals were at their heads.

This line of thought leads to another interpretation. Since Antiquity, Hellas was the name of a specific region of Greece, the valley of the river Spercheios, the homeland of Achilles. The name was still known to Strabo (RE 8, 158), Constantine Porphyrogennetos (De Them., chap. 5), and Eustathius of Thessalonica (πάλαι μέν ποτε πόλις Φθίας ἡ Ἑλλάς: Ph. Koukoules, Θεσσαλονίκης Εὐσταθίου, Τὰ Λαογραφικά II [Athens, 1950], 311). This name reappears in Latin documents of the 13th century onward as Lade, Ellade, Allada and has been interpreted as a way of acknowledging the entrance into Hellas for someone coming there from Thessaly (Koder-Hild, Hellas, 39, cf. 261-62); but if this was so, how would it resurface at a time when the theme of Hellas had not existed for a century and is not even mentioned in the chrysobull of 1198 or the Partitio Romaniae of 1204? Moreover, in a Greek colophon of 1180-1183 we find mention of a village, called Hellada, with a monastery of Sts. Constantine and Helen (χωρίον τοῦ Ἑλάδα: K. and S. Lake, Dated Greek Minuscule Manuscripts to the Year 1200 VI [Boston, 1936], 15). Less secure is the interpretation of the Chronicle of Cambridge which, under the year 879/80, mentions that the Christians captured the Saracen boats εἰς τὸ Ἑλλάδιν or, in the Arabic version, "en un endroit appelé Allada" (ByzAr II/2, 100); but it is hard to identify the event mentioned in this text with known naval defeats of the Arabs in this time period. Be that as it may, we tend to believe that name Hellas for this specific region and for a specific village therein simply survived in local usage only, and for this reason is not attested in the official sources. One may assume that the two archones of the seals were governing a tribe of Slavs that lived there.

There is no way to prove this hypothesis. What is certain is that the archontes of Hellas were at the head of Slavs, and that we do not find them again after the 9th century. Our specimen becomes even more interesting if one thinks that by the 8th century its owner had a Christian name and had received the relatively high title of hypatos; presumably he was already baptized. One cannot say the same with certainty about Dargasklavos, in spite of the presence of an invocational monogram on his seal (cf. the seal of the Bulgarian khan Tervel, in Dated Seals, no. 26). In any case, it is clear that these Slavs were part of the imperial administration well before the campaign of Staurakios of 784, which is supposed to have brought about the submission of the Slavs of Hellas (cf. e.g., M. Weithmann, Die slavische Bevölkerung auf der griechischen Halbinsel [Munich, 1978] 120 ff); it is also clear that the empire had started a program of "byzantinization" of the Slavs of Hellas over a century before this is officially reported as the work of Basil I (ibid., 256).

One should add to this dossier that the seal published by Bees (Zur Sigillographie, 202), of a certain archon Θιβητῶν καὶ Ἑλλάδος. Apart from the question as to which Thebai were meante here, those of Boeotia (present-day Thiba) or of Phthiotis (present-day Nea Anchialos), it is obvious that on this seal the term Hellas was used to indicate a special region and not the whole theme of Hellas, to which both Thebai belonged. Compare the seal of an archon Βιχητῶν Ἑλλάδος mentioned also by Bees. We assume that the region of Spercheios was also meant here and that consequently the seal most preferably refers to an archon of what used to be called Belziteia (Koder-Hild, Hellas, 133), running from the mouth of the Spercheios to the shores of the Pagasitikos.

One should, we think, link the above thoughts with the mysterious 8th-century seal of an archbishop of Hellas (Sig., 183 = Laurent, Corpus V/1, no. 555). It is usually, and rather arbitrariyl, attributed to Corinth, but it could as well have been a temporary archbishopric, connected to the Hellas on the Spercheios, that did not survive the late 8th/early 9th century upheavals in the Balkans. This, however, is also hypothetical.

The whole question of the archon of Hellas is examined more in detail in N. Oikonomides, "L'archonte slave de l'Hellade au VIIIe s.." 

A strategos of Hellas, a patrikios, is first mentioned in 695 (Theophanes I, 368); the position was created in the late 7th century, probably by Justinian II (687-695). A tourmarches ton Helladikon is mentioned in 727 at the head of the fleet (Theophanes I, 405). The officials of Hellas are well attested throughout the centuries, those belonging to the "regular" thematic administration (strategoi, ek prosopou, merarchai, tourmarchai, dioiketai, protonotarioi, anagrapheis, epoptai, chartoularioi, judges, and the droungarioi who possibly commanded naval forces, see DO Seals 2, no. 810) as well as those attesting special jurisdisctions insied the thematic framework such as the archontes of Slavic settlements or of Byzantine cities or the imperial administration from a very early date. In the 8th century Hellas was called a strategia, a term als used for the oriental theme of Thrakesion (Zacos-Veglery, no. 254, cf. no. 261), but later the expression θέμα Ἑλλάδος will appear on the seals (cf. DO Seals 2, no. 8.5). Initially this Hellas included, we suppose, whatever remained under imperial control of the former province of Achaia (which was also called Hellas in the Synekdomos), the capital of which was Corinth (cf. DO Seals 2, § 25). Later (ca. 800) the Peloponnesos (DO Seals 2, § 22) constituted a separate theme and Hellas was limited to the north of the Isthmus. The strategos resided possibly in Athens (9th century), certainly in Thebes (first half of the 10th century) and Larissa (second half of the 10th century).

Hellas remained an independent theme adjacent to Peloponnesos, and its strategoi are attested until the last decades of the 11th century (no. 8.54), after what had been Hellas was divided into smaller administrations. But, on the other hand, there was a tendency to combine the financial and fiscal authorities of the two themes, especially the protonotarioi and judges (praitores): this change dates from the late 10th/early 11th century. In the late 11th century the praitores appear on the seals (including a protopraitor: see DO Seals 2, no. 8.39) as well as the doukes of the two themes (see DO Seals 2, no. 8.32; Bon, Péloponnèse, 200-201 and J.-Cl. Cheynet, "Du stratège du thème au duc: chronologie de l'évolution au cours du XIe siècle," TM 9 [1985] 192), and later, the megas doux, the admiral in chief of the Komnenian navy, like Eumathios Philokales (see DO Seals 2, no. 22.15).

For the theme of Hellas, see Listes, 351, n. 360 (biblio.); Koder-Hild, Hellas, 54-67; Herrin; Winkelmann, Ämterstruktur, 92-95, 123-25; and Kühn, Armee, 240-41.


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