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John protospatharios and katepanos of Ras (tenth century)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.2444
Diameter 32 mm
Field diameter 24 mm
Condition Poorly printed on the sides.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 1, no. 33.1.


Cruciform invocative monogram (type X); in the quarters: ΤΣ|ΔΛ, sloppily engraved, with the letters Τ and Δ placed lower than the rest of the inscription. Border of dots.

Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ


Inscription of four lines. Border of dots.


Ἰωάννῃ (πρωτο)σπαθαρίῳ καὶ κατεπάνω Ῥάσου


Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Ἰωάννῃ πρωτοσπαθαρίῳ καὶ κατεπάνω Ῥάσου.

Lord, help your servant John protospatharios and katepano of Ras.


The seal dates from the tenth century and cannot, in our opinion, belong to the period after Basil II's conquests in the eleventh. It should be pointed out in this respect that the cruciform invocative monogram is no longer found on seals after the early eleventh century (the last example known to us is the seal of Patriarch Eustathios, in Oikonomides, Dated Seals, no. 75 [1019-1025], which is completely different in style); and that the present specimen is stylistically very close to Dated Seals, nos. 64 (941-46), 67 (943), and Laurent, Orghidan, nos. 186-87 (963-ca. 985).

In fact, a short-lived Byzantine occupation of Ras is attested in the 970s by a source whose veracity is often contested. In the Chronicle of the Priest of Dioclea, we read that, after John Tzimiskes' return from the conquest of eastern Bulgaria (971), the generals he left behind came with an army and occupied all Ras ("Hi autem qui paeerant exercitui, venientes cum exercitu, ceperunt totam Rassam provinciam"). The župan of Ras fled, joined the Serbian king Predimir, and gave him his daughter in marriage. Shortly afterward, when Tzimiskes died, the župan used his contacts in Ras to organize a rebellion of the inhabitants, who killed all the Greeks and delivered the city and the region to the Serbs (F. Šišić, Letopis popa Dukljanina [Belgrade-Zagreb, 1928] 324-26 and the commentary, 449-51; ed. Mošin, 73-74). The events fit well with what we know of the history of the period, especially the fact that the revolt in the occupied lands (not only those of the Kometopouloi but elsewhere) began after the death of John Tzimiskes; this is also attested by Byzantine sources. Since Ras was then a frontier zone, it is normal that a katepano would have been named to command it. This katepano does not appear in the Escorial Taktikon, thus confirming the dating proposed for this document (between 971 and 975) and inviting one to place it in the early part of this period, before the conquest of Ras was officially recorded in the Byzantine capital. See also DO Seals 1, p. 196.

The valley of the river Raška, with Novi Pazar in Yugoslavia as its main center. In the ninth century Ῥάση was on the frontier between Bulgaria and Serbia (De Adm. Imp., chap. 32, line 53 and Commentary, 134). Our seal attests to a short Byzantine occupation in the 970s. After Basil II's conquests, the city became the seat of a bishop subordinate to the archbishop of Ohrid (BZ 2 [1893] 45; Darrouzès, Notitiae, no. 13, lines 846, 850) and had a Byzantine garrison in the twelfth century. See J. Kalić, "La région de Ras à l'époque byzantine," Géographie historique du monde méditerranéen (Paris, 1988) 127-40.