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Mortagos (?) imperial spatharios and archon of the Ebiditai (eighth/ninth century)

 
 

Obverse

Cruciform invocative monogram (type V). In the quarters: τσ|δλ : τῷ σῷ δούλῳ. Wreath border.

Reverse

Inscription of four lines. Wreath border.

.ορτ
γβσπθS
ρχοντιτ
νεβιδιτ/

[Μ]ορτάγῳ (?) β(ασιλικῷ) σπαθ(αρίῳ) (καὶ) ἄρχοντι τῶν Ἐβιδιτ(ῶν)

Obverse

Cruciform invocative monogram (type V). In the quarters: τσ|δλ : τῷ σῷ δούλῳ. Wreath border.

Reverse

Inscription of four lines. Wreath border.

.ορτ
γβσπθS
ρχοντιτ
νεβιδιτ/

[Μ]ορτάγῳ (?) β(ασιλικῷ) σπαθ(αρίῳ) (καὶ) ἄρχοντι τῶν Ἐβιδιτ(ῶν)

Accession number BZS.1955.1.1296
Diameter 26.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 5 no. 95.1; Zacos–Veglery, no. 2647.

Credit Line Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Thomas Whittemore.

Translation

Θεοτόκε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Μορτάγῳ (?) βασιλικῷ σπαθαρίῳ καὶ ἄρχοντι τῶν Ἐβιδιτῶν.

Mother of God, help your servant Mortagos (?) imperial spatharios and archon of the Ebiditai.

Commentary

The reading of the first name is uncertain, and what follows is what seems to us most likely. The first two letters of the second line, gamma and omega, are secure, yielding a first name ending "gos." No such Greek name is known, but several Bulgarian examples are known from Greek sources (see G. Marscik, Byzantinoturcica, 2:122–23, 217–18). The first line has four visible letters, one of which is secure: a tau in the penultimate position. The last letter on that line could be an alpha, while the first two are possibly omicron and rho, suggesting the name Mortagos or Omortagos (=Μορτάγων, Ὀμουρτάγ).

The likelihood that we are dealing here with a Bulgarian is increased when we remember those opponents of Krum who came as refugees to Byzantium around the year 800 (Theophanes I: 487, 489).

The fifth letter of the last line could be read either Δ or Λ; we prefer the former because of the presence of serifs.

The name Ebiditai/Aibiditai is known only from sigillographic evidence, on three seals: the present specimen, BZS.1951.31.5.3140 (with a very uncertain reading), and one of a spatharios and archon τῶν Αἰβιδιτ(ῶν) or Αἰβιλιτ(ῶ)ν published by Konstantopoulos (no. 299). This specimen establishes that the first syllable sounded like an epsilon.

Who the Aibiditai were is uncertain, but scholars reasonably contend that they were a group of barbarians ("peuplade": Ahrweiler, Mer, 58), and they may have been inhabitants of Euboea, where Εὐβοΐται/Εὐβοιῖται deformed to Εὐβιδίται with the introduction of a euphonic δ. See W. Seibt, "Siegel als Quelle für Slawenarchonten in Griechenland," 29–30; and idem, "Weitere Beobachtungen zu Siegeln früher Slawenarchonten in Griechenland," 462–63.