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Constantine protospatharios epi tou Chrysotriklinou, katepano of the imperial axiomata and judge of the Opsikion (eleventh century)

 
 

Obverse

Inscription of five lines preceded and followed by decoration. Border of dots.

·
+κεR,θ,
τσδ,
Κ̅̅ΝΑσπα
θ,επιτου
γκ,
·

Κ(ύρι)ε β(οή)θ(ει) τῷ σῷ δού(λῳ) Κων(σταντίνῳ) (πρωτο)σπαθ(αρίῳ) ἐπὶ τοῦ Χρ(υσο)(τρι)κ(λίνου)

Reverse

Inscription of five lines preceded by decoration, the final three letters between pellets. Border of dots.

·
κατεπ,
τνR̅αξι
ματ,Sκρ,
τ,τοψη
·κι·

κατεπ(άνω) τῶν β(ασιλικῶν) ἀξιωμάτ(ων) (καὶ) κρ(ι)τ(ῇ) τοῦ Ὀψηκίου

Obverse

Inscription of five lines preceded and followed by decoration. Border of dots.

·
+κεR,θ,
τσδ,
Κ̅̅ΝΑσπα
θ,επιτου
γκ,
·

Κ(ύρι)ε β(οή)θ(ει) τῷ σῷ δού(λῳ) Κων(σταντίνῳ) (πρωτο)σπαθ(αρίῳ) ἐπὶ τοῦ Χρ(υσο)(τρι)κ(λίνου)

Reverse

Inscription of five lines preceded by decoration, the final three letters between pellets. Border of dots.

·
κατεπ,
τνR̅αξι
ματ,Sκρ,
τ,τοψη
·κι·

κατεπ(άνω) τῶν β(ασιλικῶν) ἀξιωμάτ(ων) (καὶ) κρ(ι)τ(ῇ) τοῦ Ὀψηκίου

Accession number BZS.1955.1.1956
Diameter 32.0 mm; field: 24.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 3, no. 39.9.

Translation

Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Κωνσταντίνῳ πρωτοσπαθαρίῳ ἐπὶ τοῦ Χρυσοτρικλίνου, κατεπάνω τῶν βασιλικῶν ἀξιωμάτων καὶ κριτῇ τοῦ Ὀψηκίου.

Lord, help your servant Constantine, protospatharios epi tou Chrysotriklinou, katepano of the imperial axiomata and judge of the Opsikion.

Commentary

There is a seal of the same person (1947.2.647) inscribed in the name of Constantine protospatharios epi tou Chrysotriklinou, katepano of the imperial axiomata and judge of the Boukellarioi. This seal is decorated with an image of the Virgin.

The title katepano ton basilikon axiomaton (maybe a distant continuation of the epi ton basilikon or katepano ton basilikon of the ninth century: Listes, 328) appears in the second half of the eleventh century and is seldom attested: we know the eleventh-century seal of a Nicholas, who was also patrikios epi tou koitonos judge of the Hippodrome (Laurent, Corpus II, no. 1205), and, in 1081, the protoproedros Constantine Choirosphaktes, who was sent to the court of Henry IV to deliver twenty axiomata (honorific titles) that the Byzantine emperor was bequeathing to German nobles (Alexiade I, 121; cf. Skoulatos, Personnages, 52-54).

The owner of the present seal could have been identical to Constantine Choirosphaktes of 1081 at an earlier stage of his career, but this would mean that he occupied the position of katepano ton axiomaton for many years. Moreover, Constantine Choirosphaktes is well attested under Nikephoros Botaneiates (1078-81): he was then proedros; and under Alexios Komnenos: protoproedros in 1081; mentioned in the Lives of St. Meletios and of St. Cyril Phileotes; praitor of Hellas and Peloponnesos, as shown from his metrical seals (Bon, Péloponnèse, 195-96; E. Sargologos, La Vie de Saint Cyrille le Philéote [Brussels, 1964], 143, 370 and note 88; Laurent, Bulles métriques, 129, 738).

This brings to mind the metrical seal of a judge of the Opsikion who was a patrikios with the family name Choirosphaktes (BZS.1958.106.2998). It could be the same person as the present Constantine Choirosphaktes, who would have received the promotion to the rank of patrikios while he was still judge of the Opsikion and decided to adopt a metrical seal on which one of his titles, katepano ton axiomaton, did not appear. It is true that the aesthetic impression of the present seal and of BZS.1958.106.2998 is very similar, and both may have been engraved by the same artisan for the same patron.

All this is highly speculative and should be considered an exploration of the possibilities without any certain evidence for the identification.

Opsikion was one of the earliest themes of Byzantium; its name from the term obsequium (retinue), often called "imperial obsequium guarded by God." Its territory included many provinces and initially encompassed all northwestern Asia Minor; by the mid-eighth century it was subdivided, and the new themes of the Boukellarioi and of the Optimatoi appeared. All three names show that the origins of this theme are to be sought in the regiments of the imperial guard, and according to some scholars, to the milites praesentales of the fifth century.

The commander of Opsikion traditionally bore the titles of komes, probably because initially he was identical to the comes domesticorum. He is first attested in 626 (perhaps already in 615), and, because of his proximity to Constantinople (his residence was in Nicaea), he played an important role in imperial politics. As this happened regularly with all units of the imperial guard, the tagmata (Listes, 329), the second in command of the Opsikion was called for quite some time a topoteretes (cf. Zacos-Veglery, no. 1762). The province was organized as all other themes (with tourmarchai, anagrapheis, judges, protonotarioi, chartoularioi, strateutai [Laurent, Orghidan, no. 218], etc.), and, already in the ninth century, the commander was also called a strategos (see Listes, 264, footnote 23; Zacos, Seals II, no. 850; Seyrig, no. 191).

The littoral of the Opsikion was also part of the theme of Aigaion Pelagos.

See Pertusi, in De Them., 127-30; Winkelmann, Ämsterstruktur, 72-76, 119-20; ODB III, 1528-29; Haldon, Praetorians, passim, esp. 164 ff; T. Lounghis, "A Deo conservandum imperiale Obsequium," ByzSl 52 (1991) 54-60.

Bibliography

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