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Michael imperial protospatharios and strategos of the Peloponnesos (tenth century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.1014
Diameter 23 mm
Field diameter 19 mm
Condition Corroded.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 22.31.
Mordtmann, RA 1877/1, 294, no. 9 (cf. Sig., 180 footnote, no. 3) and Konstantopoulos, Stamoules, no. 97. Cf. Bon, Péloponnèse, 191, nos. 24 and 24 bis.


Cross on three steps; uncertain traces of fleurons. Circular inscription between two borders of dots.


Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ


Inscription of five lines. Border of dots.


Μηχαὴλ βασιλικῷ πρωτοσπαθαρίῳ καὶ στρατηγ Πολυποννήσου


Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Μηχαὴλ βασιλικῷ πρωτοσπαθαρίῳ καὶ στρατηγῷ Πολυποννήσου.

Lord, help your servant Michael imperial protospatharios and strategos of the Peloponnesos.


The spelling of the name Peloponnesos on our seal is securely read and confirmed by the Stamoules specimen, which also reads Πολυποννήσου; because of a printer's mistake, the first Ο did not appear on Konstantopoulos' first transcription (but it appeared clearly on the second one). This printer error caused Laurent (Byzantion 6 [1931] 802), followed by Bon (Péloponnèse, 191, no. 24 bis), to discuss a non-existent placename ΠΛΥΠΟΝ, which they nevertheless understood as Peloponnesos. On the specimen published by Mordtmann, the name would appear in a different form: Πελουποννήσου. For the form Πολυπόννησος, see below.

The ancient name of the Peloponnesos survived throughout the Middle Ages, although it was later (after the 13th century) overshadowed by the popular name Moreas (see DO Seals 2, no. 32). On the seals, it appears usually as Πελοπόννησος (often with spelling mistakes due to  iotacism), but sometimes in odd forms that seem to reflect false etymologies invented by Greek speakers with limited education: Πολοπόννησος (DO Seals 2, 8.22 and 8.23) from πόλος = heaven (?) or the same etymology as the following one with a spelling mistake (?); πολύς, πολλοῦ, πολύπους? Such forms reappear in the Copenhagen manuscript of the Chronicle of the Morea (lines 2333, 2397; cf. Bon, Morée franque, 304-5). There is even a fancier spelling, Φιλοπόννησος (PG 102, 928).

One may presume that the Peloponnesos, at least those regions that remained under imperial control after the Slavic migration, was part of the theme of Hellas (cf. DO Seals 2, §8). The first securely datable mention of a strategos of the Peloponnesos comes from the year 811 (if not already from 805): cf. Seibt, Skleroi, nos. 1 and 2. In fact, there is no sigillographic material available before the 9th century--or, at the most, the very late 8th century. The creation of this new administrative unit around the year 800 coincides with major changes inside the Peloponnesos, such as the return of Greek populations that had fled to Sicily and the creation of the metropolis of Patras (DO Seals 2, § 34); it follows the campaign of Staurakios against the Slavs in 784 (Theophanes I, 456-57) and the creation of the theme of Cephalonia in the West (DO Seals 2, § 1). From then on, the theme of the Peloponnesos, with its capital in Corinth, is regularly attested in all manner of sources; its officials were mainly preoccupied with keeping the Slavic tribes of the interior in check and defending the shores from Arab corsairs (a tourmarches tes paraliou [of the shore] with a fleet of four chelandia is attested in the 10th century: cf. Cer., 665; and N. Oikonomides, in Πρακτικά of the 3rd Panionian Congress [Athens, 1967], 277). Several archontes (DO Seals 2, no. 27.1) and ek prosopou (DO Seals 2, no. 35.1), appointed by the strategos, ensured local commands, while the regular thematic administration is also attested with its anagrapheis, dioiketai, epoptai, kommerkiarioi, protonotarioi, tourmarchai, judges as well as the administrators of imperial estates (DO Seals 2, 22.5). In the late 10th century the Peloponnesos will be often united with Hellas from the financial, fiscal, and judicial point of view, and later they will be both attached to the office of the grand doux (cf. DO Seals 2, § 8).

See Listes, 350 (bibliography); Herrin, ODB III, 1620-21; Kühn, Armee, 240-41.