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Romanos protospatharios, judge of the Hippodrome and of the Opsikion (eleventh century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.4415
Diameter 30 mm
Condition Corroded. Break along the channel; holed.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 3, no. 39.17.


Inscription in three lines with one acute accent. Border of dots:




Inscription of six lines preceded by decoration. Border of dots.


πρωτο[σ]παθάριος, [κρι]τ(ὴς) ἐπὶ τοῦ [Ἱπ]ποδρόμου [κ]αὶ τοῦ Ὀψικίου.


Ῥωμανὸς πρωτοσπαθάριος, κριτὴς ἐπὶ τοῦ Ἱπποδρόμου καὶ τοῦ Ὀψικίου.

Romanos, protospatharios, judge of the Hippodrome and of the Opsikion.


The presentation of the owner's name on the obverse is noticeably different in style and simplicity (no invocation); it seems to have been the owner's consistent way of identifying himself even as the titles and offices listed on the reverse changed over the years.

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.