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Nikephoros protospatharios and ek prosopou of the strategos of the Optimatoi (eleventh century)

 
 

Obverse

Bust of St. John the Theologian holding a book. Vertical inscription: |.|.Θ|Ε|ΟΛ.|Γ, : Ὁ ἅ(γιος) [Ἰ]ω(άννης) [ὁ] Θεολ(ό)γ(ος). Border of dots.

Reverse

Inscription of six lines with decorations above. Border of dots.

  
ΝΙΚΗΦ.
ΑΣΠΑΘ
ΕΚΑΣ.
ΤΣΤΡΑ.
ΤΝΟΠ.
ΜΑΤ,

Νικηφ(όρος) (πρωτο)σπαθ(άριος) (καὶ) ἐκ (προ)σώ[π(ου)] τοῦ στρα[τ(ηγοῦ)] τῶν Ὀπ[τ(ι)]μάτ(ων)

Obverse

Bust of St. John the Theologian holding a book. Vertical inscription: |.|.Θ|Ε|ΟΛ.|Γ, : Ὁ ἅ(γιος) [Ἰ]ω(άννης) [ὁ] Θεολ(ό)γ(ος). Border of dots.

Reverse

Inscription of six lines with decorations above. Border of dots.

  
ΝΙΚΗΦ.
ΑΣΠΑΘ
ΕΚΑΣ.
ΤΣΤΡΑ.
ΤΝΟΠ.
ΜΑΤ,

Νικηφ(όρος) (πρωτο)σπαθ(άριος) (καὶ) ἐκ (προ)σώ[π(ου)] τοῦ στρα[τ(ηγοῦ)] τῶν Ὀπ[τ(ι)]μάτ(ων)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.4633
Diameter 26.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 3, no. 71.21a.

Translation

Νικηφόρος πρωτοσπαθάριος καὶ ἐκ προσώπου τοῦ στρατηγοῦ τῶν Ὀπτιμάτων.

Nikephoros protospatharios and ek prosopou of the strategos of the Optimatoi.

Commentary

Beyond our two specimens, we know of one more seal of an ek prosopou of the Optimatoi named Michael (Sig., 245, no. 3). On our seal the term clearly indicated the "locum tenens" of the strategos, his ἀντιπροσωπῶν, who is commonly mentioned in eleventh-century documents (e.g., Lavra I, no. 33, line 93; no. 36, line 28; no. 38, line 60; no. 43, line 48). For the meaning of ek prosopou, "acting strategos," see Listes, 342.

The title of strategos of the Optimatoi is unusual but can be understood if one takes into consideration that the Optimatoi were a theme. Our seal provides its only secure mention, although it also seems to appear on other seals. A. Mordtmann (RA [1877/2] 48) announced that he possessed the seal of Grégoire Choerosphactès, préfet du chrysotricline et stratège des Optimates," but this seal was never properly published and has not resurfaced since (unless it is identical to Ebersolt, Sceaux, 63, no. 526: "Grégoire... stratège des Optimates"). On the other hand, the seal published by Schulumberger (Sig., 244) undoubtedly bears βασιλικῷ στρ(άτωρι) and not στρ(ατηγῷ) as suggested by the editor.

The theme of the Optimatoi, which appears in the sources in the late eighth century, encompassed the territory at the tip of Asia Minor opposite Constantinople all the way to the Sangarios. The name optimates initially designated an élite corps of foederati. But later, in this region muleteers were recruited for the army, no doubt in order to provide the necessary assistance to the regiments of the tagmata and for the imperial train of baggage when they had to move toward the eastern front. The commander of the theme was named domestikos, but he was sometimes called also strategos (no. 71.21), and had his own ek prosopou; later, we find also a doux or katepano of the Optimatoi, according to the eleventh century fashion of all provinces: nos. 71.17 and 71.25, cf. J.-Cl. Cheynet, "Du stratège de thème au duc," TM 9 (1985) 188; according to the model of the tagmata, the domestikos' second in command was named topoteretes (no. 71.31), while there existed no subdivisions, such as the tourmai or droungoi of the other themes. But so far as the other officials of civil administration are concerned (such as the anagrapheis, basilikoi, chartoularioi, judges, protonotarioi), the Optimatoi were identical to the other themes. There was also an episkepsis inside the theme (no. 71.22 below). On the other hand, we have extreme reservations about the existence of a kommerkiarios as suggested on the basis of a very poorly preserved seal (Laurent, Orghidan, no. 223).

See Listes, 339; Winkelmann, Ämterstruktur, 99; Haldon, Praetorians, 96-100, 213; ODB III, 1529; Kühn, Armee, 67-68.