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Michael Kataphloron, imperial kourator of Manzikert and of Inner Iberia (early eleventh century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.5502
Diameter 25 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 4, no. 75.3.

N. Oikonomides, "Τὰ Βυζαντινὰ μολυβδόβουλλα ὡς ἱστορικὴ πηγή," Πρακτικὰ τῆς Ἀκαδημίας Ἀθηνῶν 62/1 (1987) 252-253, cf. 243-44. A photo is published in N. Oikonomides, Byzantine Lead Seals (Washington, D.C., 1985), no. 80, cf. SBS 5 (1998).


Bust of St. Nicholas blessing with his right hand and holding a book in his left hand. Inscription in two columns: |ν|ι-κ|ο|λ|α. : Ὁ ἅ(γιος) Νικόλα(ος). No visible border.


Inscription of six lines, a decoration below. Border of dots.


[Κ(ύρι)ε] β(οή)θ(ει) τῷ σῷ δού(λῳ) Μιχ(αὴλ) β(ασιλικῷ) κουράτ(ωρι) Μανζηκ(ί)ερτ(ε) (καὶ) τ(ῆς) Ἔσω Ἠβιρ(ίας) τ(ῷ) Κατ(α)φλ(ώ)ρ(ῳ)


Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Μιχαὴλ βασιλικῷ κουράτωρι Μανζηκίερτε καὶ τῆς Ἔσω Ἠβιρίας τῷ Καταφλώρῳ.

Lord, help your servant Michael Kataphloron, imperial kourator of Manzikert and of Inner Iberia.


The Byzantine designation "Inner Iberia" (ἡ ἔσω or ἐνδοτέρω Ἰβηρία; cf. Skylitzes 339, 1.76) has in the past been taken to mean northern Tao/Tayk (Honigmann, Ostgrenze, 160-161) and has been studied again by Oikonomides, loc. cit.: in the case of our seal the northern Tao has to be excluded, as this region is too far to the north to be administered in conjunction with Mantzikert. Several hypotheses are possible: the “Inner Iberia” could be identified with the district known as Apahounik῾ lying north of Lake Van (cf. De Adm. Imp., chap. 44, and Commentary, 167). The presence of Manzikert within this district supports this hypothesis. On the other hand, the term Ἴβηρ (Iberian) often meant for the Byzantines the orthodox Armenians (cf. V. A. Arutjunova-Fidanjan, “Iver v vizantijskih istocnikah XI. v.,” Vestnik Matenadarana 11 [1973] 46-66). Consequently the Inner Iberia could be sought as well in Armenian speaking territories, in any case not far from Mantzikert.

When the territories of Iberia (Tao-Tayk) passed to the Byzantines upon the death of the Georgian king David in 1000, the imperial administration was introduced but it was not until two decades later that the theme of Iberia, governed by a katepano resident at Theodosioupolis, was organized (two conflicting dates for the creation of this theme have been proposed, ca 1001 by Arutjunova-Fidanjan and ca 1023 by Adontz and others). The theme was soon invested with a military and civil bureaucracy, the latter including a high number of kouratores who supervised the lands exploited directly for crown profit. In 1045 the Armenian capital of Ani was annexed by the Byzantines and administratively united with the theme of Iberia. Then came the “dissolution” of the Iberian army by Constantine IX Monomachos, i.e. the Iberian soldiers were forced to buy off their service to the army (fiscal strateia): this weakened the armed forces but gave the emperor much wealth (Attaleiates, 44-45; Skylitzes, 476). Until its capture by the Turks in 1064, Ani was the seat of a doux (list given in Kühn, Armee, 202-204) who supervised the combined themes of Ani and Iberia. After 1064 and the annexation of Kars to the empire, we find a new combination of themes, Kars and Iberia, that were governed by the katepano Basilakes Phloros (J. -C. Cheynet, in Spink, Auction 132 [25 May 1999] no. 119) as well as an independent katepano of Kars, Theodore magistros (SBS 6 [1999] 112). See K. Yuzbashian, “L’administration byzantine en Arménie aux Xe-XIe siècles,” REArm 10 (1973/4), 159-168; V. P. Stepanenko, “K diskussii o date obrazovanija femy Iverija,” VizVrem 44 (1983) 211-214; H. Bartikian, “Γιὰ τὸν ἰβηρικὸ στρατὸ καὶ τὸ βυζαντινὸ θέμα Ἰβηρια,” Βυζαντινά 13.1 (1985) 467-77; R. Edwards, “On the Location of the Iberian Theme,” The 17th International Byzantine Congress, Washington 1986, Abstracts of Papers, 102-103; Kühn, Armee, 187-91 (to whose list of katepano should be added Theodore, doux of Iberia, known from a seal published by Cheynet, “Sceaux byzantins,” TM 12, no. 52; see also SBS 3, 178; and Bardas patrikios and katepano of Iberia, published by V. Sandrovskaja, “Pecati s toponimiceskimi ukazanijami,” Vizantija i vizantijskie tradicii,(Saint Petersbourg, 1996, 53-61.); Arutjunova-Fidanjan, Armjane Halkidonity, 108-35; ODB I, 99; Sinclair I, 356 ff (Ani).