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Basil protospatharios epi tou Chrysotriklinou, megas chartoularios tou genikou logothesiou, judge of the Hippodrome of the Peloponnesos and Hellas (eleventh century)

Accession number BZS.1947.2.135
Diameter 29 mm
Condition Flattened on the side.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 8.16a.
Oikonomides, “Usual Lead Seal,” 153–56, figs. 3j (obv.) and 4j (rev.)
Cf. from same boulloterion, Sig., 191, no. 5, and 192, no. 4. The latter specimen is in the Athens Collection and has been published by Konstantopoulos, no. 398, and Laurent, Corpus II, no. 339. Another similar specimen from a different boulloterion, close but not identical to our no. 8.17, is in Seyrig, no. 179.

Obverse

Bust of St. Mark blessing and holding book. Inscription in two columns: |Μ|Α|ΡΚ|Ο|Σ: Ὁ ἅγιος Μᾶρκος. No visible border.

Reverse

Inscription of eight lines, the final three letters between horizontal bars. Border of dots.

ΑΣ..
ΠΑΘ,ΕΠ.
ΧΑΡ
..ΛΤΓ,ΛΟΓ,
Θ,ΚΡΙΤΙΕΠΙ
ΤΙΟΔΠΕ
ΛΟΠΟΝ,Ε,
ΛΑΔ

Βασιλείῳ πρωτοσπαθαρίῳ ἐπὶ τοῦ Χρυστοτρικλίνου, μεγάλῳ χαρτουλαρίῳ τοῦ γενικοῦ λογοθεσίου, κριτῖ ἐπὶ τοῦ Ἱπποδρόμου Πελοποννήσου καὶλλάδος

Translation

Βασιλείῳ πρωτοσπαθαρίῳ ἐπὶ τοῦ Χρυστοτρικλίνου, μεγάλῳ χαρτουλαρίῳ τοῦ γενικοῦ λογοθεσίου, κριτῖ ἐπὶ τοῦ Ἱπποδρόμου Πελοποννήσου καὶ Ἑλλάδος.

Basil protospatharios epi tou Chrysotriklinou, megas chartoularios tou genikou logothesiou, judge of the Hippodrome of the Peloponnesos and Hellas.

Commentary

Several seals have survived that can be attributed to the same person. Oikonomides ("The Usual Lead Seal," 133-36) has already discussed some of his seals in detail. Another seal, incompletely read, is in Laurent, Corpus II, no. 338. Beyond the sameness of name and titles, this group of seals presents two characteristics: they display a bust of St. Mark on the obverse; and many of them show signs of damage from excessive heat (presumably from the site of a building in Constantinople where the owner of the seals used to send letters and where his seals accumulated over the years), probably from a fire that deformed them without melting them. Thus we presume that all seals damaged from heat must come from the same findspot.

According to these seals, Basil's career may be outlined as follows:

(i) Protospatharios, megas chartoularios of the genikon logothesion and judge of the Peloponnesos and Hellas (no. DO Seals 2, no. 8.15). Bust of the Virgin. Suffered from excessive heat.

(ii) Protospatharios epi tou Chrysotriklinou, megas chartoularios of the genikon logothesion and judge of the Boukellarioi (Zacos, Seals II, no. 388, 389). Bust of St. Mark. No traces of heat. 

(iii) Protospatharios epi tou Chrysotriklinou, megas chartoularios of the genikon logothesion and protonotarios of a bureau that we cannot name with certainty; of the dromos? of a province? or was he one of the protonotarioi that appear in the 11th century at the Constantinopolitan bureaux, such as the genikon? This last hypothesis seems more likely (Oikonomides, "The Usual Lead Seal," 133-136, and Zacos, Seals II, no. 390).

(iv) Protospatharios epi tou Chrysotriklinou, megas chartoularios of the genikon logothesion, judge of the Hippodrome and of the Peloponnesos and Hellas (the present and the following specimens). Three out of four specimens have suffered from excessive heat.

One would have thought that Basil is known to us only from these seals (cf. Bon, Péloponnèse, 194). But matters are much more complicated because we also know of a Basil Xeros (one or more) who at approximately the same time held the same or similar titles and offices, who frequently used St. Mark to decorate his seals, which also seem to have suffered from excessive heat. Taking into consideration the cursus honorum established by Laurent (Corpus II, no. 327), we present the following additional information.

(v) Basil Xeros protospatharios, megas chartoularios (of the genikon) and judge of the Boukellarioi (unpublished seals, among which are DO 55.1.3404, 3405, and 3406): all with bust of St. Mark, all having suffered from excessive heat.

(vi) Basil Xeros, protospatharios epi tou Chrysotriklinou, judge of the Hippodrome and of all the Anatolikoi (Lihačev, IZIGI, pl. VIII, no. 23 and two unpublished, less well-preserved seals of the DO collections: Fogg 2222 and DO 55.1.3412; in the DO specimen the first name cannot be read but the rest of the inscription is very close to the Lihačev one): bust of the Virgin with both hands open in front of her (Lihačev, Fogg specimens), a standing saint holding a book on the third specimen (a saint similar to Saint Mark on our present specimen).

(vii) Basil Xeros, magistros, judge of the Kibyrraiotai (metrical): Laurent, Bulles Métriques, no. 260 and several DO specimens (no. 59.10 below): Virgin seated on throne. Some of these specimens may have suffered from excessive heat.

(viii) Basil Xeros, vestarches and judge of Peloponnesos and Hellas. St. Mark and St. Theodore standing. Affected by heat.

(ix) Basil Xeros, proedros and general logothete: Laurent, Corpus II, no. 327: the Virgin seated on a throne.

(x) To this should be added information from a literary source; in a poem written probably before 1041, Christophoros Mitylenaios criticizes a certain Basil Xeros, protospathario and judge, who was so rapacious that he dried up the resources of Hellas (Kurtz, Mitylenaios, no. 20; for the date, see N. Oikonomides, "Life and Society in Eleventh Century Constantinople,: Südost-Forschungen 49 [1990] 2, 11).

(xi) A judge Xeros is mentioned in the Peira, i.e., in the 20s or 30s of the 11th century (Zepos, Jus IV, 48, 188).

(xii) Another Xeros, judge (or praitor) of the Thrakesion appears in the correspondence of Michael Psellos (MB V, 279-80, 282-83).

From all this, one can conclude with certainty that at least some members of the Xeros family of the 11th century must have had a special devotion to St. Mark, while others used the more common images of the Virgin on their seals; also, that the Basil without a family name in this group of seals must have been a Xeros; and that the seals and texts enumerated above must have belonged to two or three different persons, who came from the same family at approximately the same time and occupied very similar administrative positions. This is by no means surprising, as there was a tendency to have many homonymous first cousins who supported each other in their working milieu: it has already been shown that 11th-century administrative offices employed several members of the same family (Patmos I, 349). All these Xeroi had a common correspondent in Constantinople (say, the family home; or the head office of the service to which they belonged); for this reason, many of their seals seem to have suffered from a fire.

In our view, the only way to group the various seal owners that we enumerated above and to propose careers should be based on the decoration of the seals. But as personal fancies can never be excluded, and as all these Basils may have lived an active life of ca. 50 years at approximately the same time, we think that any such effort would be vain and useless. What is in our view clear, is that the owners of our seals cannot by any means be identified with Basil Xeros of the mid-12th century (Herrin, 276, chart no. 22).

Accession number BZS.1947.2.135
Diameter 29 mm
Condition Flattened on the side.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 8.16a.
Oikonomides, “Usual Lead Seal,” 153–56, figs. 3j (obv.) and 4j (rev.)
Cf. from same boulloterion, Sig., 191, no. 5, and 192, no. 4. The latter specimen is in the Athens Collection and has been published by Konstantopoulos, no. 398, and Laurent, Corpus II, no. 339. Another similar specimen from a different boulloterion, close but not identical to our no. 8.17, is in Seyrig, no. 179.

Accession number BZS.1947.2.135
Diameter 29 mm
Condition Flattened on the side.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 8.16a.
Oikonomides, “Usual Lead Seal,” 153–56, figs. 3j (obv.) and 4j (rev.)
Cf. from same boulloterion, Sig., 191, no. 5, and 192, no. 4. The latter specimen is in the Athens Collection and has been published by Konstantopoulos, no. 398, and Laurent, Corpus II, no. 339. Another similar specimen from a different boulloterion, close but not identical to our no. 8.17, is in Seyrig, no. 179.

Notes

Accession number BZS.1947.2.135
Diameter 29 mm
Condition Flattened on the side.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 8.16a.
Oikonomides, “Usual Lead Seal,” 153–56, figs. 3j (obv.) and 4j (rev.)
Cf. from same boulloterion, Sig., 191, no. 5, and 192, no. 4. The latter specimen is in the Athens Collection and has been published by Konstantopoulos, no. 398, and Laurent, Corpus II, no. 339. Another similar specimen from a different boulloterion, close but not identical to our no. 8.17, is in Seyrig, no. 179.