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Joseph vestitor, epoptes of Nikopolis and epi (?) Peloponnesou (tenth century)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.1428
Diameter 22 mm
Condition Blank too small for die. The specimen has a polished side with the two points of entrance of the channel, which are visible on the surface but give the impression that they were never used for a string. Was this specimen used as a tessera?
Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 22.4.
Zacos-Veglery, no. 2068.
Cf. similar specimen from a different boulloterion published by Seibt, Nikopolis, no. 18.


Cruciform invocative monogram (type V); in the quarters: ΤΣ|.Λ. No border visible.

Θεοτόκε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ


Inscription of five lines. No visible border.


ωσὴφ βεστίτορι πόπτ Νηκοπόλεως καὶ ἐπὶ (?) Πελοπονήσου


Θεοτόκε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Ἰωσὴφ βεστίτορι ἐπόπτῃ Νηκοπόλεως καὶ ἐπὶ (?) Πελοπονήσου.

Theotokos, help your servant Joseph, vestitor, epoptes of Nikopolis and epi (?) Peloponnesou.


On the Hermitage specimen, the last words appear as ΕΠΠΕ|ΛΟΠΟΝΗ/, the main point where the Hermitage specimen differs from ours. This group of letters has always been read as καὶ ἐπὶ Πελοποννήσου and taken to mean that Joseph's authority also extended over the Peloponnesos. Winkelmann, (Ämterstruktur, 125) drew even more general conclusions that seem to us far too advanced. Three objections stand in the way: (a) in this syntax one would expect to have also the article (ἐπὶ τῆς Πελοποννήσου, cf. all other usages of ἐπὶ in administrative vocabulary in Listes, index, s.v.); (b) there are no parallels, as far as we know, of the expression ἐπί + genitive being used to indicate the extension of authority beyond the frontiers of a given province (this is normally expressed by a simple καί, cf. DO Seals 2, no. 8.12 ff); and (c) the small sign after Π could as well indicate an abbreviation, which case one could read ἐπόπτῃ or ἐπισκεπτίτῃ or ἐπάρχῳ (of the theme, see Listes, 343), and in this case, the genitive without the article would be perfectly in order.

Now this last objection has been put aside thanks to our specimen, on which a clear Ι has been read. And this is probably correct; but here again, things are not so simple. On close examination, one sees a series of vertical lines with pronounced serifs resembling a series of Πs  joined to each other, as was done on contemporary seals mentioning the Hippodrome (), in which case the reading ἐπόπτῃ or ἐπισκεπτίτῃ would be possible. But in this hypothesis requires an office other than epoptes, which did not need to be repeated, and we lean towards ἐπισκεπτίτῃ (cf. DO Seals 2, no. 22.5). As all this is conjectural, we prefer to end speculation at this point until more explicit information is culled from other sources.

Be that as it may, we note that Seibt has suggested that the Joseph of our seal might be identical to a Joseph attested as hypatos and protonotarios of the Peloponnesos on a seal published by Zacos-Veglery, no. 2067; we doubt this identification, which is based only on the name (the epoptai belonged to the genikon, the protonotarioi to the sakelle: Listes, 313, 314-15).