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Philip (or Philetos) and Niketas kommerkiarioi of Abydos (eleventh century)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.1785
Diameter 26 mm
Field diameter 21 mm
Condition Dented on obverse and corroded; chipped above.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 3, no. 40.17.

Similar seal published (But not illustrated) by Mordtmann, Ὁ ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει Ἑλληνικὸς Φιλολογικὸς Σύλλογος 8 (1872-73) 60, no. 5 = Sig., 77.


A patriarchal cross on three steps mounted on a ball; an X on both crossings; the arms end in pellets. Within a border of dots, part of a circular inscription remains:


[Κύριε βοήθει τοὺς σοὺς δο]ύλους


Inscription of five lines, decorations above and below. Border of dots.

· +

Φιλή[π]ῳ καὶ Νικήτᾳ κομερκιαρίῳ Ἀβύδου


Κύριε βοήθει τοὺς σοὺς δούλους Φιλήπῳ καὶ Νικήτᾳ κομερκιαρίῳ Ἀβύδου.

Lord, help your servants Philip and Niketas, kommerkiarios of Abydos.


We restore the name Philip on the basis of Mordtmann's reading. Given the space available and the rules of spelling, Philetos is also possible. The inscription as a whole poses a problem. The invocation on the obverse refers to "servants," but note that in lines 3 and 4 of the reverse, the title kommerkiarios is clearly imprinted in the dative singular. Has the engraver made a mistake, carving the singular rather than the plural form? If so, Philip/Philetos and Niketas occupied the same office, presumably as tax farmers. If the engraver did not made a mistake, and only Niketas occupied the office of kommerkiarios of Abydos, some explanation of the second name is necessary: perhaps because Philip or Philetos was a business associate, he had his name engraved even though the office of kommerkiarios was given personally to Niketas? What seems certain is that we have here a tax-farming partnership.

The city of Abydos, at the entrance of the Hellespont, has always had great importance as a point of control of the straits. From the fifth to the eighth centuries the main official mentioned there is the komes, who received his salary from the state, taxed the bypassing ships (texts put together by Zacos-Veglery, p. 1637), and sometimes accumulated the command of the Hieron, at the exit from the Bosporus to the Black Sea. The komes disappears with the eighth century, and a military governor of the fortress, the paraphylax, makes his appearance and is attested by many seals in the ninth century; sometimes he cumulates the office of kommerkiarios (cf. Listes, 343). The controls made in Abydos gave their name to a special institution, the abydos, which appears in other parts of the empire, most of all in Thessalonica and which gave its name to the title of abydikos (cf. Oikonomides, AbydosDO Seals 1.18).

The earliest known kommerkiarios [of the apotheke] of Abydos is attested in the mid-seventh century; other kommerkiarioi are attested in the eighth century, and more appear in the ninth, when they are obviously related to the collection of a duty from passing ships (this is clearly attested in 992: Zepos, Jus I, 260-261), no doubt the kommerkion, which appears around the year 800. Maybe they were also called phorologoi.

An archon of Abydos is also attested by a seal and a text around the year 800. It is not impossible that this title existed only for a limited time and, for this reason, is mentioned in few sources only at a period of transition.

Together with the rest of the littoral of the Opsikion, Abydos belonged also to the naval theme of Aigaion Pelagos, was normally visited by the strategos (Arhweiler, Mer, 78), and seemed to have been the seat of a tourmarches. We shall ignore here a ninth-century seal (Zacos-Veglery, no. 3088) that probably belonged to a strategos of the Kibyrraiotai (and not of Abydos as initially published; cf. the remark of W. Seibt, in ByzSl 36 [1975] 212). A strategos is said to be sent to Abydos in 963 (Leo the Deacon, Bonn, 44), but he could well be a strategos of the Aigaion. The first secure mention of a strategos of Abydos is of the year 1004, and again in 1025 and 1033, often with maritime duties (Skylitzes, 346, 368, 388). In the eleventh century he exercised authority to the northern shore of the Dardanelles as well as on the islands (at Madytos: Sathas, MB V, 423, 487), a detail that shows he was in fact a naval commander, such as the strategos of the Aigaion. A katepano of Abydos appears in 1086 (Lavra I, no. 48, line 3). The city's fortifications were repaired by Manuel I Komnenos (Theodori Prodromi, De Manganis, ed. S. Bernardinello [Padua, 1972], 79, 80).

In this context, one can understand the existence of typically naval thematic officials at Abydos, such as the kentarchos. On the contrary, the existence of a seventh/eighth-century chartoularios of Abydos (Zacos-Veglery, no. 867A) should be related to the early theme of the Opsikion rather than to the Karabisianoi, who seem not have had any thematic structure.

From the earliest period, Abydos was a suffragan bishopric of Kyzikos (DHGE 1, cols. 209-10). It became a metropolis at the beginning of the reign of Alexios I Komnenos (1084?) and retained this rank until the Turkish conquest in the fourteenth century (cf. Laurent, Corpus V/1, 622). To the seals of bishops and metropolitans mentioned by Laurent, one can now add those of Basil (bishop?) and Michael and Demetrios metropolitans (Zacos, Seals II, nos. 374, 587; Lihaçev, Molivdovuly, 130-31, pl. LXVI, no. 2).

See Bibicou, Recherches, 179-81; H. Arhweiler, "Fonctionnaires et bureaux maritimes à Byzance," REB 19 (1961) 239-52; Arhweiler, Mer, passim; Oikonomides, Abydos; ODB 1, 8-9.