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Sophronios proedros (archbishop or metropolitan) of Smyrna (ninth/tenth century)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.998
Diameter 30 mm
Field diameter 27 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 3, no. 35.4.

Laurent, Corpus V/1, no. 740 (slightly different reading and date). See also Wassiliou-Seibt, Siegel mit metrischen Legenden II, no. 2213 (dating the seal to the second half of the ninth century).


Faint bust of St. Polykarpos holding a book in his left hand. On either side a vertical inscription: ο|.|γι|ο|σ-π|ολ|υκα|ρπ.|σ : ὁ [ἅ]γιος Πολύκαρπ[ο]ς. No border visible.


Inscription of four lines. Border of dots.


Σμύρν(ης) προέδρου σφραγ(ίς) εἰμ[ι] Σωφρον(ίου)


Σμύρνης προέδρου σφραγίς εἰμι Σωφρονίου.

I am the seal of Sophronios, proedros of Smyrna.


This is a twelve-syllable verse that appears hypermetric in written form, but which when spoken aloud surely condensed the final two syllables (of ιου) into one; or else the speaker used a more popular and abridged form of the name like Σωφρόνη.

The prosodic (if not outright metrical) character of the inscription no doubt led Laurent to date this specimen to the tenth/eleventh century. But at the end of line 1, and again at the middle of line 3 and the end of line 4, we have abbreviation signs in the shape of a thin, trailing S which disappears after the ninth century (Dated Seals, 158, line 14). The general appearance of the epigraphy also points to a ninth/tenth-century date (cf. Dated Seals, nos. 50-56). Hence the date that we assign to this seal, given that metrical seals appear as early as the eighth century (cf. DO Seals 2, no. 36.8, when the term proedros was used to indicate a prelate).

Smyrna (modern Izmir) was an important city, port, and economic center of the province of Asia, and served in the tenth century as residence of the strategos of Samos (De Them., chap. XVI, line 16). It had a hinterland with extensive agricultural production that is illustrated by our seals of horreiarioi.

At first, Smyrna was a simple bishopric of Ephesos, but then (mid-fifth century) it became an autocephalous archbishopric. Finally it is attested as a metropolis from 869 onward. This evolution is reflected in the notitiae.

See Laurent, Corpus V/1, 563; Arhweiler, Smyrne, passim; Brandes, Städte, 126-26; ODB III, 1919-20.