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Theodore imperial protospatharios and strategos of Samos (eighth or ninth century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.1422
Diameter 25 mm
Condition Lead too small for die. Engraved in a most primitive fashion.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 44.10.


Cruciform invocative monogram of indeterminate type. In the quarters: .Σ|. . Wreath border.

Κύριε or Θεοτόκε βοήθει τοῦ σοῦ δούλου


Inscription of five lines. Wreath border.


Θεωδώρου βασιλικοῦ (πρωτο)σπαθαρίου καί στρατηγοῦ Σάμου


Κύριε or Θεοτόκε βοήθει τοῦ σοῦ δούλου Θεωδώρου βασιλικοῦ πρωτοσπαθαρίου καί στρατηγοῦ Σάμου.

Lord or Theotokos help your servant Theodore, imperial protospatharios and strategos of Samos.


Theodore's title could as well be restored as βασιλικοῦ σπαθαρίου. The placename at the end is only partially visible, but the letters ΣΑ are secure while for the letter following we have only part of its initial vertical bar--which means that it could be a Μ. Also the space remaining on the line is small and would not accommodate a name longer than Samos.

The date of this seal is problematic, for it has been engraved by someone obviously unfamiliar with the trade and contains awkward letters. The forms of the letters call for a dating in the 8th rather than in the 9th century (see especially letters Α. Β, and and compare them with Dated Seals, nos. 29, 31, 32, 37 of the 8th century). Note especially that the letter Β has no serif at the top (what may appear like a serif is in fact the vertical line that has been engraved separately by the unprofessional engraver).

We know that the theme of Samos is not mentioned in the Taktikon Uspenskij (mid-9th century) and that it appears for the first time in Philotheos (899), i.e., a century and a half after the present seal. The only explanation that seems possible is based on a sibylline phrase of Constantine Porphyrogennetos, De Them., XVI, 8-9: because the island of Samos was very important, the emperors, when they divided the empire into themes (ὅτε.... ἐγένετο ὁ μερισμὸς τῶν θεμάτων), made Samos the metropolis and the center of command for the theme of the sailors (μητρόπολιν αὐτὴν καὶ ἀρχὴν τοῦ θέματος τῶν πλοïζομένων τεθείκασιν), a situation that would explain why its strategos kept control over the littoral of a region mainly governed by the strategos of the Thrakesion. If this statement of the Porphyrogennetos is taken at face value, it would mean that a naval strategos resided in Samos at the time when the first maritime themes were created: first the fleet of the Karabisianoi, and after its abolition, the theme of the Kibyrraioitai, and it was so called because of the island on which he resided. This would have been the early 8th century, the time of our seal. Later, the position of the strategos of Samos was abolished (together with the fleet of the Karabisianoi?); and when the command was recreated, the traditional name of Samos was maintained, in spite of the fact that the seat of the strategos and of his main lieutenants was now in the mainland, in the littoral of the Thrakesion. This would not have been the only case of an old name of a theme resurfacing after a century or so. The same seems to have happened with the strategos of Mesopotamia: initially we have doux of Mesopotamia in the 6th century who is paid by the kommerkiarios; then, in the early 9th century, we have a strategos of Mesopotamia, with a seal assimilating him to a kommerkiarios; then his command disappears to be recreated at the very beginning of the 10th century, again with the right to collect the kommerkion. This shows a remarkable respect for tradition. See W. Brandes, "Überlegungen zur Vorgeschichte des Thema Mesopotamien," ByzSl 44/2 (1983) 171-77.

Samos was a maritime theme, including the island of Samos. Our DO Seals 2, no. 45.10 allows us to hypothesize that a strategos of Samos may have been named some time in the 8th century, only to disappear shortly afterward. In the second half of the 8th and 9th centuries, the sources speak only of a droungarios of the Dodekanesos (ca. 708-800) and then of a droungarios of the Kolpos (ca. 843), but there is no sigillographic evidence for these officials. On the contrary, we have the 9th century seal of a droungarios of Kos, which was found on the island of Samos (A. M. Schneider, Athenische Mitteilungen 54 [1929] 141) and of droungarioi in Ephesos/Theologos, a city of the littoral that will later become part of the theme of Samos (Zacos-Veglery, no. 2561a; Konstantopoulos, no. 135). In any case, these disappear from the sources, and a strategos of Samos appears in the treatise of Philotheos (899); in 911, he is at the head of a fleet of 22 warships with 4680 sailors and marines (Cer., 653). According to De Them., chap. XVI, he resided in Smyrna (cf. also H. Delehaye in Th. Wiegand, Der Latmos [Milet III/1] [Berlin, 1913], 119, 142) while his two tourmarchai resided in Adramyttion and in Ephesos, on the coast of Asia Minor (seals of tourmarchai of Theologos [=Ephesos]  are published in DO Seals 3, § 14, while those of Adramyttion are published in DO Seals 3, § 3). It is notable that we have many seals of military commanders of Samos (strategoi, ek prosopou, and one 10th/11th century droungarios whose attributions are not clear to us: Zacos, Seals II, no. 1038), while there are very few of civil administrators. This is true presumably because this was a naval unit which had jurisdiction over the sailors of these regions, with the plain soldiers and the other tax payers under the authority of the strategos of the Thrakesion, cf. DO Seals 2, p. 109.

Samos was a bishopric in the 5th century, a suffragan of Rhodes, and remained in this position throughout episcopal lists into the 12th century.

See Listes, 352; Laurent, Corpus V/1, 530; Fedalto, 220-21; Malamut, Iles, passim, esp. 279-280, 302-304, 312-14, 322, 326-27, 346, 365, 501-03; ODB III, 1836.