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Niketas ὁ τοῦ Κατὰ Φλῶρον, spatharokandidatos and (?) ek prosopou of the Thrakesioi for the cavalry (eleventh century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.4360
Diameter 27 mm
Condition Poorly printed on the sides.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 3, no. 2.7.


Inscription of six lines, the final letter between two bars. Border of dots.


Κ(ύρι)ε β(οή)θ(ει) Νικήτᾳ [σ]παθαρο[κ(αν)]δ(ι)δ(άτῳ) ὁ τοῦ Κατὰ Φλόρ(ον)


Inscription of five lines. Border of dots.


[ἐ]κ πρ(οσ)[ό]π(ου) το(ν) Θρ[(α)κ]ισ(ίων) ὁ τον [κ]αβαλα[ρ]ικ(ῶν)


Κύριε βοήθει Νικήτᾳ σπαθαροκανδιδάτῳ ὁ τοῦ Κατὰ Φλόρον ἐκ προσόπου τον Θρακισίων ὁ τον καβαλαρικῶν.

Lord, help Niketas Kataphloron, spatharokandidatos ek prosopou of the Thrakesioi for the cavalry.


The inscription shows poor craftsmanship, with letters of uneven size, a backwards kappa in the first line of the reverse, and unusual abbreviations.

This seal appears to have been made in two phases. The original seal probably displayed an image on one side and the first part of the inscription on the other. This was the private seal of the spatharokandidatos Niketas Kataphloron. Then he was appointed ek prosopou. Instead of having a new seal made, he replaced the arm of his boulloterion bearing the image with a new die containing the inscription of the reverse, which supplemented the information provided in what had now become the obverse. We know of other examples where only one arm of the boulloterion was replaced, as for example the case of Leo Sarakenopoulos, in SBS 1 (1987) 98.

We accept the theory that an ek prosopou was something like an acting strategos, that is, an official temporarily holding the strategos' powers without having the title. Perhaps because his inexperienced engraver wished to use up extra space, Niketas added that he was ek prosopou of the kaballarikoi either in contrast to the infantry, or in contrast to the sailors who lived along the coastline of the Thrakesion but were subordinate to the strategos of Samos?

It is worth noting here that a certain Κατὰ Φλῶρον was active in Philadelphia, a city of the Thrakesion, in the early eleventh century; Psellos worked for him when he was very young: Sathas, MB V, 459.

The theme of Thrakesioi certainly attests a transfer of Thracian troops to Asia Minor: this is evident because of the name itself and the names of some subordinate units, such as the tourmarchai "ton Viktoron" and "ton Theodosiakon," who are attested in the Thrakesion of the tenth century (Cer., 663), but whose names coincide with those of units of the army of Thrace in the fifth century (Haldon, Praetorians, 238).

The first attestation of a tourmarches of the Thrakesion is of the year 711, that of a strategos, of 741 (Theophanes, 378, 414). In this same year, 741/742, we find a seal of the kommerkia of the strategia of the Thrakesioi. Lilie tried to establish that the exercitus Thracianus mentioned in Justinian II's iussio of 687 was in fact the army of the Thrakesion and not of Thrace, in spite of the name, which is clear, and in spite of the fact that a strategos of Thrace is attested already in 680; and all this with the argument that if Thrace was meant in the iussio, it would be out of its normal hierarchical order. But the Thrakesion is also out of its hierarchical order, and we have no proof that such an order was followed in the imperial document. Thus we still consider that a separate theme of the Thrakesion has been created after the one of Thrace, most probably also after those of Sicily and of Hellas (695). Beyond its traditional units, maybe because of the decline of its thematic army, it received Armenian soldiers to guard its littoral and had its own tourmarches of the littoral (tes paraliou): Cer., 663. Some cities of its littoral depended upon the strategos of Samos because they provided sailors for this provincial fleet. The Thrakesion subsisted throughout the centuries as an independent theme, initially under a strategos, later under a doux until the end of the thirteenth century.

A thorny problem is created because of the similarity of its name with that of Thrace and the attribution of seals to the one or the other. For our working purposes, we assume that the Byzantines were aware of the risk of confusion and did their best to avoid it. Thus the difference between the one and other command becomes clear with the article that is used (τῶν or τῆς) and with the ending of the word: when the inscription stops at Θρακησ-, we see if there is an abbreviation mark after σ, allowing us to read Θρᾳκησ(ίων); otherwise we attributed the seal to Thrace. In some cases we expressed doubts. Of course, in any inscription like θρακησ(ι) with an abbreviation mark, the reading Θρᾳκησ(ιάνων) is also possible. But we decided to consider this spelling as marginal and to keep it out of our restitutions whenever this was not required by the inscription.

See Arhweiler, Smyrne; Listes, 348; R.-J. Lilie, "Thrakien" und "Thrakesion," JÖB 26 (1977) 7-47; Winkelmann, Ämsterstruktur, 81ff.; W. Seibt, "Drei byzantinische Bleisiegel aus Ephesos," Litterae Numismaticae Vindobonenses R. Goebl dedicatae 148-149 (eighth century hypostrategos of Thrakesion).