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N., imperial kandidatos and domestikos of the Opsikion (ninth century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.5123
Diameter 26 mm
Condition Struck off-center.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 3, no. 39.3.

Zacos-Veglery, no. 2578.


Cruciform invocative monogram (of indeterminate type). In the quarters: -σ|.-λ. No visible border.

Κύριε or Θεοτόκε βοήθει [τ]ῷ σῷ [δ]ούλῳ


Inscription of four lines followed by decoration. Indeterminate border.

 + 

... β(ασιλικῷ) κανδιδ[ά(τῳ) (καὶ)] δομεστίκ[ῳ τ]οῦ Ὀψικίου


Κύριε or Θεοτόκε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ ... βασιλικῷ κανδιδάτῳ καὶ δομεστίκῳ τοῦ Ὀψικίου.

Lord or Mother of God, help your servant ... imperial kandidatos and domestikos of the Opsikion.


Zacos-Veglery read ω in the first line of the reverse, but we feel that this is uncertain. The shape of the letter B suggests a date in the second quarter of the ninth century; in this case, the decoration with a cross over tendrils, typical of the early eighth century, should be seen as an archaic element, admittedly depicted here in a much more complicated way than on eighth-century seals.

Opsikion was one of the earliest themes of Byzantium; its name from the term obsequium (retinue), often called "imperial obsequium guarded by God." Its territory included many provinces and initially encompassed all northwestern Asia Minor; by the mid-eighth century it was subdivided, and the new themes of the Boukellarioi and of the Optimatoi appeared. All three names show that the origins of this theme are to be sought in the regiments of the imperial guard, and according to some scholars, to the milites praesentales of the fifth century.

The commander of Opsikion traditionally bore the titles of komes, probably because initially he was identical to the comes domesticorum. He is first attested in 626 (perhaps already in 615), and, because of his proximity to Constantinople (his residence was in Nicaea), he played an important role in imperial politics. As this happened regularly with all units of the imperial guard, the tagmata (Listes, 329), the second in command of the Opsikion was called for quite some time a topoteretes (cf. Zacos-Veglery, no. 1762). The province was organized as all other themes (with tourmarchai, anagrapheis, judges, protonotarioi, chartoularioi, strateutai [Laurent, Orghidan, no. 218], etc.), and, already in the ninth century, the commander was also called a strategos (see Listes, 264, footnote 23; Zacos, Seals II, no. 850; Seyrig, no. 191).

The littoral of the Opsikion was also part of the theme of Aigaion Pelagos.

See Pertusi, in De Them., 127-30; Winkelmann, Ämsterstruktur, 72-76, 119-20; ODB III, 1528-29; Haldon, Praetorians, passim, esp. 164 ff; T. Lounghis, "A Deo conservandum imperiale Obsequium," ByzSl 52 (1991) 54-60.