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John imperial notarios and ek prosopou of the Opsikion (eleventh century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.5610
Diameter 30 mm
Field diameter 23 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 3, no. 39.4.


Nicely engraved and preserved bust of St. Michael with a simplified loros; he wears a rigid necklace and holds a long scepter decorated with balls, with an X midway, topped by a ball in his right hand and a globus in his left hand. Inscription in two columns: μ|ι-χ| : Μιχα(ήλ). Border of dots.


Inscription of five lines preceded by decoration.


Κ(ύρι)ε β(οή)θ(ει) [Ἰ]ω(άννῃ) β(ασιλικῷ) νοτα[ρ(ίῳ)] (καὶ) ἐκ προσ(ώπου) τοῦ Ὀψικίου.


Κύριε βοήθει Ἰωάννῃ βασιλικῷ νοταρίῳ καὶ ἐκ προσώπου τοῦ Ὀψικίου.

Lord, help John, imperial notarios and ek prosopou of the Opsikion.


The type of necklace worn by St. Michael could well be a representation of the κλοιὸς χρυσοῦς given to the protospatharioi at the moment of their promotion (Listes, 93, lines 13-14). Similar rigid necklaces are represented on works of art, for example, on the sixth/seventh-century icon of Sts. Sergios and Bacchos (Iskusstvo Vizantii v sobranijah SSSR. Katalog vystaki 1 [Moscow, 1977], no. 110).

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.