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John imperial protospatharios, asekretis, judge of the Opsikion (tenth/eleventh century)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.1177
Diameter 24 mm
Field diameter 15 mm
Condition Broken along the channel (obverse); a second channel opening at the side; oxidated.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 3, no. 39.13.


Circle with eight spokes, a letter at each end and what appears to be another letter in the center (a θ in a circle?). Due to a break along the channel, the top letter cannot be discerned; reading clockwise from the top, the letters are: ., π (or μ), σ, υ (or λ), τ, (or κ), R. It is not clear what these letters form. Border of dots.


Inscription of five lines. Border of dots.


Ἰω(άννῃ) β(ασιλικῷ) [(πρωοτ)]σπαθ(αρίῳ), ἀσηκρῆ(τις) κ(αὶ) κρητ(ῇ) τοῦ Ὀψ(ικίου).


Ἰωάννῃ βασιλικῷ πρωτοσπαθαρίῳ, ἀσηκρῆτις καὶ κρητῇ τοῦ Ὀψικίου.

John, imperial protospatharios, asekretis, and judge of the Opsikion.


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.