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Leo imperial spatharokandidatos and .... of Croatia (tenth/eleventh century)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.2000
Diameter 28 mm
Field diameter 21 mm
Condition Weakly imprinted and bent.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 1, no. 16.1.


No image or epigraphy visible.


Inscription of five lines. No visible border.


Λέοντι βασιλικῷ σπαθαροκανδιδάτῳ καὶ .... Χροβατίας


Λέοντι βασιλικῷ σπαθαροκανδιδάτῳ καὶ .... Χροβατίας.

Leo imperial spatharokandidatos and .... of Croatia.


The missing title might be reconstructed as either βασιλικός or ἄρχων.

There are no clear traces of any decoration or epigraphy on the obverse (one may suspect some traces of letters and suppose that it contained a regular invocation; but this is uncertain and unimportant). Accordingly we are forced to rely solely on the epigraphic characters of the reverse to date this specimen. The epigraphy (esp. letters Κ and Χ) allows us to date it to 950-1050. The reconstruction of Leo's title at the end of line 3 is a major problem. Based on traces of the border at r., one can be fairly certain that one or, at the most, possibly two letters were used to indicate his function, and accordingly only two titles can be fitted into such a tight space: ἄρχοντι or βασιλικῷ. In the first case, Leo would have been an independent or semi-independent ruler of Croatia who had received the honorific title of spatharokandidatos; in the second, he would have been a Byzantine official with financial responsibilities (Listes, 356; Ahrweiler, Recherches, 73-74) or a Croat who submitted to the emperor and assumed these financial responsibilities (perhaps in a part of Croatia, say one župania, like those mentioned in De Adm. Imp., chap. 30, lines 90-93). But all this is uncertain so long as the title cannot be read with certainty. Was this contact between Byzantium and Croatia via the north (just before the capture of Sirmium, cf. Skylitzes, 365-66) or via the littoral theme of Dalmatia? Be that as it may, we know that the Croats (or some of them) submitted to Basil II in 1019 and that their chiefs, two brothers, received from the emperor certain titles (ἀξιώματα λαβόντων: Skylitzes, 365). In this context our seal appears quite normal.

Croatia was an independent kingdom from the ninth century to the end of the period we are considering. From 969 to 997 it was governed by Stipan Držislav, a monarch who, after obtaining Byzantine recognition of his rule, deftly managed to steer clear of involvement in the Byzantine-Bulgarian wars. After his death, the kingdom was divided among his three sons, but, after a brief period, power was consolidated in the hands of Krešimir III (1000-1030). Although Krešimir's territories were threatened by invasion in 1018, war was averted when the Croatian monarch recognized Byzantine suzerainty, and after 1024 the threat of Byzantine domination diminished due to close ties between the Croatian and Hungarian monarchs. On all this, see Stanko Guldescu, History of Medieval Croatia (The Hague, 1964), 123-29, and F. Šišić, Geschichte der Kroaten I (Zagreb, 1917), 184-203.