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Paul imperial protospatharios epi tou koitonos and basilikos of the Armenian themes (eleventh century)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.821
Diameter 25 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 4, no. 56.3.

W. Seibt, "Ἀρμενικὰ θέματα", 134, no. 2.


Inscription of six lines, top line missing. Border of dots.


[Κύριε βοήθει] τῷ σῷ [δού]λ(ῳ)


Inscription of five lines, top line missing. Border of dots.


Παύλῳ [β(ασιλικῷ) (πρωτο)]σπαθ(αρίῳ) ἐπὶ [τ]οῦ θεο[φ]υ[λ(άκτου)] κ[οιτῶνος καὶ βασιλ]ικῷ τῶ[ν Ἀ]ρμενικ(ῶν) [θ]εμάτ[ω]ν


Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Παύλῳ βασιλικῷ πρωτοσπαθαρίῳ ἐπὶ τοῦ θεοφυλάκτου κοιτῶνος καὶ βασιλικῷ τῶν Ἀρμενικῶν θεμάτων.

Lord, help your servant Paul, imperial protospatharios, epi tou koitonos, and basilikos of the Armenian themes.


The reverse is spaced differently from the obverse, and thus it contained only five lines; for this reason it is not necessary to follow Seibt and restore the word κριτής.

First attested in the middle of the tenth century, the “Armenian themes” drew their name from the Armenian groups which settled along the eastern frontier of the empire. They covered small territories, made up essentially of one fortress and its region, they provided mainly footsoldiers (less than a thousand each) and had  a distinct administrative structure characterized by the large number of “tourmarchai” (the Charpezikion had 22 major toumarchai and 47 lesser ones). The Armenian themes (tentative list in Kühn, Armee, 61-64), scattered along the eastern frontier, were thus differentiated from the larger, traditional “Roman themes” lying to the interior. See Oikonomides, Listes, 345-46; Oikonomides, “Organisation;” and the recent and exhaustive study of W. Seibt, “Ἀρμενικὰ θέματα als terminus technicus der byzantinischen Verwaltungsgeschichte des 11. Jahrhunderts,” ByzSl 54 (1993) 134-41. Each Armenian theme had its own (low-grade) strategos (called zirwar by the Arabs, zoravar by the Armenians); in the XIth c. do we meet a strategos of the Armenian themes in general (Zacos, Seals II, no. 844), indicating an effort to centralize the command of these scattered units. The numerous seals of the financial officials in our collection reflect the economic importance of the Armenian themes while those of the judicial officials bear witness to the effort necessary to maintain law and order in these frontier zones, especially in an Armenian population, notorious for its lack of discipline (E. McGeer, The Land Legislation of the Macedonian Emperors [Toronto, 2000] 86-89).