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Petronas patrikios and komes of the imperial Opsikion guarded by God (eighth/ninth century)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.965
Diameter 25 mm
Condition Chipped at top.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 3, no. 39.34.


Cruciform invocative monogram (type VIII). In the quarters: τσ|δλ. Wreath border.

Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ


Inscription of five lines. Wreath border.


Πετρονᾷ πατρικίῳ καὶ κόμιτι τοῦ θεοφυλάκτου βασιλικοῦ Ὀψικίου


Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Πετρονᾷ πατρικίῳ καὶ κόμιτι τοῦ θεοφυλάκτου βασιλικοῦ Ὀψικίου.

Lord, help your servant Petronas, patrikios and komes of the imperial Opsikion guarded by God.


The name of the owner could as well be Kallonas or Samonas, but we prefer to read Petronas because of the remarkable similarities of this specimen with BZS.1955.1.1131, BZS.1951.31.5.976, and BZS.1958.106.1914.

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.