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The bishop of Helos (eleventh century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.5360
Diameter 20 mm
Field diameter 13 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 26.2. Cf. Wassiliou-Seibt, Siegel mit metrischen Legenden I, no. 951.


Bust of the Virgin orans. On either side, the inscription: Μ̅Θ̅ : Μήτηρ Θεοῦ. Border of dots.


Inscription of five lines. Border of dots.


Θύτην Ἕλως φύλαττε σὸν λάτριν, Κόρη


Θύτην Ἕλως φύλαττε σὸν λάτριν, Κόρη.

Virgin, watch over, the bishop of Helos, your servant.


Dodecasyllabic. Note the substitution of an omega for the sound ou: this is a phenomenon typical of the Tzakonian (and the Maniot) dialect in Greek (G. Anagnostopulos, Tsakonische Grammatik [Berlin-Athens, 1926], 21; H. Pernot, Introduction à l'étude du dialecte tsakonien [Paris, 1934], 20).

The see of Helos, a suffragan of Patras, appears in the 10th century (Darrouzès, Notitiae, no. 9, line 414;its mention in notitia, no. 7, line 555, is an interpolation). Was it a specific town or, more generally, a region, namely the plain of Helos to the southeast of Sparta? We think that Helos must certainly have been a town (exact location unknown; perhaps Skala on the Eurotas river or a nearby location), as were practically all other bishoprics: it is mentioned as such in De Adm. Imp. (chap. 50, line 16), together with another town, Lakedaimonia; in the Life of St. Nikon (168, 174, 293), it appears as a town of mixed population, Byzantine and, presumably, Slavic; the Latin sources also allude to it as if it were a town (Bon, Morée francque, 99, note 4, 498), and in the 18th century there is mention of the fortezza di Eleos. From Antiquity, its name came from the swampy region in which it was situated. Of course nothing rules out that the creation of the bishopric was related to the Christianization of the Ezeritai (who also took their name from the "lake"). See D. Georgakas, "The Mediaeval Names Melingi and Ezeritae of Slavic Groups in the Peloponnesus," BZ 43 (1950) 327-30; Bon, Péloponnèse, 108-110; Laurent, Corpus V/1, 493 ff; Commentary, 186; J. M. Wagstaff, The Development of Rural Settlements: A Study of the Helos Plain in Southern Greece (Avebury, 1982), 58; Fedalto, 502-3.