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Theodore apo hypaton and general kommerkiarios of the apotheke of Sebastopolis (668-ca. 672)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.694a
Diameter 25 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 1, no. 86.1a.
Zacos-Veglery, no. 150.

Obverse

Field divided horizontally into two parts. In upper half, bust of Emperor Constantine IV, with short beard, wearing crown and chlamys and holding globus cruciger. Along the wreath border, circular inscription, half of which survives at the r.: ....ΔΩΡ. In the lower half, inscription of three lines.

.πουπτω
.ιγενικ
ου

Θεοδώρου πὸ ὑπάτων καὶ γενικοῦ

Reverse

Field divided horizontally into two parts. In upper half, busts of the young Herakleios and Tiberios, wearing same type of garb and holding same insignium as their brother on the obverse. In lower half, inscription. All within a wreath border.

κομμερκιρ
ιποθικησ
.εβστο.
ολεω

κομμερκιαρίου ἀποθίκης Σεβαστοπόλεως

Translation

Θεοδώρου ἀπὸ ὑπάτων καὶ γενικοῦ κομμερκιαρίου ἀποθίκης Σεβαστοπόλεως.

(Seal of) Theodore apo hypaton and general kommerkiarios of the apotheke of Sebastopolis.

Commentary

The identification of the imperial portraits and consequently the date of this seal are firmly established by Zacos-Veglery (I, 231). Line 4 (rev.) has been tentatively read on specimen (b). But the critical letter, Ο, at the end of line 3 (rev.) is clearly visible on both specimens. Thus the reading Σεβαστείας must be excluded and Σεβαστοπόλεως is the only possibility.

The identification of Sebastopolis is uncertain. Three cities of this name can be taken into consideration here. (1) Sebastopolis of the Pontos, north of Sebasteia, which administratively belonged to Armenia Ia and, in the sixth century, to Armenia IIa; this city is mentioned in the notitiae episcopatuum as a bishopric until the twelfth century; one of its eleventh-century  bishops is known from his seal. (2) Sebastopolis of Abasgia, a city that replaced the ancient Dioscurias of Kolchis, situated in the neighborhood of Suhumi, southwest of Kaukasus, on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. It was an important trade center, especially for textiles, and was rebuilt, fortified, and developed into an important city by Justinian (Procopius, De Aedificiis III, 7, 15); it is mentioned in the notitiae as an archbishopric throughout the medieval period. (3) Sebastopolis of Thrace, north of Philippoupolis, known to Hierocles and after him, to Constantine Porphyrogennetos, and mentioned in the notitiae as a bishopric until the ninth century. See RE 5 (1123-25) (Sebastopolis of Abasgia); RE II/A (1923) 955 (list and entries on all Sebastopoleis); Darrouzès, Notitiae, passim; and Laurent, Corpus V/1, no. 413.

Two of these cities are in Asia; the third, which is on European soil, is the least likely seat of the apotheke (warehouse related to the production and trade of silk; see Oikonomides, Kommerkiarioi, 33-35) mentioned on his seal. Of the other two, the city of Abasgia seems more likely because of its well-attested importance for trade; furthermore, Sebastopolis of Armenia is quite close to a major city, Sebasteia, which would have been a more likely place for the apotheke, not to mention the fact that the apothekai of this region seem to have been designated after the province's name (e.g., apotheke of First Armenia, Zacos-Veglery, no. 162).

There is one more argument in favor of the Abasgian Sebastopolis. In 692 or 693 the Byzantines were defeated by the Arabs near a Byzantine city called Sebastopolis, which, according to Theophanes (366) was "by the sea" (τῇ παρὰ θάλασσαν). The only Sebastopolis that fits this description is the Abasgian one. Now, the actual event may well have taken place near the Cappadocian Sebastopolis (cf. A. Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century V, 34-36); but the phrase of Thephanes (or of his source) shows that the Abasgian Sebastopolis was not only in existence but also quite an important city under Byzantine domination, well after the year the present seal was issued.

To sum up: of the three Sebastopoleis, the Abasgian one is the most likely. Since this was a port and commercial outpost for the Byzantines, we think that it belongs with the Hyperborean lands and Crimean possessions of the empire rather than with Asia Minor.

Accession number BZS.1958.106.694a
Diameter 25 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 1, no. 86.1a.
Zacos-Veglery, no. 150.

Notes

Accession number BZS.1958.106.694a
Diameter 25 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 1, no. 86.1a.
Zacos-Veglery, no. 150.