Byzantine Empire had a complex system of aristocracy and
bureaucracy , which was inherited from the
Roman Empire . At the apex
of the hierarchy stood the emperor , who was the sole ruler
(autokrator ) and who was considered to be divinely ordained . Beneath
him, a multitude of officials and court functionaries operated the
complex administrative machinery that was necessary to run the empire.
In addition to those officials, a large number of honorific titles
existed, which the emperor awarded to his subjects or to friendly
Over the more than thousand years of the empire's existence,
different titles were adopted and discarded, and many lost or gained
prestige. At first the various titles of the empire were the same as
those in the late
Roman Empire . However, by the time that Heraclius
was emperor (610–641), many of the titles had become obsolete. By
the time of Alexios I reign (1082–1118), many of the positions were
either new or drastically changed. However, from that time on they
remained essentially the same until the fall of the Byzantine Empire
* 1 Background history
* 2 Imperial titles
* 2.1 Titles used by the emperors
* 2.2 Titles used by the imperial family
* 3 Court titles from the 8th to 11th centuries
* 3.1 Titles for the "Bearded Ones"
* 3.2 Titles for the eunuchs
* 4 Palace offices
* 5 Military offices
* 5.1 Army
* 5.2 Navy
* 5.3 Other military titles
* 6 Administrative offices
* 6.1 Court life
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 Sources
* 10 External links
In the early Byzantine period (4th to early 7th century) the system
of government followed the model established in late Roman times under
Constantine the Great , with a strict separation
between civil and military offices and a scale of titles corresponding
to office, where membership or not in the Senate was the major
distinguishing characteristic. Following the transformation of the
Byzantine state during the 7th century on account of massive
territorial loss to the
Muslim conquests , this system vanished, and
during the "classic" or middle period of the Byzantine state (8th-late
11th centuries), a new, court-centered system emerged. In this, the
new titles derived from older, now obsolete, public offices, and
dignities of a certain level were awarded with each office. A
senatorial class remained in place, which incorporated a large part of
the upper officialdom as every official from the rank of
protospatharios (Literally "first sword-bearer;" originally the head
of the Emperor's bodyguards) was considered a member of it. During
this period, many families remained important for several centuries,
and several Emperors rose from the aristocracy. Two groups can be
distinguished: a metropolitan civil nobility and a provincial military
one, the latter remaining regionally based and having large
land-holdings, but apparently no military forces of their own, in
contrast to contemporary Western Europe .
The 10th and 11th centuries saw a rise in importance of the
aristocracy, and an increased number of new families entering it. The
catastrophic losses in the latter 11th century again prompted a
reorganization of the imperial administrative system, at the hands of
Komnenos dynasty : the older offices and titles fell gradually
into disuse, while an array of new honorifics emerged, which signified
primarily the closeness of their recipient's familial relationship to
the Emperor. The Komnenian-led Empire, and later their Palaiologan
successors, were based primarily on the landed aristocracy , keeping
the governance of state tightly controlled by a limited number of
intermarrying aristocratic families. In the 11th and 12th century for
instance, some 80 civil and 64 military noble families have been
identified, a very small number for so large a state. Finally, in the
Palaiologan system as reported by pseudo-Kodinos one can discern the
accumulated nomenclature of centuries, with formerly high ranks having
been devalued and others taken their place, and the old distinction
between office and dignity had vanished.
These were the highest titles, usually limited to members of the
imperial family or to a few very select foreign rulers, whose
friendship the Emperor desired.
TITLES USED BY THE EMPERORS
The back of this coin by
Manuel I Comnenus bears his title,
* BASILEUS (βασιλεύς): the Greek word for "sovereign " which
originally referred to any king in the Greek-speaking areas of the
Roman Empire. It also referred to the Shahs of Persia . Heraclius
adopted it to replace the old
Latin title of Augustus (Greek form
Augoustos) in 629, and it became the Greek word for "emperor."
Heraclius also used the titles autokrator (αὐτοκράτωρ —
"autocrat," "self-ruler") and kyrios (κύριος — "lord"). The
Byzantines reserved the term "basileus" among Christian rulers
exclusively for the emperor in Constantinople, and referred to Western
European kings as rēgas, a Hellenized form of the
Latin word rex
("king"). The feminine form basilissa referred to an empress .
Empresses were addressed as eusebestatē avgousta ("Most Pious Augusta
"), and were also called kyria ("Lady") or despoina (the female form
of "despotes", see below).
Primogeniture , or indeed heredity itself,
was never legally established in Byzantine imperial succession,
because in principle the Roman Emperor was selected by common
acclamation of the Senate, the People and the Army. This was rooted
firmly in the Roman "republican" tradition, whereby hereditary
kingship was rejected and the Emperor was nominally the convergence of
several offices of the Republic onto one person. Many emperors,
anxious to safeguard their firstborn son's right to the throne, had
them crowned as co-emperors when they were still children, thus
assuring that upon their own death the throne would not be even
momentarily vacant. In such a case the need for an imperial selection
never arose. In several cases the new Emperor ascended the throne
after marrying the previous Emperor's widow , or indeed after forcing
the previous Emperor to abdicate and become a monk . Several emperors
were also deposed because of perceived inadequacy, e.g., after a
military defeat, and some were murdered.
* PORPHYROGENNēTOS (πορφυρογέννητος) — "born in
the purple ": Emperors wanting to emphasize the legitimacy of their
ascent to the throne appended this title to their names, meaning they
were born in the delivery room of the imperial palace (called the
Porphyra because it was paneled with slabs of purple marble), to a
reigning emperor, and were therefore legitimate beyond any claim to
the contrary whatsoever.
* AUTOKRATōR (αὐτοκράτωρ) — "self-ruler": this title
was originally equivalent to imperator , and was used by the emperors.
TITLES USED BY THE IMPERIAL FAMILY
Emperor Manuel II
Palaiologos with his family: empress Helena
Dragaš (right), and three of their sons, John , Andronikos and
Theodore . John, as his father's heir and co-emperor, wears an exact
replica of his imperial costume.
* DESPOTēS (δεσπότης) – "Lord": This title was used by
the emperors themselves since the time of
Justinian I , and was an
honorific address for the sons of reigning emperors. It was
extensively featured in coins, in lieu of Basileus. In the 12th
Manuel I Komnenos made it a separate title, the highest
"awarded" title after the emperor. The first such despotēs was
actually a foreigner,
Bela III of Hungary , signifying that Hungary
was considered a Byzantine tributary state. In later times, a despot
could be the holder of a despotate; for example, the Despotate of
Morea , centred at
Mistra , was held by the heir to the Byzantine
throne after 1261. The feminine form, despoina, referred to a female
despot or the wife of a despot, but it was also used to address the
* SEBASTOKRATōR (σεβαστοκράτωρ) – "Venerable Ruler":
a title created by
Alexios I Komnenos as a combination of autokratōr
and sebastos (see below). The first sebastokratōr was Alexios'
brother Isaakios. It was essentially a meaningless title, which
signified only a close relationship with the Emperor, but ranked
immediately after the despotēs. The feminine form was
sebastokratorissa. The first foreigner to be called sebastokratōr was
Stefan Nemanjić of
Serbia , who was given the title in 1191. A
Bulgarian aristocrat by the name Kaloyan also used the title.
* KAISAR (καῖσαρ) – "Caesar": originally, as in the late
Roman Empire, it was used for a subordinate co-emperor or the heir
apparent, and was first among the "awarded" dignities. The office
enjoyed extensive privileges, great prestige and power. When Alexios I
created sebastokratōr, kaisar became third in importance, and fourth
after Manuel I created despotēs. The feminine form was kaisarissa. It
remained however an office of great importance, and was awarded to a
few high-ranking and distinguished officials, and was only rarely
awarded to foreigners.
Justinian II named
Tervel , khan of the Bulgars
, kaisar in 705; the title then developed into the Slavic term tsar or
Latin through Bulgarian and then into Russian, Serbian
etc.). Title was also awarded to
George II of Georgia . ] also named
Roger de Flor , leader of the
Catalan Grand Company , kaisar in 1304.
* NOBELISSIMOS (νωβελίσσιμος) – from the Latin
Nobilissimus ("most noble"): originally a title given to close
relatives of the Emperor, subordinate only to the kaisar. During the
Komnenian period , the title was awarded to officials and foreign
dignitaries, diluting its status. The title Prōtonobelissimos was
created in its stead, until it too started to decline, only to be
replaced by a further augmented form: Prōtonobelissimohypertatos. By
the late Palaiologan era, the former had vanished, while the latter
was a provincial official.
* KOUROPALATēS (κουροπαλάτης) – from the
palatii, "charge of the palace": First attested in the time of
Justinian I , it was the official in charge of the running of the
imperial palace. However, the great authority and wealth deriving from
this position, as well as the close proximity to the Emperor, meant
that it accumulated great prestige. It was awarded to important
members of the imperial family, but from the 11th century onwards, it
declined, and was usually awarded to the vassal rulers of
* SEBASTOS (σεβαστός) – "August One" this title is the
literal Greek translation of the
Latin term Augustus or Augoustos, was
sometimes used by the emperors. As a separate title it appeared in the
latter half of the 11th century, and was extensively awarded by
Alexios I Komnenos to his brothers and relations. The female version
of the title was sebastē. The special title PRōTOSEBASTOS ("First
Venerable One") was created for Hadrianos, Alexios' second brother,
and awarded also to the
Doge of Venice and the Sultan of Iconium.
During the 12th century, it remained in use for the Emperor's and the
sebastokratōr's children, and senior foreign dignitaries. However,
the parallel processes of proliferation and devaluation of titles
during the 12th century resulted in the creation of a bewildering
array of often ridiculously large variations, by using the prefixes
pan ("all"), hyper ("above"), prōto ("first"): examples include
PANSEBASTOS, PANHYPERSEBASTOS, or HYPERPRōTOPANSEBASTOHYPERTATOS. Few
of them actually survived past the 12th century, and all of them
rapidly declined in importance.
COURT TITLES FROM THE 8TH TO 11TH CENTURIES
Nikephoros III flanked by personifications of Truth and
Justice, and by his senior court dignitaries, from an illuminated
manuscript dating to the 1070s. From left: the proedros and epi tou
kanikleiou , the prōtoproedros and prōtovestiarios (a eunuch, since
he is beardless), the emperor, the proedros and dekanos , and the
proedros and megas primikērios .
In the 8th–11th centuries, according to information provided by the
Taktikon Uspensky , the Klētorologion of Philotheos (899) and the
writings of Constantine
Porphyrogennetos , below the imperial titles,
the Byzantines distinguished two distinct categories of dignities
(ἀξίαι): the "dignities by award" (διὰ βραβείων
ἀξίαι), which were purely honorific court titles and were
conferred by the award of a symbol of rank, and the "dignities by
proclamation" (διὰ λόγου ἀξίαι), which were offices of
the state and were conferred by imperial pronouncement. The former
were further divided into three subcategories, depending on who was
eligible for them: different sets of titles existed for the "Bearded
Ones" (βαρβάτοι from
Latin barbati, i.e. not eunuchs), the
eunuchs (ἐκτομίαι) and women. State officials usually
combined titles from both main categories, so that a high official
would be both magistros (an "awarded" title) and logothetēs tou
dromou (a "proclaimed" office).
TITLES FOR THE "BEARDED ONES"
The "by award" titles for the "Bearded Ones" (non-eunuchs ) were, in
descending order of precedence:
* PROEDROS (πρόεδρος) – "president": Originally reserved
for eunuchs (see below), it was opened up in the mid-11th century to
"Bearded Ones" as well, especially military officials.
* MAGISTROS (μάγιστρος) – in the early Byzantine state,
the magister officiorum was one of the most senior officials, but as
his duties were gradually relegated to other officials, by the 8th
century, only the title was left. It remained a high honour, and only
rarely awarded until the 10th century. By the early 10th century,
there were 12, the first in precedence among them bearing the title of
prōtomagistros. Thereafter the number of its holders was inflated,
and the office vanished sometime in the 12th century.
* VESTARCHES (βεστάρχης) – "head of the vestai", adopted
in the latter half of the 10th century for high-ranking eunuchs, it
was awarded to "bearded" senior military officers and judicial
Constantinople from ca. 1050 on. It disappeared in the
early 12th century.
* VESTES (βέστης) – senior honorific title, first attested
John I Tzimiskes . Awarded to both eunuchs and non-eunuchs, it
survived until the early 12th century. The term is etymologically
connected to the vestiarion, the imperial wardrobe, but despite
earlier attempts to connect the vestai and the related title of
vestarchēs, the head of the class of the vestai (see above), with the
officials of the vestiarion (see below), no such relation appears to
* ANTHYPATOS (ἀνθύπατος) – "proconsul ": Originally the
highest rank for provincial governors, it survived the creation of the
Theme system , until, in the 9th century, it too became a purely
honorific title. The variant PRōTANTHYPATOS was created in the 11th
century to counter its decline in importance, but both disappeared by
the end of the 12th century.
* PATRIKIOS (πατρίκιος) – "patrician": Established as the
highest title of nobility by
Constantine the Great , it remained one
of the highest dignities until its disappearance in the Komnenian
period, awarded to high-ranking officials, including eunuchs, and
foreign rulers. The spouses of patricians bore the title patrikia (not
to be confused with zōstē patrikia, see below).
* PRōTOSPATHARIOS (πρωτοσπαθάριος) – "first
spatharios". As its name signifies, it originally was the title borne
by the leader of the spatharioi ("swordbearers," the Emperor's
bodyguards.) For instance, in the 6th century
Narses bore this title.
It later became one of the most common high court titles, awarded to
senior officials such as the logothetai, the commanders of the
imperial tagmata or the strategoi in charge of a theme. The title of
prōtospatharios also signified admittance to the Senate. The office
survived until the
Palaiologan period , but had declined to the 35th
place of the hierarchy.
* DISHYPATOS (δισύπατος) – "twice consul". A very rare
dignity, which originated possibly in the 8th century.
* SPATHAROKANDIDATOS (σπαθαροκανδιδᾶτος) – a
portmanteau of the titles spatharios and kandidatos, both of which
were types of palace guards in the 4th–6th centuries. The earliest
references to the title occur in early 8th century and the title is
clearly attested only from the early 9th century on. Its distinctive
badge (brabeion) was a golden chain (maniakion) worn around the chest.
* SPATHARIOS (σπαθάριος) – "spatha -bearer": As their
name signifies, the spatharioi were initially a special corps of
imperial guards (A spatha is a kind of sword.) They performed specific
duties inside the imperial palace. The title survived until the early
* HYPATOS (ὕπατος) – "consul ": As in the Roman Republic
and Empire, the title was initially given each year to two
distinguished citizens (the "ordinary consuls"), until Justinian I
halted the practice due to the extraordinary expenditure it involved.
The title continued to be occasionally assumed by emperors on
accession until the end of the 7th century. Honorary consuls however
continued to be named, as attested by seals bearing the titles hypatos
or apo hypatōn ("former consul"). The title was often conferred to
the rulers of south Italian city-states.
* STRATōR (στράτωρ) – "groom "
* KANDIDATOS (κανδιδᾶτος) – from the
so named because of their white tunics. They were originally a select
group of guards, drawn from the
Scholae Palatinae . The title
disappeared in the Komnenian period.
* BASILIKOS MANDATōR (βασιλικὸς μανδάτωρ) –
* VESTēTōR (βεστήτωρ), were officers of the imperial
* SILENTIARIOS (σιλεντιάριος), originally a group of
courtiers responsible for the maintenance of order (including
respectful silence) in the palace.
* STRATēLATēS (στρατηλάτης), a translation of the Latin
magister militum , and APOEPARCHōN (ἀποεπάρχων or ἀπὸ
ἐπάρχων), a translation of the
Latin ex praefectis. These two
titles are listed as equal by Philotheos. Both were still high
dignities in the 6th century, but were devalued afterwards.
TITLES FOR THE EUNUCHS
By descending order of precedence, the "by award" titles for the
* PROEDROS (πρόεδρος) – "president": This was an entirely
new rank introduced in the 960s by
Nikephoros II Phokas and first
Basil Lekapenos , the eunuch parakoimōmenos. The holder of
this dignity was also the president of the Senate, and the term
proedros was often used to denote precedence, e.g. proedros of the
notarioi for the prōtonotarios . The title was widely awarded in the
11th century, when it was opened up to non-eunuchs, prompting the
creation of the prōtoproedros to distinguish the most senior amongst
its holders. It disappeared in the latter 12th century.
* VESTARCHES (βεστάρχης) – adopted in the latter half of
the 10th century for high-ranking eunuchs, it was awarded to "bearded"
senior military officers and judicial officials of
ca. 1050 on. It disappeared in the early 12th century.
* PATRIKIOS – The same as for the "Bearded Ones".
* VESTES (βέστης) – the same as for the "Bearded Ones".
* PRAIPOSITOS (πραιπόσιτος) – from the Latin
praepositus, "placed before".
* PRōTOSPATHARIOS – The same as for the "Bearded Ones"
* PRIMIKēRIOS (πριμικήριος) – from the Latin
primicerius , "first in the list".
* OSTIARIOS (ὀστιάριος) – from the
(σπαθαροκουβικουλάριος) – "sword-chamberlain":
a ceremonial sword-carrier assigned to the personal guard of the
emperor. It later became a simple court rank.
* KOUBIKOULARIOS (κουβικουλάριος) – from the Latin
* NIPSISTIARIOS (νιψιστιάριος) – from Greek
νίπτειν, "to wash hands"), the nipsistiarios was tasked with
holding a gold, gem-encrusted water basin and assisting the emperor in
performing the ritual ablutions before he exited the imperial palace
or performed ceremonies.
There is also a single special title reserved for women, that of
ZōSTē PATRIKIA (ζωστὴ πατρικία, "Girded patrikia").
This title was given to the empress' ladies of honour, and, according
to Philotheos, ranked very high in hierarchy, above even the magistros
and proedros and just below the kouropalates. The title is known from
the early 9th century, and disappeared in the 11th century. Otherwise
women bore the female forms of their husbands' titles.
* PARAKOIMOMENOS – literally, "one who sleeps nearby", was the
High Chamberlain who sleeps in the Emperor's bedchamber. Usually a
eunuch, during the 9th–10th centuries, the holders of this office
often functioned as de facto chief ministers of the Empire.
* PROTOVESTIARIOS – usually a minor relative of the emperor, who
took care of the emperor’s personal wardrobe, especially on military
campaigns. He was also sometimes responsible for other members of the
imperial household, and the emperor’s personal finances. The older
term, from before the time of
Justinian I , was curopalata (or
kouropalates in Greek). This was derived from kourator (curator), an
earlier official responsible for financial matters. The vestiarios was
a subordinate official. The protovestiaria and vestiaria performed the
same functions for the empress.
* PAPIAS – great concierge of the imperial palaces, responsible
for the opening and closing of the palace gates each day.
* PINKERNES – originally the emperor's cupbearer, later a senior
* KANIKLEIOS – the keeper of the imperial inkstand, one of the
senior officials of the imperial chancery. In the Komnenian and
Palaiologan period, some of its holders were de facto chief ministers
of the Empire.
* EPI TES TRAPEZES – Greek: ὁ ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης,
"the one in charge of the table," official responsible for attending
to the imperial table during banquets.
Aristocracy and bureaucracy
* EXARCHOS – The exarchs were governors of remote parts of the
empire such as Italy or Africa. They enjoyed a greater degree of
independence than other provincial governors, combining both civil and
military authority, practically acting as viceroys .
* DOMESTIKOS – the domestikoi were originally imperial guards, who
later functioned as senior staff officers in the
Late Roman army . In
the Byzantine period, they were among the highest military offices,
* MEGAS DOMESTIKOS (Grand Domestic) – the overall commander of the
* DOMESTIKOS TōN SCHOLōN (Domestic of the Schools) – the
commander of the
Scholai , originally a number of guards units, later
a Tagma . This was a very prestigious title, and by the late 9th
century, its holder functioned as commander in chief of the army. In
ca. 959, the post was divided, with one domestic for the East and one
for the West.
* DOMESTIKOS TōN THEMATōN (Domestic of the Themes) – the
commander and organizer of the military themes; there was one for the
European themes and one for Asian themes.
* KATEPANō – The governor of a greater area combining two or
more themes, such as the Catepan of Italy , a title developed in the
* STRATēGOS – a military and later also civil commander of a
theme, who often also had the title of doux . The term is basically
equivalent to "general" or "admiral", as it was used in both branches
* TOURMARCHēS – the commander of a tourma , a military unit of
* PRōTOSTRATōR – initially the Emperor's stable master , under
the Komnenian and Palaiologan emperors the term was used for the
second-ranking commander of the army.
* STRATOPEDARCHēS (Master of the Camp) – This official was in
charge of making sure the army was stocked with food and arms.
* HOPLITARCHēS or ARCHēGēTēS – commander of all infantry in a
large army, the title first appears in the mid-10th century, when the
infantry is reorganized and gains in importance.
* PRōTOKENTARCHOS and KENTARCHOS – commanders of a smaller
division of the army in the field. The name was derived from the Latin
* MERARCHēS – commander of a division (meros) of the army.
Usually, each army was divided into two to three such commands.
* TAXIARCH ēS or CHILIARCH ēS – commander of an infantry
regiment (taxiarchia or chiliarchia) in the army.
* KAVALLARIOS – A title borrowed from the
Latin caballarius, it
originally meant a cavalry soldier. During the
Palaiologan period , it
became a minor court title.
Further information: Organization of the
* MEGAS DOUX – The Megaduke or Grand Duke, was the basic
equivalent of the modern Lord High Admiral . The office was created by
Alexios I Komnenos , when he amalgamated the remnants of the imperial
and thematic fleets into a single imperial fleet. By the end of the
Palaiologos dynasty the megaduke was head of the government and
bureaucracy, not just the navy.
* AMIRALES – The Greek version of "Admiral", introduced via
Sicilian practice. An office founded in the late Palaiologan era for
Western mercenary leaders and rarely held, the amirales was the deputy
of the megas doux.
* MEGAS DROUNGARIOS – Initially the commander-in-chief of the
Byzantine navy, after the creation of the megas doux his lieutenant,
in charge of the naval officers.
* DROUNGARIOS – The title existed both in the army and the navy.
In the navy of the 8th–11th centuries, a droungarios headed a fleet,
either the central imperial fleet or one of the thematic fleets; in
the army he headed a Droungos, roughly a battalion-sized grouping.
* KOMēS or DROUNGAROKOMēS – The commander of a squadron of
* KENTARCHOS or NAUARCHOS – the captain of a ship.
OTHER MILITARY TITLES
* ETHNARCHēS – the ethnarch, commander of foreign troops.
* KONOSTAULOS – Greek form of
Comes stabuli 'count of the
stable' and various European feudal titles such as English "constable"
– the chief of the Frankish mercenaries .
* HETAIREIARCHēS – the chief of the barbarian mercenaries, the
Hetaireia , successor to the
Foederati . Initially subdivided into
Greater (Megalē), Middle (Mesē) and Little (Mikra) Hetaireia.
* AKOLOUTHOS – "Acolyte," the chief of the
Varangian Guard from
the Komnenian era onwards.
* MANGLAVITAI – A category of palace guards, armed with sword and
cudgel (manglavion). Under the command of a Prōtomanglavitēs.
* TOPOTēRēTēS – meaning "place-holder", "lieutenant". Found at
various levels of the hierarchy, as deputies to commanders of the
imperial tagmata, deputy to a drungarios.
Emperor Theophilos flanked by courtiers. From the Skylitzes
The vast Byzantine bureaucracy had many titles, and varied more than
aristocratic and military titles. In
Constantinople there were
normally hundreds, if not thousands, of bureaucrats at any time. Like
the Church and the military, they wore elaborately differentiated
dress , often including huge hats. These are some of the more common
ones, including non-nobles who also directly served the emperor.
* PRAETORIAN PREFECT – The
Praetorian prefect was originally an
old Roman office used for the commander of the army in the Eastern and
Western portions of the Empire. It was abolished in the 7th century
owing to wide reaching civil and military reforms. The title evolved
into the domestikos. After
Diocletian 's reforms, the functions of the
Prefect embraced a wide sphere; they were administrative, financial,
judicial, and even legislative. The provincial governors were
appointed at his recommendation, and with him rested their dismissal,
subject to the Emperor's approval. He received regular reports of the
administration from the governors of the provinces. He had treasuries
of his own, and the payment and the food supplies of the army devolved
upon him. He was also a supreme judge of appeal; in cases which were
brought before his court from a lower tribunal there was no further
appeal to the Emperor. He could issue, on his own authority,
praetorian edicts, but they concerned only matters of detail.
* BASILEOPATōR (βασιλεοπάτωρ)– "Father of the
Emperor": an exceptional title, granted only twice in Byzantine
history. Although a basileopatōr was not the emperor's actual father,
and the title did not necessarily denote any familial relationship at
all, both awardees were father-in-law to the emperor: Stylianos
Leo VI the Wise and
Romanos I Lekapenos briefly as
Constantine VII , before he raised himself to co-emperor.
It ranked first among the "decreed" offices, and entailed wide-ranging
* PROTASEKRETIS – "First Secretary" an earlier title for the head
of the chancery, responsible for keeping official government records
and head of the class of senior secretaries known as asekretis . Other
subordinates included the chartoularios (in charge of imperial
documents), the kastrensios (a chamberlain in the palace), the
mystikos (a private secretary), and the eidikos (a treasury official).
* LOGOTHETēS – "one who accounts, calculates or ratiocinates",
literally "one who sets the word;" a secretary in the extensive
bureaucracy, who did various jobs depending on the exact position.
Logothetes were some of the most important bureaucrats. They included:
* MEGAS LOGOTHETēS (Grand Logothete) – the head of the
logothetes, personally responsible for the legal system and treasury,
somewhat like a chancellor in western Europe.
* LOGOTHETēS TOU DROMOU (Drome Logothete) – the head of diplomacy
and the postal service .
* LOGOTHETēS TōN OIKEIAKōN (
Logothete of the oikeiakoi)
* LOGOTHETēS TOU GENIKOU (General Logothete) – responsible for
taxation. Also acts as a secretary in later cases.
* LOGOTHETēS TOU STRATIOTIKOU (Military Logothete) – a civilian,
in charge of distributing pay to the army.
* CHARTOULARIOS TOU VESTIARIOU Literally "keeper of documents for
the Public Wardrobe" (see
Vestiarion ); responsible for minting gold
and silver coins and equipping the fleet.
Logothetes originally had some influence on the emperor, but they
eventually became honorary posts. In the later empire the Grand
Logothete was replaced by the mesazōn ("mediator").
Other administrators included:
* EPARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE – Governor of the urban prefect of
* QUAESTOR – Originally an accountant or auditor, the office
eventually became a judicial one for Constantinople.
* TRIBOUNOS – translation of
Latin tribune ; responsible for
maintenance of roads, monuments, and buildings in Constantinople
(which were the responsibility of the Aedile, not the Tribunes in
Latin speaking times.)
* MAGISTER (magister officiorum , magister militum , "maistor" in
Greek) – an old Roman term, master of offices and master of the
army; by the time of Leo III , these had become honorary titles and
were eventually discarded.
* SAKELLARIOS – "Treasurer; purse-bearer." Under Heraclius, an
honorary supervisor of the other palace administrators, logothetes,
etc. Later, the chief financial comptroller of the Empire.
* PRAETOR –
Latin for "Man who goes before; first man." One of the
oldest of Roman titles, predating the Roman Republic, the title's use
morphed considerably through the years. By the time of Theodosius I
(379-395) it meant the leading municipal magistrate (like a modern
Mayor) but from late 10th century until 1204, a civil governor of a
* KEPHALE – "head", the governor of a small province, usually a
town and its surrounding territory, in the
* HOREIARIOS – in charge of distributing food from the state
The protasekretis, logothetes, prefect, praetor, quaestor, magister,
and sakellarios, among others, were members of the senate .
At the peaceful height of Middle Byzantium, court life "passed in a
sort of ballet", with precise ceremonies prescribed for every
occasion, to show that "Imperial power could be exercised in harmony
and order", and "the Empire could thus reflect the motion of the
Universe as it was made by the Creator", according to the Emperor
Constantine Porphyrogenitus , who wrote a Book of Ceremonies
describing in enormous detail the annual round of the Court. Special
forms of dress for many classes of people on particular occasions are
set down; at the name-day dinner for the Emperor or
groups of high officials performed ceremonial "dances", one group
wearing " a blue and white garment, with short sleeves, and gold
bands, and rings on their ankles. In their hands they hold what are
called phengia". The second group do just the same, but wearing "a
garment of green and red, split, with gold bands". These colours were
the marks of the old chariot-racing factions, the four now merged to
just the Blues and the Greens, and incorporated into the official
hierarchy. As in the Versailles of
Louis XIV , elaborate dress and
court ritual probably were at least partly an attempt to smother and
distract from political tensions.
Eunuchs also participated in court life, typically serving as
attendants to noble women or assisting the emperor when he took part
in religious ceremonies or removed his crown.
Eunuchs in the early
Byzantine Empire were usually foreigners, and they were often seen as
having a low status. This changed in the 10th century, when the social
status of eunuchs increased and members of the educated Byzantine
upper class began to become eunuchs.
However, even by the time of
Anna Comnena , with the Emperor away on
military campaigns for much of the time, this way of life had changed
considerably, and after the Crusader occupation it virtually vanished.
A French visitor was shocked to see the
Empress going to church far
less well attended than the Queen of France would have been. The
Imperial family largely abandoned the Great Palace for the relatively
Palace of Blachernae .
Byzantine battle tactics
* ^ A B C D Kazhdan (1991), p. 623
* ^ Robin Cormack, "Writing in Gold, Byzantine Society and its
Icons", 1985, George Philip, London, p180, using Kazhdan A.P. , 1974
(in Russian) ISBN 0-540-01085-5
* ^ Spatharakis, Iohannis (1976). The portrait in Byzantine
illuminated manuscripts. Brill Archive. p. 110. ISBN 978-90-04-04783-9
* ^ The Eunuch in Byzantine History and Society; Shaun Tougher;
* ^ A B Kazhdan (1991), p. 1727
* ^ Bury (1911), p. 21
* ^ Kazhdan (1991), p. 1267
* ^ A B C D Kazhdan (1991), p. 2162
* ^ Kazhdan (1991), p. 1600
* ^ A B Bury (1911), p. 27
* ^ Bury (1911), p. 26
* ^ Bury (1911), p. 25
* ^ Bury (1911), pp. 21, 23–24
* ^ Ringrose 2003 , p. 234 (Note #86).
* ^ Bury 1911 , p. 121.
* ^ Kazhdan (1991), p. 2231
* ^ Mark C. Bartusis, "The Kavallarioi of Byzantium" in Speculum,
Vol. 63, No. 2 (Apr., 1988), pp. 343–350
* ^ Bury (1911), p. 32
* ^ Steven Runciman, Byzantine Style and Civilization (London:
* ^ Rosenwein, Barbara (2009). A Short History of the Middle Ages
(3rd ed.). University of Toronto Press.
* Bartusis, Mark C. (1997). The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and
Society 1204–1453. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN
* Bréhier, Louis (2000) . Les institutions de l'empire byzantin (in
French). Paris: Albin Michel. ISBN 978-2-226-04722-9 .
* Bury, John B. (1911). The Imperial Administrative System of the
Ninth Century – With a Revised Text of the
Philotheos. Oxford University Publishing.
* Angold, Michael (1984). The Byzantine Aristocracy: IX to XIII
Centuries. BAR International Series. ISBN 0-86054-283-1 .
* (in French) Guilland, Rodolphe (1967). "Recherches sur les
institutions byzantines, Tomes I & II". Berlin: Akademie-Verlag
* (in French) Guilland, Rodolphe (1971). "Les Logothètes: Etudes
sur l\'histoire administrative de l\'Empire byzantin". Revue des
études byzantines. 29: 5–115. doi :10.3406/rebyz.1971.1441 .
Retrieved 28 May 2011