was one of the highest court dignities
The Byzantine Empire had a complex system of aristocracy and bureaucracy, which was inherited from the Roman Empire. At the apex of the pyramid stood the Emperor, sole ruler and divinely ordained, but beneath him a multitude of officials and court functionaries operated the administrative...
of the middle Byzantine
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...
period (8th to 12th centuries), awarded to senior generals and provincial governors, as well as to foreign princes.
The meaning of the title, "first spatharios
", indicates its original role as leader of the order (taxis
) of the spatharioi
, imperial bodyguards, already attested in the 6th century. Probably under the Heraclians
Byzantium under the Heraclians refers to the period when the East Roman or Byzantine Empire was ruled by the emperors of the Heraclian dynasty. The Heraclians presided over a period of cataclysmic events that were a watershed in the history of the Empire and the world in general.At the beginning of...
, the rank became an honorary dignity (Greek: δια βραβείου άξια, dia brabeiou axia
), and was henceforth bestowed to high-ranking theme commanders, senior court officials, and allied rulers. The first concrete reference to a prōtospatharios
occurs in the Chronicle
of Theophanes the Confessor
Saint Theophanes Confessor was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy, who became a monk and chronicler. He is venerated on March 12 in the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church .-Biography:Theophanes was born in Constantinople of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac,...
, who records "Sergios, prōtospatharios
Strategos, plural strategoi, is used in Greek to mean "general". In the Hellenistic and Byzantine Empires the term was also used to describe a military governor...
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...
" in 718. In the late 9th century, the prōtospatharios
is recorded as ranking below the patrikios
and above the dishypatos
Dishypatos, Latinized as dishypatus , was a Byzantine honorary dignity in the 9th-11th centuries. From then on, and especially during the Palaiologan period, it is attested as a family name....
. The award of the dignity also meant the entry of its holder in the Byzantine Senate
The Byzantine Senate or Eastern Roman Senate was the continuation of the Roman Senate, established in the 4th century by Constantine I. It survived for centuries but was increasingly irrelevant until its eventual disappearance in the 13th century....
. Its prestige was consequently very high, as illustrated by a well-known story related by Emperor Constantine Porphyrogennetos (r. 913–959) in his De Administrando Imperio
De Administrando Imperio is the Latin title of a Greek work written by the 10th-century Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine VII. The Greek title of the work is...
: during the reign of his father, Emperor Leo VI the Wise
Leo VI, surnamed the Wise or the Philosopher , was Byzantine emperor from 886 to 912. The second ruler of the Macedonian dynasty , he was very well-read, leading to his surname...
(r. 886–912), an aged cleric of the Nea Ekklesia
The Nea Ekklēsia was a church built by Byzantine Emperor Basil I the Macedonian in Constantinople between the years 876–80. It was the first monumental church built in the Byzantine capital after the Hagia Sophia in the 6th century, and marks the beginning of middle period of Byzantine...
, Ktenas by name, paid 60 litras of gold (circa 19.4 kg), i.e. sixty times the annual stipend of 72 nomismata
The solidus was originally a gold coin issued by the Romans, and a weight measure for gold more generally, corresponding to 4.5 grams.-Roman and Byzantine coinage:...
to which prōtospatharioi
were entitled, to acquire the title. He did not live long to enjoy his new status, however, dying two years later. Like other titles of the middle Byzantine period, its importance declined sharply in the 11th century. The last attested occurrence is in 1115, although the title is still recorded by pseudo-Kodinos in the mid-14th century.
According to the Klētorologion
The Klētorologion of Philotheos , is the longest and most important of the Byzantine lists of offices and court precedence . It was published in September of 899 during the reign of Emperor Leo VI the Wise by the otherwise unknown prōtospatharios and atriklinēs Philotheos...
- People :* Philotheos Bryennios , Greek Orthodox bishop* Pope Philotheos of Alexandria, in office 979-1003* Philotheus of Pskov , Russian abbot* Philotheus of Samosata, a companion in martyrdom of Romanus of Samosata...
, the holders of the dignity were distinguished between eunuchs (ektomiai
) and non-eunuchs (barbatoi
, "bearded ones"). In addition to the insigne of their rank, a gold necklet (maniakion
) adorned with pearls, the former had a special dress, a white, gold-adorned tunic
A tunic is any of several types of clothing for the body, of various lengths reaching from the shoulders to somewhere between the hips and the ankles...
and a red doublet
Doublet may refer to:*Doublet , a man's snug-fitting buttoned jacket that was worn from the late 14th century to the mid 17th century*Doublet , an assembled gem composed in two sections, such as a garnet overlaying green glass...
with gold facings. The non-eunuchs were distinguished only by their golden collar (kloios
), decorated with precious stones. Pictorial evidence of the dress of prōtospatharioi
in illuminated manuscripts
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...
, however, varies considerably over time. In the De Officiis
of pseudo-Kodinos, the garb of this rank is defined as a gold wire-embroidered skaranikon
(a tubular headdress), with the image of the reigning emperor enthroned in front and riding a horse behind, a gold kabbadion
(caftan) and a skiadion
(brimmed hat) of the klapōton
type, while bearing no distinctive dikanikion
(staff of office).
Aside from being a court rank, there were several prōtospatharioi
who had specific duties:
- The prōtospatharios in charge of the Chrysotriklinos
The Chrysotriklinos , latinized as Chrysotriclinus or Chrysotriclinium, was the main reception and ceremonial hall of the Great Palace of Constantinople from its construction, in the late 6th century, until the 10th century...
(Greek: ), the main reception hall of the Great Palace
The Great Palace of Constantinople — also known as the Sacred Palace — was the large Imperial Byzantine palace complex located in the south-eastern end of the peninsula now known as "Old Istanbul", modern Turkey...
- The prōtospatharios in charge of the Lausiakos (Greek: ), one of the main halls adjacent to the Chrysotriklinos, serving as a meeting hall. The personnel (oikeiakoi) of the Lausiakos most likely also had functions related to the preparation of imperial banquets.
- The prōtospatharios, or katepanō
The katepánō was a senior Byzantine military rank and office. The word was Latinized as capetanus/catepan, and its meaning seems to have merged with that of the Italian "capitaneus"...
, of the basilikoi anthrōpoi (Greek: ), a corps of low-level imperial servants, including foreigners. He is listed as one of the stratarchai, thereby denoting an unspecified military role. His subordinate staff included lower-ranking officials (those of spatharioi and kandidatoi rank), with a domestikos
Domestikos , in English sometimes [the] Domestic, was a civil, ecclesiastic and military office in the late Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire.-Military usage:...
as chief aide.
- The prōtospatharios tēs Phialēs (Greek: ), an official acting as judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...
for the oarsmen of the Byzantine navy
The Byzantine navy was the naval force of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire. Like the empire it served, it was a direct continuation from its imperial Roman predecessor, but played a far greater role in the defense and survival of the state then its earlier iterations...
stationed around the capital, Constantinople. Like the exact functions of the office, the term phialē ("water-basin") is obscure; it could possibly refer to a location in the harbour of the imperial palace of Boukoleon.
Notable foreign Prōtospatharios
- Ivan the Russian
Ivan the Russian was a 14th-century Bulgarian military leader of Russian origin who served Bulgarian tsars Michael Shishman and Ivan Alexander...
- Kasim Beg
- Mihailo I Vojislavljević of Duklja
Doclea or Duklja was a medieval state with hereditary lands roughly encompassing the territories of present-day southeastern Montenegro, from Kotor on the west to the river Bojana on the east and to the sources of Zeta and Morača rivers on the north....