The Theme of Samos
was a 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...
military-civilian province, located in the eastern Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...
, established in the late 9th century. As one of the Byzantine Empire's three dedicated naval themes (Greek: ), it served chiefly to provide ships and troops for 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...
The dates of establishment and the territorial reach of the various Byzantine naval commands in the 7th–9th centuries are mostly unclear. After the navy of the Karabisianoi
The Karabisianoi , sometimes anglicized as the Carabisians, were the mainstay of the Byzantine navy from the mid-7th century until the early 8th century. The name derives from the Greek karabos or karabis for "ship", and literally means "people of the ships, sea-men"...
, which encompassed most of the Byzantine Empire's provincial fleets, was split up in the early 8th century, regional naval commands were established, of which the naval theme of the Cibyrrhaeots is the first known and most important. The 10th-century emperor Constantine Porphyrogennetos records that "at the time the Empire was divided into themes", Samos became the seat of the "theme of the sailors" (Greek: ); the meaning of this passage is unclear. Warren Treadgold interprets this to mean that Samos was the first seat of the Karabisianoi
fleet, until their disbandment circa 727. Alternatively, it could imply a command that formed part of the Karabisianoi
and was abolished with them, or a later, short-lived successor, perhaps even identical with the Cibyrrhaeots. The existence of a "strategos
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...
of Samos" in the 8th century is attested through a surviving seal of a strategos
named Theodore. In the late 8th century, the southern Aegean appears to have come under the jurisdiction of the "droungarios
of the Dodecanese (Dodekanesos
)", whom some scholars (following Hélène Ahrweiler
Helene Ahrweiler, née Glykatzi is an eminent Greek university professor and Byzantinologist. She is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Greece. In the 2008 show Great Greeks, she was named amongst the 100 greatest Greeks of all time.- Life :...
) identify with the post of "droungarios
Kos or Cos is a Greek island in the south Sporades group of the Dodecanese, next to the Gulf of Gökova/Cos. It measures by , and is from the coast of Bodrum, Turkey and the ancient region of Caria. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within the Kos peripheral unit, which is...
" and the later "droungarios
of the Gulf (Kolpos
)", listed in the mid-9th century Taktikon Uspensky
The Taktikon Uspensky or Uspenskij is the conventional name of a mid-9th century Greek list of the civil, military and ecclesiastical offices of the Byzantine Empire and their precedence at the imperial court. Nicolas Oikonomides has dated it to 842/843, making it the first of a series of such...
. This command then, or at least the eastern part of it, apparently evolved into the theme of Samos.
The theme of Samos, with its governing strategos
, is first documented in the Kletorologion
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...
of 899. It included the islands of the eastern Aegean, as well as the western coast of Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...
between Adramyttion and Ephesos (also known as Theologos at the time). The seat of the theme was at Smyrna
Smyrna was an ancient city located at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. Thanks to its advantageous port conditions, its ease of defence and its good inland connections, Smyrna rose to prominence. The ancient city is located at two sites within modern İzmir, Turkey...
, while subordinate tourmarchai
(vice-admirals) had their seats at Adramyttion and Ephesos. In 911, the forces of the naval theme of Samos are recorded as being 3,980 oarsmen and 600 marines, with a fleet of 22 warships. The mainland portion of the theme, however, is also explicitly mentioned as belonging to the Thracesian Theme
The Thracesian Theme , more properly known as the Theme of the Thracesians , was a Byzantine theme in western Asia Minor , comprising the ancient regions of Ionia, Lydia and parts of Phrygia and Caria....
, which had a special tourmarches
in charge of defending the coast. This, along with a lack of mention of civil officials attached to the naval theme, most probably reflects a division of tasks: the strategos
of Samos and his officials were responsible for furnishing the ships and crews of the thematic fleet as well as defending the islands, while the mainland coast, with its cities and population, came under the control of the Thracesian strategos
and his officials, who were responsible for their taxation and defence. Samos seems to have remained a purely military formation until the late 11th century, when its fleet was disbanded and it was converted into a regular theme with its own civil officials.