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Administrative system in the Early Byzantine period

Author(s) : Dale de Lee Benjamin (4/23/2008)

For citation: Dale de Lee Benjamin , "Administrative system in the Early Byzantine period", 2008,
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Constantinople
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=10840>

Administrative system in the Early Byzantine period (1/12/2012 v.1) Διοικητική οργάνωση στην πρωτοβυζαντινή περίοδο (4/2/2012 v.1) 



1. A title in the Roman and the Byzantine Empires, designating an official with political but mostly military jurisdiction. Especially the comes Orientis held the position corresponding to that of a vicar in Early Byzantine period. In the years of Justinian I, the comes in head of wider provinces assumed political and military powers, while in the Middle Byzantine period the Opsikion theme was one of the few themes which was the jurisdiction of a comes instead of a strategos.2. A nobility title in medieval Europe.

comes sacrarum largitionum
The count of the sacred, that is imperial, treasures was a high ranking political official with economical functions, the administrator of the imperial treasury.

cursus publicus
Byzantine empire: the service of the public post (office), "δρόμος", dispached into carrying the official correspondence as well as articles concerning the administering of the empire, but also applied to the military and the provincial administration. Two departments, manned with slaves, performed the duty: the cursus velox, that used horses, and the cursus clabularis, that used ox carts. Ocasionaly the cooperation of individual entrepreneur was in effect. Under Justinian I (527-565) the department of the cursus clabularis was abolished. The department of the cursus velox was abolished in the 12th c. in Asia Minor and soon after in the Balcans as well. The office was administered by the Curiosus Cursus Publici Praesentalis under the Magister Officiorum, the logothetes tou dromou (λογοθέτης του δρόμου) and in the end by an interpeteur (ερμηνευτής).

doukas (lat. dux)
Antiquity: Roman military commander who, in some provinces, combined military and civil functions.Buzantium: a higher military officer. From the second half of the 10th c. the title indicates the military comander of a larger district. After the 12th c., doukes were called the governors of small themes.

Byzantine administrative term, designating a territorial and and administrative unit. It was formed in late 6th C. in Carthago and Ravenna, both regions of high political and military importance. The exarch (the govrnor of an exarchate) accordingly combined both political and military power. The exarchate of Carthago is attested until the late 7th C., while that of Ravenna until the mid-8th C.

A 15-year cycle according to which a year was assigned in the Middle Ages. Initially it denoted an extraordinary agricultural tax; later on (under Constantine I) it was a tax of which the amount remained unchanged during a 15-year cycle. It gradually acquired a chronological meaning, which it kept even after the tax ceased to exist. The chronological system based on indictions became mandatory under Justinian I. The system was not absolutely precise, since it was the years of the indiction that were reckoned (first indiction, second indiction and so on, until the fifteenth), while the cycles themselves were not numbered.

magister officiorum
The head of the central political administration of the empire, his functions were predominantly judiciary, although he did have some military ones too: he was the head of the scholai, i.e. the emperor’s personal army. He had no economic functions; he administered three services and was responsible for the court’s internal affairs.

Higher office that Philotheos in his Kletorologion places above the anthypatos. This title lost its importance from the 10th century and gradually disappeared - most probably in the middle of the 12th century.

(from lat. patricius) Higher title of honour, placed, according to the "Tactika" of the 9th and the 10th centuries, between anthypatos and protospatharios. It was given to the most important governors and generals. Gradually, however, it fell into disuse and from the 12th century did not exist any more.

praetorian prefect (praefectus praetorio)
Commander of the emperor's bodyguard under the principate. During the regne of Constantine I the praetorian prefect becomes a dignitary responsible for the administrative unit called the prefecture, which was subdivided into dioceses. In 400 A.D. there were four such praetorian prefectures, of Oriens, of Illyricum, of Illyricum, Italia and Africa and of Gallia. The praetorian prefects were second only to the emperor. The praetorian prefect of Oriens was the mightiest among prefects. His office is for the last time mentioned in 680.

scholae palatinae
Scholae palatinae were created by Diocletian (284-305). They were corps of the imperial guard, and to be more precise they formed the personal army of the emperor. They served under the magistri officiorum and later on under the Domesticos ton Scholon. Seven regiments were stationed in the East and five in the West. Justinian I (527-565) introduced four more short-lived regiments.

Early Byzantine period: Office as well as honorary title. In Early Byzantine period spatharioi were called the guards of the Emperor or other high functionaries. From the years of Theodosios II onwards, the imperial spatharioi belonged to the corps of cubicularii and they were eunuchs. Middle Byzantine period: A honorary title, probably from early 8th c. In the 9th c. it gradually lost its status; in the 11th c., it is rarely to be found in the sources, while in the 12th it is used to denote lesser personnages. As an actual functionary, spatharios had an active role in administration as well as in the affairs of the court. As an honorary title, it was conferred to courtiers, members of the administration and military dignitaries, members of notable lineages and even clerics.

Τhe term refers to the substitute of various officials. Since the 3rd century, the vicarius replaced mostly procuratores from the equestrian class. The most important vicarii were those who replaced the Praetorian eparchs in the dioceses set up by Diocletian. In addition, the vicarii could have military (like the command of the garrison in Egypt) or even judicial responsibilities.


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