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"Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals

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As shown above (and below, as I intend to post more examples), the most obvious clue that we are dealing with 'foreigners' is their non-Greek name. Sometimes these non-Greeks would build a new existance and persue a career in the Byzantine empire and don't return to their home country. The family names that start to appear from the 10th century onward on seals reflect some of these family histories. One famous general during the reign of John Tzimiskes, end 10th century was named Leon Sarakenopoulos. Evidently, the progenitor of his family was a muslim (a "Sarakenos") who had migrated to Byzantium and converted.

Leon Sarakenopoulos, imperial protospatharios and strategos of Thrace and Ioannopolis. Byzantine lead seal (28 mm, 10.67 gram) c. 975-986
+ΛEO | R’A’CΠAΘ, | S CTPAT|HΓW in four lines
Jordanov, Corpus II 630 (type C); good VF

Leon Sarakenopoulos was a general during the reigns of John I Tzimiskes and Basil II. He first appears as strategos of Dristra, at the end of the Rus’-Byzantine war of AD 970-971. In the early 970s he became strategos of Preslav, which was renamed Ioannopolis in honor of the emperor. Around 975 he was given the joint command of Thrace and Ioannopolis, possibly in order to fight the revolt of the Bulgarian Cometopuli dynasty. Even though the compaign was not a success and Leon was recalled to the Capital, where he was promoted to patrikios, komes of the stable and protostrator.

The family Phrangopoulos had a western founder (or, of course, founders, plural. We do not know if all the known Phrangopouloi belong to same family - there may have been multiple families named Phrangopoulos tracing their descent to different Franks).

The seal below is one of my favorite seals. It shows a wonderful image of the Mother of God as "Hope of the hopeless" and it has an interesting metric legend that translates "Your Nikolaos from the family of the Phrangopoloi, protonobellisimohypertatos, shows you, husbandless mother, as the seal of his writings." It dates from the later 12th century and the lengthy court title shows that there is some inflation of the ranks going on at this time.

There are many other family names to be encountered on seals, and in other sources, that reflect a non-Greek origin: Iberopoulos, Longibardopoulos, Rousopoulos, Serbopoulos to name a few.


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