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Author Topic: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals  (Read 665 times)

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Offline Gert

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"Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« on: October 06, 2021, 02:46:20 pm »
Byzantine seals give a unique perspective into the Eastern Roman empire. As for the names of the seals' owners, they are of course mainly Greek. But throughout history, many people from outside the borders of the Byzantine empire found their way to the Capital or to employment in the armies. Those who rose to high positions would commission a seal, like the 'regular' Byzantine aristocracy, courtiers and high military & clergy. This has always been a fascination of mine, and in this thread I want to show some seals of non-Greeks, "barbarians" and "foreigners".

Let's begin close to my home, with the Goths, a Germanic people. Especially during the reign of Justinian I, many Goths entered into Byzantine service and at times achieved very high positions in the imperial army. They also served in the elite brigades that were privately employed by generals like Belisarius and Johannes Troglita.

The first three seals belong to Goths named Tzittas, which is a relatively common name. Several Goths named Tzittas appear in narrative sources, especially the military commander known in the first half of the sixth century. Another Tzittas, who held the ranks of spatharios and kandidatos is attested for the year 605 as being beheaded on the orders of emperor Phokas.

The 4th seal belongs to a person named Tangila, which is also a Gothic name, though much rarer.

Offline Gert

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2021, 02:54:04 pm »
1 Tzittas. Obv. Mother of God. 6th century
2 Tzittas. Obv. Latinized Greek invocation [T]hEO/[T]hK b/… (“Mother of God, help”). 6th/7th century
3. Tzittas, stratelates. 2 monograms. 6th/7th century
4. Tangila. Monogram and legend. 2nd half 6th-1st half 7th century

Offline Gert

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2021, 03:07:23 pm »
The Goths are mainly described as an East-Germanic people. This seal, that must have been produced contemporaneous to Tzittas and Tangila, belongs to a west-German as evidenced by his name: Siggo. It is transcribed into Greek as Singōn, and the seal gives its genitive form Singōnos. The monogram on the reverse probably reads 'illoustriou', a court rank that derived from late Roman 'vir illustris'. Another person named Siggo is attested as a referendarius in the courts of Merovingian kings Sigebert I, then Chilperic I and finally Childebert II (2nd half 6th century).

Siggo. Obv. CIΓΓ/WNOC within wreath. Rev. Monogram IΛΛOVCTPIOV within wreath. c. 550-650.

Offline Gert

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2021, 03:16:46 pm »
This seal belongs to another Westerner, but this Westerner, or as the Greeks would have called him, this "Phrangos" (Frank") lived almost half a millennium later, in the 11th century. The William who owned this seal served the high military command of strategos of Seleucia, on the eastern border. He was also a "man of the emperor", which means he had a special bond of trust and loyalty to the throne.

William (Geleelmos), magistros, strategos of Seleukia and “man of the emperor”. Byzantine lead seal c. 1068-1085
Saint George standing facing, holding speer and shield; to left, Θ Γ E; to right, W P Γ’
+KE R,Θ, ΓHΛHEΛMW MAΓICTP, CTPA TIΓ, CEΛEVK, S ANW TU RACIΛ HMWN TOV AΓ, in six lines ("Lord, help William, strategos of Seleucia and man (anthropos) of our holy emperor")
Seibt/Zarnitz, exhibition catalogue “Das byzantinische Bleisiegel als Kunstwerk”, 2.3.2; 21mm, 10.08 gram; very fine



Offline Macerata1

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2021, 06:41:45 am »
Fascinating thread Gert, thanks for this

Offline Joe Sermarini

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2021, 06:46:54 am »
Thanks for sharing this. I never thought about the possibility. Very interesting.
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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2021, 09:27:57 am »
Great thread.  Looking forward to more

Offline Gert

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2021, 04:07:07 pm »
Thanks for the comments - I do intend to expand. Looking at some more Franks, then Arabs!
Regards
Gert

Offline Gert

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2021, 05:22:48 am »
The seal on top is in the Dumbarton Oaks collection. They have attributed it to Mounsour (lord?) of Great Loulon. However, as Werner Seibt already mentioned in his review of DO Seals V in 2003, it probably has nothing to do with the Loulon fortress. He attributed the seal to Abu Nasr al-Mansur ibn Lu'lu, the Emir of Aleppo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansur_ibn_Lu%27lu%27)

Seibt was pretty sure about this attribution on the basis of the DO specimen alone, but the seal below from my personal collection proves him correct. It is not the article 'to' on the second line of the reverse (Mansur of Great Loulon) nor an abbreviation for "K(uri)o" (Mansur, Lord of Great Loulon). My seal shows a clear V, reading "(h)u(i)o" (Son of Lu'lu the Great).

This seal belongs to the period of Byzantine reconquest of a good part of its eastern territories, beginning with Nikephoros Phokas in the latter part of the 10th century. The reconquest of Antioch was a major one, but another important effort was the reduction of the emirate of Aleppo to vassal status after the sack of the city in 962 by Nikephoros Phokas. It remained so for several decades until it fell to the Fatimids in 1017. Its ruler, who was the owner of this seal, went into exile to Antioch after a palace coup. He was granted asylum by Basil II and became a military commander in Byzantine service. Mansur was present in the entourage of Romanos III during the battle of Azaz.

Mounsour, son of Lu'lu the Great. Byzantine seal 1017-c. 1030
Obv. +KE ROH/ΘEI TW CW/ΔOVΛW in four lines (Lord, help your servant)
Rev. +MUNCUP / VW TU ME/Γ’ ΛUΛU (Mounsour, son of Lu'lu the Great)

(seal above photo courtesy of DO)

Offline Gert

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2021, 05:46:10 am »
The seal below is tied to the same period of Byzantine reconquest in Syria as the example above. It names one of the few (only?) Arab women on Byzantine seals. She is named Anna Mousaraphene, which means she was a daughter of a Mousaraph, an undoubtedly Arabic name.

Several persons bearing the family name Mousaraphas are known from the middle to the end of the 11th century. The family traced their descent to Nasr ibn Musharraf, an Arab emir who initially allied himself with the Byzantines in their campaigns into Syria. His seal is known from the Seyrig collection (no. 395). It shows Saint George on the obverse while the Arabic legend on the reverse calls him patrikios. Musharraf constructed the Menikon fortress with the aid of Michael Spondyles, doux of Antioch. It was intended as a defence of the newly captured Byzantine territories against the emir of Tripoli. However, Musharraf turned against the Byzantines and through a ruse he captured the fortress in 1027, planning to establish an independent principality for himself. Four years later, the katepano of Antioch Niketas recaptured the fortress, after several failed attempts. He took over 800 prisoners, including the family of Musharraf. After this, as the seal record shows, the family entered into Byzantine service (they have mainly military commands). This seal type of an Anna Mousaraphene shows they also married into Byzantine military aristocracy – as her title of katepanissa shows, Anna was married to a katepano, a major military command.

Anna Mousaraphene, katepanissa. Byzantine lead seal (15 mm, 4.02 gram) 2nd half 11th century
Nimbate facing bust of Saint George, holding a spear over his right shoulder, and resting a shield on his left arm
+KE R,Θ, ANNA KATEΠANICI TH MUCAPAΦINI in five lines
BBÖ 270 (citing a single example in Vienna).

Offline Joe Sermarini

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2021, 07:34:34 am »
Another interesting history lesson coming from seals! Thanks!
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Offline iolkia

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2021, 05:26:02 am »
Very interesting thread indeed!

I have also been surprised  and amazed to see  how many Armenian names are depicted on byzantine seals. And some of them belong to mighty commanders and even Emperors and Patriarchs! Brachamios, Apnelgaripes, Pakourianos, Chetames, Senacherim, Kakikios, Tzimiskes and Kourkouas just being a few of them!

Regards,
Iolkia

Offline Gert

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2021, 06:19:47 am »
Yes, there are many Armenians accounted for on seals, and you could easily make a seperate thread about them. They appear from very early on.
Regards
Gert

Offline Strategos A

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2021, 11:45:13 pm »
What a great thread.  Congrats on that awesome Mounsour seal.  Such a nice conversation piece.

Offline Gert

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2022, 03:33:29 pm »
[taken from a recent auction by Leu Numismatik, sale 18, lot 4026]

This seal belongs to a westerner that is known in the sources, Roussel de Bailleul. His seal identifies him with his Graecized name Kourselios and he bears as an epithet the name "o Phrangos", the Frank. Below the description of the seal and a short account of his career.

Roussel de Bailleul (Kourselios Phrangos), vestes, 1070-1072. Seal (Lead, 29 mm, 17.65 g, 12 h). MHP ΘV Nimbate Mother of God “Episkepsis”, raising both hands in prayer, medallion of Christ in front. Rev. ΘKЄ R,Θ, / TⲰ CⲰ Δ૪, / K૪PCЄΛI / RECT, TⲰ / ΦPAΓO ("Mother of God, help your servant Kourselios the Frank") in five lines. Cheynet, Collection Khoury, 20. G. Schlumberger: Deux chefs normands des armées byzantines au XIe siècle - Sceaux de Hervé et de Roussel de Bailleul, in: Revue historique, 16 (1881), pp. 289-303. A seal of great historical interest. Minor flatness and breakage on the channel mouth, otherwise, very fine.

This seal belongs to one of the most colorful figures in Byzantine history, the Norman adventurer Roussel de Bailleul. Having served in Sicily under Norman nobleman Roger de Hauteville (later the Count of Sicily), he travelled to Byzantium to offer his skills as a soldier and commander to the Byzantines. There, he possibly served as second in command to Robert Crispin, a fellow Norman mercenary in the entourage of the famous general Isaac Komnenos. This is proposed by Cheynet on the basis of the elevated court dignity of vestes that appears on his seal. Roussel was present in Manzikert in 1071, but he did not participate in the disastrous battle, having been sent out on a raid. In the aftermath of the battle, the now accomplished commander remained in Byzantine service, taking the opportunity to set himself up as prince of an autonomous region in Galatia with the aid of a force of Franco-Norman cavalry. The enterprise was ended by emperor Michael VII (1071-1078), who persuaded the Seljuk warlord, Tutush I, to move against Roussel and Johannes Doukas the "Kaisar", who had become the Norman's ally. They were defeated by the Turks, and Roussel was ransomed by his wife, but he eventually ended up in captivity in Constantinople. The final chapter of his life took place during the revolt of Nikephoros Botaneiates in 1077/8, in the course of which Roussel was released from captivity to lead a batallion of soldiers to fight the rebel. However, the Norman adventurer switched sides after a victorious battle, joining the usurper. Roussel finally ran out of luck when the Seljuks were dispatched against him. He was captured and handed over to the Byzantines to be executed.

Offline Gert

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #15 on: February 19, 2022, 03:43:38 pm »
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 CTPATHΓW in four lines
+ΘPAKIC S IANUΠOΛEOC O CAPAKINOΠUΛ’ in five 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.

Offline Gert

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Re: "Foreigners" or Non-Greeks owning Byzantine seals
« Reply #16 on: February 19, 2022, 03:54:56 pm »
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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