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Byzantine aristocracy and bureaucracy

The Byzantine Empire had a complex system of aristocracy and bureaucracy. Most of the offices and titles were honorifics only, as the emperor was the sole ruler. Over the more than 1000 years of the empire's existence, different titles were adopted and discarded, and many lost or gained prestige. At first the various titles of the empire were the same as those in the late Roman Empire, as the Byzantine Empire was not yet distinguished from Rome. By the time of Heraclius in the 7th century many of the titles had become obsolete; by the time of Alexius I, many of the positions were either new or drastically changed, but they remained basically the same from Alexius' reign to the fall of the Empire in 1453.

Table of contents
1 Aristocratic titles
2 Military titles
3 Administrative titles
4 Sources

Aristocratic titles

Higher aristocratic titles

Despotes, sebastokrator, kaisar, panhypersebastos, and protosebastos were normally reserved for members of the royal family, and were distinguished by different clothes and different crowns. However, they could also be given to foreigners. The first despotes was actually a foreigner, Bela III of Hungary, signifying that Hungary was considered a Byzantine tributary state. The first foreigner to be called sebastokrator was Stefan Nemanja of Serbia, who was given the title in 1191. Kaloyan of Bulgaria also used the title. Justinian II named Tervel, khan of the Bulgars, kaisar in 705; the title then developed into the Slavic term tsar or czar (from Latin through Russian). Andronicus II also named Roger de Flor, leader of the Catalan Grand Company, kaisar in 1304. Protosebastos was also given to Enrico Dandolo, Doge of Venice, before his involvement in the Fourth Crusade.

Especially in the later centuries of the empire, Byzantine emperors were also reffered to as khronokrator and kosmokrator - literally, "ruler of time" and "ruler of the world."

Lower aristocratic titles

The Byzantines also had aristocratic titles for lesser members of the royal family and lesser nobles, adopted from Latin terms and somewhat equivalent to the similar terms in Western Europe (derived from the same Latin terms). These were prinkeps (prince), doux (duke), and komes (count). They also had kleisourarka, apokomes, and akrita, equivalent to lower nobles such as marquesses, viscounts, earls, and barons.

Various lesser nobles also held titles in the imperial residence, such as parakoimomenos (a bodyguard) and pankernes (a cupbearer), and megas konostaulos ("grand constable," in charge of the emperor’s stables).

Military titles



Other military titles

Administrative titles

The vast Byzantine bureaucracy had many titles, and varied more than aristocratic and military titles. In Constantinople there were normally hundreds, if not thousands, of bureaucrats at any time. These are some of the more common ones, including non-nobles who also directly served the emperor.

Logothetes originally had some influence on the emperor, but they eventually became honorary posts. In the later empire the Grand Logothete became the mesazon ("manager")

Other administrators included:

The protoasecretis, logothetes, prefect, praetor, quaestor, magister, and sacellarios, among others, were members of the senate, until this became an increasingly unused aspect of the Empire after Heraclius.