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Sebastokrator ( Middle Greek σεβαστοκράτωρ , "venerable regent") was an imperial Byzantine court title , which was introduced in 1081 by Emperor Alexios I Komnenos . The feminine form was Sebastokratorissa .

The Byzantine Sebastocrator Konstantin Palaiologos and his wife Irene , miniature in Lincoln College Typikon , around 1350


Origin and early use

The first Sebastokrator was Isaak Komnenos , the older brother of Emperor Alexios I. As Anna Komnene reports, Alexios created the title in order to raise Isaac above his brother-in-law and former rival to the throne Nikephoros Melissenus, to whom he had promised the second highest title Emperor until then . Alexios combined the new title from the traditional imperial attributes Sebastos ( Latin Augustus ) and autocrator ( imperator ). The Sebastokrator was thus, as it were, a second basileus or vice-emperor; the emperor was subordinate to him and was ranked third in the court ceremony in the order of homage. With the introduction of the despot in 1163 by Manuel I , the sebastocrator fell back to third and the emperor to fourth.

The honorary title was not associated with any civil or military authority, but had a purely representative character. On official occasions, the sebastocrator wore blue official costume and a diadem that was far less ostentatious than the imperial crown ; Around 1260 those sebastokrators who belonged to the imperial family were highlighted by embroidered golden eagles on their shoes. The Sebastokrator also had the privilege of signing documents with a special blue ink .

Further development

The title of sebastocrator was reserved for the highest aristocracy in the 12th and early 13th centuries. As a rule, it was only given to younger sons or sons-in-law, brothers, brothers-in-law or uncles of the ruling emperor. After the collapse of the Byzantine Empire as a result of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the title was also awarded in the successor states , the empires of Nikaia and Thessaloniki . The Latin emperors also adopted the title in their court hierarchy, as did the tsars of the Second Bulgarian Empire .

After the restoration of the Byzantine Empire in 1261 under the paleologists , the Sebastokrator lost its importance as a dynastic title. The emperors now increasingly awarded it to de facto autonomous feudal lords in the provinces to emphasize their formal recognition of Byzantine suzerainty . In the second half of the 14th century the title went out of use; last known Byzantine carrier was Demetrius I Cantacuzenus that it in 1357 by Emperor John V received.

In medieval Serbia the title of Sebastokrator was introduced in 1345/46 under Emperor Stefan Dušan , who used it to honor some of his most important military leaders and magnates . Dušan's successors from the Nemanjić dynasty , Stefan Uroš V and Simeon Uroš Palaiologos , awarded the title until 1371.

Well-known title holders

The Byzantine Sebastokrator Isaak Komnenos , brother of Emperor John II , on a fresco in the Chora church
The Bulgarian Sebastokrator Kalojan with his wife Dessislawa on a fresco in the Church of Boyana , 1259
The Serbian Sebastokrator Dejan and his wife Teodora on a fresco in the Johanneskirche of the monastery of Zemen

Central Byzantine Empire

Second Bulgarian Empire

Latin Empire

Empire of Nikaia

Empire of Thessaloniki

Late Byzantine Empire

Greater Serbian Empire



  • Ivan Biliarsky: Word and Power in Mediaeval Bulgaria (= East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 450–1450. Vol. 14). EJ Brill, Leiden 2011, ISBN 978-90-04-19145-7 , pp. 294-302.
  • Божидар Ферјанчић: Севастократори у Византији. In: Зборник радова Византолошког института 11, 1968, ISSN  0584-9888 , pp. 141-192 ( PDF file; 4.0 MB ).
  • Божидар Ферјанчић: Севастократори и кесари у Српском царству. In: Зборник Филозофског факултета 10-1, 1970, ISSN  0352-5546 , pp. 255-269 ( digitized version ).
  • Alexander P. Kazhdan (Ed.): The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium . Oxford University Press, New York NY 1991, ISBN 0-19-504652-8 .
  • Ruth Macrides, Joseph A. Munitiz, Dimiter Angelov: Pseudo-Kodinos and the Constantinopolitan Court: Offices and Ceremonies (= Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Studies . Vol. 15). Ashgate, Farnham 2013, ISBN 978-0-7546-6752-0 .


  1. See Macrides et al., Pseudo-Kodinos , pp. 350, 366-367.
  2. See ODB , p. 1862.
  3. See Biliarsky, Word and Power , p. 296.
  4. Cf. Ферјанчић, Севастократори и кесари, p. 265 f.