The Class of Outstanding Men

Depotatos – Δηπότατος

Depotatos – Δηπότατος

From the early years of the Christian church, there was an apparent distinction in the relations between the congregation and the clergy (bishop, presbyter and deacon). The expression layman appeared early towards the end of the first century in the letter of Clement of Rome (90-99) to the Church of Corinth. Special services were conducted in which only the clergy took part. More importantly, the clergy became a specific class of Christian who were the moral, spiritual, and educational instructors of the broader community. Nevertheless, from the earliest times, the laity assisted the clergy in multiple ways, including the Divine Services. Specific persons were identified as leaders of the lay community and this designation, although lay, garnered the ecclesiastical rank of depotatos.

depotatos, as an ecclesiastical official, was in constant touch with the Church and the bishop who raised him to this rank by the laying on of hands. The rank of δηπότατος is found in every Orthodox diocese. In the middle Byzantine period, he was a valued assistant of the bishop. During pastoral visitations by the bishop, the δηπότατος preceded him, preparing the people in the cities and towns for his visit, and proceeded with any necessary arrangements for the Divine Services in the churches. The δηπότατος had other duties as well during the Divine Services, assisting the bishop, proceeding ahead of the priests, and carrying a candle during the two Entrances and at the end of the Divine Liturgy, during the transfer of the consecrated gifts from the altar table to the table of the Prothesis. During church services, he wore a cloak (mandya), symbolizing his rank. The dismissal of the Divine Liturgy was also the dismissal of the δηπότατος from his services during the bishop’s visit. According to Pseudo-Kodinos (14th Century), the depotatos was the third in the ninth set of five officers of the Great Church. Whenever there was more than one δηπότατος, the head was called the First Depotatos. So long as he was not a candidate for the priesthood, he was permitted a second marriage.

During the rite of coronation of Byzantine emperors in Hagia Sophia, the Patriarch of the Great Church bestowed upon them the rank of δηπότατος with the understanding that they would assist and guide the Church. The rank of δηπότατος is also found in the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine army was strongly organized with all the military means of its time at its disposal including offensive and defensive weapons and machinery for sieges and for attack. Within this organization we find a group of stretcher-bearers for the wounded with nurses whose duty it was to transport the wounded from the battlefields. These stretcher-bearers were called depotatoi and were on horseback with the wounded, because they needed to move swiftly so as to save lives, speeding to first aid stations.

The rank of δηπότατος, according to the interpretation regarding offices of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, belongs to the class of outstanding men.

Domestikos – Δομέστικος

The δομέστικος in Byzantine times was a military official, and later he became the highest military officer. The government of the empire was concentrated in the capital and included only civilian services. Even those military officials who had their bases in the capital did not have any special relationship with the administration of the empire. Within the army, there was a special distinction made between military units stationed in the provinces and those stationed in Constantinople. Those stationed in the themata (provinces) of the empire were called provincials. Commanding these units were generals, leaders of the local military groups, and governors of the local districts of the provinces. Those stationed in battalions, military units in Constantinople and its suburbs, were called battalionists and were under the command of the δομέστικος. The more interesting of the military units were the four battalions of the group (schole): the battalion of the scholarii, the battalion of the excubitores, the battalion of the numerii (the cavalry), and the battalion of the hikannatii. By the term scholai, we mean the four battalions combined. Each battalion had 500 fully armed soldiers. In the fourth and fifth centuries, the δομέστικος was in command of one service under a general, cabinet officer, or the provinicial governor. Theophanes calls the armies of the provinces the “outside provinces” and the battalions in the Capital “the inside battalions.”

In the sixth century, the number of battalions increased to seven and the total number of soldiers rose to 3,500. In 530, Emperor Justinian I added four more battalions, bringing the total to eleven and the number of soldiers up to 5,500. In the eighth century, the δομέστικος became the commander of all the battalions or the groups. Theophanes mentions that the δομέστικος of the groups in 767 succeeded the magister officiorum. During that time, the δομέστικος of the groups carried the title of patrician. During the ninth century, the δομέστικος took over command of the entire army as commander-in-chief. This was a matter of his ability and not of the position itself. By the tenth century, it became customary to promote the δομέστικος of the groups or battalions up to the position of commander-in-chief, and the ceremony of his elevation as head of the army in the groups was the same as that of the δομέστικος. When the Empire saw a period of revival in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the army increased in size, and the administration of the army was divided into two by Emperor Basil II (976-1025), the eastern and the western with a δομέστικος for each. All governors of the various provinces were generals except for one, the governor of the group or battalion, the optimaton who bore the title of δομέστικος.

During the tenth century, the δομέστικος of the eastern army took over the supreme command of the army whenever the Emperor was not himself in charge during expeditions against enemies of the Empire. In the eleventh century, the Domestikos of the East and the Domestikos of the West each received the title of Grand Domestikos. According to the judgment and decision of the Emperor, one of the two Grand Domestiki rose to the supreme command of both parts, named commander-in-chief, representing the Emperor and acting as supreme head of the armies and leader of the Emperor’s staff during military expeditions and undertakings. From this account, it is apparent that the posts of δομέστικος and Grand Domestikos were the posts of the highest military officers. The rank existed through the Byzantine era until the fall of the Empire in 1453.

The rank of δομέστικος existed also as an ecclesiastical one, but its origin and character is unclear. The rank is still bestowed by the Patriarchate to the psalti (chanter) as well as in the other churches of Constantinople. The δομέστικος was the head of the group of chanters. There were two domestiki in every church: the δομέστικος of the left group of chanters and the δομέστικος of the right. They were both under the authority of the archon (chief) protopsalti. The title δομέστικος is also bestowed upon readers by the Patriarch and called the Patriarchal Domestikos in contrast to the psalti who was called the Ecclesiastical Domestikos. George Kodinos mentions that later there was a Domestikos of the Gates in the Great Church Hagia Sophia. He was in charge of the preservation and maintenance of the gates as well as during the Divine Services because all the doors were not opened.

The title δομέστικος is found in monasteries of the Latin Church, where all were called domestici who belonged to one monastic order and had a communal existence in the monastery with the same faith in Jesus: “omnibus congruus honor exhibeatur maxime tamen domesticis fidei.”

The title of δομέστικος belongs, according to the interpretation regarding the offices of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, in the class of outstanding men.


Exarchos – Ἔξαρκος

The term ἔξαρκος has a more general meaning and refers to the one who takes a leadership role. As a result, ἔξαρκος designates the director or head of a department or an enterprise. The title of the Byzantine general and governor in Italy as Exarchus of Ravenna is accurate. In its ecclesiastical form, the term ἔξαρκος had a broader meaning. 

In the early Church, when certain individual episcopal sees gained higher administrative authority than others (comparable to the role of an imperial governor in the administration of the empire), the bishops of these sees began to receive the title of Exarch or Archbishop. Later, the title ἔξαρκος was bestowed upon only those Metropolitans who had jurisdiction over especially large areas. Much later, the title of Archbishop acquired a narrower meaning and referred, in the East, to the bishop who was independent of a Metropolitan or a Metropolitan without bishops; and in the West, to the Metropolitan himself.

The title of ἔξαρκος was awarded mostly to hierarchs in the early Church for more efficient administration over large districts or cities. The bishops of the cities acquired ecclesiastical superiority over the entire area. Consequently, they received the title of ἔξαρκος, representing the official Church and acting decisively with higher authority concerning various problems and matters. 

The title ἔξαρκος is used many times for Metropolitans and Archbishops, because there was an Exarchos of the Province and an Exarchos of Administration. This apparently designates only the head of the Church, without any particular reason. The Fourth Ecumenical Synod (451), in Canons 9 and 17, granted the right of appeal to an ἔξαρκος against decisions of Metropolitans. A law by the Emperor Justinian effectively made the titles of ἔξαρκος and Patriarch synonymous. While each Patriarch had the authority of an exarch, each exarch was not necessarily a Patriarch. The title Patriarch was bestowed only upon ecclesial leaders of self-governing, or autocephalous, jurisdictions. 

Theodore Balsamon, a twelfth-century canonist, described the rank of ἔξαρκος as follows: “The exarch of the administration is not the Metropolitan of each district, but is the Metropolitan of the entire area of administration as well.” In later years, the rank of ἔξαρκος remained for the most part a title only, without administrative authority. This title was bestowed by the Patriarchs upon clergy of any rank with proven ability and even to the laity with a special mission to exercise ecclesiastical and patriarchal rights which they carried out as their representative.

For example, there were patriarchal exarchs of holy monasteries, operating in accordance with canon law and in accordance with the instructions they had received to oversee the faithfulness and the spiritual life of the monks in line with monastic provisions. They also had the right to conduct inquiries and impose censures if conditions warranted, punishing disobedient monks and proceeding with excommunications.

This class and title of ἔξαρκος persists today. It is assigned by the Patriarch in exceptional circumstances to clergy of recognized ability, along with instructions and authority for carrying out the mission assigned to them. The rank of ἔξαρκος belongs according to the interpretation regarding offices of the Holy and Great Church in the class of outstanding

Lampadarios – Λαμπαδάριος

The rank of λαμπαδάριος was an ecclesiastical one with the specific duty to supply large candles needed for church services. Prior to electricity, all illumination of churches was done with candles or oil lamps, and the services of the λαμπαδάριος were especially important. From earliest times, and especially during the great persecutions, Divine Services were conducted mostly at night or very early in the morning in secret. Someone was made responsible for providing candles. During the reign of Constantine the Great (313-337), when Christians were free to worship and he designated Sunday as the day of our Lord, Divine Services were conducted in the morning. Large candles began to be used and were placed in candelabras, and the λαμπαδάριος was in charge of illuminating the church.

His duty was to take care of the candles and to light the ones for the Altar Table during the Divine Liturgy and other services. After lighting the candles, the λαμπαδάριος had additional duties. He looked after the candles which priests used during litanies as well as the special candles with which the patriarch or hierarch blessed the people. The rank of λαμπαδάριος was bestowed much later to the left Psalti of the Patriarchal Church in Constantinople. It is not known how or why it remains as an honorary title for the Psalti. The title λαμπαδάριος was bestowed as a mark of honor for their services upon psaltes of other Orthodox Churches.

The title of λαμπαδάριος belongs, according to the interpretation regarding offices of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, in the class of outstanding men.

Primikerios – Πριμικήριος

The rank of πριμικήριος is both ecclesiastical and civilian in the Orthodox Church and the Byzantine Empire. The term is derived from the Latin primicerius (primis in ceram), meaning the first in charge of arrangements. This corresponds to the one with seniority in service among officials in both civil and ecclesiastical life. This term also has a broader meaning (primus in ceram relatus – “the first entered on the wax tablet”) and sets apart the one in charge of an ecclesiastical group. In ancient Rome, he was a high official in the palaces of the Roman Empire in charge of ceremonies and kept order.

During the reign of the Emperor Heraklios (610-641), the head of a battalion unit was called πριμικήριος. In the Constantinopolitan Synod of 691, known as the Council of Trullo of Penthekte, the πριμικήριος is mentioned as a centurion in the military chain of command who was older and respected by all in the community (Canon 12). Thus, during the Byzantine period, the ancient title primicerius sacri cubiculi was in charge of the imperial living quarters and was a distinguished official. Eustathios mentions that there was an official with the title of πριμικήριος who was in charge of the private quarters of the Empress, the Primikerios of the Augusta.

Servants of the Great Palace were also called primikerii under the supervision of the Second in Command in the palaces. They were (a) those in charge of changing garments—attendants of the emperor—who took care of garments and attire in general; (b) the vestitores who helped the emperor dress for ceremonies and important holidays; and (c) those in charge of ranks who were guardians and curators of the medals and special outfits needed by the Emperor for ceremonies. The equipment of these ranks were kept in the wardrobe for which the Second in Command was in charge and had the keys. This Second in Command was under the orders of papia who took care of the maintenance of the palace building, locking doors, cleanliness, illumination, and everything connected with the building. The πριμικήριος was a servant of the palace under the supervision of the Second in Command. 

In the tenth century, the primikerios received the title of Great Primikerios. John Apocaucos (14th Century), a Great Primikerios, was governor of Thessalonike. G. Schlumberger mentions that the πριμικήριος had his own seal. For example, Primikerios Nicholas of Empress Eudoxia in 1067, wife of Emperor Constantine X Doucas (1059-1067), had his own seal for his official correspondence. The rank of πριμικήριος continued throughout the Byzantine era. After the Fall of Constantinople and the dissolution of the Byzantine Empire, the ranks of primikerios and Great Primikerios were bestowed on various occasions upon those more progressive who had rendered many services to the Church, to the Christian minority, and to education. 

In ecclesiastical literature, the primikerios was associated with the ecclesiastical secretary-notary. In Act 9 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council (451), Aetios, the synod secretary, bore the title of Primikerios of the Notaries. In Act 1 of the Third Ecumenical Council (431) in Ephesus, the one who read out the edict of Emperor Theodosios II (408-450) regarding the convocation of the Synod was someone named Peter “the Primikerios of the Notarios of the Church of Alexandria.” Gregory the Great, in a letter to deacon Antoninos of the church of Thessalonike, asks that an inventory be taken of all items in the Diocese and to hand it over to Stephen, the primikerios of the notarios. Pope Martin I (649-655), as Bishop of Rome, states that in the absence of the Bishop of Rome from His See, or in the vacancy of the post, the archdeacon, the archpriest, and the primikerios would be appointed locum tenens.

In the Latin Church, the title of primicerius is found in the Canons of St Chrodegang (d. 766), Bishop of Metz, which were compiled for clergy and monks. A primicerius was a clergyman next in line after the archdeacon and archpriest and was in charge of Divine Services, Divine Liturgies, and hymn singing in the monasteries. There was also a primicerius of the matricularii (the poor) who was in charge of a matricula for the distribution of food and other necessities to the poor. Isidore, Bishop of Seville (560-636), wrote that the primicerius of the Church of Spain was in charge of discipline and conduct of attendants, exorcists, psaltes, readers. They should demonstrate a good example for priests regarding devotions and show a zeal for perfection in their duties, and especially for city priests. In the Ordo romanum, a collection of liturgical rules from the eighth century, it is stated that the primicerius held a position in the church equal to that of the archpresbyter, teaching and enforcing discipline upon deacons and clergy lower in rank.

In the Church of Rome, the primicerius first appeared in the fourth century as a position, and a list was compiled of primicerii notariorum from the fifth until the twelfth century. The primicerius notariorum was a lower clergyman with duties in parish churches. During the time of Gregory the Great, he was the secretary of official documents of the bishops of Rome. In the seventh century, he became the registrar of the diocesan archives of the Church of Rome. In the tenth century, he was the chief among the seven judges of the Church of Rome, appointed by the Bishop of Rome. After the twelfth century, the position and title of primicerius began to decline, and, in the thirteenth century, it disappeared completely. 

In the early Byzantine church, a πριμικήριος was considered the chief among various officials. He was in charge of church music, reading of the scriptural excerpts during the Divine Services, and order in the churches and in the monasteries. During Divine Services and important Holy Days and ceremonies, the πριμικήριος was responsible for order, greeted the hierarch during his entrance into the church carrying a large candle, and marched behind him. The primikerios also undertook a function in a diocesan office and signed legal documents (i.e publications, wills, purchase contracts, confessions of faith, promises of obedience, and of demotions). 

The ecclesiatical rank of primikerios belongs, according the the interpretation concerning the offices of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, among its class of outstanding men.

Psaltēs – Ψάλτης

The office of ψάλτης (and πρωτοψάλτης) belongs in the category of lower clergy. The ψάλτης was elevated to that office by a special service of laying on of hands, and, in time, the ψάλτης entered the life of the Church and its liturgical orders in accordance with the Church’s needs. Passages within the New Testament itself indicate that Christian worship incorporated public singing. With time and in order to facilitate this singing, special groups of men and women led dedicated choirs. This was not done to eliminate earlier hymn singing but to reform and improve it. The Fourth Synod in Carthage (397) decided upon the elevation of the ψάλτης with a special prayer read by the Bishop (Canon 10). In accordance with this decision, the psaltēs was given special preparation by the archdeacon before his elevation to this responsible ecclesiastical office.

The oldest evidence we have concerning church hymnology refers to various hymns composed by devout Christians during the great persecutions which they sang at martyrdoms and in memory of the martyrs. Origen wrote that, during his time, “everyone prayed to God in his own dialect and sang whatever hymns he knew.” Tertullian mentions that during the Divine Services, everyone could praise God with hymns, either known or improvised according to their frame of mind. It is apparent from various sources, that during the persecutions, the ecclesiastical hymn of the early church was simple in its form (in other words, in the same way that we chant the hexapsalmos (six psalms), the epistle, and the gospel readings). Pliny, a Roman eparch in Bythinia of Asia Minor, in his letters to Roman Emperor Trajan, wrote that the Christians of his district “alternate in singing hymns to Christ as God.”

The Synod in Laodicea (360) decided that the psaltēs should be called Canonical Psaltēs (Canon 15), and they were listed in the official roster of clergy in the Church so as to strengthen the institution of chanting and to revitalize and develop the ancient form of hymn singing which had begun to decline. Indeed, hymn singing was revitalized with the return of participation by the congregation. During this period, another form of hymn singing made its appearance called “antiphonal singing” where the psaltēs and the choir or two choirs sang alternately. The Synod of Laodicea also decided that during Divine Services, only psalms and hymns from authorized liturgical books would be used, and improvised hymns would no longer be permitted. 

During the reign of Justinian I, there were chief psaltai or prompters in the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Sozomen mentions that in his day there was a chorus of psaltai that repeated the hymns sung previously by the ψάλτης soloist. This manner of singing reminds us of the antiphons such as the Resurrection hymns of Holy Saturday during Divine Services: “Praise the Lord and exalt him unto all ages.”

In the early medieval West, the “prompter” and his assistant were in charge of singing. The first one directed the musical part of the Divine Services, keeping time with a wand, and announced the title of the hymn and the psalm. In Rome, a school for ecclesiastical music made its appearance and trained young people to sing in the churches during Divine Services, feast days, and ceremonies. The school was under the special direction of a musically talented person of the Church with the title of Primicerius Cantorum. According to tradition, this school was established by Hilarius (461-469), Pope of Rome, and, according to others, by Silverius (536-538), Pope of Rome. In the biography of Gregory the Great, written by his deacon John, there is mention of a school established by Gregory. 

The psaltēs in the early church stood on the ambo located in the middle of the church during Divine Servies. When antiphonal singing was introduced, the ambo was moved from the center of the church. This contributed to the separation of the psaltai into two choruses. Accordingly, the position of the psalter began to become more prominent. His position was solidified with the decisions of the Synods in Laodicea (345) (canon 15) and the Fourth Ecumenical Synod in Chalcedon (451). Other Synodical decisions specified the life and conduct of the psaltēs both inside and outside the church. With the development of choruses, the ψάλτης was placed in charge of their singing. He received the title of Protopsaltēs of the Great Domestikus. He was assisted by two πρωτοψάλτης who directed the two choruses and were called domestiki. The πρωτοψάλτης or Great Domestikus and the other two domestiki were titles bestowed much later than the twelfth century in the church. In our times and in the Patriarchate, the πρωτοψάλτης is called Archon Protopsaltēs.

All these titles of the psaltēs and of πρωτοψάλτης belong, according to the interpretation concerning the offices of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, in the class of eminent men.