Very Short Entries

Aktouarios – Ἀκτουάριος

Aktouarios – Ἀκτουάριος

From the Latin actuarius meaning accountant or paymaster, and used in this sense until the sixth century. The title remained in use in the various lists of protocol but his role was not clearly defined. In the tenth century an ἀκτουάριος is described as distributing awards to charioteers. The title was later applied to physicians such as John Zacaharias or John Aktouarios, the head physician of Andronikos II Paleologos (obit c. 1328). 

Architekton – Ἀρχιτέκτων

This was not an official title in Byzantium but a function. There were two kinds of specialists responsible for designing buildings in Byzantium: the ἀρχιτέκτων and the μηχανικός. The ἀρχιτέκτων was a master builder, trained in engineering and capable of designing large edifices that an ordinary builder, οἰκοδόμος or τεχνίτης would not be qualified to design. The μηχανικός, on the other hand, was a fully-trained architect who had studied mathematics.


Didaskalos tou Evangeliou – Διδάσκαλος τοῦ ευαγγελιου

The didaskalos (teacher) is a title, as well as an ecclesiastical position that has always existed in the Christian Church. It was also an ancient position. The first teachers and schools appeared very early in Hellenic history. The first teachers mentioned are Phoenix (twelfth century bce), the teacher of Achilles, King of the Myrmidons whom he followed to the Trojan War, and Cheiron the Wise (twelfth century bce) who was initiated in the science of medicine. Evidence for the first schools in Greece appear in Mytilene (600 bce), Astypalaea Island (496 bce), Chios Island (494 bce), Troizina (480 bce), and Mycale (413 bce). There were three kinds of teachers in those schools: grammarians, lyrists, and teachers of physical education.

In Athens, there were schools of higher learning with distinguished teachers: (a) the School of Isocrates, founded in 309 bce, with rhetoric as the core of his curriculum, (b) the Academy of Plato, founded in 385 bce, as the forerunner of the university of the future with courses in physics, mathematics, astronomy, history and philosophy, and (c) the Lyceum of Aristotle, founded in 335 bce, considered the greatest research center of antiquity with a curriculum of zoology, botany, cosmology, astronomy, physics, mathematics, history, theology and music. 

During the imperial period, Roman emperors brought numerous teachers from Greece to Italy for the promotion of education. For example, Julius Caesar gave immediate Roman citizenship to any Greek teacher who wanted to move to Rome. Octavius exempted teachers from the decree concerning expulsion of undesirables from Rome. Vespasian founded a school of rhetoric in Rome with the instruction of Greek and Latin, appointing Quantilius as director. Hadrian founded the famous Atheneum School in Rome, where great contemporary scholars taught. Marcus Aurelius established grants for two new schools in Athens, one a school for philosophy with four academic chairs, and the other a school of rhetoric with two academic chairs. In Athens, emphasis was always placed upon philosophy and literature, whereas in Rome, the study of legal thought and legal theory was made more systematic. 

In Judea during the Hellenistic period, there was an intensive effort for the education and moral uplifting of youth. During the times of Jesus Christ and even earlier, there were teachers who taught in private and in public buildings. Luke the Evangelist mentions that, as a child, Jesus was found in the temple “seated in the midst of teachers.” In this context, a teacher was also the interpreter of the Law and was called the Teacher of the Law. In the Gospels, the title “teacher” was granted to Jesus as an honor, and his disciples called him Rabbi, which was a distinction of honor Jews had for their teachers and spiritual leaders. Other Jews also called him Rabbi. 

The education system of the Greco-Roman world greatly facilitated the spread of Christianity. Because of their involvement with sacred studies and literature, Christian teachers were thought to have divine Spirit and divine knowledge and consequently were called the “spiritual ones.” The teachers were assigned the responsibility to teach catechumens and to prepare them for holy baptism. James the Apostle reminds us in his epistle about the great responsibilities on the shoulders of those who undertake the mission of teaching and catechizing people. The first group of teachers is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles: “There were in the church, in Antioch certain prophets and teachers.”

The bishop in the early church was the teacher who was obliged not only to be able to teach but to make a strong effort for the spiritual and moral education and edification of his flock. As a result, he paid a great deal of attention to his choice of assistants and teachers whom he considered among his most select coworkers. He trained and educated them before sending them out to teach the people about the new religion. This method was called catechesis. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) was considered the greatest teacher and catechist of his times. St. Augustine gathered the most intelligent and capable clergy and other youth whom he educated so as to take over the responsibility of the church in Africa. This is why he is considered one of the great teachers. Because teaching began with bishops, as a natural consequence, schools started to make their appearance. 

The Catechetical School in Alexandria founded by Pantainos in 170 ce was the first Christian theological school with great teachers such as Clement of Alexandria, Heraclas, Alexander, Dionysios, Pierios, Theognostos, Peter, and Didymus the Blind. But, the most prominent teacher of all in the School of Alexandria was Origen (c. 185–254). Origen was a great biblical scholar and paved the way for subsequent scholar theologians (including St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Basil the Great, and St. Maximus the Confessor) who would grapple with the most complex questions of Christian doctrine and teaching

With the official acceptance of Christianity by the Empire, Theodosios II and Justinian I forbade teaching by pagans and, as a consequence, the philosophical school of Athens, the Academy of Plato, was closed as the process of education shifted to Christian instruction. In the middle Byzantine period, Alexios I appointed his own teachers in the churches of Constantinople with specific instructions that they educate the people concerning Christianity and that they should preach in the churches every Sunday. The formation of this educational program has come to be called the Patriarchal School or Patriarchal Academy in modern scholarship. Alexios paid for the salary of these teachers from the public treasury, emphasizing the importance he placed on education. 

By the middle and later Byzantine periods, prominent academic positions in this Patriarchal School Church of Constantinople had specific titles, including: διδάσκαλος τοῦ Εὐανγελίου (Teacher of the Gospel) which was also called the διδάσκαλος οἰκουμενικός, διδάσκαλος τοῦ Ἀποστόλου (Teacher of the Apostles), and the διδάσκαλος τοῦ ψασλτῆ (Psalms). Finally, as a propaedeutic to theological studies the Patriarchal school also had a μαΐστωρ τῶν ῥητόρων as well as many other subordinate teachers. 

The rank of didaskalos belongs according to the interpretation of the Holy and Great Church of Christ in the fifth place of the third set of five offices. 

Didaskalos tou Genous – Διδάσκαλος τοῦ γένους

(Teacher of the nation). Although not a Byzantine office, this title came to be used in the period of the Turkokratia (1453-1821) to describe those intellectuals who sustained and promoted the theological and intellectual culture of the Orthodox Church under Turkish rule.


Eutaxios – Εὐταξιάδες

Εὐταξιάδες or ἐπὶ τῆς εὐταξίας (eutaxias). DuCange cites sources from John Chrysostom in the fourth century to Symeon of Thessaloniki in the fifteenth that indicate that this person was a master of ceremonies in ecclesial settings. The title is found in numerous lists of titles from the Byzantine period.

Laosunaktis – Λαοσυνάκτης

This office, too, is little known. According to one thirteenth century list of offices, the λαοσυνάκτης was an ecclesial office. The two λαοσυνάκτης were in charge of the protopsaltes and maintained order during church services.

Mousikodidaskalos – Μουσικοδιδάσκαλος

At some point in the modern period this title was created to honor those who have been especially important in continuing and enriching the musical patrimony of the Church. In the Byzantine period this work of a μουσικοδιδάσκαλος would have been under the aegis of the ψάλτης.

Myrespos – Μυρέψης

(Evagrios Scholastikos, historia ecclesiastica has the spelling μυρεψός, which would be the classical form) – A scentmaker. In later ecclesial usage it probably refers specifically to those who prepare myrrh. More clearly attested as a Byzantine ecclesial office is μυροδότης – the one who distributes the holy oil.

Orphanotrophos – Ὀρφανοτρόφος

This is both an ecclesiastical and secular rank in the Orthodox Church and in the Byzantine Empire. Helping and protecting children was considered one of the main duties of the early and medieval Church. The orphanages in Constantinople and in the provinces were under the management of one ὀρφανοτρόφος for the protection of all orphans. The orphanages of Constantinople were assisted financially by the state, and consequently the imperial government was interested in its administration and finances. The orphanotrophus was, in early Byzantium, a clergyman. After the ninth century, the ὀρφανοτρόφος was usually a member of the nobility and enjoyed prestige and esteem in Byzantine society and aristocracy. Emperor Justinian in his legislation mentioned Sts Paul and Zotikos, the orphanages in Constantinople as well as those in the provinces to shelter orphans. Anna Komnene mentions in her work that these establishments sheltered thousands of young people who were trained and educated. 

Prostatis ton Grammaton – Προστάτης τῶν γραμμάτων

(Defender of Letters) – This title is given in contemporary Greek ecclesiology to refer to the Three Hierarchs, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. The title indicates their position as the foundation and patrons of the Byzantine Orthodox theological tradition. Indeed, they were the most widely read fathers in Byzantium.


Protekdikos – Πρωτέκδικος

This is an important office, which had originally been called defensores ecclesiae in the West. The first mention of this office comes from the council of Constantinople in 448. The officer was in charge of τὸ ἱερόν ἐκδικεῖον attached to the Hagia Sophia and, at least in the Paleologian period, was involved in determining cases of asylum, the liberation of slaves, defense of those accused of various crimes, and instructing converts.

Protonotarios – Πρωτονοτάριος

The notarios was an ecclesiastical rank in the Orthodox Church and existed as a civilian rank in the Byzantine Empire related to the military tribune who could be either a civilian or a military officer. The word notarios in pre-Christian times meant a memorandum writer; and in the middle Byzantine era, a stenographer; and in the later Byzantine era, a notary public. The word notarios derived from the Latin word nota, meaning a written note, and, later, the notarios was the secretary for all situations. In its original meaning, the word meant a stenographer who was hired to record proceedings at meetings.

After the Church was freed from persecution by Emperor Constantine the Great, it expanded with the founding and enthronement of bishops in various cities and towns. The bishops employed a notarios among other assistants—in other words, secretaries, usually clergy who kept the diocesan archives in good order. Athanasius, once a deacon of the Church of Alexandria, served in the beginning as notarios, secretary of Archbishop Alexander (d. 328), whom he succeeded on the throne in Alexandria. Proklos was a notarios (secretary and underwriter) for Patriarch Atticus of Constantinople (406–425). Proklos was a deacon and in 434 was elected Patriarch of Constantinople.

For Ecumenical Synods as well as regional synods, notarii were hired as stenographers and wrote down the proceedings of the synods that were signed by delegate bishops, becoming part of the history of the Church. In the Fourth Ecumenical Synod of Chalcedon (Act 9), Damaskos, a military tribune and notarios, was responsible for copying the transactions of the Synod. Act 14 of Chalcedon also mentions the Acts of the Synod of Antioch, which were read and had been copied by Tarianos, a deacon and notarios. In the fourth Synod of Toledo (663), Canon 4, notarii were mentioned who wrote down the Acts of the Synod. In the Synod of Antioch (269), Eusebios of Caesarea mentions that there were stenographers who wrote down the discussions of the conflict between Paul of Samosata and the delegates of the Synod. Socrates Scholasticus (380–450) wrote that there were stenographers, called ὀξυγράφοι or oxygraphers (“shorthand writers”), who copied and preserved the homilies of John Chrysostom. Augustine wrote that those who learned shorthand were called notarii. In his epistles, he also says that, in the service of the Church, notarii or stenographers wrote down everything that was being said so that nothing was lost. In another epistle, he wrote that there were four notarii from each side to chronicle the conflict with the Donatists. 

In the fourth and fifth centuries, the notarios was responsible for the management of church property. He was appointed by regional bishops and kept accounting records and gave financial reports. In monastic life, the notarios had writing duties for the correspondence of the monastery as well as the library and its classification and arrangement. He was a brother of the monastery, either a monk or a clergyman. Wherever there was more than one notarios, the oldest received the title of protonotarios. The protonotarios attended divine services and informed the bishop if he noticed any type of disorder or impropriety or omission in the services. He was at the altar during the services, assisting the bishop, and was his chief aide, reading the Gospel excerpt on Palm Sunday. He was to act in accordance with the bishop’s orders. In the twelfth century, during the term of Patriarch George II Xiphilin, the protonotarios was relieved of his duties and was replaced by the protekdikos (chief advocate). 

In the Church of Rome, the notarius enjoyed a higher position. He frequently went on confidential missions for the bishop, acted with authority if the need arose, and sometimes signed documents on behalf of the bishop. According to liturgical rubrics, the notarius preceded the bishop in the procession whom he served by carrying the hierarchal staff or crozier whenever he entered the church. During the sixth century, the city of Rome was divided into nine districts, which were called regiones. Each region was headed by a notarius, a regionarius, who was responsible for all ecclesiastical decisions and his regional archives. They were under the jurisdiction of the primicerius notariorum (protonotarius).

In Byzantium, the notarii were secretaries in various departments of the capital and the provinces. There were the Imperial Notarii of the Secretum in every department of the empire and Imperial Notarii of the Sakellion acted as financial secretaries. During the tenth century, the notarii were appointed chief assistants to the chief judge (praetor) in the civil administration of the provinces with the title protonotarii and were subject to the general director of the district. They were called protonotarii of the districts and in time received additional duties to enforce the commands of the provincial authority and help maintain law and order; to equip the army and the navy, providing food for the military and care for other military needs; to transport the baggage of the army and of the emperor during campaigns and arrange for its return to the capital; and to lead prisoners during victory parades. During the eighth century, there was a special school for notarii in Constantinople, and for some centuries, it supplied the empire with imperial notarii who were appointed in financial services or as private secretaries. In financial services, the imperial notarios of the sakellion was under the jurisdiction of the logothetes (minister of finance). As private secretaries, the asekretes of the emperor and the notarios of the secretarial staff were under the protoasekretis (chief secretary). The director of this school was a protonotarios. According to Socrates Scholasticus, the notarios was called an imperial officer and the head of the imperial underwriters. The notarios was considered a legal adviser (lawyer) in various districts, as the tabellion (registrar) or tabellarius (recorder) — the one who wrote up contracts, acting as secretary for citizens and certifying the authenticity of letters with his seal. Leo the Grammarian, a Byzantine historian and chronographer, was also a notarios and legal adviser. During the eleventh century, the protonotarios was the business manager in each military district. All income from taxes was recorded under his supervision, and he paid all military and civilian expenses in his district. 

Schlumberger identifies several duties of the notariiNotarii worked in courts, maintaining archives, registering judicial decisions, and as stenographers, keeping the minutes of each court session. In Byzantine ecclesiastical ranks, the office of protonotarios was bestowed upon presbyters or deacons, sometimes upon laymen, and continues in use today. In the later history of the Church according to ecclesiastical provision, the notarios was for the most part a clergyman in whom the Church had full confidence. The rank of notarios continued as a secretary after the fall of Constantinople and the dissolution of the empire. In civilian life, the rank continued as a solicitor or writer of contracts.

The rank of notarios belongs, according the Holy and Great Church of Christ, in the first place of the second set of five offices. 

Horarchis – Χωράρχης

As with so many Byzantine neologisms, this word comes from combing two other classical words. Although the word χωραρχία, meaning the district under a governor, is found (rarely) in classical Greek, χωράρχης does not seem to appear until the twelfth century when it is found in Michael Glykas and Constantine Manassas. In both contexts χωράρχης clearly means one who rules over a certain region.

Hymnodos – Ὑμνῳδός

Little is known of this office. Its basic meaning is that of a composer or singer of songs.