Comes sacrae vestis

Not to be confused with the Palaiologan-era office of protovestiarites.

Protovestiarios (Greek: πρωτοβεστιάριος, "first vestiarios") was a high Byzantine court position, originally reserved for eunuchs.[1] In the late Byzantine period (12th–15th centuries), it denoted the Empire's senior-most financial official, and was also adopted by the medieval Serbian states.

History and functions

The title is first attested in 412, as the comes sacrae vestis, an official in charge of the Byzantine emperor's "sacred wardrobe" (Latin: sacra vestis), coming under the praepositus sacri cubiculi. In Greek, the term used was oikeiakon vestiarion (Greek: οἰκειακόν βεστιάριον, "private wardrobe"), and by this name it remained known from the 7th century onward. As such, the office was distinct from the public or imperial wardrobe, the basilikon vestiarion, which was entrusted to a state official, the chartoularios tou vestiariou.[2][3] The private wardrobe also included part of the Byzantine emperor's private treasury, and controlled an extensive staff.[2]

Consequently, the holders of this office came second only to the parakoimomenos in court hierarchy, functioning as the latter's aides. In the 9th–11th centuries, protovestiarioi were appointed as generals and ambassadors.[1] In the 11th century, the title rose further in importance, eclipsing the kouropalates;[4] transformed into an honorary title, it also began being given to non-eunuchs, including members of the imperial family.[5] As such, the title survived until the late Palaiologan period, its holders including high-ranking ministers and future Byzantine emperors.[1]

The female equivalent was the protovestiaria (Greek: πρωτοβεστιαρία), the head of the Byzantine empress' servants. Protovestiarioi are also attested for private citizens, in which case again the title refers to their head servant and treasurer.[1]

Notable protovestiarioi

In Serbia

The title was also adopted in the medieval Serbian states as protovestijar (Serbian Cyrillic: протовестијар/протовистијар, archaic: протовистіар[6]), and likewise entailed fiscal responsibilities, being the equivalent to a "finance minister".[7] According to the scholar John V.A. Fine, "The chief financial official responsible for the state treasury and its income was the protovestijar. This position was regularly held by a merchant from Kotor who understood financial management and bookkeeping. Both protovestijars and logothetes were used as diplomats, the protovestijars in particular being sent west, for as citizens of Kotor they knew Italian and Latin."[8]

It was mentioned during the rule of King Stephen Uroš I (r. 1243–1276).[9] Stephen Dušan (r. 1331-1355) elevated the nobility and clergy when crowned Emperor - komornik Nikola Buća from Kotor was appointed protovestijar.[7][10][11] The power of the protovestijar is best testified by the proverb derived from Nikola Buća: "Car da – al Buća ne da" (The Emperor gives, but Buća does not).[12][13][14] The Buća noble family produced several protovestijars, including Nikola's nephew Trifun Mihajlov Buća (fl. 1357), one of the most important persons in his time, who served Emperor Dušan's successor Uroš V.[14]

Tvrtko I (Ban of Bosnia 1353—1377, King 1377—1391) added the ranks logotet and protovestijar after the Serbian model after crowning himself King. Tvrtko's first protovestijar was a Ragusan, kapedan Ratko, elevated in 1378.[15]

Balša II (Lord of Zeta 1378—1385), added the rank into service after taking Durrës in spring 1385, appointing Filip Bareli.[16]

See also

  • Vestararius, papal office derivative of the protovestiarios




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