Megas logothetes

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Megas logothetēs
Appointer Byzantine Emperor
Precursor logothetēs tōn sekretōn
First holder Strategopoulos
Final holder George Sphrantzes (Byzantine Empire)
George Amiroutzes (Empire of Trebizond)
Abolished 1453/1461

The megas logothetēs (Greek: μέγας λογοθέτης, "Grand Logothete") was an official who served as effective foreign minister, and frequently as the head of the civil administration (mesazōn) of the Byzantine Empire, in the period from c. 1250 to c. 1350, after which it continued as a honorific dignity. It evolved from the Komnenian-era office of logothetēs tōn sekretōn, and was established in its final form under the Empire of Nicaea, its holders were frequently distinguished scholars, who played a prominent role in the civil and military affairs of their time. The title was also used in the Empire of Trebizond, after the fall of Constantinople, it was adopted in the Danubian Principalities and as a honorific title for laymen in the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

History and functions[edit]

The post originated as the logothetēs tōn sekretōn, established by Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118) in an attempt to improve the coordination of the various fiscal departments (sekreta).[1][2] In the late 12th century, the logothetēs tōn sekretōn had risen to a pre-eminent position among the civil administrators, and was increasingly called the megas logothetēs,[3] the all-powerful logothetēs tōn sekretōn Theodore Kastamonites, maternal uncle and de facto regent of the Empire during the early reign of Isaac II Angelos (r. 1185–1195, 1203–1204), was the first to be officially called megas logothetēs in a chrysobull of 1192.[4]

"The megas logothetēs orders the prostagmata and chrysoboulla sent by the emperor to all kings, sultans and toparchs. And this is the proper function of the megas logothetēs, while the supervision of the mesastikion is carried out by whoever the emperor commands."
Pseudo-Kodinos, Book of Offices.[5]

The logothetēs tōn sekretōn disappeared after 1204, and in its place, the megas logothetēs appears in the Empire of Nicaea and under the revived Byzantine Empire under the Palaiologos dynasty.[6] As seen in the case of the first known megas logothetēs, Strategopoulos, in c. 1217, the post apparently retained its previous role, as president of the imperial tribunal.[7][8] By the middle of the 13th century, however, its functions had evolved to become completely different from his antecedent: the megas logothetēs assumed the conduct of foreign affairs and headed the imperial chancery, previously the purview of the logothetēs tou dromou, and the holders of the post frequently functioned as the chief minister of the Empire (a role designated in the sources with the term mesazōn).[8][9] In the early 14th century, the megas logothetēs also exercised the functions of the former Eparch of Constantinople, until Andronikos III Palaiologos (r. 1328–1341), seeking to secure his throne after winning the civil war of 1321–1328, assigned them to the prōtostratōr.[10]

The megas logothetēs was unique among the logothetes in retaining both its exalted position and a function during the early Palaiologan period: by the time pseudo-Kodinos compiled his Book of Offices, shortly after the middle of the 14th century, and likely much earlier, the logothetēs tou genikou, logothetēs tou dromou, logothetēs toū stratiōtikou, and logothetēs tōn agelōn had lost any real function and had devolved to purely honorific titles.[10] Already during pseudo-Kodinos's time, however, the megas logothetēs in turn lost his role in foreign affairs to the mesazōn, and became a mostly honorific office; the early 15th-century writer Mazaris describes it as a "prize" (γέρας) without particular attributes.[8]

Originally, the title ranked twelfth in the overall hierarchy of the palace, between the megas konostaulos and the prōtosebastos, but in March/April 1321 Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (r. 1282–1328), wishing to exalt his favourite Theodore Metochites, promoted him from logothetēs tou genikou and raised the rank further to ninth place, above the megas stratopedarchēs and below the prōtostratōr. It appears that the rank retained this high position for the remainder of the Byzantine Empire's existence.[11][12]

According to peudo-Kodinos, the insignia of office were a rich silk kabbadion tunic, a golden-red skiadion hat decorated with embroideries in the klapōton style, without veil, or a domed skaranikon hat, again in red and gold and decorated with golden wire, with a portrait of the emperor standing in front, and another of him enthroned in the rear. Unlike most officials of the court, he bore no staff of office (dikanikion).[13]

Following the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the title was used in the Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. In the former, the Great Logothete (mare logofăt) was the chief minister of the prince and head of the chancellery, while in Wallachia, he was the second-most senior member of the prince's council, after the ban.[14] To this day, the leading offikion among the lay archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople bears the title of "Grand Logothete".[15]

List of known holders[edit]

Empire of Nicaea and Byzantine Empire[edit]

Name Tenure Appointed by Notes Refs
Strategopoulos c. 1217 Theodore I Laskaris The sebastos and megas logothetēs Strategopoulos (first name unknown) is attested as presiding over a court decision in a dispute between two communities in the area of Miletus. The tribunal was obviously the same as that presided over by the logothetēs tōn sekretōn in 1196, proving the evolutionary link between the two offices. [7]
George Akropolites 1255–1282 Theodore II Laskaris
Michael VIII Palaiologos
A scholar and historian, Akropolites enjoyed a rapid rise in the imperial bureaucracy, rising to logothetēs tou genikou by 1246. As a protégé of Theodore II Laskaris, he was promoted to megas logothetēs in 1255; in that capacity he played a major role in political and military affairs, until his capture during a campaign against Michael II of Epirus in 1257. He was released in 1260. Following the reconquest of Constantinople in 1261, he asked Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos to relieve him of his political functions so that he could dedicate himself to the revival of higher education in the imperial capital, until his death in 1282, he served Michael VIII in a number of diplomatic missions. [16][17][18]
Theodore Mouzalon 1282–1294 Michael VIII Palaiologos
Andronikos II Palaiologos
A very well-educated man, Mouzalon was named megas logothetēs after Akropolites' death, shortly before Michael VIII's own death. Mouzalon exercised great influence over the new emperor, Andronikos II, he not only served as the effective prime minister, but was even allowed to wear a gold-embroidered scarlet cap, similar to those borne by imperial princes. In 1291, Andronikos II elevated him to the rank of prōtovestiarios as well, and later married his son Constantine to Mouzalon's daughter. Following the onset of the illness that would lead to his death in March 1294, Mouzalon requested to be relieved of his administrative duties, on his advice, the emperor handed them over to Nikephoros Choumnos. [19][20]
Constantine Akropolites c. 1305/06–1321 Andronikos II Palaiologos Eldest son of George Akropolites and a scholar himself, he was named logothetēs tou genikou by 1282, which he kept at least until c. 1294. The exact date of his appointment as megas logothetēs is uncertain, the title was mostly honorific, as conduct of affairs remained in the hands of the mesazōn Nikephoros Choumnos, and then Theodore Metochites. [21][22][23]
Theodore Metochites 1321–1328 Andronikos II Palaiologos A noted scholar, Metochites successively advanced from logothetēs tōn agelōn (1290) to logothetēs tōn oikeiakōn (1295/96), logothetēs tou genikou (1305), and finally megas logothetēs in 1321, although he had replaced Nikephoros Choumnos as the de facto prime minister (mesazōn) since 1305. Following the deposition of Andronikos II in the civil war of 1321–1328, Metochites was dismissed and exiled, ending his days as a monk. [24][25][26]
John Gabalas 1343–1344 John V Palaiologos Originally a partisan of John VI Kantakouzenos, the megas droungarios John Gabalas defected to the regency for John V during the civil war of 1341–1347. He was promoted to prōtosebastos and eventually megas logothetēs, before falling out with the head of the regency, Alexios Apokaukos, and being imprisoned. [27][28]
John Palaiologos Raoul 1344 John V Palaiologos Uncle of John V, attested as megas logothetēs in two acts concerning the monasteries of Zographou and Philotheou in October–November 1344. Guilland considers him identical to John Gabalas. [27][29]
Nikephoros Laskaris Metochites c. 1355–1357 John VI Kantakouzenos
John V Palaiologos
Son of Theodore Metochites, partisan of Andronikos III Palaiologos during the civil war of 1321–1328, and of John Kantakouzenos during the civil war of 1341–1347. He is attested as megas logothetēs in 1355–1357, but was evidently appointed by John VI and retained by John V after Kantakouzenos' resignation in 1354. [30][31]
George Sphrantzes 1451/52–1453 Constantine XI Palaiologos After a succession of civil and diplomatic functions under Manuel II Palaiologos and Constantine XI Palaiologos, including as governor of Patras, Mystras, and Selymbria, Sphrantzes was appointed as the last megas logothetēs of the Byzantine Empire. During the Fall of Constantinople he was taken captive, but was ransomed and continued to travel in the Balkans and Italy, he wrote a chronicle, the Chronicon Minus, based on his diary, covering the events of 1413–1477. [32][33][34]

Empire of Trebizond[edit]

Name Tenure Appointed by Notes Refs
George Scholarios c. 1363 Alexios III Megas Komnenos Attested in a treatise of George Gemistos Plethon. [35]
George Amiroutzes c. 1458–1461 David Megas Komnenos A noted philosopher and theologian, he served as the last prime minister of the Empire of Trebizond, with the titles of megas logothetēs and prōtovestiarios. Considered pro-Turkish by contemporaries, he is accused of persuading Emperor David to surrender to the Ottomans during the Siege of Trebizond (1461), he spent the rest of his life as philosophy tutor of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II. [36][37]


  1. ^ ODB, "Logothetes" (A. Kazhdan), p. 1247.
  2. ^ Guilland 1971, pp. 75–76.
  3. ^ Guilland 1971, p. 78.
  4. ^ Guilland 1971, pp. 83–84.
  5. ^ Verpeaux 1966, p. 174.
  6. ^ Guilland 1971, pp. 78–79.
  7. ^ a b Guilland 1971, p. 104.
  8. ^ a b c Oikonomidès 1985, p. 169.
  9. ^ Guilland 1971, pp. 101–102.
  10. ^ a b Guilland 1971, p. 102.
  11. ^ Guilland 1971, pp. 103, 112.
  12. ^ Verpeaux 1966, p. 137.
  13. ^ Verpeaux 1966, p. 154.
  14. ^ "logofăt". Dicţionarul explicativ al limbii române (in Romanian). Academia Română, Institutul de Lingvistică "Iorgu Iordan", Editura Univers Enciclopedic. 1988. 
  15. ^ "Offikion - Archon Titles". Order of St. Andrew the Apostle: Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Order of Saint Andrew. 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  16. ^ Guilland 1971, pp. 104–106.
  17. ^ ODB, "Akropolites, George" (R. J. Macrides), p. 49.
  18. ^ PLP, 518. Ἀκροπολίτης Γεώργιος.
  19. ^ Guilland 1971, pp. 106–108.
  20. ^ PLP, 19439. Mουζάλων, Θεόδωρος Βοΐλας.
  21. ^ Guilland 1971, pp. 108–110.
  22. ^ ODB, "Akropolites, Constantine" (A.-M. Talbot), p. 49.
  23. ^ PLP, 520. Ἀκροπολίτης Κωνσταντῖνος.
  24. ^ Guilland 1971, pp. 110–113.
  25. ^ ODB, "Metochites, Theodore" (A.-M. Talbot), pp. 1357–1358.
  26. ^ PLP, 17982. Μετοχίτης Θεόδωρος.
  27. ^ a b Guilland 1971, pp. 113–114.
  28. ^ PLP, 93286. Γαβαλᾶς Ἰωάννης.
  29. ^ PLP, 24126. Ῥαούλ, Ἰωάννης Παλαιολόγος.
  30. ^ Guilland 1971, p. 114.
  31. ^ PLP, 17986. Μετοχίτης, Νικηφόρος Λάσκαρις.
  32. ^ Guilland 1971, pp. 114–115.
  33. ^ PLP, 27278. Σφραντζῆς, Γεώργιος [Φιαλίτης].
  34. ^ ODB, "Sphrantzes, George" (A.-M. Talbot), p. 1937.
  35. ^ PLP, 27303. Σχολάριος Γεώργιος.
  36. ^ PLP, 784. Ἀμιρούτζης Γεώργιος.
  37. ^ ODB, "Amiroutzes, George" (A.-M. Talbot), pp. 77–78.