Additional Offices

Archeiophylax – Αρχειοφύλαξ

In addition to the twenty-one titles of the order of the Church, we add below shorter notices of the origins and practice of other Byzantine titles and offices that have been re-established as honorary titles in the Order of Archones of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

1. Archeiophylax – Αρχειοφύλαξ

The archeiophylax or archivist is both an ecclesiastical and a civilian rank in the Orthodox Church and the Byzantine Empire. This office goes back to ancient times in pre-Christian Greco-Roman history. The term is Greek in origin, compounded from the words meaning archives and guardian. Thus, the one holding the rank was in charge of the archives and guarded them. In ancient Rome, they were people who could read and write and were also called librarii. In ancient Greece, the first to hold the rank of archeiophylax were experienced writers stationed in the temples of the gods who kept the archives of the people’s offerings and of the temple’s properties. In fifth century Athens, we find a separate department for the registration of all official and unofficial documents. Each public employee was required to copy these documents and to preserve them. The documents were tables, journals, or papyri. At first, these were called reminders.

In ancient Rome, there were public archives called tabularium, meaning tables or archives. The first items found were copies of public documents, civil agreements, priestly archives, and other historical documents. Archives that received greater attention were the listings of legal and public enterprises (dies fasti et dies nefasti) which were published by Gnaeus Flavius, a jurist, in his study De usurpationibus (concerning the seizure of property for the need of occupancy). In ancient Rome, there were various archival centers, but the main one was the aerarium Saturni, the archives of the treasury built in 78 bce by Lutarius Catulus, a public official of Rome, where financial reports were deposed and later almost all official documents, laws, plebiscites of the people, decisions of the Senate, imperial decrees, and edicts. Another archival center was the Tabularium Caesaris (Imperial Archive) of the imperial court with public and provincial archives as well. Public officials dealing with archives were upgraded with more privileges in the course of time, because of the importance of their work. They were called tabularii.

The Roman and Greek traditions were continued in the Byzantine period. Eusebius, the father of ecclesiastical history, wrote that he made use of the libraries in Caesarea and Jerusalem as well as the imperial archives in writing his history. In the middle era, the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodox Church employed copyists to compose, dispatch and preserve a variety of documents and encyclicals. They were called maintainers and guardians. They used parchment and papyrus and always kept copies for government and church officials. 

In the patriarchate, the archive was planned according to the prototype of the imperial archives. Among others, a notarios and a protonotarios were employed for the archives in the eleventh century, and they were called archeiophylax. The rank of archeiophylax continued in the Church and in the government down through the centuries. After the dissolution of the empire, the rank coninued to exist, because it was especially important and necessary. In monasteries during the middle ages, the monk or clergyman in charge of the archives was called Chartophylax (keeper of the archives), and was assisted by monks, copyists, and notarii.

Diermeneutis – Διερμηνευτής

The diermeneutis has been both a civilian and an ecclesiastical rank in the classical Greco-Roman period, the Byzantine Empire, and the Orthodox Church. This rank has not always existed with the same formal designation but had many names. 

Epiphanios, Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus (c. 315-403), mentions that there were translators of languages in the church who were engaged for the reading of excerpts of holy texts as well as sermons in the churches. Ephiphanios placed them among the lower clergy with the exorcists. Another testimony about the presence of a diermeneutis in the ancient church is found in the work of Eusebius where he mentions that Procopius, Bishop of Scythopolis in Palestine, discharged three church employees, a reader, an exorcist, and a diermeneutis in the Syrian language.  Athanasius the Great says that Anthony the Great did not speak Greek, but that a diermeneutis translated the parable of the rich young man into the Coptic language. 

In Byzantine times, the emperor and the Byzantine government had political, military, and diplomatic negotiations with other nations and a diermeneutis was an indispensable person during these discussions for translating the foreign language. Many diermeneis who spoke various languages were higher officials in the service of the Empire and were salaried by the public treasury. There were also diermeneis in the Orthodox church during the Middle Ages who undertook the translation of various discussions between the churches of the East, the Syrian, the Armenian, and the Russian from the north, and the Latin from the west. They were a separate group and their chief was called “The Great Diermeneutis.” In Byzantine times, the diermeneutis was also called the “spokesman.” Anna Komnene mentions that the Turkish Sultan sent a chiauss who was an envoy and spokesman to Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118) with a special mission for peace negotiations between the two countries. George Pachymeres (1242-1310), a Byzantine historian, wrote about the diermeneutis, “the great tzaous.” George Kodinos mentioned the name tagerman, the official Arabic name for diermeneutis.

The first group of diermeneis appears in the book about barbarians mentioned by Emperor Theodosios II in his legislation of 441, which is related to the work of Peter the Patrician, of which we have only fragments in De Ceremoniis, where we are informed that a diermeneutis was sent to Chalcedon for the purpose of providing money to an envoy of the Persian government. Similarly in his work Notitia Dignitatum we are informed that there were diermeneis of various languages in the service of the empire during the sixth century under the jurisdiction of the Magister Officiorum. There was also a special department in the Byzantine army for the Arabic language which Theophylactus Simocatta, the seventh century historian, mentions. After the fall of the Empire, the position of diermeneutis was continued in our church in its relationships with the Patriarch, the Sultan or the Turkish government. This position is more apparent when an officer of the church, a logothetes, assumes the duties of the diermeneutis and is considered responsible for interpreting between the Patriarch and the Turkish Sultan as well as for official translations in both languages of its official documents. He was also the formal intermediary in all their relationships and conferences. In our days, the position of diermeneutis still exists but without the authority it once had.

Dikaiophylax – Δικαιοφύλαξ

Various synods and writings of early Church Fathers mention the position of dikaiophylax under various names but always with the same activities. In the Eastern Church, when need arose for legal assistance, it was given by a clergyman who was especially educated in laws and rights of individuals. In the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus (431), Asphalios a presbyter in Antioch, managed “the legal rights of the church of Antioch.” In the proceedings of the local synod in Constantinople in 448 under Patriarch Flavian of Constantinople, there is mention of a presbyter John, who administered the legal rights of the church of Constantinople. Because the activities of these people were sensitive and many were required to present themselves in courts and take a position in many cases, the Church was cautious in proceeding with their ordination. The Synod of Sardica (Canon 13) decided that the scholar or advocate of the law could advance from the position of reader, deacon, and presbyter with great prudence and if he were considered worthy to advance to the highest rank of hierarch.

The position of dikaiophylax in the Church as counselor often created problems. Subsequently, Emperor Justinian decided to forbid clergy from undertaking the legal responsibility of legal advisers. Justification for this decision was that clergy must restrict themselves to their priestly duties. Early in Christianity, according to the Apostolic Canons (Canon 6), clergy of all ranks were forbidden to undertake any secular position upon penalty of defrocking. As a result, regional churches and monasteries had to hire people with legal education on the rights of churches to protect them in courts and elsewhere. This need became even more apparent over time as the property holdings of the church increased. After the seventh century, the work of protecting ecclesiastical rights was finally in the hands of laity who were strictly forbidden from seeking ordination. They were called Defensores Ecclesiae. Thus the position of dikaiophylax became official in the church for the protection of its rights and the rights of the people. When the church became the official religion of the Empire in 382 under Emperor Theodosius I (376-391), the church developed its own canon law and its own ecclesiastical courts. The dikaiophylax offered his services to the church with the authority of his legal education, aspiring only to assist anyone who needed his help. He was not a lawyer, only an adviser and defender of legal rights. The Church attempted to help its people and saw in the dikaiophylax one who assisted this work and consequently encouraged him in his endeavors and stood by him. It seems that the term dikaiophylax fell out of use in middle Byzantium, being mentioned again in the eleventh century. Evidence for this office continues through the Latin occupation and the Palaeologian period. After the fall of Constantinople, the church revived some of the old titles and offices of the Byzantine era for use in its mission and among them was the position of dikaiophylax for assisting the Christian people under occupation. 

Maistor – Μαίστωρ

The title of maistor (magister) was found in civilian, military, and ecclesiastical life during Roman times and continued into the Byzantine Empire and the Christian Church. In the Byzantine period the maistor was the highest rank bestowed by the Emperor upon people of recognized ability and education. Philotheos wrote in the Kletorologion that during his times there were 14 titles of which the maistor was the highest in precedence in the administration of the empire. When Emperor Constantine ascended the throne, he restored the absolute system of concentrating all civilian and military services under his control. He appointed a Magister Officiorum who was the highest official and the general director of all public services and acquired great power and authority in the administration of the empire. 

During the fourth century, the magister was in the same class with the spectabilis (eminent people), and his duties were called scrinium memoriae. The magister officiorum had supervision over the sacra scrinia, which was a secretarial pool comprising those who copied from from memory (memoriae), those who issued correspondence (epistolarum), and those who handled petitions and appeals in the courts (libellorum), all of whom were earlier under the direction of the magister memoriae and the quaestor. He also supervised the following: the one in charge of audiences with the Emperor (officium missionum); the one in charge of surveying (mensores); the diermeneutis for translating conversations with representatives from other nations; the one supervising legal advisers and legal secretaries (cancellarii); and the supervising secretaries for various other departments (decani and lampadarii).

The maistor was also the title granted to the officer responsible for the security of the emperor as well as the imperial family. He was appointed head of the imperial guard (scholae palatinae). In the beginning of the fifth century, the magister officiorum took over personal responsibility of the military munition plants (fabricae) in the entire empire, and, in 443, according to a decision by Emperor Theodosius, he became the general supervisor of the army corps limitanii (initially organized by Constantine for the frontier posts of the empire) with cavalry (cueneiequitum or equites) and infantry (legiones cohortes auxilia) serving under the generals (duces). In the beginning of the eighth century, he also took on the duties of the Grand Marshal in the Palaces, presided over all plans of the imperial court, presented to the emperor official legations from foreign countries, and was responsible for their protection and safety. Because of his continuous contact with the emperor, the magister took over foreign affairs at the request of the emperor, held audiences with ambassadors from other nations, and proceeded in negotiations for various needs that arose from time to time. 

From the sixth century, there was only one maistor who, due to his rank and as head of the senate, represented the emperor during his absence whenever he was on military campaign. Thus, the maistor assumed the high title of protomaister. This rank was bestowed by the emperor in a formal ceremony in the palace with a special certificate and the emblems of his office, a white robe embroidered with gold thread, a gold embroidered top coat, and a belt with precious stones. For the position he held, the maistor received an annual grant of 24 gold libres immediately upon his appointment. The civilian rank of maistor was retained until the Fall of the Byzantine Empire. But by the ninth century, the maistor lost his special position and favor with the emperor and was restricted to the responsibility for postal services. 

From the times of Constantine the Great, the rank of maistor was also a military one. Constantine the Great kept his praetorian prefects (governors of the large district) from military responsibilities and restricted them to civilian and administrative duties. He assigned the command of the army to the head of the infantry (magister pedium) and the head of the cavalry (magister equitum). The head of the entire army was called magister militum (field marshal). Later, with the separation of the army into large military battalions, all commanders of the battalions were given the title of maistor. The maistor of the battalion attached to the Emperor’s headquarters had the special title of praesenti or presentales. In the beginning of the tenth century, there were three maistors, Stephen, John Eladas, and the brilliant general Leo Phokas, brother of Emperor Nicephoros II Phokas. In the middle of the same century, there were four maistors (all generals): Cosmas, Romanos Saronites, Romanos Mouseles, and John Kourkouas. From De Ceremoniis, it is apparent that during the tenth century the maistors were more than four and fewer than twelve. “The class of maistors and proconsuls were higher than those wearing the twelve cords interwoven with gold.” 

Nomophylax – Νομοφύλαξ

The nomophylax (Keeper of the Law) was a civilian rank in the Byzantine Empire and closely affiliated with the Orthodox Church. Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos reestablished the University of Constantinople in 1045 with two schools—the school of philosophy and the school of law. The school of philosophy had courses in grammar, rhetoric, dialectic philosophy, astronomy, music, geometry, arithmetic, and general philosophy which was the ultimate synthesis of all knowledge. The law school taught knowledge and analysis of law or justice, knowledge of laws, manners and customs of the Byzantines, and the administrative system of the Byzantine empire. Emperor Constantine IX was urged to re-establish this highest educational institution by four personal advisers and the most educated and eminent men of his time: Michael Psellos; John Xiphilinus; Constantine Leichoudes, eminent politician and scholar, who later became Patriarch of Constantinople (1059-1063); and John Mavropous, distinguished poet and scholar who in 1054 was chosen Archbishop of Euchaita. Michael Psellos (1019-1079), philosopher and historian, was appointed by the emperor as director of the school of philosophy with the title of Supreme Philosopher. John Xiphilinus (1005-1075), an outstanding jurist and legislator, was named by the emperor to be director of the law school, with the title of nomophylax

Thus, with the establishment of the university, a new period began for the projection and advancement of knowledge and Roman legislation. The nomophylax was appointed by the emperor as an ex-officio member of the senate. He received higher financial remuneration and expense money. On his visits, he wore a special cloak as a symbol of his high position. John Xiphilinus succeeded in making the school of law a center of legal education and encouraged research in laws, legal matters, customs, and morals of the Byzantines. During his term of office, he wrote many treatises and annotations about laws and his times, signing them “John, the Nomophylax.” He knew both Greek and Latin which he taught and used with great facility. In these endeavors, we can trace the application of Byzantine law in the eleventh century. John Xiphilinus was elected Patriarch of Constantinople in 1063. He was distinguished more for his knowledge of law than for his knowledge of theology.

With the reestablishment of the university, it was considered that every nomophylax should know both Greek and Latin. John Xiphilinus was the founder of the library of the law school and promoted its development as much as possible. He was assisted in his duties by secretaries and jurists as well as other government employees. As president of the law school, the nomophylax signed the certificates of graduation and certificates for practicing the profession of notary, unlicensed lawyer, and the advocate or defence attorney. The nomophylax was also considered responsible for supplying the judicial establishment with new judges and lawyers and supplying the government agencies with recent graduates of the law school. The nomophylax held a high position in Byzantine society. He was one of the highest public officials and an official who could not be transferred. Later during the reign of Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180), the rank of nomophylax was given to clergy as well who were distinguished for their knowledge of legal science and legal problems. The rank of nomophylax was retained until the fall of Constantinople and its dissolution in 1453. After that, it remained as a title of honor in the Orthodox Church.

Ostiarios – Ὀστιάριος

In the Byzantine Church, the ὀστιάριος was a deacon or a member of the lower clergy who was elevated to the rank with a special ecclesiastical service. The word ostiarius is derived from the Latin word ostium (a door), and from this comes the word doorkeeper. In Roman times, an ostiarius was the doorkeeper of the homes of rich families. He was also an official of the court, escorting prosecutors before the judge. 

In the early church, the ὀστιάριος was responsible for supervising entry into the church and refusing entrance to the Divine Liturgy to those who had not yet been baptized but were still being prepared through catechism for the sacrament of baptism. The rank of ostiarius was first mentioned in the third century in the epistle of Cornelius, Bishop of Rome, in 251 to Favius, Bishop of Antioch, as cited by Eusebius, the historian. He wrote that there were 52 exorcists, readers, and ostiarii in Rome. In the Synod of Laodicea (345), the duties as well as the conduct of an ὀστιάριος are explained (Canons 22 and 24): he should avoid unprofitable associations and not be exposed unfavorably in public places. In the Apostolic Constitutions, the ὀστιάριος is listed as a member of the lower clergy. 

In the early and middle ages, churches, and especially Byzantine churches, the ὀστιάριος was responsible for opening and closing the doors of the main church and of the narthex according to predetermined regulations during the consecration of the Holy Gifts and the reading of of the Confession of Faith (the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed). In the legislation of Emperor Justinian I, the duties and position of the ostiarios are also described. The rank of ὀστιάριος also existed in early monasteries. He was the doorkeeper of the monastery: a position of especial importance for monasteries, because he was in charge of entry and departure from the monasteries, the contact between the monastery and the world outside. He was to be an especially trustworthy and discerning person. In the monasteries of Egypt, he was a presbyter, who observed visitors, their behavior, and apparel. He was advanced in age, humble, virtuous, and dead to secular affairs. Every evening and whenever the doors of the monastery were closed, the ostiarios surrendered the keys to the abbot, and no one was permitted to leave or enter the monastery until the next morning. 

Quaestor – Κυαίστωρ

The civilian rank of quaestor originated in early Roman history and continued, in a different form, in the Byzantine Empire. In ancient Rome (sixth century bce), the quaestor was appointed by the king. During the Republic, there were quaestores in Rome who evaluated legal cases before the public. They also gave out opinions about crimes, whether to punish those guilty of violent crimes and to determine their punishment. The rank of quaestor as a judge ceased in the second century bce. 

Re-established by Constantine I, the main duties of the Byzantine quaestores were to compose imperial laws and settled various petitions presented to the emperor by the people. The quaestor was the adviser of the empire and personal legal adviser of the government. He presided over the highest court of appeals of the capital, praetorian perfectum. Emperor Justinian I issued special legislation about the rank quaestor. For Justinian, the quaestor possessed administrative and judicial duties, including the surveillance of travelers from the provinces visiting the capital. He also kept track of beggars. He made decisions on complaints of farmers and tenants against owners or large landowners who resided in the capital and would punish injustices and violations. He informed the emperor about the misconduct of judges. He judged cases of forgeries and could issue suitable punishment. The wills of the aristocracy bore the seal of the quaestor under whose tenure they were composed and the reading of a will following the death of an aristocrat was always conducted in the presence of a quaestor. He had the right to oversee that all provisions in every will were adhered to, especially in cases of minors and orphans. In rank, the quaestor was immediately after the Great Logothetes and the last among officials who had the imperial title of patrician. 

After flourishing for many centuries in both the Roman and the Byzantine Empires, the rank of quaestor disappeared from public life after the sack of Constantinople by the Crusade in 1204. Since then, quaestor exists simply as an honorary title.