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Stratopedarchēs (Greek: στρατοπεδάρχης, "master of the camp"), sometimes Anglicized as stratopedarch, was a Greek term used with regard to high-ranking military commanders from the 1st century BC on, becoming a proper office and later an honorary title during the Byzantine Empire.


The term first appears in the late 1st century BC in the Hellenistic Near East. Its origin is unclear, but it is used as a translation, in some inscriptions, for the contemporary Roman legionary post of praefectus castrorum ("camp prefect").[1] From the 1st century AD, it was used (albeit infrequently) in a broader sense as a literary term to refer to generals, i.e. as a synonym of the older title stratēgos.[2] Thus in the Bible (Acts 28:16) it is used for the praetorian prefect, the commander of the camp and garrison of the Praetorian Guard in Rome, while in the 4th century, the historian Eusebius writes of the "stratopedarchēs, whom the Romans call dux".[3]

In the middle Byzantine period (9th–12th centuries), the term stratopedon came to signify more the army on campaign, rather than the camp itself; hence the term stratopedarchēs was used more in the sense of "commander-in-chief". The term acquired a technical meaning in 967, when Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963–969) named the eunuch Peter as stratopedarchēs before sending him with an army to Cilicia. The Escorial Taktikon, written a few years later, shows the existence of two stratopedarchai, one of the East (Anatolia) and one of the West (the Balkans). This arrangement parallels that of the two domestikoi tōn scholōn, a fact that led Nicolas Oikonomides to suggest that the post was created as a substitute of the latter office, which was barred to eunuchs.[4][5] During the 11th and 12th centuries, this precise arrangement is no longer in evidence; instead, stratopedarchēs was one of the official titles of the commanders-in-chief of the Byzantine army, and is amply attested in seals.[4]

The title megas stratopedarchēs ("grand master of the camp") was instituted circa 1255 by the Emperor Theodore II Laskaris (r. 1254–1258) for his chief minister and confidante, George Mouzalon.[6] The mid-14th century Book of Offices of pseudo-Kodinos places the megas stratopedarchēs as the seventh-most senior official of the state below the Byzantine emperor, ranking between the prōtostratōr and the megas primmikērios. Kodinos claims that he was in charge of provisioning the army, and places four subordinate stratopedarchai under his command: those of the monokaballoi (μονοκάβαλλοι, "single-horsemen"), a cavalry unit; the tzangratores (τζαγγράτορες, "crossbow-men"); the tzakōnes (τζάκωνες, "Tsakonians"), a palace guard originally composed of marines; and the mourtatoi (μουρτάτοι), whom Kodinos presents as palace guards, but whose real nature remains obscure.[4][7] In reality, however, in the Palaiologan period the [megas] stratopedarchēs was most likely a mere court title, and did not necessarily entail a military command.[4]


  1. ^ Applebaum 1989, pp. 61–63.
  2. ^ Kazhdan 1991, p. 1966.
  3. ^ Eusebius. Ecclesiastical History, 9.5.2.
  4. ^ a b c d Kazhdan 1991, p. 1967.
  5. ^ Oikonomides 1972, pp. 334–335
  6. ^ Macrides 2007, p. 299.
  7. ^ Bartusis 1997, pp. 272–279.