Logothete (Greek: λογοθέτης, logothétēs, pl. λογοθέται, logothétai; Med. Latin: logotheta, pl. logothetae; Bulgarian: логотет; Italian: logoteta; Romanian: logofăt; Serbian: логотет, logotet) was an administrative title originating in the eastern Roman Empire. In the middle and late Byzantine Empire, it rose to become a senior administrative title, equivalent to a minister or secretary of state. The title spread to other states influenced by Byzantine culture, such as Bulgaria, Sicily, Serbia, and the Danubian Principalities.

Byzantine Empire

Origin and development

In Greek, logothetēs means "one who accounts, calculates or ratiocinates", literally "one who sets the word". The exact origin of the title is unclear; it is found in papyri and works of the Church Fathers denoting a variety of junior officials, mostly charged with fiscal duties.[1] The ancestors of the middle Byzantine logothetes were the fiscal officials known as rationales during Late Antiquity. The office dates back to at least the time of Emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193–211), where a procurator a rationibus is attested. In late Roman times, the rationales were officials attached to the praetorian prefectures and charged with supervising the state treasury and the emperor's private domains.[2] The first notable official titled as a logothete was Marinus, the future praetorian prefect and chief minister of Emperor Anastasius I (r. 491–518).[3] In the 6th century, under Emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565), the logothetes gained in prominence and power, as they were placed in charge of the emperor's revenue-gathering measures and dispatched as fiscal agents to the provinces or accompanied military expeditions. They were allowed to keep a twelfth of the sums they would gather for the treasury, and some, such as the notorious Alexander "Scissors", amassed considerable fortunes in this way.[4]

The major transformation of the office came in the early 7th century: during the Heraclian dynasty, the administrative machinery of the state, inherited from the time of Diocletian and Constantine the Great, was thoroughly reformed. Thus the three chief financial "departments" of the old system, the Praetorian Prefecture, the Sacred Largesses (sacrae largitiones) and the Private Domains (res privata) were replaced by smaller specialized departments titled logothesia (sing. logothesion) or sekreta (sing. sekreton).[5] This process was the result of severe territorial loss and the need to rationalize revenue collection during the final Byzantine–Persian War and the Muslim conquests, but had already been presaged by Emperor Justinian's reforms in the 6th century, when the res privata, responsible for the managing of imperial estates, had been divided by kind into five separate departments.[6] By the mid-7th century, the sacrae largitiones too disappeared altogether, while its various sections, as those of the praetorian prefecture, were separated and set up as autonomous departments, some of them headed by a logothete. These were under the supervision of the sakellarios, who functioned as a "general comptroller of finances", and ultimately of the emperor himself.[1][6][7]

The first mention of a logothete in a senior position was the "most glorious logothete and patrician" Theodosios in 626, possibly either in charge of the genikon or the stratiōtikon.[8] Although the first concrete evidence for the existence of many of the subsequent offices is often of a much later date, the chief departments, the genikon, the (e)idikon, the stratiōtikon and the dromos were in place by the late 7th century.[9] There were also logothetes in the church, assisting the patriarch and the metropolitan bishops, while a logothetēs tou praitoriou was a senior official under the Eparch of Constantinople.[1]

Under Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118), the logothete of the bureaux (logothetēs tōn sekretōn) was instituted, who supervised all state departments, evolving eventually into the Grand Logothete (megas logothetēs) of the late Byzantine Empire.[1][10] By the Palaiologan period, the various logothetes had vanished or were converted into purely honorary titles.


Logothetes outside Byzantium


The title logotet (Serbian Cyrillic: логотет) was used in Serbia in the Middle Ages since the rule of King Stefan Milutin (r. 1282–1321). Notable title-holders include Rajko, Joanikije, Pribac, Gojko, Voihna, Pahomije and Stefan Ratković.


From the Eastern Roman Empire, the title was borrowed by the West, where Holy Roman Emperor Otto III (r. 996–1002) bestowed it on his chancellor, Leo of Vercelli (999–1026). In the end, it only became firmly established in Sicily, where the logothete occupied the position of chancellor elsewhere, his office being equal if not superior to that of the Magnus Cancellarius. Thus, the title was borne for example by Pietro della Vigna, the all-powerful minister of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (r. 1220–1250), king of Sicily.

Romanian principalities

The title was also borrowed in the internal organization of the medieval Romanian countries, Moldavia and Wallachia. In Moldavia, 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.[20]

Several other officials were also called logothetes:[20]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Kazhdan 1991, p. 1247.
  2. Guilland 1971, pp. 5–6.
  3. Guilland 1971, pp. 6–7.
  4. Evans 1996, p. 153; Guilland 1971, pp. 7–8; Treadgold 1997, p. 257.
  5. Bury 1911, pp. 82–83; Haldon 1997, p. 180.
  6. 1 2 Haldon 2009, p. 540.
  7. Laiou 2002, pp. 915, 988–989.
  8. Bury 1911, p. 86; Laiou 2002, p. 989; Guilland 1971, p. 8.
  9. Laiou 2002, p. 989.
  10. Haldon 2009, p. 544.
  11. Bury 1911, pp. 91–92; Kazhdan 1991, pp. 1247–1248.
  12. Kazhdan 1991, p. 829.
  13. Bury 1911, p. 90.
  14. 1 2 Kazhdan 1991, p. 1248.
  15. Bury 1911, p. 111.
  16. Kazhdan 1991, p. 681.
  17. Bury 1911, pp. 70–71.
  18. Kazhdan 1991, pp. 1139, 1247.
  19. Kazhdan 1991, p. 1515.
  20. 1 2 "logofăt". Dicţionarul explicativ al limbii române (in Romanian). Academia Română, Institutul de Lingvistică "Iorgu Iordan", Editura Univers Enciclopedic. 1988.


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