Gold solidus of Romanos I Lekapenos, who used his position as droungarios of the Fleet to become Emperor

The droungarios of the Fleet (Greek: δρουγγάριος τοῦ πλοΐμου/τῶν πλοΐμων, droungarios tou ploïmou/tōn ploïmōn; after the 11th century δρουγγάριος τοῦ στόλου, droungarios tou stolou),[1] sometimes anglicized as Drungary of the Fleet, was the commander of the Imperial Fleet (βασιλικὸς στόλος, basilikos stolos, or βασιλικὸν πλόϊμον, basilikon ploïmon), the central division of the Byzantine navy stationed at the capital of Constantinople, as opposed to the provincial (thematic) fleets.[2] From the late 11th century, when the Byzantine fleets were amalgamated into a single force under the megas doux, the post, now known as the Grand droungarios of the Fleet (μέγας δρουγγάριος τοῦ στόλου, megas droungarios tou stolou), became the second-in-command of the megas doux and continued in this role until the end of the Byzantine Empire.

Background and history of the office

Lead seal with cross surrounded by legend on the obverse and a simple legend in the reverse
Seal of Niketas, magistros, droungarios tou basilikou ploïmou and katepanō tōn ploïmōn (late 9th/early 10th century)

In response to the Muslim conquests, some time in the latter half of the 7th century, the bulk of the Byzantine navy was formed into a single command, the great fleet of the Karabisianoi (Greek: Καραβισιάνοι, "the Ships' Men"), commanded, like the land themes that appeared around the same time, by a stratēgos (stratēgos tōn karabōn/karabisianōn, "general of the ships/ships' men").[3] The Karabisianoi, however, proved inadequate and were replaced in the early 8th century by a more complex system composed of three elements, which, with minor alterations, survived until the 11th century: a central fleet based at Constantinople; a few regional naval commands, namely the maritime Theme of the Cibyrrhaeots and a number of independent commands under a droungarios, which eventually evolved into the maritime themes of the Aegean Sea and of Samos in the course of the 9th century; and a greater number of local squadrons in the land themes, charged with purely defensive and police tasks and subordinate to the local thematic governors.[4]

A fleet was based in Constantinople at least since the 7th century, and indeed played a central role in the repulsion of the two Arab sieges of Constantinople in 674–678 and 717–718,[5] but the exact date of the establishment of the Imperial Fleet (βασιλικὸς στόλος, basilikos stolos, or βασιλικὸν πλόϊμον, basilikon ploïmon) as a distinct command is unclear. The Irish historian J. B. Bury, followed by the French Byzaninist Rodolphe Guilland, considered it "not improbable" that the Imperial Fleet existed as a subordinate command under the stratēgos tōn karabisianōn already in the 7th century.[2][6] Certainly the droungarios of the Fleet first appears in the Taktikon Uspensky of c. 842/43;[6] and as there is little evidence for major fleets operating from Constantinople during the 8th century, the Greek Byzantinist Hélène Ahrweiler dated the fleet's creation to the early 9th century.[7] From that point on, the Imperial Fleet formed the main naval reserve force and provided the core of various expeditionary fleets.[8]

The droungarios of the Fleet Niketas Ooryphas punishes the Cretan Saracens, as depicted in the Madrid Skylitzes.

In the Taktikon Uspensky, the droungarios of the Fleet is positioned relatively lowly in the hierarchy, coming after all the senior military and civilian officials, placed between the prōtostratōr and the ek prosōpou of the themes. By the time of the 899 Klētorologion of Philotheos, however, he had risen considerably in importance, being placed variously either immediately before or after the logothetēs tou dromou and in the 35th or 38th position of the overall hierarchy, ahead of the domestikoi of the guard regiments (tagmata) of the Hikanatoi and the Noumeroi, as well as of the various chartoularioi (civil department heads). Indeed, he was not classed with the other military commanders, whether of the themes or of the tagmata, but in the special class of military officials, the stratarchai, where he is listed second, after the hetaireiarchēs, the commander of the imperial bodyguard.[9][10] This rise coincided with the revival in the Byzantine navy's fortunes, begun under Michael III (r. 843–867) but carried to fruition under the first two emperors of the Macedonian dynasty, Basil I the Macedonian (r. 867–886) and Leo VI the Wise (r. 886–912).[11][12]

The Klētorologion further lists his subordinate officials as comprising his deputy or topotērētēs (τοποτηρητής), the secretary or chartoularios (χαρτουλάριος), the head messenger or prōtomandatōr and the other messengers (μανδάτορες, mandatores), the commanders of squadrons or komētes (κόμητες; sing. κόμης, komēs), and the centurions of the individual ships (κένταρχοι, kentarchoi; sing. κένταρχος, kentarchos). In addition, there was a komēs tēs hetaireias (κόμης τῆς ἑταιρείας), whose function is disputed: according to Bury, he probably commanded the foreign mercenaries, especially Rus' or Scandinavians, who served as marines, but the Greek historian Nicolas Oikonomides considered him the head of the droungarios' personal guard.[1][12][13] According to the De Ceremoniis of Emperor Constantine VII (r. 913–959), he also had a role in imperial ceremonies, often in association with the droungarios tēs viglēs. Typical dignities associated with the post where the senior ranks of prōtospatharios, patrikios, and anthypatos.[12]

The office reached its heyday during the 10th century, when several important personages held it, most notably Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos (r. 920–944), who used it as a springboard to the throne. The office continued in the 11th century, but as the fleet was no longer very active, the droungarios chiefly commanded the Constantinopolitan fleet instead of leading expeditions; the title was now usually referred to as droungarios tou stolou (δρουγγάριος τοῦ στόλου).[1][14] With the accession of Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118) a major reorganization of the navy took place. With the great naval themes having suffered a long decline as military formations, Alexios gathered the remnants of the provincial fleets and amalgamated them with the Imperial Fleet into a single force based in Constantinople, and placed it under the command of the megas doux.[15]

The post of the droungarios of the Fleet remained in existence, now with the addition of the prefix megas ("grand"). According to the mid-14th century Book of Offices of Pseudo-Kodinos, he "has the same relation to the megas doux as the megas droungarios tēs viglēs had to the megas domestikos", i.e., he was the second in command. He was apparently in charge of subordinate droungarioi, who however were of very lowly rank and are rarely mentioned in the sources. Although reduced in significance in comparison to its heyday, the megas droungarios tou stolou remained important, ranking 32nd in the overall hierarchy in the Book of Offices.[1][16][17] Pseudo-Kodinos gives his ceremonial costume at the time as follows: a gold-embroidered skiadion hat, a plain silk kabbadion kaftan, and a skaranikon (domed hat) covered in golden and lemon-yellow silk and decorated with gold wire and images of the emperor in front and rear, respectively depicted enthroned and on horseback. He bore no staff of office (dikanikion).[16][18]

List of known holders

Note: Uncertain entries are marked in italics.
Name Tenure Appointed by Notes Refs
Krateros c. 820s Michael II the Amorian Titled exarchōn tou stolou ("leader of the fleet") by Zonaras, perhaps the first holder of the post. [19]
John c. 859/67 Michael III Addressee of a letter by Patriarch Photios; otherwise unknown. [20][21]
Niketas Ooryphas c. 860–873 or 879 (?) Michael III
Basil I the Macedonian
A very successful commander, he spearheaded Basil I's naval offensive, relieving the Arab siege of Ragusa, attacking the Emirate of Bari, and scoring two major victories over the Cretan Saracens at Kardia and the Gulf of Corinth. [19][22]
Elias c. 862/67c. 869 Basil I the Macedonian A prōtospatharios, he was charged by Basil with bringing the deposed Patriarch of Constantinople Ignatios to the capital in 867. Addressee of three letters by Patriarch Photios between c. 862 and 869. [19][23]
Adrianos c. 877/78 Basil I the Macedonian Former deputy of Ooryphas, he was sent by Basil I to assist Syracuse in Sicily during its final siege by the Aghlabids, but was delayed by contrary winds and failed to reach the city. [20][24]
Nasar c. 879/80 Basil I the Macedonian Inflicted two heavy defeats on the Aghlabids of Ifriqiya at Cephalonia and in southern Italy. [19][25]
Eustathios [Argyros] c. 894–904 Leo VI the Wise Participated in the Byzantine–Bulgarian war of 894–896, and was dismissed after failing to prevent the fall of Taormina in Sicily to the Aghlabids in 902. Restored to his post, he was again dismissed in 904 for failing to confront the Saracens under Leo of Tripoli. His possible identity with the contemporary general Eustathios Argyros is a matter of dispute. [19][26]
Himerios 904–912 Leo VI the Wise Appointed to replace Eustathios, he failed to prevent the sack of Thessalonica, but scored a few successes against the Arabs. Dismissed after leading a failed expedition against Crete, and suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of Leo of Tripoli at Chios in 912. [27][28]
Romanos Lekapenos c. 917–919 Zoe Karbonopsina A career naval officer of lowly origin, he rose to senior commands, becoming eventually droungarios of the Fleet under the regime of Empress-regent Zoe Karbonopsina. Used his position to outmanoeuvre her and the general Leo Phokas the Elder, and assume the guardianship of Zoe's son Constantine VII, to whom he married his daughter. Became senior emperor in 920, and ruled until deposed by his own sons in 944. [20][29]
John Rhadenos c. 921/22 Romanos I Lekapenos Scored a decisive victory over Leo of Tripoli off Lemnos, in which Leo was killed. [20][30]
Alexios Mosele c. 922 Romanos I Lekapenos Killed at the Battle of Pegae against the Bulgarians in 922 [20][31]
Lips either c. 908/17 or c. 922/44 (?) either Leo VI the Wise
or Romanos I Lekapenos
The Patria of Constantinople record a patrikios and droungarios of the Fleet, who during the joint reign of Romanos Lekapenos and Constantine VII established a monastery and a guest house in Constantinople. He is usually identified with Constantine Lips, who founded the Lips Monastery in c. 908, but this identification is uncertain; Constantine Lips was active under Leo VI and killed at the Battle of Acheloos in 917. [20][32]
Constantine Gongyles c. 944/45–949 Constantine VII Eunuch active in the court since the regency of Zoe, he was appointed to the post immediately after Constantine VII became sole emperor, and led the failed expedition to recover Crete in 949. [20][33]
Constantine unknown Romanos I Lekapenos A prōtospatharios and manglabitēs, he was sent to a diplomatic mission to Caucasian Iberia c. 923; in the sources he is also recorded by his (evidently later) titles of patrikios and droungarios of the Fleet, hence identified by some either with Constantine Lips or with Constantine Gongyles, but both are problematic. [34][35]
Joseph Bringas 950s Constantine VII Eunuch holding senior offices in the court since Romanos I's reign, Constantine VII appointed him droungarios of the Fleet as well; under Romanos II rose to paradynasteuōn and chief minister of the empire. [20][36]
Niketas Abalantes c. 964 Nikephoros II Phokas Leader of the great expedition to recover Sicily, after initial success the Byzantine fleet was decisively defeated by the Fatimids at the Battle of the Straits. Niketas was taken captive to Ifriqiya, where he remained until ransomed in 967. [34][37]
Leo Lekapenos c. 971–976 John I Tzimiskes Relative and close collaborator of the powerful parakoimōmenos Basil Lekapenos, he was appointed to the post as part of Tzimiskes's purge of Nikephoros Phokas' followers. He organized the dispatch of the fleet in the 971 expedition against the Rus', but himself remained in Constantinople, where he suppressed an abortive coup by Leo Phokas the Younger. He remained in the post until promoted (either already by Tzimiskes or by Basil II) to prōtovestiarios. [34][38]
Bardas Parsakoutenos c. 977/78 Basil II Leo the Deacon reports that he defeated a rebel fleet off Abydos during the first rebellion of Bardas Skleros. His title is unclear, but it is generally assumed that he commanded the Imperial Fleet. [39][40]
Theodore Karantenos c. 977/78 Basil II Termed nauarchos by John Skylitzes, defeated a rebel fleet under Michael Kourtikios off Phocaea during the first rebellion of Bardas Skleros. It is unclear whether he commanded the Imperial Fleet or a thematic squadron. [20][39][41]
Kyriakos c. 989 Basil II Mentioned only as defending Abydos against the rebel Bardas Phokas the Younger in spring 989. [34][42]
Stephen c. 1038–1040 Michael IV the Paphlagonian Brother-in-law of the emperor and patrikios, he was largely responsible for the failure of the attempt to recover Sicily through his dispute with George Maniakes. He is not explicitly called droungarios, however, but rather "master of the fleet" ([kat]archōn tou stolou). [34]
Nikephoros Komnenos c. 1081 Alexios I Komnenos Younger brother of Alexios I, made sebastos and megas droungarios tou stolou after the latter's accession. This was an honorific appointment rather than an active office, and Nikephoros does not appear to have exercised any command. [16]
Eustathios Kymineianos c. 1101 Alexios I Komnenos Confidante and one of the chief aides of Alexios, he held various fleet commands after 1087. He probably became megas droungarios in c. 1101/02, when he was sent to seize and refortify Korykos. In 1107 he governed Constantinople in Alexios' absence on campaign. [43][44]
Constantine Dalassenos c. 1090 Alexios I Komnenos Qualified as thalassokrator ("master of the sea") by Anna Komnene, he was likely a megas droungarios. He commanded the Byzantine fleet against the Turkish emir Tzachas. [45][46]
Demetrios Branas c. 1141 Manuel I Komnenos Admiral (nauarchos) during the campaign against Mesud I, Sultan of Rum. [16]
Constantine Komnenos c. 1143–1147 Manuel I Komnenos Attendant of Church councils in 1143 and 1147, qualified simply as sebastos and megas droungarios, possibly megas droungarios tēs viglas rather than of the Fleet. [43]
Nikephoros Dasiotes c. 1147 Manuel I Komnenos Admiral (nauarchos) of the fleet that conveyed Conrad III to Palestine. [16]
Maios c. 1151 Manuel I Komnenos Admiral (nauarchos) who signed the peace treaty with the Kingdom of Sicily [16]
John Makrembolites c. 1140s/50s Manuel I Komnenos Makrembolites is known as a courtier of Manuel. A seal calling him megas droungarios survives, but it most likely refers to the post of megas droungarios tēs viglas rather than of the Fleet. [43]
Gabalas c. 1241–1266/67 John III Vatatzes The pansebastos and megas droungarios tou stolou Gabalas is attested in an act of the Nicaean emperor John Vatatzes. He was the father-in-law of a Michael Komnenos Branas. It is possible that it refers to either Leo Gabalas or his brother John Gabalas, the autonomous rulers of Rhodes. [43][47]
Stephen Mouzalon until 1303 Andronikos II Palaiologos Sent to mediate in a quarrel between the Genoese and the Catalan Company, he was killed in the clash. [43][48]
John Doukas Mouzalon early 14th century Andronikos II Palaiologos Recipient of a number of poems composed for him by Manuel Philes. [43][49]
John Philanthropenos c. 1324 Andronikos II Palaiologos Oikeios of the Emperor, attested in the post in an act of July 1324. [50][51]
George Isaris c. 1344 possibly John V Palaiologos Megas droungarios tou stolou in 1344, he joined John Kantakouzenos in the next year. Advanced to megas primikērios before his death c. 1373/74. [52]
Loukas Notaras c. 1441 Manuel II Palaiologos Captained the ship that brought Constantine Palaiologos to Lesbos; called droungarios, he may have been megas droungarios tou stolou. He later became megas doux and was one of the chief ministers of the Empire up to the Fall of Constantinople. [53][54]

A number of holders are known only by their surviving seals of office, and can only approximately be dated:

Name Period Notes Refs
Euphemianos c. 750/c. 850 Known from a series of 14 seals that detail his career, from spatharios and droungarios of the Aegean Sea, to prōtospatharios and droungarios tou ploïmou, and eventually patrikios and stratēgos of Hellas. [55]
John late 8th/early 9th century Known from a single seal that names him as spatharios and droungarios tou ploïmou. [55]
Basil second half of 9th century Known from a single seal naming him as patrikios, imperial prōtospatharios and droungarios tou ploïmou. [56]
Barsakios late 9th century Evidently Armenian in origin, known from a single seal naming him as anthypatos, patrikios, imperial prōtospatharios and droungarios tou ploïmou. [57]
Niketas 10th century Known only through his seal naming him as a magistros, droungarios tou ploïmou and katepanō tōn ploïmōn. Placed by Werner Seibt in the first third of the 10th century. [58][59]
Hilarion 10th century Known from a single seal naming him as imperial prōtospatharios, droungarios tou ploïmou, primikērios and epi tou Chrysotriklinou. [60]
[Theodoros] Rhadinos first half of 11th century Known from a single seal naming him as anthypatos and patrikios, imperial prōtospatharios, and droungarios tou ploïmou. His first name is tentative. [60]
Andronikos first half of 11th century Known only through two seals naming him as a patrikios, droungarios tou ploïmou and pinkernēs. [34][61]
Constantine 11th century Known only through a single seal naming him as a vestarchēs and droungarios tōn ploïmōn. [62]
Solomon 11th century Known only through a single seal naming him as a droungarios tōn ploïmōn. [62]


  1. ^ a b c d ODB, "Droungarios tou ploimou" (A. Kazhdan), pp. 663–664.
  2. ^ a b Guilland 1967, p. 535.
  3. ^ Ahrweiler 1966, pp. 22–25.
  4. ^ Ahrweiler 1966, pp. 31–35, 76–81.
  5. ^ Haldon 1999, p. 74.
  6. ^ a b Bury 1911, p. 109.
  7. ^ Ahrweiler 1966, pp. 73–74.
  8. ^ Ahrweiler 1966, pp. 33–34.
  9. ^ Bury 1911, pp. 108–110, 137, 140.
  10. ^ Guilland 1967, pp. 535–536.
  11. ^ Bury 1911, p. 110.
  12. ^ a b c Guilland 1967, p. 536.
  13. ^ Bury 1911, pp. 110–111.
  14. ^ Guilland 1967, pp. 537–539.
  15. ^ Guilland 1967, pp. 540, 542.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Guilland 1967, p. 540.
  17. ^ Verpeaux 1966, pp. 167, 179.
  18. ^ Verpeaux 1966, p. 160.
  19. ^ a b c d e Guilland 1967, p. 537.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i Guilland 1967, p. 538.
  21. ^ PmbZ, Ioannes (#3309).
  22. ^ PmbZ, Niketas Ooryphas (#25696).
  23. ^ PmbZ, Elias (#21640).
  24. ^ PmbZ, Adrianos (#20122).
  25. ^ PmbZ, Nasar (#25490).
  26. ^ PmbZ, Eustathios (#21836).
  27. ^ Guilland 1967, pp. 537–538.
  28. ^ ODB, "Himerios" (A. Kazhdan), p. 933.
  29. ^ ODB, "Romanos I Lekapenos" (A. Kazhdan), p. 1806.
  30. ^ PmbZ, Ioannes Radenos (#22914).
  31. ^ PmbZ, Alexios Mosele (#20241).
  32. ^ ODB, "Lips" (A. Cutler, A. Kazhdan), pp. 1232–2333.
  33. ^ PmbZ, Konstantinos Gongylios (#23823).
  34. ^ a b c d e f Guilland 1967, p. 539.
  35. ^ PmbZ, Konstantinos (#23833).
  36. ^ PmbZ, Ioseph Bringas (#23529).
  37. ^ PmbZ, Niketas (#25784).
  38. ^ PmbZ, Leon (#24532).
  39. ^ a b Holmes 2005, pp. 456–457 (note 27).
  40. ^ PmbZ, Bardas Parsakutenos (#20786).
  41. ^ PmbZ, Theodoros Karantenos (#27765).
  42. ^ PmbZ, Kyriakos (#24234).
  43. ^ a b c d e f Guilland 1967, p. 541.
  44. ^ Skoulatos 1980, pp. 85–87.
  45. ^ Guilland 1967, pp. 540–541.
  46. ^ Skoulatos 1980, pp. 61–62.
  47. ^ PLP, 3293. Γαβαλᾶς.
  48. ^ PLP, 19447. Mουζάλων Στέφανος.
  49. ^ PLP, 19440. Mουζάλων Ιωάννης ∆ούκας.
  50. ^ Guilland 1967, pp. 541–542.
  51. ^ PLP, 29766. Φιλανθρωπηνὸς Ἰωάννης.
  52. ^ PLP, 92111. Ἲσαρις Γεώργιος.
  53. ^ Guilland 1967, p. 542.
  54. ^ PLP, 20730. Nοταρᾶς Λουκᾶς.
  55. ^ a b PmbZ, Euphemianos (#1692).
  56. ^ PmbZ, Basileios (#966).
  57. ^ PmbZ, Barsakios (#20821).
  58. ^ Guilland 1967, pp. 538–539.
  59. ^ PmbZ, Niketas (#25751).
  60. ^ a b PmbZ, Hilarion (#22610).
  61. ^ PmbZ, Andronikos (#20418).
  62. ^ a b Guilland 1967, pp. 539–540.