Christophoros Gabras, protospatharios and axiarchos, 11th century. Seal (Lead, 24 mm, 13.25 g, 12 h). +KЄ RΘ, / Tω Cω [Δ,] / XPHC[TO]/ΦOPω
in four lines, with a decoration above. Rev. ACΠAΘ, / [S A]XHAP/XH Tω ΓA/RPA in four lines, with a decoration below. Apparently unpublished. Minor flan faults, otherwise, good very fine.
The Gabras family’s ethnic origin is unclear. Their family name perhaps derives from Aramaic (‘man’ or ‘heros’), Armenian (‘brave’) or even Arabic (‘kafir’, unbeliever, a name that might make sense for a Christian family in the Muslim borderlands). Whatever their origin may be, the family became part of the Byzantine aristocracy during the 11th century, making their careers as military men. Theodore Gabras, one of the most famous members of the family, recaptured the city of Trebizond from the Turks in 1075 and was later appointed doux of Chaldia by the emperor. In the following years, the Gabras family established themselves as the main power in the region, and multiple Gabrades followed Theodore as governor. During the 12th century, the Byzantine emperor continuously tried to thwart the family’s attempts to establish a more or less autonomous reign in the region. Some Gabrades even entered into the service of the Seljuk sultan. Our seal mentions a member of the Gabras family whose is hitherto apparently unattested on a seal. He held the military rank of axiarchos, which is an alternative spelling for taxiarchos, a commander of a military unit of 1,000 infantry and archers.