Theme (Byzantine district) (Redirected from Theme system)

Map showing the extent of the Byzantine Empire in c. 600 and c. 900, including the themes for the latter date

The themes or thémata (Greek: θέματα, thémata, singular: θέμα, théma) were the main military and administrative divisions of the middle Byzantine Empire. They were established in the mid-7th century in the aftermath of the Slavic migrations to Southeastern Europe and Muslim conquests of parts of Byzantine territory, and replaced the earlier provincial system established by Diocletian and Constantine the Great. In their origin, the first themes were created from the areas of encampment of the field armies of the East Roman army, and their names corresponded to the military units that had existed in those areas. The theme system reached its apogee in the 9th and 10th centuries, as older themes were split up and the conquest of territory resulted in the creation of new ones. The original theme system underwent significant changes in the 11th and 12th centuries, but the term remained in use as a provincial and financial circumscription until the very end of the Empire.



During the late 6th and early 7th centuries, the Byzantine Empire was under frequent attack from all sides. The Sassanid Empire was pressing from the east on Syria, Egypt, and Anatolia. Slavs and Avars raided Thrace, Macedonia, Illyricum and southern Greece and settled in the Balkans. The Lombards occupied northern Italy, largely unopposed. In order to face the mounting pressure, in the more distant provinces of the West, recently regained by Justinian I (r. 527–565), Emperor Maurice (r. 582–602) combined supreme civil and military authority in the person of an exarch, a viceroy, forming the exarchates of Ravenna and Africa. These developments overturned the strict division of civil and military offices, which had been one of the cornerstones of the reforms of Diocletian (r. 284–305). Said administrative restructurings also found a precedent in Justinian's broad reorganization in the western conquests, denoting combined powers to the newly established Praetorian prefects of Africa (Eparchos tes Afrikís) and Italy (Eparchos tes Italías) respectively.

Justinian also endowed governors (eparchs, stratelates) of the eastern provinces plagued by brigandage and foreign invasions with military and administrative powers, formally abolishing the empire's dioceses, Diocletian's main administrative structure, but more importantly, he had also created the exceptional combined military-civilian circumscription of the quaestura exercitus and following the norm, abolished the Diocese of Egypt putting a dux (Greek: stratelates) with combined authority at the head of each of its old provinces instead. The empire maintained this precedent structure until the 640s, when the eastern part of the Empire faced the onslaught of the Muslim Caliphate. The rapid Muslim conquest of Syria and Egypt and consequent Byzantine losses in manpower and territory meant that the Empire found itself struggling for survival.

In order to respond to this unprecedented crisis, the Empire was drastically reorganized. As established by Hellenistic political practice, philosophies and Orthodox doctrines, power had been concentrated in military leaders strategoi who acted as viceroys in their respective "théma", being appointed by the emperor alone. Their main function around each was the collection of taxes from the different communities "chora", "komai" and from the different states "proasteion" as well as the management of fast and flexible provincial armies. The remaining imperial territory in Asia Minor was divided into four large themes, and although some elements of the earlier civil administration survived, they were subordinated to the governing general or stratēgos.


The origin and early nature of the themes has been heavily disputed amongst scholars. The very name théma is of uncertain etymology, but most scholars follow Constantine Porphyrogennetos, who records that it originates from Greek thesis ("placement"). The date of their creation is also uncertain. For most of the 20th century, the establishment of the themes was attributed to the Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641), during the last of the Byzantine–Sassanid Wars. Most notable amongst the supporters of this thesis was George Ostrogorsky who based this opinion on an extract from the chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor mentioning the arrival of Heraclius "in the lands of the themes" for the year 622. According to Ostrogorsky, this "shows that the process of establishing troops (themes) in specific areas of Asia Minor has already begun at this time." This view has been objected to by other historians however, and more recent scholarship dates their creation later, to the period from the 640s to the 660s, under Constans II (r. 641–668). It has further been shown that, contrary to Ostrogorsky's conception of the thémata being established from the outset as distinct, well-defined regions where a stratēgos held joint military and civil authority, the term théma originally seems to have referred exclusively to the armies themselves, and only in the later 7th or early 8th centuries did it come to be transferred to the districts where these armies were encamped as well.

Tied to the question of chronology is also the issue of a corresponding social and military transformation. The traditional view, championed by Ostrogorsky, holds that the establishment of the themes also meant the creation of a new type of army. In his view, instead of the old force, heavily reliant on foreign mercenaries, the new Byzantine army was based on native farmer-soldiers living on state-leased military estates (compare the organization of the Sasanian aswārān). More recent scholars however have posited that the formation of the themes did not constitute a radical break with the past, but rather a logical extension of pre-existing, 6th-century trends, and that its direct social impact was minimal.

First themes: 640s–770s

Ruins at Sergiopolis
Byzantine themata in Anatolia, c. 750.
The Byzantine themata in Asia Minor as they existed in c. 780, following the creation of the Bucellarian and Optimatoi themes out of the original theme of the Opsikion.

What is clear is that at some point in the mid-7th century, probably in the late 630s and 640s, the Empire's field armies were withdrawn to Anatolia, the last major contiguous territory remaining to the Empire, and assigned to the districts that became known as the themes. Territorially, each of the new themes encompassed several of the older provinces, and with a few exceptions, seems to have followed the old provincial boundaries. The first four themes were those of the Armeniacs, Anatolics and Thracesians, and the Opsician theme. The Armeniac Theme (Θέμα Ἀρμενιακῶν, Théma Armeniakōn), first mentioned in 667, was the successor of the Army of Armenia. It occupied the old areas of the Pontus, Armenia Minor and northern Cappadocia, with its capital at Amasea. The Anatolic Theme (Θέμα Ἀνατολικῶν, Anatolikōn), first mentioned in 669, was the successor of the Army of the East (Aνατολῆ, Anatolē). It covered southern central Asia Minor, and its capital was Amorium. Together, these two themes formed the first tier of defence of Byzantine Anatolia, bordering Muslim Armenia and Syria respectively. The Thracesian Theme (Θέμα Θρᾳκησίων, Théma Thrakēsiōn), first mentioned clearly as late as c. 740, was the successor of the Army of Thrace, and covered the central western coast of Asia Minor (Ionia, Lydia and Caria), with its capital most likely at Chonae. The Opsician Theme (Θέμα Ὀψικίου, Théma Opsikiou), first mentioned in 680, was constituted from the imperial retinue (in Latin Obsequium). It covered northwestern Asia Minor (Bithynia, Paphlagonia and parts of Galatia), and was based at Nicaea. Uniquely, its commander retained his title of kómēs (κόμης, "count").

In addition, the great naval division of the Carabisians or Karabisianoi (Kαραβισιάνοι, "people of the κᾱ́ρᾰβοι [ships]"), first mentioned in 680, was probably formed of the remains of the Army of the Illyricum or, more likely, the old quaestura exercitus. It never formed a theme proper, but occupied parts of the southern coast of Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands, with its stratēgos seat most likely at Samos. It provided the bulk of the Byzantine navy facing the new Arab fleets, which after the Battle of the Masts contested control of the Mediterranean with the Empire. In the event, the Carabisians would prove unsatisfactory in that role, and by 720 they had been disbanded in favour of a fully fledged naval theme, that of the Cibyrrhaeots (Θέμα Κιβυρραιωτῶν, Thema Kibyrrhaiotōn), which encompassed the southern coasts of Asia Minor and the Aegean islands.

The part of the region of Thrace under Byzantine control was probably constituted as a theme at about 680, as a response to the Bulgar threat, although for a time the command over Thrace appears to have been exercised by the Count of the Opsikion. Successive campaigns by the emperors of the Heraclian dynasty in Greece also led to the recovery of control of Central Greece from Slavic invaders, and to the establishment of the theme of Hellas there between 687 and 695. Sicily too was formed as a theme by the end of the 7th century, but the imperial possessions in mainland Italy remained under the exarch of Ravenna or the local doukes, as did Byzantine Africa until the fall of Carthage in 698. At the same time, Crete and the imperial exclave of Cherson in the Crimea formed independent archontiai.

Thus, by the turning of the century, the themes had become the dominant feature of imperial administration. Their large size and power however made their generals prone to revolt, as had been evidenced in the turbulent period 695–715, and would again during the great revolt of Artabasdos in 741–742. The suppression of Artabasdos' revolt heralded the first significant changes in the Anatolian themes: the over-mighty Opsikion was broken up with the creation of two new themes, the Bucellarian Theme and the Optimates, while the role of imperial guard was assumed by a new type of professional force, the imperial tagmata.

Height of the theme system, 780s–950s

Byzantine themata in Anatolia, c. 950.

Despite the prominence of the themes, it was some time before they became the basic unit of the imperial administrative system. Although they had become associated with specific regions by the early 8th century, it took until the end of the 8th century for the civil fiscal administration to begin being organized around them, instead of following the old provincial system. This process, resulting in unified control over both military and civil affairs of each theme by its strategos, was complete by the mid-9th century, and is the "classical" thematic model mentioned in such works as the Klētorologion and the De Administrando Imperio.

At the same time, the need to protect the Anatolian heartland of Byzantium from the Arab raids led to the creation, in the later 8th and early 9th centuries, of a series of small frontier districts, the kleisourai or kleisourarchiai ("defiles, enclosures"). The term was previously used to signify strategically important, fortified mountain passages, and was now expanded to entire districts which formed separate commands under a kleisourarchēs, tasked with guerrilla warfare and locally countering small to mid-scale incursions and raids. Gradually, most of these were elevated to full themes.

Decline of the system, 960s–1070s

With the beginning of the Byzantine offensives in the East and the Balkans in the 10th century, especially under the warrior-emperors Nikephoros II (r. 963–969), John I Tzimiskes (r. 969–976) and Basil II (r. 976–1025), newly gained territories were also incorporated into themes, although these were generally smaller than the original themes established in the 7th and 8th centuries.

The themata of the Byzantine Empire, at the death of Basil II in 1025.

At this time, a new class of themes, the so-called "minor" (μικρὰ θέματα) or "Armenian" themes (ἀρμενικὰ θέματα) appear, which Byzantine sources clearly differentiate from the traditional "great" or "Roman" themes (ῥωμαϊκά θέματα). Most consisted merely of a fortress and its surrounding territory, with a junior stratēgos (called zirwar by the Arabs and zoravar by the Armenians) as a commander and about 1,000 men, chiefly infantry, as their garrison. As their name reveals, they were mostly populated by Armenians, either indigenous or settled there by the Byzantine authorities. One of their peculiarities was the extremely large number of officers (the theme of Charpezikion alone counted 22 senior and 47 junior tourmarchai).

While well suited for defence, the "Armenian" themes were incapable of responding to major invasions or undertake sustained offensive campaigns on their own. Thus, from the 960s, more and more professional regiments, both from the old tagmata and newly raised formations, were stationed along the border. To command them as well as coordinate the forces of the small frontier themes, a number of large regional commands ("ducates" or "catepanates"), under a doux or katepano, were set up. In the East, the three original such commands, set up by John Tzimiskes, were those of the doukes of Antioch, Chaldia and Mesopotamia. As Byzantium expanded into Greater Armenia in the early 11th century, these were complemented or replaced by the commands of Iberia, Vaspurakan, Edessa and Ani. In the same vein, the "Armenian" themes seem to have been placed under a single strategos in the mid-11th century.

The series of soldier-emperors culminating in Basil II led to a situation where by 1025 Byzantium was more powerful than any of its enemies. At the same time, the mobile, professional forces of the tagmata gained in importance over the old thematic armies (and fleets) of the interior, which soon began to be neglected. Indeed, from the early 11th century military service was increasingly commuted to cash payments. While the frontier ducates were able to meet most local threats, the dissolution of the old theme-based defensive system deprived the Byzantine defensive system of any strategic depth. Coupled with increasing reliance on foreign mercenaries and the forces of allied and vassal states, as well as the revolts and civil wars resulting from the widening rift between the civilian bureaucracy in Constantinople and the land-holding military elites (the dynatoi), by the time of the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the Byzantine army was already undergoing a severe crisis and collapsed completely in the battle's aftermath.

Change and decline: 11th–12th centuries

Map of themes within the Byzantine Empire in 1045.

The Komnenian era saw a brief restoration of the empire's fortunes as the force now known as the 'Komnenian army' was established by Alexios I Komnenos, marking a decisive break with the thematic system. The new army was highly centralized in the person of the emperor and the ruling dynasty, and provided an element of stability which characterized the Komnenian restoration. It was noticeably more reliant on mercenaries such as the Varangian guard than the previous army, reducing the importance of the themes. The strategoi increasingly lost power as the empire centralized. The emperors often appointed relatives to the governorships, reducing their autonomous character and solidifying centralized imperial administration.

The Komnenian restoration required a new system to manage the severely weakened themes of Anatolia due to the catastrophe of Manzikert. The themes followed the Kommenian era trend of greater imperial centralization with the governors being members of the imperial family, owing their allegiance solely to the emperor. This eroded the old independent character of the once large Anatolian themes. The new military governors (called Doux or Katepanos indiscriminately) assumed strongly centralized roles on the emperor's behalf so that the influx of landed pronoia foreigners in military service could be regulated and counteracted in cases of uprising. The governorships were specifically reserved for relatives of the Komnenian family alone and though efficient emergency measures, it successfully turned the empire into a dependency on foreign mercenaries, yielding the mass of native Greeks and making it unprecedentedly subordinate to the will of its European counterparts.

Each Theme was overseen by a Katepanos or Doux, whose authorities was both military and civil, subdivided into Katepanakias encompassing the old Tourmas, now each ruled by a Praktor instead of a Tourmarches fulfilling the same civic and military roles now widely in the hands of pronoiars. The pronoiars became the bulk of the imperial tagmata's reserves, slowly taking their place side by side with the totally lawless landed monasteries and the dynatoi, who after Alexios's tax reforms could formalize the various illegally acquired towns and communes as long as they could secure the full taxation of their new domains by the fisc, a process worse fueled by the extensive chrysobulas of different institutions granted by the monarch.

The Byzantine army of the Komnenian era never managed to field the manpower of the themes in their heyday, and the new system proved more expensive to maintain in the long run. It also relied on a succession of strong soldier-emperors to be effective. With the death of Manuel I Komnenos in 1180, a new period of decline set in.

Late Byzantine themata

The neglect under the Angeloi dynasty and the weakening of central authority made the themes increasingly irrelevant in the late 12th century. Regional civil authorities such as the 'despotates' grew in power as central authority collapsed, rendering the themes moribund by the onset of the Palaiologos dynasty's rule.

The deplorable state of the empire at this point did not allow any further administrative innovations, the Komnenian structural legacy still fully present even when its countermeasure no longer served its purpose.

The still irrelevant micro provinces under imperial control were organized directly into katepanakias or kephalatikion each also ruled by a Katepan or Kephale with military and civic powers centered around forts and major passes, relegating all minor tasks to deputies.


The term thema was ambiguous, referring both to a form of military tenure and to an administrative division. A theme was an arrangement of plots of land given for farming to the soldiers "stratiotai" coexisting with different villages and towns, "Komai", "Chora" which were taxed for rapid and continuous revenue for the state with an easy and simple handling for a more direct control of the empire by the emperor alone or his viceroys, which ultimately, was a simplified Hellenistic and fiscal administrative principle adapted for war times. The soldiers were still technically a military unit, under the command of a strategos, they did not own the land they worked as it was still controlled by the state. Therefore, for its use the soldiers' pay was reduced. By accepting this proposition, the participants agreed that their descendants would also serve in the military and work in a theme, thus simultaneously reducing the need for unpopular conscription as well as cheaply maintaining the military. It also allowed for the settling of conquered lands, as there was always a substantial addition made to public lands "proasteion" during a conquest.

The commander of a theme, however, did not only command his soldiers. He united the civil and military jurisdictions in the territorial area in question. Thus the division set up by Diocletian between civil governors (praesides etc.) and military commanders (duces etc.) was abolished, and the Empire returned to a system much more similar to that of the Republic or the Principate and directly linkeable to the system of Eparchies and Strategiai set up in the Hellenistic Seleucid and Mithridatric Kingdoms respectively, which were military in origin and organization as well, where provincial governors had also commanded the armies in their area.

The following table illustrates the thematic structure as found in the Thracesian Theme, c. 902-936:

Structure of the Thema Thrakēsiōn
Name Number of personnel Number of subordinate units Officer in command
Thema 9,600 4 Tourmai Strategos
Tourma 2,400 6 Droungoi Tourmarches
Droungos 400 2 Banda Droungarios
Bandon 200 2 Kentarchiai Komes
Kentarchia 100 10 Kontoubernia Kentarches/Hekatontarches
50 5 Kontoubernia Pentekontarches
Kontoubernion 10 1 "Vanguard" + 1 "Rear Guard" Dekarchos
"Vanguard" 5 n/a Pentarches
"Rear Guard" 4 n/a Tetrarches

List of the themes between c. 660 and 930

This list includes the large "traditional" themes established in the period from the inception of the theme system in c. 660 to the beginning of the great conquests in c. 930 and the creation of the new, smaller themes.

Theme (name in Greek) Date Established from Later divisions Capital Original territory Other cities
Aegean Sea
(thema Aigaiou Pelàgous, Θέμα τοῦ Αἰγαίου Πελάγους)
by 842/843 Cibyrrhaeots, raised from independent droungariate possibly Mytilene or Methymna Lesbos, Lemnos, Chios, Imbros, Tenedos, Hellespont, Sporades and Cyclades Methymna, Mytilene, Chios, Alexandria Troas, Abydos, Lampsakos, Cyzicus, Sestos, Callipolis
(thema Anatolikōn, Θέμα των Ἀνατολικῶν)
by 669/670 Former Field Army of the East/Syria Cappadocia§ (830) Amorium Phrygia, Pisidia, Isauria Iconium, Polybotos, Philomelion, Akroinon, Synnada, Sozopolis, Thebasa, Antiochia, Derbe, Laranda, Isaura, Pessinus
(thema Armeniakōn, Armeniakoi, Θέμα τῶν Ἀρμενιακῶν)
by 667/668 Former Field Army of Armenia Chaldia (by 842), Charsianon§ (863), Koloneia (863), Paphlagonia (by 826) Amasea Pontus, Armenia Minor, northern Cappadocia Sinope, Amisus, Euchaita, Comana Pontica
(thema Boukellarion, Boukellàrioi, Θέμα τῶν Βουκελλαρίων)
by 767/768 Opsikion Paphlagonia (in part), Cappadocia (in part), Charsianon (in part) Ancyra Galatia, Paphlagonia Tios, Heraclea Pontica, Claudiopolis, Cratea, Iuliopolis, Lagania, Gordion
(thema Kappadokias, Θέμα Καππαδοκίας)
by 830 Armeniacs, part of the Bucellarians Koron Fortress, later Tyana SW Cappadocia Podandus, Nyssa, Loulon Fortress, Tyana, Nazianzus, Heraclea Cybistra
(thema Kephallēnias, Θέμα Κεφαλληνίας)
by 809 Langobardia (by 910), ?Nicopolis (by 899) Cephallenia Ionian Islands, Apulia Corfu, Zakynthos, Leucate
(thema Chaldias, Θέμα Χαλδίας)
c. 840 Armeniacs (originally a tourma) Duchy of Chaldia Trebizond Pontic coast Rhizus, Cerasous, Polemonion, Paiperta
(thema Charsianoù, Θέμα Χαρσιανοῦ)
863–873 Armeniacs (originally a tourma), part of the Bucellarians Caesarea NW Cappadocia Charsianon
(thema Chersōnos/Klimata, Θέμα Χερσῶνος/τὰ Κλίματα)
833 ruled by the Khazars in the 8th century, Byz. rule rest. by Theophilos Cherson South Crimea Sougdea, Theodosia, Bosporos, Galita
(thema Kibyrrhaiotōn, Kibyrrhaiotai, Θέμα τῶν Κυβυρραιωτῶν)
by 697/698 or c. 720 Created from the Karabisianoi fleet Aegean Sea, Samos, Seleucia Samos, later Attaleia Pamphylia, Lycia, Dodecanese, Aegean Islands, Ionian coast Rhodes, Myra, Cibyrrha, Limyra, Phaselis, Side, Selinus, Anemurium, Sagalassus, Telmissus, Patara, Halicarnassus, Iassus, Mylasa, Selge, Cnidus, Kos
(thema Krētēs, Θέμα Κρήτης)
by 767 (?), again in 961 Arab emirate from c. 828 until Byz. reconquest in 961 Chandax Crete Rethymnon, Gortys
(thema Dalmatias, Θέμα Δαλματίας)
by 899 New territory Idassa/Iadera Coast of Dalmatia Ragousa, Aspalathos, Polae, Tragyrion, Scardona
(thema Dyrrhachiou, Θέμα Δυρραχίου)
by 842 New territory Dyrrhachium Illyria, Albanian coast Aulon, Apollonia, Lissos
(thema Hellàdos, Helladikoi, Θέμα τῆς Ἑλλάδος/Ἑλλαδικῶν)
c. 690 Karabisianoi Cephallenia (by 809), Peloponnese (by 811) Corinth, later Thebes (after 809) Initially E. Peloponnese and Attica, after 809 eastern Central Greece and Thessaly (after 809) Athens, Larissa, Pharsala, Lamia, Thermopylae, Plataeae, Euripus, Demetrias, Stagoi
(thema Kolōneias, Θέμα Κολωνείας)
by 863, probably c. 842 Armeniacs, kleisoura by early 9th century Duchy of Chaldia Koloneia North Armenia Minor Satala, Nicopolis, Neocaesarea
(thema Longobardias, Θέμα Λογγοβαρδίας)
by 892 Cephallenia (originally a tourma) Barion Apulia, Lucania Tarantas, Brindesion, Hydrus, Callipolis
(thema Lykàndou, Θέμα Λυκάνδου)
by 916 New territory Lykandos Fortress SE Cappadocia Arabissos, Cocyssos, Comana
(thema Makedonias, Θέμα Μακεδονίας)
by 802 Thrace Strymon Adrianopolis Western Thrace Didymoteicho, Mosynopolis, Aenos, Maronia
(thema Mesopotamias, Θέμα Μεσοποταμίας)
by 899-911 New territory Duchy of Mesopotamia Kamacha[citation needed] Upper Euphratesia
(thema Nikopoleōs, Θέμα Νικοπόλεως)
by 899 probably raised from tourma of the Peloponnese Naupaktos Epirus, Aetolia, Acarnania Ioannina, Buthrotum, Rogoi, Dryinoupolis, Nicopolis, Himarra
(Thema of Opsikion, Θέμα τοῦ Ὀψικίου)
by 680 Imperial Praesental Armies Bucellarians (by 768), Optimates (by 775) Nicaea Mysia, Northern Phrygia, Western Bithynia Prussa, Kios, Malagina, Dorylaion, Nakoleia, Krasos, Kotyaion, Midaeum
(thema Optimàtōn, Optimatoi, Θέμα τῶν Ὀπτιμάτων)
by 775 Opsicians Nicomedia Bithynia opposite Constantinople Chalcedon, Chrysopolis
(thema Paphlagonias, Θέμα Παφλαγονίας)
by 826, prob. c. 820 Armeniacs, Bucellarians (in part) Gangra Paphlagonia Amastris, Ionopolis, Kastamonè, Pompeiopolis
(thema Peloponnēsou, Θέμα Πελοποννήσου)
by 811 Hellas in part, in part new territory ?Nicopolis (by 899) Corinth Peloponnese Patrae, Argos, Lacedaemon, Korinthos, Helos, Methòne, Elis, Monemvasia
Phasiane (Derzene)
(thema Phasianēs/Derzēnēs, Θέμα Φασιανῆς/Δερζηνῆς)
by 935 New territory and Theme of Mesopotamia Duchy of Mesopotamia Arsamosata source of Aras
(thema Samou, Θέμα Σάμου)
by 899 Cibyrrhaeots, raised from independent drungariate of the Gulf Smyrna Southeastern Aegean islands, Ionian coast (shared with Thracesians) Samos, Ephesos, Miletus, Magnesia, Tralles, Lebedos, Teos, Clazomenae, Phocaea, Pergamon, Adramyttion
(thema Sebasteias, Θέμα Σεβαστείας)
by 911 Armeniacs, kleisoura by c. 900 Sebasteia NE Cappadocia and Armenia Minor Dazimon
(thema Seleukeias, Θέμα Σελευκείας)
by 934 Cibyrrhaeots, from early 9th century a kleisoura Seleucia Western Cilicia Claudiopolis
(thema Sikelias, Θέμα Σικελίας)
by 700 Calabria (remaining territory after Muslim conquest of Sicily) Syracuse Sicily and Calabria Katàne, Tavromènion, Panormos, Akragas, Leontini, Himera, Mazzara, Lilybaeum, Drepanum
(thema Strymōnos, Θέμα Στρυμῶνος)
by 899, probably 840s Macedonia, raised from kleisoura (709) Neapolis roughly modern Greek Eastern Macedonia Serres
(thema Thessalonikēs, Θέμα Θεσσαλονίκης)
by 824 Thessalonica roughly modern Greek Central Macedonia Beroia, Edessa, Dion, Ierissos, Moglena, Diocletianopolis, Servia
(thema Thrakēs, Θέμα Θράκης/Θρᾳκῷον)
by 680 ?Opsicians Macedonia Arcadiopolis Eastern Thrace, except Constantinople Selymbria, Bizye, Perinthus, Rhaedestus
(thema Thrakēsiōn, Thrakēsioi, Θέμα Θρᾳκησίων)
by 687 Former Field Army of Thrace Chonae Lydia, Ionia Hierapolis, Sardeis, Thyatira, Laodikea

naval theme (in Greek thema nautikon, θέμα ναυτικόν)
§ Originally established as a kleisoura

List of new themes, 930s–1060s

These were the new major or minor themes (provinces), established during the Byzantine conquests, in the East (the so-called "Armenian" themes or generalships, strategiai), in Italy and in the Balkans.

Theme (name in Greek) Date Capital Comments
970s Artze A minor theme attested in the Escorial Taktikon. Ceded to David III of Tao in 979, recovered after David's death in 1000 and subordinated to the catepanate of Iberia. The town was destroyed by the Turks in 1049.
c. 938 Asmosaton A minor theme, it survived until conquered by the Turks in the 1050s.
Boleron/Neos Strymon
(thema Voleroù/Nèou Strymōnos, Θέμα Βολεροῦ/Νέου Στρυμῶνος)
970s Serres
(thema Boulgarias, Θέμα Βουλγαρίας)
1018 Scupi established by Emperor Basil II after the victory over Samuel of Bulgaria and the fall of the First Bulgarian Empire in 1018. It was based on the wider regions of Skopje and Ohrid (modern North Macedonia and south Serbia).
(thema Kalavrias, Θέμα Καλαβρίας)
c. 950 Rhegion Following the Muslim conquest of Sicily, from 902 the Theme of Sicily was limited to Calabria, but retained its original name until the middle of the 10th century
949 Charpezikion A minor theme.
after 940 Chavzizin A minor theme covering the area of the Bingöl Dağ mountains.
before 956, possibly 948/952 Chozanon An "Armenian theme".
(thema Kyprou, Θέμα Κύπρου)
965 Leukosia Byzantine-Arab condominium from 688 until the definite Byzantine reconquest in 965.
948/952 Chozanon A minor theme, the administration of Derzene was often entrusted to officials of the theme of Chaldia.
(thema Edēssēs, Θέμα Ἐδέσσης)
1032 Edessa Captured by George Maniakes in 1032, it became seat of a strategos, later a doux, until conquered by the Turks in 1086.
Euphrates Cities
(Παρευφρατίδαι Πόλεις)
c. 1032 Minor theme.
Hexakomia or Hexapolis
970s Minor theme, its name means "six villages/cities", a region between Lykandos and Melitene. It apparently was also an episcopal see.
(θέμα Ἰβηρίας)
c. 1001 or c. 1023 Theodosiopolis Formed out of the territories of David III of TaoTayk, which he bequeathed to Basil II. The date of establishment is disputed among scholars. United with Ani in 1045 and with Kars in 1064.
970s Minor theme attested only in the Escorial Tactikon, location uncertain.
(thema Leukanias, Θέμα Λευκανίας)
968 Tursi
1000 Manzikert Part of the territories inherited from David III of Tao, it was the seat of a strategos, later probably a subordinate of the doux of Vaspurakan.
970s Melitene Became an imperial curatorship (kouratoreia) after conquered by John Kourkouas in 934.
(thema Paristriou/Paradoùnavon, Θέμα Παριστρίου/Παραδούναβον)
1020 Dorostrolon
958 Samosata Became the seat of a strategos after the Byzantine conquest in 958.
(thema Sirmiou, Θέμα Σιρμίου)
1018 Sirmium Established in 1018 at the northwestern part of the Bulgarian Empire (Syrmia)
970s Tarantas Minor theme attested only in the Escorial Taktikon.
966/7 A dependency of the Empire since the early 10th century, the region of Taron became a theme in 966/7 and remained a Byzantine province until lost to the Turks after Manzikert.
(thema Tephrikēs/Leontokōmēs, Θέμα Τεφρικῆς/Λεωντοκώμης)
934/944 Tephrike Formed as a kleisoura after the Byzantine reconquest of the Paulician principality of Tephrike, renamed Leontokome under Leo VI the Wise, became a theme in the 930s.
949, again in 1000 Theodosiopolis Formed as a theme after the Byzantine conquest in 949, ceded to David III of Tao in 979, recovered in 1000, it became the capital of the theme of Iberia.
1021/2 Established when Seneqerim-Hovhannes, king of Vaspurakan, ceded his realm to the Empire. Governed by a doux/katepano at Van, it lasted until overrun by the Turks after 1071.

Later themes, 12th–13th centuries

Theme (name in Greek) Date Capital Comments
Maiandros after 1204 a minor theme of the Nicaean period, which eventually became part of the southern Thracesian theme.
Mylasa and Melanoudion 1143 a minor theme comprising the territories in Asia Minor south of the Maeander valley, created from parts of the Cibyrrhaeot and Thracesian themes. Its existence continued under the Nicaean Empire.
Neokastra between 1162 and 1173 created from the northern Thracesian theme as part of Manuel Komnenos' reorganization of the Asiatic frontier. Its existence continued under the Nicaean Empire.

See also

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