Protovestiarios (Greek: , "first vestiarios") was a high Byzantine court position, originally reserved for eunuchs. In the late Byzantine period (12th-15th centuries), it denoted the Empire's senior-most financial official, and was also adopted by the medieval Serbian states.
The title is first attested in 412, as the comes sacrae vestis, an official in charge of the Byzantine emperor's "sacred wardrobe" (Latin: sacra vestis), coming under the praepositus sacri cubiculi. In Greek, the term used was oikeiakon vestiarion ( ?, "private wardrobe"), and by this name it remained known from the 7th century onward. As such, the office was distinct from the public or imperial wardrobe, the basilikon vestiarion, which was entrusted to a state official, the chartoularios tou vestiariou. The private wardrobe also included part of the Byzantine emperor's private treasury, and controlled an extensive staff.
Consequently, the holders of this office came second only to the parakoimomenos in court hierarchy, functioning as the latter's aides. Until the 11th century, it was reserved for eunuchs, but in the 9th-11th centuries, several protovestiarioi were appointed as generals and ambassadors. In the 11th century, the title rose further in importance, eclipsing the kouropalates; transformed into an honorary title, it also began being given to non-eunuchs, including members of the imperial family. As such, the title survived until the late Palaiologan period, its holders including high-ranking ministers and future emperors. The mid-14th century Book of Offices of Pseudo-Kodinos lists the rank in the sixth place in the palace hierarchy, between the panhypersebastos and the megas doux. The insignia of the protovestiarios as a golden and green staff of office (dikanikion) with gold and coloured glass, green shoes and a green mantle (tamparion), and a green saddle with gold braid similar to the panhypersebastos.
The female equivalent was the protovestiaria (Greek: ), the head of the empress' servants. Protovestiarioi are also attested for private citizens, in which case again the title refers to their head servant and treasurer.
The title was also adopted in the medieval Serbian states as protovestijar (Serbian Cyrillic: ?/?, archaic: ), and likewise entailed fiscal responsibilities, being the equivalent to a "finance minister". According to historian John V. A. Fine, Jr., "The chief financial official responsible for the state treasury and its income was the protovestijar. This position was regularly held by a merchant from Kotor who understood financial management and bookkeeping. Both protovestijars and logothetes were used as diplomats, the protovestijars in particular being sent west, for as citizens of Kotor they knew Italian and Latin."
It was mentioned during the rule of King Stefan Uro? I (r. 1243-1276).Stefan Du?an (r. 1331-55) elevated the nobility and clergy when crowned Emperor; komornik Nikola Bu?a from Kotor was appointed protovestijar. The power of the protovestijar is best testified by the proverb derived from Nikola Bu?a: "Car da - al Bu?a ne da" (The Emperor gives, but Bu?a does not). The Bu?a family produced several protovestijars, including Nikola's nephew Trifun Mihajlov Bu?a (fl. 1357), one of the most important people in his time, who served Emperor Du?an's successor Uro? V.
Tvrtko I (Ban of Bosnia, 1353-77, King 1377--1391) added the ranks logotet and protovestijar after the Serbian model after crowning himself King. Tvrtko's first protovestijar was a Ragusan, kapedan Ratko, elevated in 1378.
The title of protovestiarios was also adopted in the Frankish Principality of Achaea, where it designated an office equivalent to a Western chamberlain and charged with keeping the list of fief-holders. This office was often given to native Greeks.
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