Protovestiarios (Greek: πρωτοβεστιάριος, "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.

History and functions

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 (οἰκειακόν βεστιάριον, "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.[1][2] The private wardrobe also included part of the Byzantine emperor's private treasury, and controlled an extensive staff.[1]

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.[3] In the 11th century, the title rose further in importance, eclipsing the kouropalates;[4] transformed into an honorary title, it also began being given to non-eunuchs, including members of the imperial family.[5] As such, the title survived until the late Palaiologan period, its holders including high-ranking ministers and future emperors.[3] 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.[6] 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.[7]

The female equivalent was the protovestiaria (Greek: πρωτοβεστιαρία), 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.[3]

Notable protovestiarioi