Krenites Arotras (strategos of the Theme of Hellas)

1. Birth - Family

Regarding Krenites Arotras's place and date of birth, we have no information. We know that he belonged to the Armenian lineage of the Krenitai, documented from the second half of the 9th until the early 14th century. Members of the family have connected their names with Constantinople as well as the provinces of the Byzantine Empire, from Melitene in Mesopotamia to Thessaloniki. The family name derives from the Armenian fort Krni, while its first prominent member was the strategos and son-in-law of the emperor Theophilos, Alexios Mousele. The presence of the Krenitai in the affairs of the Byzantine state was particularly important between the 9th and the 11th century.

2. Activity – Relations with saint Loukas Steiriotes

According to written sources and especially the Vita of saint Luke of Steiris, Krenites Arotras arrived in Thebes around 945 AD to replace the previous strategos, Pothos Argyros. From the events referring to his service in the theme of Hellas we know what is related to saint Loukas himself. As it is attested from the Vita, one of his first actions as new strategos was to meet with saint Loukas, as he was aware of his reputation. But Krenites's behavior during the dinner annoyed his guest, who found it inappropriate. Krenites heard of the saint's complaints and apologised. The two men reconciled, and were ever since bound with an honest friendship. According to the Vita of saint Luke, the strategos commissioned the erection of the church of St. Barbara, built before the erection of the katholikon of the Hosios Loukas monastic complex (according to Stikas, the church of St. Barbara is the one later known as the monastery's church of Theotokos, but this is not a generally accepted view).

Krenites’ service in the theme of Hellas ended around 952-955. Along his way back to Constantinople he met outside of the city of Larisa the envoys of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, who informed him that he was transferred to the theme of Peloponnesos. That way Hosios Loukas’ prophecy was fulfilled, who had predicted that Krenites would never return to Constantinople.

By the name of Arotras Krenites another strategos of the theme of Peloponnesos is also known, who was later appointed to the theme of Hellas. Information about his presence and office is provided by the work of Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos De Administrando Imperio, while a lead seal dated to the 10th century AD proves the existence of his name and office. His major deed appeared to be the suppression of the uprising of the Meliggoi and Ezerites, Slavic tribes in Taygetos. About the probable identification of these two persons, there is a controversy among historians, yet scholars tend to accept the existence of two different persons with the same name.