The title is first attested (as curapalati) in the early 5th century, as an official of vir spectabilis rank under the castrensis palatii, charged with the maintenance of the imperial palace (cf. Western European "majordomo"). When Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565) made his nephew and heir Justin IIcuropalates in 552, however, the office took on new significance, and became one of the most exalted dignities, ranking next to Caesar and nobilissimus and, like them, reserved initially for members of the imperial family. Unlike them, however, it later came to be granted to important foreign rulers, mostly in the Caucasus. Thus, from the 580s to the 1060s, sixteen Georgian ruling princes and kings held that honorific, as well as, after 635, several Armenian dynasts.
According to the Kl?torologion of Philotheos, written in 899, the insignia of the rank were a red tunic, mantle and belt. Their award by the Byzantine emperor signified the elevation of the recipient to the office. By the 11th-12th century, the dignity had lost its earlier significance: it was granted as an honorary title to generals outside the imperial family, and its functions were gradually being supplanted by the protovestiarios, whose original role was limited to the custody of the imperial wardrobe. The title survived into the Palaiologan period, but was rarely used.