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Phokas (603–7)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.1621 (formerly Fogg 1621)
Diameter 23 mm
Condition Chipped.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 11.1; Zacos–Veglery, no. 9b.


The Mother of God standing, wearing a chiton and maphorion, and holding Christ before her. Crosses potent with elongated vertical shafts, though of unequal height, at left and right. No visible border.


Bust of Phokas with a pointed beard and shaggy hair, wearing a crown with a cross on top and holding a globus cruciger in his right hand. A circular inscription beginning at left. Border of dots.


[D(ominus)] n(oster) Focas per[p(etuus) aug(ustus)].


Dominus noster Focas perpetuus augustus.

Our lord Phokas, eternal augustus.


The seals of Phokas are remarkable for being the first attempt to depict distinctive facial features. The details are inspired by the coins (for example, DOC 2.1:5a.1 [pl. 1]; MIB 2: Prägetabelle X). On the obverse of Phokas’s solidus, the emperor is depicted with a pointed beard, and strands of hair, sharply defined, frame the face. He wears a crown with a cross on circlet, and, in coins struck between 603 and 607, pendilia are absent. O often replaces D as the initial letter of the reverse inscription in coins struck between 602 and 607. For a detailed discussion of the criteria that Grierson followed in dating Phokas’s eastern solidi, see his “Solidi of Phocas and Heraclius,” 131–38.

Unlike BZS.1951.31.5.7 and BZS.1951.31.5.1623, and like BZS.1951.31.5.1622, here the lower portion of the cross potent's shaft is more elongated than the upper. The emperor is represented without pendilia, in contrast with two other examples.  First, Seibt (Bleisiegel, no. 10) has published an earlier seal on which Phokas is represented holding a globus cruciger in his right hand and wearing a crown with pendilia. Second, a specimen depicting a crown with pendilia appears on a seal found in the vicinity of Afyon (Turkey); see: Bulgurlu-Ilası, “Afyon,” 134, no. 7.