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Basil I and Constantine (869–79)

Accession number BZS.1955.1.4286 (formerly DO 55.1.4286)
Diameter 30 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 51.1; Zacos–Veglery, no. 59a.


Half-length representation of Christ, bearded,wearing a tunic and himation. He raises his right hand in bless and holds in his left a book with a cover ornamented with four rows of pellets. He has a cross behind his head. Circular inscription. Border of dots.


Iηsus Xristos.


Two half-length figures: at left, Basil I, bearded, wearing a crown surmounted by a cross and a loros; at right, Constantine, beardless and more diminutive than Basil, wearing a crown surmounted by a cross and a chlamys pinned with a fibula on his right shoulder. The two figures hold between them a labarum ornamented with a cross and streamers. Circular inscription. Border of dots.


Basilios basileus (et) Constan(tinos).


Iηsus Xristos.
Basilios basileus et Constantinos.

Jesus Christ.
Basil, basileus, and Constantine.


On solidi dating from Basil’s joint reign with Constantine, the obverse depicts Christ seated on a lyre-backed throne, while on the reverse are Basil to left and Constantine to right, holding between them a patriarchal cross on long shaft.  Basil wears a loros, and Constantine a chlamys (DOC 3.2:2a1 [pl. 30]). In common with the coinage as well is the employment of "augusti," present on the class 2 solidus as well as class 2d follis (DOC 3.2:9d.1 [pl. 31]).

Grierson explains the awkward relationship between the chronology of coinage and the depiction of Basil’s co-emperors in terms of the former's antipathy towards his middle son, Leo. Dating here follows that of the class 2 solidus, up to Constantine’s death in 879, rather than the class 2 follis, which includes Leo after his association with Basil in 870, and reflects the degree to which the design of imperial seals followed that of the solidus.

The labarum, decorated with a cross in center and streamers, is found on folles minted at Constantinople in the name of Basil I and Constantine and attributed by Grierson to the years 868–70 (see: DOC 3.2:8a.1–8a.4, and the table at BNC 2: p. 538).

A further connection with this particular class of follis is that its legend uses for the conjunction between the names of the two sovereigns the abbreviation S, whereas the conjunction is generally given as ET (for example, BZS.1958.106.572, BZS.1955.1.4289, and BZS.1951.31.5.42). Likhachev (Molivdovuly, pl. LXXVI, no. 5) has published a specimen on which the inscription identifying the co-emperors contains the conjunction SE.