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Basil I and Constantine (869–79)

Accession number BZS.1955.1.4290 (formerly DO 55.1.4290)
Diameter 22 mm
Condition Not a seal, but a piece of stamped metal.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 51.11.


Bust of Christ, lightly bearded, wearing a tunic and himation. He has a cross behind his head. Circular inscription. Border of dots.


[Iηsu]s Xristos.


Two half-length figures: at left, Basil I, bearded, wearing a crown surmounted by a cross and a loros; at right, Constantine, more diminutive than Basil, wearing a crown surmounted by a cross. They hold between them a labarum ornamented with a cross in center and streamers. Circular inscription at left. Border of dots.


Basilios e[t Cons]tant(inos) [aug(usti)].


Iηsus Xristos.
Basilios et Constantinos augusti.

Jesus Christ.
Basil and Constantine, augusti.


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).

This specimen is not, in fact, a seal, but instead a piece of stamped metal.