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Basil II (976–1025)

Accession number BZS.1955.1.4302 (formerly DO 55.1.4302)
Diameter 27 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 68.1; Zacos–Veglery, no. 75a.

Obverse

Half-length representation of Christ Emmanuel, bearded, wearing a tunic and himation. He raises his right hand in blessing and holds a book in his left. He has a nimbus cruciger. At left and right, sigla IC-XC: Ἰ(ησοῦ)ς Χ(ριστό)ς. Circular inscription. Border of dots.

ΕΜΜΑΝΟΥΗΛ

Ἐμμανουήλ.

Reverse

Half-length representation of Basil II, bearded, wearing a crown with a cross and jeweled band and a loros. He holds in his right hand a globus surmounted by a patriarchal cross and an akakia in the left. Circular inscription. Border of dots.

ASILIAVTOCRATR

Basili(os) autocrat(o)r.

Translation

Basilios autocrator.

Basil, autokrator.

Commentary

Basil II reigned from 976 to 1025. His colleague, Constantine VIII, is regularly portrayed with him on gold coins. This series of seals (published as DO Seals 6 no. 68.1-10), however, is fairly rare in not following the coinage, as it differs in both design, the portrayal of Basil II alone, without his brother, and inscription, identifying the emperor as "autokrator" instead of "basileus."

It is not obvious why Constantine’s portrait is absent from this group of imperial seals. Possibly, in the years after 989, when Bardas Phokas had died and Basil II assumed control of the empire’s affairs, he elected to show through his seals that his brother had been shunted aside and that he was in effect sole ruler. Seibt (Bleisiegel, 87) has postulated that the seal type depicting Basil alone appeared in the 990s, but may have remained in use throughout the reign of Basil and Constantine.

Each arm of the cross behind Christ’s head seems to be decorated with two dots. The suspension sign after the second R (circular inscription, reverse) is unnecessary—unless the engraver had in mind an (understood) invocative inscription. It is possible that the legend on the reverse should be transcribed: Basili(os) autocrat(or) R(omaion). As noted above, on coins struck in the name of Basil and Constantine, as well as on another group of seals (published DO Seals 6 no. 69.1-13, see for example BZS.1955.1.4307) the word “Romaion” is usually preceded by the title “basileus.” Another situation is found on the seal published in Zacos–Veglery, no. 75d, on which is read: Basil(ios) autocrator ba(sileus) R(omaion). Again we find “Romaion” preceded by “basileus.” In contrast to this, however, is the seal attributed to John I, which does use the title "autokrator of the Romans" (BZS.1955.1.4316)

In some cases Basil’s globus cruciger is surmounted by a patriarchal cross and in others by a simple cross. Another difference arises with regard to the decoration of the arms of Christ’s cross nimbus. Sometimes it consists of a row of two dots and in other instances it is more elaborate.

This is possibly from the same boulloterion as BZS.1955.1.4303.

Finally, one should note that six seals of Basil II have been found during excavations in Preslav. See Jordanov, Preslav, nos. 2–7, a testament to his activities in the the Balkans during the second half of his reign.

Accession number BZS.1955.1.4302 (formerly DO 55.1.4302)
Diameter 27 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 68.1; Zacos–Veglery, no. 75a.

Notes

Accession number BZS.1955.1.4302 (formerly DO 55.1.4302)
Diameter 27 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 68.1; Zacos–Veglery, no. 75a.

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