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Theophilos archbishop of Ephesos (eighth/ninth century)

Accession Number:

Previous Editions

DO Seals 3, no. 14.8.

Laurent, Corpus V/3, no. 1690 A (listed by Laurent as DO 60.100. n. 3790 [A]); Zacos-Veglery, no. 1350b. Their no. 1350a is similar in most respects to the Dumbarton Oaks specimen but comes from a different boulloterion. Since the Zacos specimen is of the same date, has the same iconography, and (seemingly) the same legends, it probably belonged to the same owner as the Dumbarton Oaks specimen and has been used to restore the name on the seal edited here.


33 mm
Struck off-center and partially effaced on both sides.


Theophilos archbishop of Ephesos (eighth/ninth century)

Bust of St. John the Evangelist blessing with his right hand and holding a decorated book in his left hand. Traces of a circular inscription, beginning with a cross. Border of dots.


[Ἅγι]ε [Ἰωάν(νη) βοήθ]ει


Theophilos archbishop of Ephesos (eighth/ninth century)

Inscription of four lines (top line missing). Wreath border.


[Θεοφί]λῳ ἀρχι[ε]πισκόπ[ῳ] Ἐφέσ[ου]


Ἅγιε Ἰωάννη βοήθει Θεοφίλῳ ἀρχιεπισκόπῳ Ἐφέσου.

Saint John, help Theophilos, archbishop of Ephesos.



Laurent assumes that the owner was Archbishop Theophilos, a confessor of the second Iconoclasm: Theodore the Studite wrote him three letters, dated between 816 and 826 (nos. 386, 414, 455, in the Fatouros edition); he was persecuted and finally replaced (by a certain Mark) some time between 829 and 833, after he escaped confinement and went into hiding (J. Gouillard, "La Vie d'Euthyme de Sardes (+831), une oeuvre du patriarche Méthode," TM 10 [1987] 39, lines 242, 244). Laurent postulates that Theophilos issued the present specimen with the image of St. John after the suppression of images in 815. This is possible; but there is no reason to believe that Theophilos was not on the throne of Ephesos before 815 when images were allowed.

Zacos-Veglery wonder whether the appearance of an image might simply be related to the restoration of images after 843. This would mean that a second Theophilos must have occupied the throne after Mark. To support this point we signal a small detail of iconography: the book's cover is decorated with a cross with a dot in each quarter. This same type of decoration appears on the seal of Patriach Ignatios (847-858, 867-877). But this point cannot be pressed further before the decoration of bookbindings has been properly studied.

The ancient city of Ephesos was abandoned in the seventh century in favor of the security of the inland fortress of Theologos, where the famous basilica (and major pilgrimage center) of St. John the Evangelist stood (near modern Selçuk). The name (Ἅγιος) Θεολόγος, Theologo, Ayasoluk was currently used when speaking of the medieval town and its administrators, such as the commander of the fortress, the paraphylax, or the archon (eighth/ninth century: Zacos-Veglery, no. 2282A) and the (undoubtedly naval) droungarios (ninth century: ibid., 2561A; Konstantopoulos, no. 135). But the old name, Ephesos, also survived in civil administration: Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos informs us that the theme of Samos, which is first attested at the very end of the ninth century, had control over the tourma of Ephesos (Ἐφέσιον: De Them., chap. XVI, line 14), while we have mentions of tax collectors (dioiketes) of Ephesos (ActaSS November III, 540; Zacos-Veglery, no. 2487). We have the impression that Theologos was the local usage, while Ephesos came from the learned circles of Constantinople and was the name that prevailed alone in the ecclesiastic administration.

Ephesos was a major metropolis, with no less than 39 suffragans attached to it at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, claiming to preserve the remains of the Apostle John (whose representation appears on the obverse on some seals of metropolitans). It is mentioned in all notitiae.

See Laurent, Corpus V/1, 178; Culerrier, Suffragants d'Ephèse; ODB I, 706; W. Seibt, "Drei byzantinische Bleisiegel aus Ephesos," Litterae numismaticae vindobonenses Roberto Goebl dedicatae (Vienna, 1979), 145-54; W. Brandes, "Ephesos in byzantinischer Zeit," Klio 64 (1982) 611-22; Brandes, Städte, 83-85.


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