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John hypatos and eparch of Italy (seventh/eighth century)

 
 

Obverse

Bust of the Virgin with Christ before her; crosses on either side. Circular inscription between two linear borders.

....οκε...τυισουβοηθητσδουλ

Θεοτόκε σύν τῷ υἱῷ σου, βοήθη τῷ σῷ δούλῳ

Reverse

Inscription of five lines. Linear border.

.ν
νηυπτ
επρ
χιτλ
... 

ωάννῃ ὑπάτῳ καὶ ἐπάρχῳ Ἰταλίας

Obverse

Bust of the Virgin with Christ before her; crosses on either side. Circular inscription between two linear borders.

....οκε...τυισουβοηθητσδουλ

Θεοτόκε σύν τῷ υἱῷ σου, βοήθη τῷ σῷ δούλῳ

Reverse

Inscription of five lines. Linear border.

.ν
νηυπτ
επρ
χιτλ
... 

ωάννῃ ὑπάτῳ καὶ ἐπάρχῳ Ἰταλίας

Accession number BZS.1955.1.2768
Diameter 29.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 1, no. 2.1.
Zacos-Veglery, no. 1163. 

Translation

Θεοτόκε σύν τῷ υἱῷ σου, βοήθη τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Ἰωάννῃ ὑπάτῳ καὶ ἐπάρχῳ Ἰταλίας.

Theotokos, with your Son, help your servant John hypatos and eparch of Italy.

Commentary

Zacos-Veglery dated this seal to the seventh century, but the presence of a circular inscription on the obverse suggests that the specimen could well date from the eighth century (see, e.g. Oikonomides, Dated Seals, no. 35). We understand ἔπαρχος as praetorian prefect.

The name “Italy” was used for the top imperial commanders of the Byzantine part of the peninsula, such as the praetorian prefects and the exarchs (sixth to eighth century) or the katepano (tenth or eleventh). The last attested praetorian prefect of Italy dates from 639 (Brown, Gentlemen, 11 and note 21) but we have at least two seals, this and BZS.1947.2.95, which seem to attest that the institution survived past that date. We prefer to interpret the seals thus rather than supposing (with Laurent, Vatican, no. 99) that ἔπαρχος is a mistake for ἔξαρχος.