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Nikephoros kommerkiarios of Psychron (tenth century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.1224
Diameter 22 mm
Field diameter 19 mm
Condition As on coins, the reverse is upside down compared to the obverse.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 76.1.


Cross potent on three steps, all arms ending in pellets; on the crossing, in a medallion, the bust of a bishop (without nimbus): square bald head, short round beard. He wears the phelonion and omophorion decorated with crosslets of dots on both shoulders. The bust resembles St. Nicholas (cf. Zacos, Seals II, no. 431). Below, ΝΚ. Νικόλαος. Circular inscription along the border of dots.


Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλ


Inscription of four lines, decoration above and below. Border of dots.



Νικηφόρῳ κουμερκιαρίῳ τοῦ Ψυχροῦ


Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Νικηφόρῳ κουμερκιαρίῳ τοῦ Ψυχροῦ.

Lord, help your servant Nikephoros kommerkiarios of Psychron.


The iconography of the obverse reproduces a motif known from tenth century silver coins (Alexander, Romanos I, Nikephoros Phokas, and John Tzimiskes: Grierson, Coins, 181, figs. 800, 804, 806, 807): cross with medallion containing the head of Christ, then the head of the emperor. Our seal is a faithful imitation of the miliaresion of Romanos I, dated by Grierson (Catalogue III/2, 556-57) to the years 931-944: same cross potent, same medallion, same inscription of the name in the lower quarters of the cross, same decorations above and below the inscription of the reverse, and coin-type disposition of the reverse in relation to the obverse. The person of our seal is not crowned and consequently cannot be the emperor. He is a saint-bishop, and as the letters Ν and Κ are inscribed below, we assume that he must be St. Nicholas (and we exclude the reading νικ, which would otherwise have been possible: "the cross conquers"). All this provides an approximate date for our seal.

The toponym Psychron (i.e. "Cold place,") is usually located in the mountains. As the Cretan Psychron cannot be taken into consideration because of the date of the specimen published below (Crete was then occupied by the Arabs), we turn to Psychron of Pamphylia (De Them., chap. I, lines 14-15, cf. p. 115), probably on the mountains up to the Melas river (Manavgat çayi) situated not far from Attaleia and the Lesser Kibyrra, and relatively close to Myra of Lykia, famous center of the cult of St. Nicholas, who is represented on the seal. None of this is certain, but it seems likely enough.