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Stephanos metropolitan of Crete (eighth/ninth century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.5197
Diameter 29 mm
Condition Broken in half.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 36.11.
Laurent, Corpus V/3, no. 1799 (misread and attributed to the metropolis of Christianoupolis in the Peloponnesos; dated 9th c.).
Zacos-Veglery, no. 1294 (dated early 8th c.).
Cf. SBS 2 (1990) 144, no. 1.


Bust of St. Titos holding the book and blessing. On either side, the inscription: Α|Γ|ΙΟ|ΣΤ|Ι|Τ.|Σ: ἅγιος Τίτος. Wreath border.


Cruciform monogram: Στέφανους or Στέφανον (but not Στεφάνου, as in Laurent, because there is no Υ). Within a wreath border, part of a circular inscription. 


Τὸν τῆς Κρήτης πρόεδρον, Χριστέ, με σῴζοις Στέφανον


Τὸν τῆς Κρήτης πρόεδρον, Χριστέ, με σῴζοις, Στέφανον.

Christ, may you save me, Stephanos metropolitan of Crete.


Although incomplete, the circular inscription is clearly metrical: a dodecasyllabic verse. It is addressed to Christ requesting his protection for the proedros of Crete (the verb is not legible, but it could be σῴζοις or σκέποις; we prefer the first because of our DO Seals 2, no. 36.8. and for space considerations). The restitution of the verse that we propose can be contained in the space available provided that we allow for one abbreviation at the beginning. The name of the metropolitan is not counted for the verse, but it is understood in the whole inscription. For this reason we print it right after it. The restitution proposed by Zacos-Vegler, Κρήτης πρόεδρον Χριστέ με σῴζοις Στέφανον, is impossible because (a) it contains two grave metrical errors (hypermetric; stress on the penultimate) and (b) cannot suffice to fill the space left vacant at the beginning and at the end of the inscription. The same objections would suffice to rule out any attempt to restore the inscription as a close imitation of the one of Andrew of Crete (DO Seals 2, no. 36.8), such as Κρήτης προέδρον, Χριστέ, σῴζοις Στέφανον.

Laurent has proposed a 9th-century date: Zacos-Veglery, who see the specimen as contemporary with the seal of Andrew (DO Seals 2, no. 36.8), proposed the early 8th century, which practically means before Andrew, since the latter occupied the throne until 740, during which time Iconoclasm had been imposed. Certainly the two specimens are similar in design (bust/monogram-circular metrical and very similar inscriptions), but this could as well be due to the desire of one bishop to imitate one of his predecessors. Moreover, the bust of St. Titos is stylistically closer to the St. John bust represented on two seals (of the archbishop of Ephesos) published by Zacos-Veglery, no. 1350, and dated quite rightly to the iconophile reaction (787-815) or to the mid 9th century. The bust on our specimen is similar: a heavy-set figure, with a larger head and a right hand disproportionately small in comparison with the body; and the Gospel book is decorated with a cross and not, as on DO Seals 2, no. 36.8, with rows of pellets. Furthermore, on our specimen, we find two forms of Ρ, the rounded one (the first of the circular inscription) as well as the one with a serif at the top (the two others) which appear on Dated Seals (table, no. 62) in the early 9th century.

Thus we are inclined to date the present specimen to the times of the iconophile reaction (787-815), no doubt some years after 787, when the see of Crete was occupied for several years by the iconophile Elias (Mansi XII, 1090B). It is normal that in the context of iconophile euphoria, the new metropolitan chose as a model the seal of his illustrious predecessor, the hymnographer and saint, Andrew, whose reputation was that of a defender of icons.