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Basil I and Constantine (869–79)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.42 (formerly Fogg 42)
Diameter 28 mm
Field diameter 25 mm
Condition Right side of reverse has been repeatedly struck with a hammer.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 51.8.


Half-length representation of Christ, lightly bearded, wearing a tunic and himation. He raises his right hand in blessing and holds in his left a book with a cover ornamented with four rows of pellets. He has a cross behind his head. Circular inscription. Border of dots.


Iηsus Xristos.


Two half-length figures: at left, Basil I, wearing a crown surmounted by a cross and a loros; at right, Constantine, beardless and more diminutive, wearing a crown surmounted by a cross and a chlamys. The two figures hold between them a labarum ornamented with a cross in center and streamers. Circular inscription. Border of dots.


Basilius et Constant(inus) aug(usti).


Iηsus Xristos.
Basilius et Constantinus augusti.

Jesus Christ.
Basil and Constantine, augusti.


On solidi dating from Basil’s joint reign with Constantine, the obverse depicts Christ seated on a lyre-backed throne, while on the reverse are Basil to left and Constantine to right, holding between them a patriarchal cross on long shaft.  Basil wears a loros, and Constantine a chlamys (DOC 3.2:2a1 [pl. 30]). In common with the coinage as well is the employment of "augusti," present on the class 2 solidus as well as class 2d follis (DOC 3.2:9d.1 [pl. 31]).

Grierson explains the awkward relationship between the chronology of coinage and the depiction of Basil’s co-emperors in terms of the former's antipathy towards his middle son, Leo. Dating here follows that of the class 2 solidus, up to Constantine’s death in 879, rather than the class 2 follis, which includes Leo after his association with Basil in 870, and reflects the degree to which the design of imperial seals followed that of the solidus.

The labarum, decorated with a cross in center and streamers, is found on folles minted at Constantinople in the name of Basil I and Constantine and attributed by Grierson to the years 868–70 (see: DOC 3.2:8a.1–8a.4, and the table at BNC 2: p. 538).

The depiction of Contantine on this seal has been deliberately effaced with repeated hammer blows; the editor of DO Seals 6 suggests that this might possibly be a damnatio memoriae.

Note that Basil's name ends in US, in contrast to the usual OS.