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Basil I (ca. 868)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.500 (formerly DO 58.106.500)
Diameter 30 mm
Field diameter 27 mm
Condition Two holes.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6 no. 50.1; Zacos–Veglery, no. 57.


Half-length representation of Christ, 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.


Half-length representation of Basil I, wearing a crown with a cross and a chlamys, and holding a labarum in his right hand. Circular inscription, beginning at top left. Border of dots.


Basil(ios) impera(tor).


Iηsus Xristos.
Basilios imperator.

Jesus Christ.
Basil, imperator


The design of this seal is unlike any coins that were issued during Basil I’s reign. On the solidus from Basil’s sole reign, before the association of Constantine with his father, the obverse has Christ, seated on a lyre-backed throne, while the reverse has a full-length representation of Basil, wearing a chlamys and loros and holding a globus cruciger and akakia (for example, DOC 3.2:1 [pl. 30]). In contrast, this seal presents half-length representations of each, with Basil wearing a chlamys and holding a labarum. In addition, instead of the identificatory inscription of “ec Θeu basileus b,” this seal identifies Basil as “imperator” (see also BZS.1947.2.415).

As for dating, Grierson maintained that Constantine became associated with his father Basil between 5 November 867 and 12 February 868. Basil’s son Leo was crowned on 6 January 870, and his son Alexander in 879 (DOC 3.2: pp. 474–75).

Transcription of Basil's name (Basilios) follows the spelling on the solidi.

Barnea has published a small seal that he believes should be ascribed to Emperor Basil I. He asserts that the obverse is decorated with a bust of Basil I. The editors of DO Seals, however, assert that the obverse is decorated with a nimbed bust of St. Michael, while also recognizing that the inscription of three lines on the reverse seems to read: Βασιλείῳ δεσπότ(ῃ). See I. Barnea, “Sceaux des empereurs byzantins découverts en Roumanie,” Βυζαντινά 3 (1971): 156, no. 8.