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Constantine IV (681–85)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.544 (formerly DO 58.106.544)
Diameter 28 mm
Field diameter 16 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 23.1; Zacos–Veglery, no. 21.


Bust of Constantine IV, bearded, his head turned slightly to the right. He wears a crown with plume and ribbons, a cuirass, and a chlamys. He wears his hair long at the sides and curled. He holds in his right hand a spear behind his head, and a shield with a horseman device rests on his left shoulder. No epigraphy. Border of dots.




Grierson has argued that Constantine deposed his brothers Herakleios and Tiberios, at least for the final time, in 681. Prior to that date he issued gold coins decorated on the obverse with a bearded bust of Constantine and on the obverse with a cross-on-steps flanked by Herakleios at left and Tiberios at right.  Subsequently, the reverse depicted on the cross-on-steps. Since no corulers appear, this entry follows Zacos and Veglery in assigned this seal to the period of 681–85 (DOC 2.2:15d [class 4]; MIB 3: Prägetabelle 8, no. 10).

Both Constantine’s coins and seals set aside an austere depiction in favor of a heroic type, one that has its roots in imperial depictions of the fifth and sixth centuries. Its last appearance was during the early years of the reign of Justinian I. Morrisson has suggested that the type may have been revived due to ideological reasons that influenced Constantine’s decision to bestow on a son born in 669 the name Justinian (BNC 1: p. 374).

Constantine’s seals are remarkable for the replacement of the Virgin with a cross potent. As Seibt observes, the cross, which symbolizes Christ’s triumph over death, may serve as a victory motif (Seibt–Zarnitz, 32, and Koltsida-Makri, “Representation of the Cross,” 45–46).

In contrast with the BZS.1955.1.4264, the bust is quite small and the style is clumsy, possibly indicating an earlier date. Grierson (DOC 2.2: p. 516) notes that his class 3 solidi of Constantinople (674–81) are of indifferent design and workmanship, whereas Constantine’s bust on class 4 solidi (681–85) appears in high relief and with greater care paid to details of portraiture and dress (DOC 2.2:15d [class 4]; MIB 3: Prägetabelle 8, no. 10).