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Anonymous (Justin I [519 or 522?–27])

Accession number BZS.1955.1.4234 (formerly DO 55.1.4234)
Diameter 21 mm
Field diameter 18 mm
Condition Chipped. Channel runs from 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6 no. 3.1; Zacos-Veglery, no. 1 bis (Justin I?)


Bust of an emperor turned three-quarters to the right, wearing a plumed helmet with a diadem and a cuirass. One can discern the fingers of the right hand grasping what should be the shaft of a spear held transversely behind the head. In the left hand the figure holds a shield decorated with a stylized representation of a horseman striking a fallen enemy. No epigraphy. Wreath border.


An angel wearing a long chiton, standing, facing forward, on a horizontal line and holding in the right hand a globus cruciger and in the left a long staff. No epigraphy. Wreath border.


The representations on the obverse and reverse of our seal very closely resemble the iconography found on gold coinage of Constantinople issued under Justin I between 519 (or 522) and 527.  During the reign, the characteristic identifying the reverse female figure as Victory, a high girdle below the breasts, was substituted by a tunic, therefore identifying the figure as an angel.  See the remarks of Grierson, Byzantine Coins, 52; cf. BNC 1:35.  The change reflects, as Hahn observes, the transformation of a pagan representation into a Christian one.  Bellinger dated this change to 519; Hahn (Money, 32) prefers a date of 522.  In addition to this, that the angel on the reverse of this seal stands on what can only be considered an exergual line is a further reflection that the seal’s design is coin inspired.