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Basil I and Constantine (869–79)

 
 

Obverse

Bust of Christ, lightly bearded, wearing a tunic and himation. He has a cross behind his head. Circular inscription. Border of dots.

....SXRISOS

[Iηsu]s Xristos.

Reverse

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

.ASILIOSE.....A....

Basilios e[t Cons]tant(inos) [aug(usti)].

Obverse

Bust of Christ, lightly bearded, wearing a tunic and himation. He has a cross behind his head. Circular inscription. Border of dots.

....SXRISOS

[Iηsu]s Xristos.

Reverse

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

.ASILIOSE.....A....

Basilios e[t Cons]tant(inos) [aug(usti)].

Accession number BZS.1955.1.4290 (formerly DO 55.1.4290)
Diameter 22.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 51.11.

Translation

Iηsus Xristos.
Basilios et Constantinos augusti.

Jesus Christ.
Basil and Constantine, augusti.

Commentary

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).

This specimen is not, in fact, a seal, but instead a piece of stamped metal.