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Basil I and Constantine (869–79)

Accession number BZS.1955.1.4291 (formerly DO 55.1.4291)
Diameter 28 mm
Field diameter 22 mm
Condition Corroded.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 51.5.

Obverse

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 ornamented with four rows of pellets in the l. hand. He has a cross behind his head. No legible epigraphy. Border of dots.

Reverse

Two half-length figures: at left, Basil I, bearded, wearing a crown and a loros; at right, Constantine, beardless and more diminutive than Basil, wearing a crown surmounted by a cross and a chlamys pinned together with a fibula on his right shoulder. The two figures hold between them a labarum ornamented with a cross in center and streamers. Remains of a circular inscription. Border of dots.

ASIL........SA/A/

Basil[ios et Con]stant(inos) aug(usti).

Translation

Basilios et Constantinos augusti.

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).