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Basil II (976–1025)

Accession number BZS.1955.1.4305 (formerly DO 55.1.4305)
Diameter 29 mm
Condition Chipped at top.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 68.6.


Half-length representation of Christ Emmanuel, bearded, wearing a tunic and himation, and holding a book in his left hand. He has a nimbus cruciger, each arm of which seems to be decorated with two dots. At right, sigla XC: [Ἰ(ησοῦ)ς] Χ(ριστό)ς. Circular inscription. Border of dots.




Half-length representation of Basil II, wearing a crown with jeweled band and a loros. He holds in his right hand a globus surmounted by a simple cross. Traces of a circular inscription at right. Border of dots.

A . . .

Ba[. . .]


Basilios autocrator.

Basil, autokrator.


Basil II reigned from 976 to 1025. His colleague, Constantine VIII, is regularly portrayed with him on gold coins. This series of seals (published as DO Seals 6 no. 68.1-10), however, is fairly rare in not following the coinage, as it differs in both design, the portrayal of Basil II alone, without his brother, and inscription, identifying the emperor as "autokrator" instead of "basileus."

It is not obvious why Constantine’s portrait is absent from this group of imperial seals. Possibly, in the years after 989, when Bardas Phokas had died and Basil II assumed control of the empire’s affairs, he elected to show through his seals that his brother had been shunted aside and that he was in effect sole ruler. Seibt (Bleisiegel, 87) has postulated that the seal type depicting Basil alone appeared in the 990s, but may have remained in use throughout the reign of Basil and Constantine.

In some cases Basil’s globus cruciger is surmounted by a patriarchal cross and in others by a simple cross. Another difference arises with regard to the decoration of the arms of Christ’s cross nimbus. Sometimes it consists of a row of two dots and in other instances it is more elaborate.

The reverse inscription has been left unexpanded, as a number of spellings and abbreviations for "Basilios autocrator" are attested in this series.

Finally, one should note that six seals of Basil II have been found during excavations in Preslav. See Jordanov, Preslav, nos. 2–7, a testament to his activities in the the Balkans during the second half of his reign.