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The arms factory (fabrica) of Seleukeia (seventh century)

Accession number BZS 1958.106.4322
Diameter 24 mm
Condition Chipped.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 5 no. 6.6; Zacos-Veglery, no. 1136.


Bust of the Mother of God between two crosses, with the medallion of Christ before her (Christ has a nimbus cruciger). Wreath border.


Inscription of four lines. Wreath border.


Τῆς φάβρικο[ς] Σελευ[κ]είας.


Τῆς φάβρικος Σελευκείας.

(Seal of) the arms factory of Seleukeia.


The word φάβριξ, from Latin, fabrica, is well attested in the meaning of "arms factory"; see H. Hofmann, Die lateinischen Wörter im Griechischen bis 600 n. Chr., pp. 450–51. The depiction of the Mother of God with the medallion before her points to a date no later than the first half of the seventh century, and so it is tempting to connect the existence of an arms factory with the temporary establishment of an imperial mint in Seleukeia in 615/16, at a time when the emperor Herakleios was compelled to relocate his military forces and administration in reaction to the Persian invasions. See Hendy, Monetary Economy, pp. 416 and 633.

The depiction of the Mother of God on a seal of an arms factory also suggests that the seal was struck in a period when the protection of the empire was increasingly linked with her intercession. The growth of the cult of the Mother of God is particularly evident during the reign of Herakleios (610-641); for a study of her emergence in the role of protectress, see A. Cameron, "The Theotokos in Sixth-Century Constantinople. A City Finds its Symbol."