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The imperial Xenon (sixth century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.5394
Diameter 22 mm
Condition Uniface.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 5 no. 36.1; Zacos–Veglery, no. 129.


Above, three half-length figures. In the center, the Mother of God, seemingly holding a medallion of Christ; at left, an emperor wearing a crown and a cloak fastened on his right shoulder with a large fibula; and at right, an empress wearing a crown. Below, an inscription of four lines. Incuse border.


Τοῦ εὐαγοῦς δεσποτικοῦ ξενῶνο[ς]


Effaced; indistinct lettering.


Τοῦ εὐαγοῦς δεσποτικοῦ ξενῶνος.

(Seal of) the pious imperial Xenon.


The location is unknown, but the fact that the foundation is associated with the monarch would suggest that this establishment was located in the capital. What does "Xenon" mean here? It could simply signify a hospice or inn, but quite likely it means the same as in the case of the Xenon of St. Sampson (see BZS.1955.1.5091 and its parallels), a hospital, a place of caring for the sick. Regarding this term, see T. Miller, The Birth of the Hospital in the Byzantine Empire, p. 28.

Zacos and Veglery have suggested (and we agree) that the two imperial figures might well be Justin II and his consort Sophia.