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Nikephoros Melissenos (despotes: late 1080–early 1081 or April 1081–November 1104)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.5425
Diameter 21 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 87.4; Zacos–Veglery, no. 2699a.


Bust of the Virgin wearing a chiton and maphorion and holding a medallion of Christ before her. Sigla: ̅ΘΥ̅ : Μή(τη)ρ Θ(εο)ῦ. Circular inscription beginning at 9:30: Border of dots.


Θ(εοτό)κε βοήθει


Half-length representation of Nikephoros with long hair and wearing a simple circlet (?) and a chlamys ornamented with a large tablion. He holds a globus cruciger in his right hand and seemingly his left under his chlamys. Circular inscription beginning at 9 o’clock. Border of dots.


Νικηφόρῳ δεσπ(ό)τ(ῃ) τῷ Μελ(ισηνῷ)


Θεοτόκε βοήθει Νικηφόρῳ δεσπότῃ τῷ Μελισηνῷ.

Mother of God, help Nikephoros Melissenos, despotes.


Nikephoros revolted against the rule of Nikephoros III Botaneiates, and at Nicaea in late 1080 he assumed the title of emperor. His revolt ended when he reached agreement with Alexios Komnenos on 4 April 1081, that he would abandon his claim to the throne in exchange for the title of caesar and for the receipt of certain revenues. He died in November of 1104. For the sources and a brief discussion of Nikephoros’s revolt see Cheynet, Pouvoir, no. 111. In addition to despotes, surviving seals for Melissenos include the titles autokrator and caesar; the latter It is belongs to the period after he signed the truce with Alexios Komnenos (BZS.1958.106.649).

There are two options for dating. While the seal includes the title despotes, adopted during his attempted usurpation of the throne, and present on his two-thirds miliaresion (BNC 2:58/S/AR/01 [p. 92]), he does not wear a crown and is in the regalia of a caesar. Therefore, Zacos and Veglery (no. 2699) have argued that this group of seals belongs to the period after the accommodation with Alexios I.

On this seal, Nikephoros's head covering is much lower than on others in the same group (such as BZS.1958.106.653). He may not in fact be wearing a cap. See Hendy's remarks about the dress of caesars in DOC 4.1: p. 166 and note 95.