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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Byzantine Coins| ▸ |Byzantine Seals||View Options:  |  |  | 

Byzantine Seals

During the Byzantine period, lead bullae (singular, Bulla) were widely used to seal and identify the sender of correspondence and containers in shipment. An iron, pliers-shaped instrument, a boulloterion, was used to impress the designs on a lead bulla seal. After the cord was wrapped around the package or document and the ends inserted in a channel in the blank seal, the seal was placed between the disc shaped engraved dies on the jaws of a boulloterion. The boulloterion had a projection above the jaws, which was struck with a hammer to impress the design on the seal and close the channel around the two ends of the cord. With a bulla in place a container cannot be violated without visible damage to either the bulla or the cord, ensuring the contents remain tamper-proof until they reach their destination.

Byzantine Empire, Anatolikon Theme, Lead Seal, 7th - 9th Century A.D.

|Byzantine| |Seals|, |Byzantine| |Empire,| |Anatolikon| |Theme,| |Lead| |Seal,| |7th| |-| |9th| |Century| |A.D.||bulla| |(tag| |seal)|
The Anatolikon Theme was a Byzantine theme (a military-civilian province) in central Asia Minor (modern Turkey). From its establishment, it was the largest and senior-most of the themes, and its military governors (strategoi) were powerful individuals, several of them rising to the imperial throne or launching failed rebellions to capture it. The theme and its army played an important role in the Arab-Byzantine wars of the 7th-10th centuries, after which it enjoyed a period of relative peace that lasted until its conquest by the Seljuk Turks in the late 1070s.
BZ99057. Lead bulla (tag seal), cf. DOCBS BZS.1947.2.460 (similar seal for a different Demetrios chartoularios); Zacos -, aVF, weight 16.596 g, maximum diameter 22.9 mm, die axis 0o, 7th - 9th century A.D.; obverse Cruciform invocative monogram: TEOTOKE BOETIE (ΘΕOTOKΕ BOΗΘΕI - God-bearer [Mother of God], help); reverse Four line inscription: ΔHMIT/PIW (Demetrios) TO (the) EY/K XAPTO/ΛAP (chartoularios, an administrative position) TON/ANATO (or similar); $45.00 (Ä42.30)


Byzantine Lead Seal, The Annunciation, c. 11th - 12th Century A.D.

|Byzantine| |Seals|, |Byzantine| |Lead| |Seal,| |The| |Annunciation,| |c.| |11th| |-| |12th| |Century| |A.D.||seal|
The obverse seal depicts Gabriel announcing the birth of Jesus to the Virgin. The episode was known to the Byzantines as the "Chairetismos." The inscriptions are not legible but a similar type has the obverse inscription: XAIPE KAIXAPITWMNH O KC META (Greetings, you who are highly favored! the Lord is with you).
BZ97902. Lead seal, unpublished in references held by Forum; see Cotsonis for a list of 54 Byzantine seals of The Annunciation, VF/F, a remarkable large seal with very large high relief figures, weight 39.740 g, maximum diameter 38.3 mm, c. 11th - 12th century A.D.; obverse The Annunciation: the Virgin standing facing on the right, nimbate and raising her right hand with the palm turned outwards; the angel Gabriel on the left, nimbate, advancing towards the Virgin, raising his right hand, scepter in his left hand; reverse inscriptions in 7 lines; Byzantine seals depicting The Annunciation are very rare; SOLD


Byzantine Lead Bulla Seal, John Melek, 12th - 13th Century A.D.

|Byzantine| |Seals|, |Byzantine| |Lead| |Bulla| |Seal,| |John| |Melek,| |12th| |-| |13th| |Century| |A.D.||bulla| |(tag| |seal)|
A number of Byzantine dignitaries in 13th and 14th centuries shared the patronym Melek but they probably were not all from the same family. The name is foreign and perhaps derived from the Seljuk name malik, meaning prince. Presumably John Melek was a Seljuk prince who converted, was baptized adopting the name John, and served the Empire.

The office and title of the owner is not included in the inscription, which during the period, was a common practice of the representatives of noble ruling families.

The owner of the seal might be a certain John Melek associated with the stay of the army headed by Emperor Manuel I Komnenos in Beroe in 1155/1156.

A 13th century possiblity, is that the owner was one of the sons of the sultan Izedin, who after their father escaped captivity, were baptized and served in army of the Empire with the patronym Melek.

SH58238. Lead bulla (tag seal), Jordanov 456 (Historical Museum, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, no. 10 C3-11, found in the town); DOCBS -, Choice, near complete imprint, weight 17.593 g, maximum diameter 26.9 mm, obverse MP - ΘY, half-length figure of Virgin Orans standing facing, nimbate, hands raised, medallion of the infant Christ on breast; reverse Inscription: IWANHN / CKEΠOIC ME / MEΛHK / KOPH; large, high-relief seal; SOLD







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REFERENCES

Chynet, J., C. C. Morrison & W. Seibt. Sceaux Byzantins de la collection Henri Seyrig. (Paris, 1991).
Cotsonis, J. "Narrative Scenes on Byzantine Lead Seals (Sixth - Twelfth Centuries): Frequency, Iconography, and Clientele" in Gesta, vol. 48, No. 1 (2009), pp. 55 - 86.
Dunn, A. A handlist of the Byzantine Lead Seals and Tokens in the Barber institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham. (Birmingham, UK, 1983).
Feind, R. Byzantinische Monogramme und Eigennamen - Byzantine monograms and personal names. (2010).
Jordanov, I. Corpus of Byzantine Seals from Bulgaria. (Sofia, 2003).
Jordanov, I & Z. Zhekova. Catalogue of Medieval Seals at the Regional Historical Museum of Shumen. (Sofia, 2007).
Laurent, V. Documents de sigillographie byzantine: Le Collection C. Orghidan. (Paris, 1952).
Laurent, V. Les sceax byzantins du Medaillier Vatican. (Vatican City, 1962).
Metcalf, D. Byzantine Lead Seals from Cyprus. (Nicosia, 2004).
Morrisson, C. "Monnaies en plomb byzantines" in RIN LXXXIII (1981).
Nesbitt, J. et al., eds. Catalogue of Byzantine Seals at Dumbarton Oaks and the Fogg Museum of Art. (Washington, DC. 1991-2005).
Oikonomides, N. A Collection of Dated Byzantine Lead Seals. (Washington, DC, 1986).
Oikonomides, N. Byzantine Lead Seals. (Washington, DC. 1985).
Seibt, W. "The Use of Monograms on Byzantine Seals in the Early Middle-Ages (6th to 9th Centuries)" in Parekbolai, vol. 6 (2016).
Seibt, W. & M. Zarnitz. Das byzantinische Bleisiegel als Kunstwerk. (Vienna, 1997).
Sode, C. Byzantinische Bleisiegel in Berlin, Vol. 2. (Bonn, 1997).
Speck, P. Byzantinische Bleisiegel in Berlin (West). (Bonn, 1986).
Spink. Byzantine Seals from the Collection of George Zacos, Part I. Auction 127 (7 October 1998). London.
Spink. Byzantine Seals from the Collection of George Zacos, Part II. Auction 132 (25 May 1999). London.
Spink. Byzantine Seals from the Collection of George Zacos, Part III. Auction 135 (6 October 1999). London.
Stavrakos, C. Die byzantinischen Bleisiegel mit Familiennamen aus der Sammlung des Numismatischen Museums Athen. (Wiesbaden, 2000).
Szemioth, A. & T. Wasilewski. "Sceaux byzantins du Musťe National de Varsovie." in Studia Zrodionznawez Commentationes, 11 (1966), pp. 1-38, and 14 (1969), pp. 63-89.
Wassiliou, A. & W. Seibt. Die byzantinischen Bleisiegel in ÷sterreich, Vol. 2: Zentral und Provinzialverwaltung. (Vienna, 2004).
Youroukova P. & V. Penchev. Bulgarian Medieval Coins and Seals. (Sofia, 1990).
Zacos, G. Byzantine Lead Seals. (Berne, 1972-84).

Catalog current as of Tuesday, December 5, 2023.
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