SODE C. Self-Representation on Byzantine Seals

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu4.2015.3.1 

Claudia Sode

PhD, Professor, Director of Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies,

University of Cologne

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Albertus-Magnus-Square, 50923 Cologne, Germany


Abstract. Sigillography brings to our attention a huge number of individuals that would otherwise have remained unknown. Thousands of seals survive that bear, together with religious images, inscriptions indicating the name of their owner, a title and the office held. Based upon the corpus of published seals, the article investigates the contribution of lead seals to our understanding of identity in Byzantium. The geographic expansion of Byzantium in the tenth and eleventh centuries brought a host of populations within the empire’s frontier which for the most part were not Greek-speaking, including Armenians, Georgians, and Christian Arabs. As a consequence, oriental languages appear on Byzantine seals. The seals often show an image of the Virgin or a Saint on one side and an inscription on the other side, or they bear inscriptions on both sides. The legends can be in Arabic or Syriac, Armenian or Georgian alone or are sometimes “mixed”, for instance in Arabic and Greek or Arabic and Syriac. The seal of Andronikos Rogerios – a Westerner who, however, seems to have been fully integrated into Byzantine society – clearly shows Western influence in the choice of the seals’s image. The article discusses the function of inscriptions and images found on seals as a means of understanding ethnic, social, cultural and linguistic identities.

Key words: sigillography, seals, identity, oriental languages, Normans.

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Self-Representation on Byzantine Seals by Sode C. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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