Small but heavy, this weight features a portrait of Jesus Christ on one side with three small pieces of silver inlay to highlight his cruciform halo. Two engraved crosses can also seen in each of the ..
Small but heavy, this weight features a portrait of Jesus Christ on one side with three small pieces of silver inlay to highlight his cruciform halo. Two engraved crosses can also seen in each of the upper corners, and a thinly engraved border outlines this side. The reverse features a cross with four arms of equal length, outlined with two lines. This weight dates to the Early Byzantine Period, specifically between the fifth and seventh centuries. It is square and made of bronze, as is standard for Byzantine weights of this era. It weighs 157.8 grams, nearly a half of a pound in the imperial measurement system. This weight’s primary use was to appropriate the exchange of precious metals or materials in commerce, particularly gold. At one-half pound, this weight equaled 36 Roman solidi, or gold coins. This weight and those like it were used to ensure that fair commerce of gold and other precious materials was achieved throughout the Empire. Some contemporary weights feature images of emperors, as seen in an example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (no. 2002.483.6). Likewise, the presence of Christian imagery, such as the crosses and Christ's portrait on our weight, was also believed to help "protect" the weight, its users, and the commerce in which it engaged, simultaneously acting as a source of legitimacy for the weight and its commercial activity. Commercial weights, like those discussed here, were an essential part of the Byzantine economy. Weights of this sort were used to ensure that any exchange of precious materials, such as gold, was done so in a just and fair way. The use of Christian and imperial or authoritative imagery on weights of this kind was meant to convey unquestionable legitimacy within the weight and the measurements it conducted. These weights, and the different kinds of imagery they presented, were greatly impactful in ensuring accuracy and efficiency within Byzantine commercial exchanges, and the Byzantine economy as a whole. Sources Consulted Simon Bendall, Byzantine Weights (London: Lennox Gallery, 1996): 5-31. John A. Cotsonis, Byzantine Figural Processional Crosses (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1994). Helen C. Evans and Brandie Ratliff, eds, Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th–9th Centuries (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012). Emma Loosley, “Religious Expression in Art and Architecture,” A Companion to Religion in Late Antiquity, eds. Josef Lössl and Nicholas J. Baker‐Brian (Malden, MA: Wiley, 2018): 591-600. Gary Vikan and John Nesbitt, Security in Byzantium: Locking, Sealing, and Weighing (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1980). Nathan Junk ('23) for ARHS 110 Introduction to Western Art (Spring 2021).