Inscriptions The reverse Greek inscription reads: ΚΕΒΟΗ ΘΗΤΟΝΦ ΟΡΟΝΤΑ ΑΜΗΝΟ ΘΕΟC ~ Κύριε βοήθει τὸν φορῶντα. Ἀμήν. Ὁ Θεός. "Lord help the wearer, Amen. God." —————————— This object is one half of a..more »
Inscriptions The reverse Greek inscription reads: ΚΕΒΟΗ ΘΗΤΟΝΦ ΟΡΟΝΤΑ ΑΜΗΝΟ ΘΕΟC ~ Κύριε βοήθει τὸν φορῶντα. Ἀμήν. Ὁ Θεός. "Lord help the wearer, Amen. God." —————————— This object is one half of a bronze bivalve seal. A bivalve seal was used for sealing documents by pressing the two halves of the seal on wax or clay to create impressions on both sides. These seals were an important part of daily life in Byzantine society in the 10th–12th centuries. Seals served a security function and their use was required by law. The obverse of the seal has a depiction of a lion who is turned backwards with its tongue sticking out. This lion could have many meanings, including a reference to an emperor or a biblical passage. The meaning of the lion would also change depending on what type of person would be looking at the seal. The inscription on the side opposite the lion is written in reverse; it reads, in Greek: "Lord help the wearer, Amen. God." When pressed into wax, the seal would leave a positive relief impression of the text, and would indicate that the person using this seal was religious. The inscription would also serve as a good omen to the letter carrier. This seal is made of bronze which is cheaper compared to gold or other materials. Additionally it lacks personalized markings that are found on other bivalve seals naming specific individuals, such as one at the Harvard Art Museums (no. 19126.96.36.1995). This leads us to the conclusion that our bivalve seal was likely a mass produced object that would be affordable for many members of Byzantine society. It seems that it would be used by someone of a lower socioeconomic status but still literate. Although the seal is small and lacks a personalized inscription, it would carry the agency of the individuals who used it in their daily lives. Sources Consulted Alexander P. Kazhdan, ed, Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991). Asen Kirin, ed. Sacred Art, Secular Context: Objects of Art from the Byzantine Collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC (Athens, GA: Georgia Museum of Art, 2005). Eunice Dauterman Maguire, Henry Maguire, and Maggie J. Duncan-Flowers, Art and Holy Powers in the Early Christian House (Urbana: Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1989). Gary Vikan and John Nesbitt, Security in Byzantium: Locking, Sealing, and Weighing (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1980). James Whitley, “Agency in Greek Art,” in A Companion to Greek Art, eds Tyler Jo Smith and Dimitris Plantzos (Malden, MA: Wiley, 2013), 579–595. Jack Seasholtz ('22) for ARHS 110 Introduction to Western Art (Spring 2021).
Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020
0.9 x 0.63 in. (2.3 x 1.6 cm)
0.095 oz. (2.7 g)