Keywords: Serdica, Sofia, sphragistics, Byzantium Empire, Justinian I (527–565), Tiberius Constantine (578–582), Christianity, Dacia Mediterranea.


The subject of this publication is three seals, each raising interesting questions. During the archaeological explorations of the ancient city of Serdica (now Sofia) conducted in the past ten years, 48 lead seals from the 4th – 7th A.D. period have been discovered. The scientific novelty of the discovered bullae are little-known specimens, or not described until now in the specialized literature. The description of all of the seals is given.
The first one relates to John, excavated at the ‘Metro station 8 II’. The print is perfectly preserved with a very strong relief of the images of the Virgin with Child between two cypresses is relatively rare in combination with various reverses unpublished till now. It dates back to the 6th A.D. The second Byzantuim seal excavated at ‘Vesletz’ 13. (the territory of ancient Serdica) and there are there are no analogues.
During the early Byzantine Empire, only the first or baptismal name was used on seals. The parents had a large choice of names: Latin names or their Hellenized versions were used in the eastern part of the empire, traditional Greek names with regional traditions were widely used, also names of Christian saints appeared, which gradually became very popular. As a result, every twelfth child was baptized with the name John, and as a result there are a large number of bulls named John , and some have the same name on both sides, which is usually explained by the kinship between the two persons . In order to identify the person, in some cases his position or title is added, but even this information is not enough to identify the owner of the seal, known to us from documentary or epigraphic sources.
Another seal from ‘Vesletz’ 13 has an image of the Mother of God that is of the earliest type presented on the seals. There are different variants of the described monogram, there is no identical to the one on the seal from Serdica, also difference being in the position of the letter Р.
In Bulgaria, only 3 copies of persons with the title patricius (VI–VII c.) are described, two with a block monogram and one with an inscription. In the seals discussed above, the names and the title of the owner are given in monogram form. Generally there are two types of monograms: block and cruciform. It is accepted that the first type appeared not earlier than the fifth century, when on the coins the name was also written in this way. The letters are located at the ends of the cross or at the intersection of its shoulders. This shape, as well as the angles formed, allows a large number of letters to be used.
Conclusions. Usually, seals like the ones presented above dated to the period 6th-7th A.D. An important circumstance for the bullae from Serdica is that they were found during archeological excavations, in stratified sites and in layers with dated numismatic material, in which the coins of Emperor Justinian I (527–565) and Tiberius Constantine (578-582) predominate. This is an important indication, which makes it possible to specify the dating of the bulls no later than 2½ of the 6th A.D.


Aladzhov, Zh. (2015) Krastoviden monogram varhu rannovizantiyska aplikatsia. [Cruciform monogram on an early Byzantine application]. Numizmatika, sfragistika i epigrafika, 11, 179–183. [in Bulgarian].

Barnea, I. Sigilii byzantine din colecția Muzeului de istorie al Republicii Socialiste Romȃnia. Studii șirceta și cercetȃri de Numismaticȃ, VIII, 100, [in Romanian].

Bulgurtu, V. & Ilash, A. (2003). Seals from the Museum of Afyon (Turkey). – Studies in Byzantine Sigillography, 8, K.G. Saur München–Leipzig, 132, no.1; [in English].

Carson, R. A. G. & Kent, J. P. C. & Burnett, A. M. (1994). The Roman Imperial Coinage. The divided empire and the fall of the western parts A.D.395-491. Х, London, 1994. [in English].

Cheynet, J.-C. & Gökyıldırım T. & Bulgurlu V. (2012). Les sceaux byzantins du Musée archéologique d’Istanbul. [The Byzantine seals of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum]. Istanbul, 8, 174. [in French].

Cheynet, J.-Cl. & Caseau, B. (2012). Sealing Practices in the Byzantine Administration. – In: Regulski, I., Duistermaat, K., Verkinderen, P. (ed.) Seals and Sealing Practices In the near East Developments in Administration and magic from Prehistory to the Islamic Period. Leuven–Paris–Walpole, MA, 134, 133–148. [in English].

Jordanov, I. (2003). Corpus of Byzantine Seals from Bulgaria. Vol. І, Sofia, [in English].

Jordanov, I. (2006). Corpus of Byzantine Seals from Bulgaria. Vol. IІ, Sofia, [in English].

Jordanov, I. (2009). Corpus of Byzantine Seals from Bulgaria. Vol. IIІ, Sofia, [in English].

Jordanov, I. (2011). The Collection of Mediaval Seals from the National Archaeological Museum Sofia, [in English].

Kazhdan, D. P. (1991). (ed.) The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University Press. [in English].

Laurent, V. (1952). Documents de sigillographie byzantine. La collection C. Orghidan (Bibliotheque byzantine – Documents, 1). [Byzantine sigillography documents. The C. Orghidan collection (Byzantine Library – Documents, 1)]. Paris 1952, № 598. [in French].

Martindale, J. (1992). The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire A.D. 527–641. Cambridge, III-В, 971–972. [in English].

Nesbitt, J. W. (1977) Double Names on Early Byzantine Lead Seals. DOP 31, 109–121. [in English].

Seibt, W. (1978) Die Byzantinischen Bleisiegel in Österreich. [The Byzantium seals in Austria]. 1 Tail, Wien 1978, no. 63. [in German].

Seibt, W. (2016). The Use of Monograms on Byzantine Seals in the early Middle-Ages (6th to 9th centuries). Parekbolai 6 (2016), 2. URL: Title from screen. Actuality: 14.05.2020. [in English].

Stepanova, E. V. (2000) K jevoljucii monogramm na rannevizantijskih pechatjah. [Toward the Evolution of Monograms in the Early Byzantine Seals]. Vizantijskij vremennik, 59 (84), 234. [in Russian].

Velichkov, Zh. (2014). Spasitelni arheologicheski razkopki v UPI IX – 11 ot kv. 16, zona G–14, tsentar po plana na gr. Sofia, ulitsa „Veslets“ 13. [Rescue archeological excavations in Regulated Land IX – 11 from quarter 16, zone G р – 14, center according to the plan of Sofia, 13 Veslets Street]. Arheologicheski otkritia i razkopki prez 2013 g. Sofia, 370–371; [in Bulgarian].

Vladimirova-Aladzhova, D. (2014) Numizmatichni danni za zhivota v Serdika prez II –III v. (Obekt Veslets 13). [Numismatic data on life in Serdika in the II-III century (Object Veslets 13)]. Izvestia na istoricheskia muzey Shumen, 16, 339–346. [in Bulgarian].

Vladimirova-Aladzhova, D. (2016) A Seal of Constantin I from Serdica. Studia Academica Shumenensia, 3, 82–88. [in English].

Vladimirova-Aladzhova, D. (2016) Pechat na Prisk ot Serdika (VI–VII v.) [The seal excavated in Prisk of Serdica (VI–VII cent.)]. Bulgaria Mediaevalis, 7, 33–38; [in Bulgarian].

Vladimirova-Aladzhova, D. (2017) Pechat na imperator Tiberiy ІІ Konstantin ot Serdika. [The seal of the emperoe Tiberuis II Conatsnteni excavated in Serdica]. Sbornik v chest na profesor Petar Delev. Sofia, 627–632. [in Bulgarian].

Vladimirova-Aladzhova, D. (2018) Anonimen pechat ot kraya na V i nachaloto na VI vek otkrit v Serdika. [Anonymous seal from the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th century found in Serdika]. Abstract of papers: „Balgarsko tsarstvo“ Imperium Bulgariae v chest na 60 godishnshna na dots. Georgi Nikolov. pp. 125–131. [in Bulgarian].

Vladimirova-Aladzhova, D. (2018) Lead plate with the name of Bishop Theodore found in Serdica. Studia Academica Šumenensia Contribution to Byzantine Sigillography. 5, 95–100; [in English].

Vladimirova-Aladzhova, D. (2018) Moneti i plombi ot vremeto na trarhiyata, otkriti v Serdika. [Coins and seals from the time of the trachy, found in Serdica]. Numizmatika, sfragistika i epigrafika, 14, 2018, 107–114; [in Bulgarian].

Vladimirova-Aladzhova, D. (2018) Targovski pechati ot Serdika. [The trade seals excavated in Serdica]. Studia Archaeologica Universitatis Serdicensis, Supplementum VI Stephanos archaeologicos ad 80 annum professoris Ludmili Getov. Sofia, 509–514. [in Bulgarian].

Yordanov, I. (2009). Corpus of Byzantine Seals from Bulgaria III, Sofia. №№ 469–470. [in English].

Zacos, G. & Veglery, A. (1972). Byzantine Lead Seals. Basel 1972. [in English].

Zacos, G. & Veglery, A. (1972). Byzantine Lead Seals. Vol. I (Basel). no. 249. [in English].

Zacos, G. & Veglery, А. (1972). Byzantine Lead Seals. I. Basel. [in English].

Сotsonis, J. (2005). The Contribution of Byzantine Lead Seals to the Study of the Cult of the Saints (Sixth-Twelfth Century), Byzantion 75, 383–497. [in English].

How to Cite
Vladimirova-Aladzhova, D. D. (2020). LATE ANTIQUE SEALS FROM ANCIENT SERDICA. The Ukrainian Numismatic Annual, (4), 43-49.