Seals and Identity in Byzantium

Public lecture: Tuesday, 13 June, 2017, 6:30
Venue: Forum Theatre, Arts West, The University of Melbourne

Claudia Sode, Professor of Byzantine Studies, University of Cologne

Given the inadequacy of other means of securing documents, individuals at almost all levels of Byzantine society used personal seals that they would change frequently to mark changes in their career or status.  Some 80,000 of these survive for which the inscriptions indicate the owner’s name and title and the office held.  But they also show an image which, far more than mere decoration, acts as a medium to convey identity by reference to specific iconographic subjects.  By discussing how homonymity, gender, family devotions, offices, or urban affiliation have stimulated an individual’s choice of iconography, it is the aim of this paper to demonstrate what an essential body of material seals are for any investigation devoted to the question of identity in Byzantium.

Claudia Sode is Professor of Byzantine Studies at the University of Cologne which she is currently combining with a 3-year appointment at Changchun University in China to promote and develop Byzantine Studies in China.  She gained both her doctorate and her Habilitation at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena.  She has published extensively on Byzantine studies with particular emphasis on Byzantine seals and their value for interpreting aspects of Byzantine social history with 3 books, some 8 book-length editions, 13 articles and 11 chapters in books.

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