Byzantine Glass Weights

Silver coin weight. Byzantine. Middle of 6th century. Diamtere: 26 mm. Weight: 4,1 gr. Inv no: 2919. 

The figure of the dignitary in the center holds the handkerchief called mappa in his right hand. To the left of his face is a cross. Around the bust is the inscription ““+ ЄΠΙ  IωANNƔ ЄΠAPXS”.  The dignitary can be identified as Ioannos “the Cappadocian” who was Praetorian prefect of Oriens. it is likely that the weight was produced between 538 and 541.
Weight. Byzantine. Eastern Mediterranean. 6th century – middle of 7th century. Diameter: 20 mm. Weight: 3.55 g. Inv no: 2873.  Made of orange-colored glass, the front of the weight bears the letters N and Gamma.

Weight. Byzantine. Eastern Mediterranean. 6th century – middle of 7th century. Diameter: 20 mm. Weight: 3.55 g. Inv no: 2873.
Made of orange-colored glass, the front of the weight bears the letters N and Gamma.

 

In our last blog post, we told the story of Islamic glass weights, “sanja”s. This time let’s take a look at the glass weights that were used in the Byzantine Empire.

Before the Islamic glass weights “sanjas”, glass weights were used in the Byzantine Empire.

Among the most common of these weights are the weights with depictions of governors (eparkhos) and emperors, and the weights with a box or cruciform monogram. In this post, you can see a selection of weights that belong to these two categories from the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Anatolian Weights and Measures Collection.

In the glass weights that feature the governor, he can be seen holding the mappa, the linen handkerchief thrown to indicate the start of the games in the arena, or a sceptre, or both.

Silver coin weight. Byzantine. Middle of 7th century. Diamaeter: 15.5 mm. Weight: 0,95 g. Inv no: 2849.  Light blue-green coloured weight features a dignitary in the centre, holding a mappa (mendil) in his raised right hand. An inscription is located around the bust: HCVXIOV. Although the name Hesychios is rare, no prefect bearing this name is known so far.

Silver coin weight. Byzantine. Middle of 7th century. Diamaeter: 15.5 mm. Weight: 0,95 g. Inv no: 2849.
Light blue-green coloured weight features a dignitary in the centre, holding a mappa (mendil) in his raised right hand. An inscription is located around the bust: HCVXIOV. Although the name Hesychios is rare, no prefect bearing this name is known so far.

Silver coin weight. Byzantine. Middle of 6th century. Diamtere: 26 mm. Weight: 4,1 gr. Inv no: 2919.  The figure of the dignitary in the center holds the handkerchief called mappa in his right hand. To the left of his face is a cross. Around the bust is the inscription ““+ ЄΠΙ  IωANNƔ ЄΠAPXS”.  The dignitary can be identified as Ioannos “the Cappadocian” who was Praetorian prefect of Oriens. it is likely that the weight was produced between 538 and 541.

Silver coin weight. Byzantine. Middle of 6th century. Diamtere: 26 mm. Weight: 4,1 gr. Inv no: 2919.
The figure of the dignitary in the center holds the handkerchief called mappa in his right hand. To the left of his face is a cross. Around the bust is the inscription ““+ ЄΠΙ IωANNƔ ЄΠAPXS”. The dignitary can be identified as Ioannos “the Cappadocian” who was Praetorian prefect of Oriens. it is likely that the weight was produced between 538 and 541.

 

The weights that feature the emperors have halo around the emperor bust accompanied by monograms or writing. Jewellery such as diadems are seldom discernible. The use of the imperial image suggests government validation.

Unlike the lead and bronz weights that get corroded, the glass weights were easier to detect if tampered with. This made them preferable.

Research shows that there wore more than twenty different types of iconographic Byzantine glass weights. Thanks to these, the reign of emperors and the terms of office of the governors could be discerned, and the relative dating becomes an easier task.

Gold coin weight. Byzantine. Beginning of 6th century. Diameter: 26 mm. Weight: 4,45 g. Inv no: 2862.  Dark-blue coloured weight features the dignitary in the centre, holding a mappa in his raised right hand. The remnant of the left arm indicates that it was raised, too, or primarily holding a sceptre. An inscription is located around the bust:  ΔHMOCΘЄNƔ.  The dignitary may be identified with Flavius Ieodorus Petrus Demosthenes who#was Praetorian prefect of Oriens.. His title indicates that he was also the urban prefect of Constantinople. Koyu mavi renkli ağırlığın ortasında bulunan figür, sağ elinde mappa adı verilen mendili tutar. Sol koldan geriye kalanlar, onun da sağ kol gibi yukarı kaldırılmış olduğunu gösterir. Büyük ihtimalle sol elde bir asa bulunuyordu. Büstün etrafında ΔHMOCΘЄNƔ yazılıdır. Figür bu yazı sayesinde Doğu illeri valisi olan Flavius Ieodorus Petrus Demosthenes olarak tanımlanabilir. Demosthenes bir sure de Konstantinopolis valiliği yapmıştır.

Gold coin weight. Byzantine. Beginning of 6th century. Diameter: 26 mm. Weight: 4,45 g. Inv no: 2862.
Dark-blue coloured weight features the dignitary in the centre, holding a mappa in his raised right hand. The remnant of the left arm indicates that it was raised, too, or primarily holding a sceptre. An inscription is located around the bust: ΔHMOCΘЄNƔ. The dignitary may be identified with Flavius Ieodorus Petrus Demosthenes who#was Praetorian prefect of Oriens.. His title indicates that
he was also the urban prefect of Constantinople.
Koyu mavi renkli ağırlığın ortasında bulunan figür, sağ elinde mappa adı verilen mendili tutar. Sol koldan geriye kalanlar, onun da sağ kol gibi yukarı kaldırılmış olduğunu gösterir. Büyük ihtimalle sol elde bir asa bulunuyordu. Büstün etrafında ΔHMOCΘЄNƔ yazılıdır. Figür bu yazı sayesinde Doğu illeri valisi olan Flavius Ieodorus Petrus Demosthenes olarak tanımlanabilir. Demosthenes bir sure de Konstantinopolis valiliği yapmıştır.

Byzantine glass weights usually were disk-shaped. These were stamped with busts of people surrounded by a Greek inscription or with monograms that belong to governors of Constantinopolis and other important cities that had the authority to mint coins.

Even though semi-transparent weights are more common, shades of blue and green were in abundance. These colors were obtained with iron and cobalt oxides.

Gold coin weight. Byzantine. Middle of 6th century – 7th century. Diameter: 25 mm. Weight: 3,65 g. Inv no: 2920.  Pale-green coloured weight has a cruciform monogram. It can be read as MEΓEΘIƔ.

Gold coin weight. Byzantine. Middle of 6th century – 7th century. Diameter: 25 mm. Weight: 3,65 g. Inv no: 2920.
Pale-green coloured weight has a cruciform monogram. It can be read as MEΓEΘIƔ.

 

Gold coin weight. Byzantine. 7th century. Diameter: 23 mm. Weight: 4.05 g. Inv no: 2856.  Koyu mavi renkli camdan yapılmış, yarısaydam ağırlığın yüzeyinde yer alan haç formlu monogramın her bir kolu ucunda harfler vardır. Bu harfler VPATIOV ya da OPTATOV olarak okunabilir.  Dark blue coloured weight features a cruciform monogram The monogram could be resolved as VPATIOV  or OPTATOV.

Gold coin weight. Byzantine. 7th century. Diameter: 23 mm. Weight: 4.05 g. Inv no: 2856.
Koyu mavi renkli camdan yapılmış, yarısaydam ağırlığın yüzeyinde yer alan haç formlu monogramın her bir kolu ucunda harfler vardır. Bu harfler VPATIOV ya da OPTATOV olarak okunabilir.
Dark blue coloured weight features a cruciform monogram The monogram could be resolved as VPATIOV or OPTATOV.

Byzantine glass weights were frequently found in archaeological contexts that left little to doubt about their function. In the Kunszenmarton cemetery in Hungary, glass weights were found among a balance with two scales and numerous metal weights.

Similarly in the Sardis excavations in the city of Manisa, glass weights were found along with bronze weights in two different contexts: in a complex with 19 shops and in a house in the suburbs of the ancient city. The discovery in a room of the house in the suburbs is the largest discovery of Byzantine weights from a discrete archaeological context

Bibliography:
Entwistle, Chris. 2016. “Bizans Cam Ağırlıkları”. Toplumsal Tarih 267 (March 2016): 51-55. (Tranlsated by: Pınar Gökçe – Oğuz Tekin)
  • Coin weight. Byzantine. 6th- 7th century. Diameter: 23 mm. Weight: 3,40 g. Inv no: 482. 
Opaque black-colored weight with brownish red streaks. The monogram on it could be resolved as OPVAIOV. Based on the value of the weight, it is believed to date from the reign of Justin II to Heraclius.
  • Gold coin weight. Byzantine. 7th century. Diameter: 16.5 mm. Weight: 1,45 g. Inv no: 1536.  
Dark-blue coloured round weight with a central impression of an anonymous dignitary. Quite a large number of such weights are known, with slightly different portraits. Marcel Jungfleisch and Paul Balog stated that these weights, which they collected mainly from Egypt, belong to the transformation period from the Byzantine Empire to the early Islamic State. A more recently found weight from Monastiraki Katalimata shows that these weights were used in the Byzantine Empire, too.
Koyu mavi renkli ağırlığın üstünde bilinmeyen bir figür bulunur. Buna benzer birçok ağırlıkta farklı portreler görülmüştür. Marcel Jungfleisch ve Paul Balog genellikle Mısır’da buldukları bu ağırlıkların, Bizans’tan erken İslami döneme geçiş döneminde kullanıldığını düşünmüştür. Fakat Monastiraki Katalimata’da bulunan daha yeni bir örnek, bu ağırlıkların Bizans İmparatorluğu’nda da kullanıldığını gösterir.

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