Byzantine Communication and Executive Power
During the Middle Byzantine period (9th century to the 13th century), communication across the expanses of the empire was necessary for administration, business, and personal reasons. Any type of official correspondence used a seal as a way to authenticate its origins and convey the authority of its message. Expensive goods were also sealed to mark its quality or whether taxes had been paid or not. Sigillography, the study of seals, reveals how information transferred from one city to the next, from the center of Constantinople to the outer reaches of the frontiers. The Seal of Athanasius I, Ocumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the Boulloterion, plier-shaped tool used to make seals, in this collection are some of the only evidence remaining of the network of connections within the Byzantine Empire. The mass production of seals (about 80,000 have been found) shows how the Byzantines were still able to effectively communicate across hundreds of miles without the advent of email like in modern day. Similar to the seal, which was used in the administration of the empire, the Two Panels of an Ivory Diptych Announcing the Consulship of Justinian are symbols of the repairs that Theodoric of Ravenna implemented in Rome. This stamp shows the transfer of his authority. Power of leaders manifested not only through their physical presence, but from their symbolic presence as well.