A Byzantine mystery in Mexico City?

I was sent the following pictures by blog reader Raul Garcia who lives in Mexico. Some years ago he bought an interesting silver item in a flea market. It is indeed very unusual and Raul wonders if anyone can help him to identify it as he thinks it may possibly be of Byzantine origin. Such a piece in Mexico is not totally unlikely. For one thing it could have been brought to Mexico by some settler. We also know from the writings of Patrick Leigh Fermor that there are people from the Greek diaspora to be found even in Central America; perhaps they brought it with them? Then of course it could be from somewhere else.

Can you help? If so do get in touch via email tsawford [at] btinternet.com or the comments page.

Here is Raul’s note to me:

My name is Raul Garcia and I live in Mexico. It is the first time I visit your blog and found it very interesting and rich in contents; that’s why I wanted to share you the following, hoping to get some help and orientation regarding a very antique and rare silver piece I purchased about 8 years ago in a flea market in downtown Mexico City. The piece has very unique characteristics and particularly, some engravings that I suspect might be Greek in their origin (but since I can’t read them I can’t be sure). The piece depicts (in my humble opinion) some important passages of the Byzantine Empire and I would like to send you some pictures to your consideration, in order to be able to know whether the piece holds some historical value or significance. It would be great to share these pictures with everyone here, hoping to get invaluable opinions and more accurate information regarding this piece. Please let me know how can I send you the pictures.


About proverbs6to10

Interested in Byzantium and Patrick Leigh Fermor
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8 Responses to A Byzantine mystery in Mexico City?

  1. It is definitly in Greek. Looking at the inscriptions, it looks like a list of Emperors. I can’t quite make out the names at the very very beginning of the list (Though I think it starts with BYZAS (Mythical founder of Byzantium), that might be a title), and I can’t make out those at the very end.
    If we could see the ones at the very end, we could see who the last Emperor mentioned was, and that might provide an idea of when it was made- It can’t have been made before that Emperor’s reign.

  2. theoldofdays says:

    The greek inscriptions contain the names of the byzantine emperors from the first one to the last, Constantinos Palaiologos. There is something more written, that cannot been seen in the photo, but the last two lines read the quoatation of Kassia to the emperor Theophilus. The iconography of the Virgin and Saint George, follow the iconographic trends of the late 17th century. An very interesting piece of metal object in all.

  3. Vassil Tenekedjiev says:

    Judging by the style and the shape of some elements (the crowns for example) I think that this was made not earlier than the late 18th C. Most probably 19th C. I guess the image reflects the Greek Megali idea created in that period.

  4. proverbs6to10 says:

    Vassil – could you please explain more about the Megali idea? Thanks.

  5. proverbs6to10 says:

    This by email:

    Dear Sir,
    The object sent to you from your Mexican reader is certainly Greek, as the inscriptions are in Greek characters : this is list of all Byzantine emperors in chronological order and years of reign. However I do not think that this object dates from Byzantine times but I suppose it might be late eighteenth or nineteenth century postbyzantine, perhaps an object of Greek folk art. From the photographs posted I cannot discern the exact nature of the object and it’s use, it obviously depicts saints and heroes and maybe it is a part from a wedding wreath (Greeks after the fall of Constantinople used to be crowned during the wedding ceremony in a fashion resembling the crowning of Byzantine emperors).
    Hope this has been useful.
    Kind Regards,

  6. kostas says:

    I do agree also with the sayings of the above commentators. The letters are Greek (from origin) but they depict the Byzantine alphabet. As previous commentators write the writings are concerning Byzantine emperors and i believe that information is also given for their time of reign or birth and death chronologies. For example:

    In Image IMG-20110923-00954 in Line 4 we can see ΟΝΣΤΑΝΤΙΝΟS TAZ=TΞΑ. This can be translated as KONSTANTINOS 317-361 (T=300, A=1, Z=7, Ξ=60 according to the Hellenic Ionian numerology). The date 317-361 depicts the birth and death date of Emperor Konstantinos B.

    In the same image one line after we can see ΙΟΥΛΙΑΝΟS TΞΑ=TΞΓ (361-363) which possibly depicts the reign of Emperor Julian the offender (he was announced as the offender because he tried to bring back the old pagan worshiping of ancient Greece and Rome)

    Going further down the image you shall many other Byzantine emperors.

    Best Regards

  7. Brad says:

    I agree that it is most likely 19th century or later. One fun fact that may be interesting to the owner is visible in photograph no. 10. In the upper left corner of the photograph is a depiction of the Emperor Justinian, modeled on one of his famous coins:

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