The Great Man on the Chair: Evidence for the Interpretation of a Late Roman Lead Seal


In 2017 a lead seal was donated to the Hungarian National Museum (MNM-ÉT 2017.5.1) carrying a peculiar depiction. It shows a clothed figure on the left seated on a chair facing right, raising right (?) hand, with four clothed male (?) figures in front of him standing closely to the left, facing the seated figure. This gesture is reminiscent the well-known „eloquent” type (eloquens, logios [λόγιος]) that has a long iconographic tradition. The scene is what the numismatic literature calls a crowd scene, the transformation of its different variants (adlocutio, congiarium) can be traced to the late Roman era. This is also the time, when the Early Christian iconography adapts it, but without proper attributes, it is difficult to decide whether or not this is to be regarded as a religious scene (Dominus legem dat). Some of the few analogous seals show the name of Christ, therefore a connection with Christianity is perhaps more plausible. There are also some Pannonian finds to support this reading like the figural bronze casket fittings from Császár and Csucsa or the dagger scabbard from Pölöske. In the case of the lead seal in question, a Christian interpretation is possible, although this can not be stated with certainty.