The ring belonged to Leontios of the province of Opsikion, in what is now northwestern Turkey. Patrikios and komes were Roman titles that shifted in meaning during the Byzantine period; it seems likely that Leontios was the governor of the province or a high-ranking general.
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Title:Ring of Leontios
Dimensions:Overall: 11/16 × 7/8 × 7/8 in. (1.8 × 2.2 × 2.3 cm) Bezel: 11/16 in. (1.8 cm) Inside circumference: 2 1/8 in. (5.3 cm) Thickness of band: 1/4 in. (0.7 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Rogers Fund, by exchange, 1982
From the ninth through the fourteenth century, massive gold rings—usually with nielloed decoration—bearing Greek invocational prayers on their bezels were commonly worn by high officials of the Byzantine court. They were probably made in imperial workshops, and may have been rings of investiture. We know from the engraved and niello-filled Greek inscription of the bezel of this example, invoking the help of the Lord, that it belonged to one Leontius, count of Opsikion (Bithynia, Asia Minor), but no other information is known concerning this official.
This ring was included in the Metropolitan Museum exhibition "The Glory of Byzantium" in March 1997, at which time it was studied by the internationally renowned expert on Byzantine seals and rings John Nesbitt. Because the last syllable of the final word in the inscription is set on its own line, between two bars, Nesbitt dates the ring between 990 and 1030. He notes that the practice of ending an inscription in this manner first appeared among Byzantine lead seals only in about the year 1000, and for this reason he has proposed a similar date for this ring. The floral acanthus-scroll motifs on the hoop, also in niello, are, however, similar to rinceaux represented in thirteenth-century Byzantine illuminated manuscripts. Furthermore, the polylobed circumference of the ring's bezel is comparable to that on the example in the British Museum ascribed to Manuel Palaeologus (1348–1425). These comparisons lead us to believe that the ring may be as late in date as the thirteenth century, but perhaps additional study is needed before the ring can be dated more specifically.
Inscription: Inscribed: "Lord help Leontius, Patrician and Count of imperial Obsikion guarded by God"
Feuardent(1924); Private Collection ; [ Ward & Company Works of Art (American)(sold 1982)]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Glory of Byzantium," March 11–July 6, 1997.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Mirror of the Medieval World," March 9–June 1, 1999.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. Notable Acquisitions, 1982-1983 (Metropolitan Museum of Art) (1983). p. 18.
Parker, Elizabeth C. "Recent Major Acquisitions of Medieval Art by American Museums." Gesta 23, no. 1 (1984). p. 70, fig. 6.
Evans, Helen C., and William D. Wixom, ed. The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843–1261. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. no. 173, p. 248.
Wixom, William D., ed. Mirror of the Medieval World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999. no. 97, p. 83.
Bosselmann-Ruickbie, Antje. Byzantinischer Schmuck des 9. bis frühen 13. Jahrhunderts. Reihne B, Studien und Perspektiven, Vol. 28. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2011. no. 140, p. 289.
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