Roundel with a Byzantine Emperor, Probably Heraclius
Made in Egypt, possibly Panopolis (Akhmim)
Tapestry weave in red, pale brown, and blue wools and undyed linen on plain-weave ground of undyed linen
11 5/16 x 10 1/2 in. (28.7 x 26.6 cm)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London (T.794-1919)
Not on view
Heraclius (r. 610–41), the most celebrated Byzantine emperor of the seventh century, suppressed the Sasanian Persian army’s advance on the Byzantine Empire’s southern provinces, reclaiming Jerusalem in 630, only to lose much of the territory to Arab advances during the final years of his reign. Under Heraclius, Greek replaced Latin as the official language of the state, signifying the importance of Byzantium’s southern territories. His efforts toward religious accommodation made him a hero in Islamic literature. Possibly a representation of Heraclius, this roundel (orbiculus) shows a mounted figure of imperial status, indicated by his crown, orb, scepter, and purple cloak. The cloak arches over two captives in Persian dress. The roundel would have been applied to a tunic or a domestic textile, perhaps as a protective emblem.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.