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Processional crosses were an important object in the Roman Byzantine army. They were mounted on a pole and carried into battle atop an army banner, or alone, carried either leading in battle for protection, or through troops for blessing prior to combat. Unlike personally worn crosses, these processional crosses were rare! This is the very top fragment broken from a large processional bronze cross that would have been approximately 8" to 10" tall for just the cross portion. It was found on an ancient battlefield with a multitude of weapons, indicating certain use in actual combat. Likely destroyed in defeat or captured and destroyed by the Ottoman army, the damage is ancient as the broken portion edge shows heavy sediment deposits over a rich, green bronze patina. Typical to these crosses, it is inscribed with Greek letters IC XC for Jesus Christ. A small IC is on the one side and small XC is on the other. Running in larger letters down the center is IC and next beneath, XC for Jesus Christ. Below these letters, the next two set of letters' translation is hard to determine but they are legible. The other side of the fragment shows incised decorations. Original ancient sediment deposits over a deep emerald green mineral patina are a testament to its ancient provenance.
There is no more important ancient Roman Byzantine artifact than a Christian processional cross. As the Eastern Roman Empire was founded and based on Christianity, crosses like this were regarded with reverence, not mass-produced and carried by the masses in battle. In combat, no object was more important and better defended than a processional cross to bless, protect and inspire the troops.
This item was used by the Byzantine Roman armies defending the Empire's northern border along the Danube River in the present day East Balkans. This region was the northern-most boundary of the Roman Empire for most of its duration and evolution into Byzantium right up until 1336 AD when the area fell under Ottoman rule. In the Balkans, Roman camps and fortresses along the Danube were constantly being challenged by opposing tribes and armies. The river served as a natural barrier against attacks from the north. Collected from a region that was once occupied by the Byzantine Roman military as they fought against the challengers of the Christian Roman Empire, they were utilized by Roman soldiers in one of the many violent and frequent battles that took place in defense of Byzantium.
Perhaps no other epoch in history is so unique, extensive and yet, as much forgotten as that of the Byzantine Roman Empire. From the founding of its new capitol in Constantinople, 330 AD to its final fall to the Ottoman invaders in 1453, over eleven hundred years of history has virtually been lost in most minds of the Western world. Ironically, it is this exact history that has extensively shaped the Western cultures today, especially those of the Christian faith.
No event in Western history was probably more pivotal than that of the Christian conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine I. Up to that time, Christians were heavily persecuted by many of the previous emperors and the religion was outlawed. That would all change in 324 AD with a miraculous military victory and subsequent conversion to Christianity by Constantine I at the Milvian Bridge. From this point on, Christianity became the official religion of the Empire. A new capitol was established in Constantinople (present day Istanbul, Turkey) and power was fully transferred from Rome to Constantinople in 476 AD. It was not the end of the Roman Empire but a continuation and fascinating transformation of Roman rule that would last for another one thousand years!
In the Byzantine Period, the Roman Empire and Christianity were completely interwoven. It was the quintessential example of the UNION of church and state. What was once the ancient world's greatest enemy of the faith, overnight became its most devoted advocate. The classic architecture, style of dress, and overall appearance of all that was "Old Rome" took on a new and intricate style that the world has never seen before or since. This was not only attributed to the influence of the capitol's new geographic location, but also to the foremost prominence of Christianity in the Roman world.
A well-known remnant of the Byzantine Period is the stunning and unique art of the religious Icons. This abstract spiritual style can be immediately recognized and is evident in not only paintings and mosaics but also the era's architecture and coins. What was once thought of as crude numismatic issues are now appreciated as highly stylized symbols of the Romans' devout faith.
After the establishment of Constantinople as the new capitol and navel of the Roman world, the Empire continued for almost a millennium eventually bridging ancient and medieval history but not without its share of enemies. Numerous challenges of foreign armies took its toll on defenses and finally, on May 29, 1453 AD, the Muslim Ottomans overran the crumbling city walls and the sun set forever on the greatest empire that the ancient world had ever known.