The Economic History of Byzantium: From the Seventh through the Fifteenth Century (VII)




8. Map of storage facilities uncovered south of the Crusader wall and reconstruction of a granary in  Caesarea (after J. Patrich, “Warehouse and Granaries in Caesarea Maritima,” in Caesarea Maritima:A Retrospective after Two Millennia, ed. A. Raban and K. Holum [Leiden–New York, 1996], p. 147, fig. 1,and p. 167, fig. 21)

Wool and linen were the main textiles, but hemp was also used extensively. The  uses of textiles (in clothing, hangings, rugs, upholstery, nautical ropes, sails) and the techniques associated with textile manufacture (carding, weaving, dyeing) required
the use of highly specialized artisans. The workshops of Sardis were by and large dyeworks.
Egypt occupied a distinguished place among the producer regions on the evidence  of the important samples that have come down to us.211 Silk posed a particular problem, insofar as it was not manufactured within the empire until the Justinianic
period and was thus the object of a highly regulated trade with the Sasanians, supervised by imperial functionaries.212
There is ample evidence of woodworking (carpentry, shipbuilding, joinery, and basketmaking),crafts associated with hides (leatherwork, the preparation of fur, shoemaking,clothing manufacture, and the manufacture of parchment), as well as work in  bone, ivory, and wax.213

The most important manufacturing sector, however, was metalwork,which comprised two highly differentiated sectors: work in base metals on the  one hand, and, on the other, work in precious metals. The first included artisans who  worked iron, copper alloys, lead, and tin, and it brought into play a vast production  that included a variety of objects: nails, clamps, keys, tools of every sort, utensils, and  weapons, which might be manufactured in the imperial fabricae  Sardis,Concordia,Antioch, Caesarea), as well as by private entities,214 and made use of precious metals and leather. Weaponry, like military dress, made a strong impression on the “barbarian”  populations and was widely imitated. These trades were carried out by simple  artisans, such as the Cilician blacksmith mentioned in the Miracles of St. Artemios.215
Work in precious metals—silver and gold—brought wealthy and influential guilds into the manufacturing process, and, given the primary materials involved, they handled  substantial amounts of capital. Here again, church treasuries emphasize the wealth of
the sixth century, both in the East and in Constantinople itself. Court ceremony favored  the production of a very high level of goldsmithing that combined gold, precious  stones, pearls, and enamels.216 The system of hallmarks underlined the state’s interest
in controlling the flow of silver. Gold, the preeminent monetary substance, must have  been regulated even more closely. The wealth of goldsmiths (chrysochooi) could transform them into money changers (collectarii, trapezitai) and subsequently bankers (aurarii,argyropratai), following a hierarchy suggested by Charlotte Roueche´.217 They might  then figure in the collection of taxes and have access to public funds over which they  could exercise control. There is abundant testimony to the rise in the power of these  guilds during the reign of Justinian. We cannot rule out the possibility that the banker  Julianus had been a Byzantine agent. At Bostra, three inscriptions show chrysochooi  supervising the utilization of public funds (demotika). At Scythopolis, a goldsmith became   a palatinus, and Peter Barsymes, a money changer, became praetorian prefect
under Justinian.

Trade: Textual and Archaeological Evidence

Trade in the abovementioned agricultural and Byzantine artisanal products, whose  density within the metrokomiai we have glimpsed on a local level, remained active during  a large part of the sixth century, albeit on a more modest scale than during the
preceding centuries. Until the 1970s and even the 1980s, our knowledge of these exchanges  for the most part relied on the testimony of texts; it has since benefited from  the contributions of archaeology and, in particular, from the study of pottery finds.218
The interpretation and comparative analysis of this evidence is, to be a sure, a delicate task; and ensuring consistency in materials classification, the stratigraphy of the physical  context, and statistical methodology are not unproblematic.219 While we must
guard against imbuing them with absolute value, such data nonetheless yield invaluable  quantitative information regarding the geographic directions of commercial exchange  and their evolution relative to one another. This documentation nonetheless
remains incomplete for two reasons: on the one hand, it is limited to products that  were transported as commodities in and of themselves (tableware or cooking ware) or  products whose transport required the use of ceramic containers (amphoras or jars):
liquids (oil, wine), semiliquids (salted foods, condiments such as garum),220 and, occasionally,dried fruit or pulses. A foodstuff as essential as wheat, by contrast, would leave  no direct traces (or nearly none); wine as well, possibly as early as the sixth century,began to be transported in barrels. On the other hand, the documentation available  to us for the most part concerns maritime exchange.
Maritime trade had the advantage of a much lower cost than land exchange, a fact  that has often been emphasized with respect to cereal products (Jones reckons it from  seventeen to twenty-two times lower). It would nonetheless be erroneous to minimize
the role of land transport: the differential was less significant for high-value products  of a weight or volume analogous to wheat that could travel over short distances in  containers lighter than amphoras (among others)221 and thus justified not only the
shipment of silk or spices by land, but other products as well. Antioch thus tapped  products from a hinterland that was not limited solely to the Orontes valley, but extended  as far as Melitene, Chalcis, and Edessa; the city maintained reciprocal relations
with the rural areas of Cilicia and northern Syria, providing textiles, tools, and other  manufactured products—African Sigillata ware, for example—in exchange for foodstuffs  or timber.222 A portion of this merchandise was reshipped by way of Antioch’s
large-scale trade; the remainder constituted local commerce.
This trade may be glimpsed through the evidence of a few inscriptions, regrettably mutilated, such as the municipal tariffs of Anazarbos and Cagliari223 (Fig. 7). The first,which dates from the mid-fifth to the mid-sixth century, taxes the following products:
saffron, garum, ropes, gourds (? khouzia), fenugreek (karphion, a pulse), garlic, fried  foods (fish), wine, salt, grafted plants, raw silk, tin, lead, slaves, cattle, caroubes (pulsesin general?). The second, dating to the reign of Maurice, mentions palms (sparta),
sheep (for butchering, taxed in pounds of meat), vegetables (olera), “summer produce”(extibalia), wine, wheat, and “birds” (abis). Without attempting to draw conclusions as  to chronology from the comparison of these two fragmentary pieces of evidence, one
may distinguish Anazarbos—clearly more important and active, stocking not only foodstuffs, but also luxury products (silk) and raw materials for artisan work and even  reexport—from Cagliari, which took in food solely for the town itself, as well as palms
to weave baskets, sandals, and roofing materials. To a certain degree, one may also  distinguish the reference in the Nessana papyri of a total indicative of a sizable transaction  (270.5 solidi repaid to some merchants by one Father Martyrius) from other, morelocal transactions, none of which exceeds 10 solidi (the purchases of camels and donkeys  valued at 21⁄3 to 8 solidi, and the purchase of a slave for 3 solidi).
Medium- and long-distance maritime trade benefited from a port infrastructure,the maintenance or restoration of which in the course of the sixth century reflects its  endurance and vitality, albeit unequally distributed, given that the eastern Mediterranean
was clearly the better endowed in this regard. With the construction on the Propontis  of the harbor of Julian and subsequently the harbor of Theodosios and its associated  granaries, Constantinople witnessed a remarkable growth during the fourth and  fifth centuries in the capacity of its harbors, previously limited to the two natural ones  on the Golden Horn. In total, the city had some 4 km of quays that could accommodate  the simultaneous docking of five hundred midsized ships.224 Recent excavations at  Caesarea have similarly demonstrated the vast size of early Byzantine granaries (Fig.8). Nor should we minimize the role of docking facilities within the eastern Mediterranean,for example, the ports of Cyprus (Paphos), Crete, and Rhodes, where the governor of the province of the islands had his seat. Each had its own docks or harbors, in  some cases specialized ones, such as the harbor at Thasos, which was fitted with cranes  to load marble onto ships.225 Antioch was accessible through a navigable channel that  was maintained along the Orontes River. To the north of the channel, the port of Seleucia  Pieria, according to an inscription, accommodated ships coming not only from Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Cilicia, but also from Palestine and Egypt.226


Cecile Morrisson and Jean-Pierre Sodini


211 Bagnall, Egypt, 82–84 (in which most of the sources cited date to the 4th or 5th century). On  groups of Coptic textiles, many of which date to the 6th and 7th centuries, see the summary bibliography  in Sodini, “La contribution de l’arche´ologie,” 180–81.
212 N. Oikonomides, “Silk Trade and Production in Byzantium from the Sixth to the Ninth Century:
The Seals of Kommerkiarioi,” DOP 40 (1986): 33–53, and idem, “The Role of the Byzantine State in  the Economy,” EHB 962. On the silk textiles themselves, see A. Muthesius, “Essential Processes,Looms, and Technical Aspects of the Production of Silk,” EHB 146ff.
213 Sodini, “La contribution de l’arche´ologie,” 165–72; Bagnall, Egypt, 84.
214 Such as the one managed by Thalassius, the friend of Libanios: G. Dagron, Naissance d’une  capitale: Constantinople et ses institutions de 330 a` 451 (Paris, 1974), 132.
215 Sodini, “Artisanat urbain,” 85–86, 101–2; J. C.Waldbaum, Metalwork from Sardis: The Finds through  1974 (Cambridge, Mass., 1983). Aphrodisias yields a new term to designate the workshop of a blacksmith  (mudrostasi´a): Roueche´, Aphrodisias, no. 208.
216 Sodini, “Artisanat urbain,” 85–86, and “La contribution de l’arche´ologie,” 170–171; and more  recently, Boyd and Mango, Ecclesiastical Silver Plate; for a summary of the latter, see Morrisson, “Tre´-sors d’argenterie,” 539–48.

217 C. Roueche´, “Aurarii in the Auditoria,” ZPapEpig 105 (1995): 37–50. The examples that follow  are drawn from this study. J. Gascou (Antiquite´ tardive 5 [1997]: 376) has, however, challenged the  meaning of aurarii mentioned in the circuses and theaters; rather than bankers, could they be favisores  (clappers)? A preferable recent hypothesis considers them to be financial managers of circus games.
The term is not attested in any other context. See C. Zuckerman, “Le cirque, l’argent et le peuple. A  propos d’une inscription du Bas-Empire,” REB 58 (2000): 69–96, esp. 73–78. See also G. Dagron,“The Urban Economy, Seventh–Twelfth Centuries,” EHB 427–30.
218 Panella, “Merci e scambi.”
219 C. Panella, “Le merci: Produzione, itinerati e destini,” in Societa` romana e impero tardoantico, ed.A. Giardina (Rome, 1986), 3:21–23, 431–59; for a state of the art, see J. Keay and C. Abadie-Reynal,“A propos des Actes du Colloque de Sienne, 1986: Amphores romaines et histoire e´conomique, Rome 1989,”JRA 5 (1992): 353–66; M. Bonifay and D. Pie´ri, “Amphores du Ve au VIIe s. a` Marseille: Nouvelles  donne´es sur la typologie et le contenu,” JRA 8 (1995): 94–120.
220 The importance of North Africa in this sector has recently been emphasized: Ben Lazreg et al.,
“Production et commercialisation.

221 A. H. M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire (284–602) (Oxford, 1964), 841–42. D. J. Mattingly, “Oil  for Export? A Comparison of Libyan, Spanish and Tunisian Olive Oil Production in the Roman  Empire,” JRA 1 (1988): 33–57, at 52, citing K. Greene, Archaeology of the Roman Economy (Berkeley,1986), 35–43.
222 Liebeschuetz, Antioch, 61–100; J.-P. Sodini, “Villes et campagnes en Syrie du Nord:E´ changes et  diffusion des produits d’apre`s les te´moignages arche´ologiques,” in Models of Regional Economies in  Antiquity and the Middle Ages to the 11th Century, ed. E. Aerts, J. Andreau, and P. Ørsted (Louvain,1990), 72–83.
223 Anazarbos: G. Dagron, in G. Dagron and D. Feissel, Inscriptions de Cilicie (Paris, 1987), no. 108,pp. 170–85; J. Durliat, “Taxes sur l’entre´e des marchandises dans la cite´ de Carales-Cagliari a` l’e´poque byzantine,” DOP 36 (1982): 1–14.

224 Mango, De´veloppement urbain, 38.
225 J.-P. Sodini, A. Lambraki, and T. Kozelj, Les carrie`res de marbre a` l’e´poque pale´ochre´tienne (Paris,
1980), 119–22.
226 G. Dagron, “Un tarif de sportules a` payer aux curiosi du port de Se´leucie de Pie´rie (VIe sie`cle),”
TM 9 (1985): 437–38.

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