Trade and also commerce were essential materials of the success and also expansion that the oriental Empire. Trade was brought out by ship over vast distances, although because that safety, many sailing ship were restricted to the far better weather conditions in between April and October. ~ above land, the old roman inn road device was put to great use, and also so by these two method goods travelled from one end of the empire to the other, and also from far-away locations such as modern-day Afghanistan, Russia, and Ethiopia. The bigger cities had thriving cosmopolitan markets, and Constantinople ended up being one of the largest trading hubs in the human being where shoppers can stroll down spanned streets and also pick increase anything indigenous Bulgarian linen come Arabian perfumes.

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Attitudes come Trade

The mindset to trade and also commerce in the oriental Empire had adjusted very tiny since antiquity and the days of ancient Greece and also Rome: the activity was not pertained to highly and considered a little undignified because that the basic landed aristocrat to pursue. Because that example, emperor Theophilos (r. 829-842 CE) famously burned an entire ship and its cargo when he found out the his wife Theodora had actually been dabbling in commerce and had financial connections with the vessel. This perspective may describe why byzantine chroniclers regularly avoid the subject entirely. Indeed, in byzantine art and literature, traders, merchants, bankers and also money-lenders who had actually tried come cheat your clients to be often depicted as inhabiting the reduced levels of Hell.

There was also a basic mistrust the traders and also entrepreneurs (who can be both men and also women) by both the general populace and the authorities. Emperors, therefore, to be often certain in enforcing such matters as the standardisation of weights and also measures, and, the course, prices. Heavy products were scrupulously weighed utilizing steelyards and weights in the type of a bust of either the emperor or the goddess Minerva/Athena. Smaller products such as flavors were measure out using a balance with weights made of copper-alloy or glass. Come minimise cheating, weights were inscribed with their representative load or tantamount value in gold coinage and regularly checked.

Customs stations to be dotted follow me the frontiers & significant ports of the empire with 2 of the most essential being in ~ Abydos & Hieron.

State Involvement

Perhaps because of these mindsets to profession as a slightly much less than respectable profession, the state was much much more involved in it than might be expected. Unequal in earlier times, the state played a greater function in trade and also the provisioning of major cities, because that example, i m sorry was hardly ever left to private traders. Profession operated with a variety of hereditary guilds with merchants who transported the items (navicularii) being subsidised by the state and also subject to considerably reduced duties and also tolls. Duty on imported products was accumulated by state-appointed officials known as kommerkiarioi who accumulated duties on every commercial transactions and also who authorize an official lead seal once products had been with the system. To border the possibilities for corruption, the kommerkiarioi were given one-year posts and also then moved elsewhere.

Customs stations were dotted follow me the frontiers and major ports that the empire with two of the most necessary being at Abydos and also Hieron, which managed the Straits between the black color Sea and the Dardanelles. There must have been a great deal of smuggling yet measures to be taken to respond to it such together a 6th-century CE treaty between the Byzantines and also Sassanids i m sorry stipulated that all traded items must pass through official customizeds posts. Records were scrupulously kept, too, most famously the publication of the Prefect in Constantinople, which also outlined the rules for trade and trade guilds in the city.


Other examples of state treatment in trade encompass the provision produced loss or damages to products transported by sea. The Rhodian Sea regulation (7th or 8th century CE) regulation that, in such a case, merchants received a addressed compensation. The state also ensured that no goods helpful to an foe were permitted to it is in exported - gold, salt, lumber for ships, iron because that weapons, and also Greek Fire (the an enig Byzantine weapon of very inflammable liquid). Neither was the reputation silk dyed v Tyrian purple allowed for sale abroad.

Another area of close state supervision was, of course, coinage. Copper, silver, and also gold coins to be minted and also issued carrying photos of emperors, your heirs, the Cross, Jesus Christ, or other images related to the Church. Although the state produced coins generally for the purpose of payment armies and also officials, the coinage did filter down and through every levels of society. Coinage - in the kind of the standard gold nomisma (solidus) coin - was also necessary to pay one"s yearly taxes. As soon as there to be fewer wars and so fewer soldiers and also suppliers to pay for or when the tentacles that the regional state administration declined in the 7th and also 8th century CE, coins could become scarce and barter had actually to it is in resorted come in the provinces, especially.

Byzantine state manage of profession was fight by the Arab conquests from the 7th century CE. Cities, too, were in decrease and ever-more self-sufficient if shipping came to be increasingly the domain of private traders. When a higher stability in the Mediterranean permitted for a rebirth in broader trade networks native the 10th century CE, it would be the Italian states which seized the possibility to enjoy profit indigenous the transport and also sale of products from one end of the known human being to the other. Good merchants such as the Venetians were also given their very own facilities and also preferential regulations and also duties in ~ Constantinople. In ~ first, this was in return because that naval help in oriental wars, however steadily the visibility of Italian sellers (from Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa, and also Venice) ~ above the wharfs that the funding would end up being a permanent fixture. Constantinople, thus, can boast the most vivid market in Europe with vendors from Syria, Russia, Arabia and also many other places forming a semi-permanent cosmopolitan residency. Quarters sprang increase in the city wherein Jews developed synagogues, Arabs developed mosques, and Christians their churches.

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The byzantine Empire in the mid-9th century CE
Bigdaddy1204 (CC BY)

Traded Goods

The good traded goods of antiquity continued to it is in the most commonly shipped in the oriental Empire that the medieval period: olive oil, wine, wheat, honey, and fish sauce. Likewise, the terracotta amphora continued to be the storage vessel the choice. The design of amphorae readjusted depending on the location of their manufacture, although handles ended up being significantly bigger from the 10th century CE. The contents were closely labelled v either stamped inscriptions on the political parties or clay sign added. Oriental amphorae have been found throughout the Mediterranean and in ancient Britain, the black color Sea, the Red Sea, and also the Arabian Sea areas. Not till the 12th century CE would the amphorae be challenged and also surpassed in usage by the wooden barrel.

Byzantine amphorae have actually been found across the Mediterranean & in ancient Britain, the black color Sea, the Red Sea & the Arabian Sea Areas.

Other items which were traded in between regions included cattle, sheep, pigs, bacon, vegetables, fruit, pepper and also other spices, medicines, incense, perfumes, soap, wax, timber, metals, worked gemstones, lapis lazuli (from Afghanistan), glass, ivory (from India and also Africa), worked bone, flax, wool, textiles, linen (from Bulgaria), hair (from Russia), silver- plate, enamels, amber (from the Baltic), copper vessels, and also brass products (especially buckets and decorated doors panels greatly destined for Italy). The servant trade, through slaves regularly supplied from Russia, continued to it is in important, too.

Pottery tableware was another common component of any kind of ship"s cargo as shown by shipwrecks. Slipped red-bodied ceramics with stamped or used decoration were common until the 7th century CE and also then slowly replaced through finer wares which were lead-glazed, white-bodied and also then red-bodied indigenous the 9th century CE. Decoration, once present, was impressed, incised, or painted. Constantinople was a major production centre because that white-bodied ceramics and Corinth created a huge quantity of red-wares from the 11th century CE.

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Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Silk was first introduced indigenous China however imported raw silk was ultimately replaced through silk created on mulberry farms (the food of the silkworm) in Phoenicia and also then Constantinople native 568 CE. The silk factory at the oriental capital was under imperial control, and the 5 silk guilds were under the auspices that the imperial Prefect that the city. Other notable silk-producing sites within the empire consisted of southern Italy, Greek Thebes and Corinth.

Marble was constantly in demand across the realm as the was used by those who might afford it for buildings, flooring, church altars, decoration, and also furniture. The basic grey-white marble which ended up being the staple of any kind of Byzantine architect"s project was quarried in large quantities indigenous the island the Proconnesus in the Sea the Marmara (up come the 7th century CE) while an ext exotic marble came from Greece, Bithynia and also Phrygia. Shipwrecks provide evidence the marble to be worked prior to it was shipped come its last destination. Many old monuments, especially pagan ones, throughout the Mediterranean were also plundered because that whatever beneficial marble bits and pieces could be reused and also shipped elsewhere. Cyzicus in the Sea of Marmara came to be a detailed centre the marble production and also recycling indigenous the 8 hours century CE.


Markets & Shops

Ordinary citizens might purchase products in sectors which were held in devoted squares or in the rows of permanent shops which lined the highways of bigger towns and cities. Shops usually had two floors - one on street level wherein the goods were manufactured, stocked and sold, and also a second floor where the shopkeeper or artisan and their household lived. Shoppers were safeguarded from the sun and also rain in such streets by collonaded roofed walkways, which were regularly paved v marble slabs and also mosaics. Some shopping roads were pedestrianised and blocked come wheeled web traffic by big steps at either end. In some cities, the shopkeepers were expected to keep lamps exterior their shops to administer street lighting. Simply as today, shopkeepers do the efforts to spread out their wares the end as far as feasible to capture the casual shopper, and there are royal records complaining around the practice.

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Market in Constantinople (Artist"s Impression)
One last highlight of the purchase calendar to be the festivals and also fairs organized on together important religious dates together saint"s birthdays or fatality anniversaries. Then churches, specifically those with holy relics to tempt pilgrim travellers from far and also wide, came to be the centrepiece of temporary industries where stalls offered all manner of goods. Among the biggest such fairs to be at Ephesus, organized on the anniversary that Saint John"s death. Typically, the 10% sales tax collected by the state kommerkiarioi at such occasions was a tidy sum, follow to one record as much as 100 lbs (45 kilos) in gold.

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Mark is a background writer based in Italy. His special interests include pottery, architecture, human being mythology and discovering the concepts that all worlds share in common. That holds one MA in politics Philosophy and also is the posting Director at WHE.