Trade and commerce to be essential contents of the success and also expansion that the oriental Empire. Trade was lugged out by delivery over large distances, although for safety, many sailing vessels were restricted to the better weather conditions in between April and also October. Top top land, the old roman inn road mechanism was placed to great use, and also so by this two way goods took trip from one end of the realm to the other, as well as from far-away areas such as modern-day Afghanistan, Russia, and Ethiopia. The bigger cities had prospering cosmopolitan markets, and Constantinople came to be one of the largest trading hubs in the human being where shoppers can stroll down covered streets and also pick increase anything native Bulgarian linen to Arabian perfumes.

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Attitudes come Trade

The mindset to trade and also commerce in the oriental Empire had readjusted very tiny since antiquity and also the days of ancient Greece and also Rome: the task was not related to highly and considered a little undignified for the general landed aristocrat come pursue. For example, emperor Theophilos (r. 829-842 CE) famously burned an entire ship and its cargo once he uncovered out the his wife Theodora had actually been dabbling in commerce and had financial connections with the vessel. This mindset may explain why oriental chroniclers frequently avoid the subject entirely. Indeed, in oriental art and also literature, traders, merchants, bankers and money-lenders who had actually tried to cheat your clients were often portrayed as inhabiting the lower levels that Hell.

There was likewise a basic mistrust the traders and also entrepreneurs (who might be both men and also women) by both the basic populace and the authorities. Emperors, therefore, were often particular in enforcing together matters together the standardization of weights and also measures, and, of course, prices. Heavy items were scrupulously weighed using steelyards and weights in the type of a bust of one of two people the emperor or the goddess Minerva/Athena. Smaller items such as spices were measured out using a balance with weights do of copper-alloy or glass. Come minimise cheating, weights were inscribed through their representative weight or identical value in yellow coinage and also regularly checked.

Customs stations to be dotted along the frontiers & significant ports the the realm with two of the most essential being at Abydos & Hieron.

State Involvement

Perhaps because of these mindsets to profession as a slightly less than respectable profession, the state was much more involved in the than can be expected. Uneven in earlier times, the state play a greater role in trade and also the provisioning of major cities, because that example, which was hardly ever left to personal traders. Trade operated through a range of hereditary guilds with merchants who transported the items (navicularii) gift subsidised by the state and subject to significantly reduced duties and also tolls. Duty on imported goods was built up by state-appointed officials well-known as kommerkiarioi who gathered duties on all commercial transactions and also who authorize an official lead seal once items had been v the system. To limit the possibilities for corruption, the kommerkiarioi were offered one-year posts and also then moved elsewhere.

Customs stations were dotted along the frontiers and significant ports that the realm with two of the most essential being in ~ Abydos and also Hieron, which managed the Straits between the black Sea and the Dardanelles. Over there must have been a good deal of smuggling yet measures to be taken to respond to it such as a 6th-century CE treaty in between the Byzantines and also Sassanids i beg your pardon stipulated that all traded items must pass v official personalizeds posts. Documents were scrupulously kept, too, most famously the book of the Prefect in Constantinople, which likewise outlined the rules for trade and trade guilds in the city.


Other instances of state treatment in trade incorporate the provision created loss or damage to goods transported by sea. The Rhodian Sea regulation (7th or 8 hours century CE) stipulated that, in such a case, sellers received a solved compensation. The state additionally ensured that no goods beneficial to an foe were permitted to it is in exported - gold, salt, lumber for ships, iron because that weapons, and also Greek Fire (the mystery Byzantine weapon of highly inflammable liquid). Neither to be the reputation silk dyed through Tyrian purple allowed for revenue abroad.

Another area of close state supervision was, of course, coinage. Copper, silver, and gold coins were minted and issued carrying images of emperors, their heirs, the Cross, Jesus Christ, or other pictures related come the Church. Back the state minted coins mainly for the purpose of paying armies and also officials, the coinage walk filter down and also through every levels of society. Coinage - in the form of the conventional gold nomisma (solidus) coin - was also necessary to salary one"s yearly taxes. Once there were fewer wars and so under soldiers and also suppliers to pay because that or when the tentacles the the neighborhood state bureaucracy declined in the 7th and 8th century CE, coins could come to be scarce and also barter had actually to it is in resorted come in the provinces, especially.

Byzantine state manage of profession was fight by the Arab occupations 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 better stability in the Mediterranean enabled for a rebirth in broader trade networks from the 10th century CE, it would be the Italian states which seized the possibility to reap profit native the transport and also sale of goods from one end of the known world to the other. Great merchants such together the Venetians were also given their own facilities and preferential regulations and also duties at Constantinople. In ~ first, this remained in return for naval help in oriental wars, yet steadily the visibility of Italian vendors (from Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa, and Venice) ~ above the wharfs that the resources would end up being a long-term fixture. Constantinople, thus, could boast the most vivid market in Europe with sellers from Syria, Russia, Arabia and also many various other places developing a semi-permanent cosmopolitan residency. Quarters sprang up in the city where Jews constructed synagogues, Arabs built mosques, and also Christians your churches.

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

Traded Goods

The great traded products of antiquity continued to it is in the most commonly shipped in the byzantine Empire the the medieval period: olive oil, wine, wheat, honey, and also fish sauce. Likewise, the terracotta amphora stayed the warehouse vessel the choice. The architecture of amphorae adjusted depending ~ above the ar of your manufacture, return handles came to be significantly bigger native the 10th century CE. The contents were carefully labelled with either stamped inscriptions on the sides or clay tags added. Byzantine amphorae have actually been found across the Mediterranean and in old Britain, the black Sea, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea areas. Not till the 12th century CE would the amphorae it is in challenged and also surpassed in use by the wood barrel.

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

Other items which were traded between regions contained cattle, sheep, pigs, bacon, vegetables, fruit, pepper and other spices, medicines, incense, perfumes, soap, wax, timber, metals, functioned gemstones, lapis lazuli (from Afghanistan), glass, ivory (from India and Africa), functioned bone, flax, wool, textiles, linen (from Bulgaria), hair (from Russia), silver plate, enamels, amber (from the Baltic), bronze vessels, and brass items (especially buckets and also decorated doors panels mainly destined because that Italy). The servant trade, with slaves frequently supplied from Russia, continued to be important, too.

Pottery tableware was one more common part of any type of ship"s cargo as suggested by shipwrecks. Slipped red-bodied ceramics with stamped or applied decoration were common until the 7th century CE and then gradually replaced through finer wares which to be lead-glazed, white-bodied and also then red-bodied from the ninth century CE. Decoration, once present, was impressed, incised, or painted. Constantinople to be a significant production centre because that white-bodied ceramics and also Corinth produced a huge quantity the red-wares indigenous the 11th century CE.

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Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Silk was first introduced from China but imported raw silk was at some point replaced by silk developed on mulberry ranches (the food that the silkworm) in Phoenicia and then Constantinople native 568 CE. The silk factory at the oriental capital to be under royal control, and also the 5 silk guilds to be under the auspices of the imperial Prefect the the city. Other notable silk-producing sites within the empire contained southern Italy, Greek Thebes and also Corinth.

Marble was constantly in demand across the realm as the was offered by those who can afford it because that buildings, flooring, church altars, decoration, and also furniture. The simple grey-white marble which ended up being the clip of any Byzantine architect"s job was quarried in big quantities native the island that Proconnesus in the Sea that Marmara (up come the 7th century CE) while much more exotic marble come from Greece, Bithynia and Phrygia. Shipwrecks carry out evidence that marble was worked prior to it to be shipped to its final destination. Many ancient monuments, particularly pagan ones, across the Mediterranean were likewise plundered because that whatever advantageous marble bits and pieces might be reused and also shipped elsewhere. Cyzicus in the Sea that Marmara came to be a listed centre that marble production and recycling from the 8 hours century CE.


Markets & Shops

Ordinary citizens might purchase products in markets which were organized in devoted squares or in the rows of permanent shops which lined the roads of bigger towns and also cities. Shops usually had two floors - one on street level wherein the goods were manufactured, stocked and also sold, and a second floor whereby the shopkeeper or artisan and also their family lived. Shoppers were safeguarded from the sun and rain in such highways by collonaded roofed walkways, which were frequently paved v marble slabs and also mosaics. Some shopping roads were pedestrianised and blocked come wheeled traffic by huge steps at one of two people end. In part cities, the shopkeepers were expected to maintain lamps outside their shops to carry out street lighting. Just as today, shopkeepers make the efforts to spread out their wares the end as far as feasible to record the casual shopper, and there are imperial records complaining around the practice.

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Market in Constantinople (Artist"s Impression)
One last highlight of the shopping calendar to be the festivals and fairs hosted on together important spiritual dates as saint"s birthdays or death anniversaries. Then churches, especially those with holy relics to entice pilgrim tourists from far and also wide, came to be the centrepiece the temporary industries where stalls marketed 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 events was a tidy sum, according to one document 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, world mythology and also discovering the ideas that all people share in common. The holds one MA in politics Philosophy and also is the publishing Director at WHE.