You are here: Home / Studies Programs / Byzantine Studies / Scholarly Events / Past Events / Trade and Markets in Byzantium / Abstracts, 2008 Spring Symposium

Abstracts, 2008 Spring Symposium

Trade And Markets In Byzantium: Production and Trade of Glazed Ceramic Wares in the Byzantine World

Dimitra Bakirtzis, Archaeological Institute for Thracian and Macedonian Studies, Thessalonike

Byzantine pottery, especially the glazed wares, is attracting ever-increasing interest from historical research, particularly in relation to economic history. The archaeological approach to Byzantine ceramics, however, oriented towards issues of typology, decoration and chronology, is only just beginning to confront the role of pottery as key evidence for the study of economic life in Byzantium.

This paper will concentrate on the archaeological record on Byzantine glazed ceramics to address some of the main questions related to the study of commercial life in Byzantium. It will explore the manner of production as well as the organization and the development of pottery workshops in the Middle Byzantine and Late Byzantine period. Furthermore, it will emphasize the differences in the structure of the workshops between these two periods and will examine the extent to which these influenced the dissemination of pottery products. The distribution of pottery artefacts will be examined in order to clarify the extent to which ceramics were the object of local, regional or interregional trade. Moreover, the identification of production centers and their relation to the capital, regional commercial hubs and smaller towns will permit useful comparisons and conclusions on the infrastructure of some aspects of the Byzantine economy.

Cyprus will be a primary example for the study of the manufacture, the distribution and the marketing of glazed pottery during the Middle and Late Byzantine periods. The island was at the center of the Crusader campaigns as early as the middle of the 12th century, and its ceramic production, circulated in the broader region, reflects the complex socio-economic and cultural networks of the Byzantine Mediterranean world.

Annual fairs and regional trade networks in Syria and Palestine

André Binggeli,
Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris

Over the past decades, much attention has been given to periodic markets in the West, especially in the medieval period, but modern scholarship, probably because of lack of evidence, has neglected their counterpart in the East, both in Byzantium and in the Islamic Empire. To renew the interest for this issue, a collection of sources that attest to more than 20 annual fairs in Syria and Palestine, namely Arabic calendars of the 9th–11th centuries, will be given special attention here. By confronting this unexploited evidence for the early Islamic period with better known sources for late Antiquity, the role of fairs will be examined on a large scale, both geographically and chronologically. The paper will focus on the following questions: the building up of regional trade networks that follow annual cycles responding to the economic expanse of a given area, the development of fairs along international trade routes, the importance of which varies from one period to another, and how the appearance and disappearance of fairs over time follow the economic necessities related to the political changes that took place in Syria at large during the period spanning the 6th to the 11th centuries.

Trade and markets: Providing links between late Roman and Byzantine economic historiography

Jean-Michel Carrié,
École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

Byzantine economic history is a relatively recent branch of historical research and reflexion, which converted itself from a traditional innocently modernist to the so called primitivist paradigm. Ultimately, The Economic History of Byzantium fortunately dissociated itself from the Polanyian and Finleyan models. The same switch has occurred in Roman economic history, though Byzantinists are not always aware of it, with the risk of confusing the perception of continuity and change in economic structures, evolutions and models between the later fourth and the ninth century. This paper will aim at promoting better communication between those two chronological fields, taking also into account the still unsatisfactory contact between "oriental Byzantine" and "occidental early medieval" historiographies.

Emphasis will be laid on what should be seen as the major differential factor, i. e. the fate of the classical city and urban life, their general but unequal disappearance or recession which had the effect of geographically and socially reallocating production and consumption according to new patterns. Other determining factors in the quantitative, qualitative and geographical evolution of trade and markets will be tackled, such as demographic evolution, state interference in and/or control of economy, the extent and influence of the great estates, protofeudalism, and social differentiation with its effects on markets and range of trade, each of these factors being still subject to divergent opinions.

Local exchanges - Mediterranean exchanges: Archaeological evidence for the 8th–9th century economy of northern Italy.

Sauro Gelichi,
University of Ca' Foscari - Venice

The aim of this paper is to analyze the level (local? international?) of exchanges in northern Italy during the 8th and 9th centuries. It is a period of transition from the Lombards to the Carolingians, generally described as a time of stagnation. The character of the economy is supposed to be one of fragmentation, that is, the lands of northern Italy had only a local vitality. Only meagre and fragmentary archaeological documentation was used, however, to substantiate this model. In contrast, reexamination of earlier excavations and new archaeological investigations, especially in the Venetian lagoon and in the town of Comacchio, present a completely different scenario. I will use the evidence of pottery, containers, glass, coins and soapstone vessels to prove the vitality of this area and its international connections during the first half of the 8th century. At that time some towns on the Po river and some monasteries in northern Italy were part of the same system. After the fall of the Lombard Kingdom (774), however, the situation slowly changed. In fact during the first half of the 9th century the new center of Rivoalto in the Venetian lagoon arose: Venice was born and the economic vitality of the Po valley vanished.

Commerce and exchange in the seventh and eighth centuries: regional trade and the movement of goods

John Haldon,
Princeton University

This paper will review the evidence for local and regional exchange in the Byzantine world from the seventh to the early ninth century. It will show that on the basis of the ceramic as well as the documentary record, and in spite of the localization of pottery production and the regionalisation of exchange patterns, trade or exchange within the empire continued unbroken throughout the period from the later seventh century into the ninth century. The character and volume of this activity is more difficult to assess, as is the role of the imperial kommerkiarioi and their storehouses, or apothêkai, but it would be easier to explain their activities in the later eighth and ninth centuries as related as much to internal trade and movements of goods, as to external commerce. Regional trade can also include cross-frontier exchanges over short distances, and we should also bear in mind the movement of people, with differing demands and habits, from one part of the empire to the other or from outside the empire's territory, whether as individuals - single merchants and traders, imperial emissaries, pilgrims and so forth - or in larger groups: military contingents, immigrant families or communities, including slaves in smaller or larger bodies. This complicates any picture we may wish to draw of the movement and the production of goods, since immigrant or moving populations invariably brought with them both techniques and habits of consumption which may have contrasted with those of the society into which they were introduced.

Regional Networks in Asia Minor during the Middle Byzantine Period (7th–11th centuries)

Johannes Koder,
University of Vienna

This paper focuses chronologically on the period from the end of the sixth century to the end of the eleventh century; geographically it covers the continental areas of western and central Asia Minor. I shall attempt to define an approach that provides at least a partial solution to the problems of the existence and scope of long-term, regional networks that primarily served the regular supply of every-day goods (such as foodstuffs, wood, charcoal, etc.) to larger settlements (cities and market towns), and enabled regular commercial exchange between these settlements.

Changing demographic conditions and the impact of political measures (brought about, for instance, by the imperial administration, or by military events) will be discussed in brief. Also, both presuppositions concerning geographic, climatic and administrative issues, as well as problematic aspects of the historical information bases (written and monumental sources) will be addressed.

Applicable theoretical approaches (e.g., a combination of Johann Heinrich von Thünen's Location Theory and Walter Christaller's Central Place Theory) offer only very general patterns.1 Therefore, in an attempt to supplement the theoretical patterns with source-based documentation, I shall consider specific examples of some Byzantine settlements (the monumental remains of which provide us with valuable indications as to the size of a city or a market town) and the remains of caravan roads. Likely sites to be considered include, from central Asia Minor, Chonai / Honaz, Amorion / Hisarköy, and Mokisos / Helvadere; and from western Asia Minor Pegai / Karabiga, Lopadion / Uluabat, Poimanenon / Eski Manyas, Pergamon / Bergama, and Milet / Balat.

1 See J. Koder, Land use and settlement: theoretical approaches, in: J. F. Haldon (ed.), General issues in the study of medieval logistics: sources, problems and methodologies (History of Warfare, 36), Leiden / Boston 2006, 159-183, with bibliography.

Regional Networks in the Balkans in the Middle and Late Byzantine Periods

Angeliki E. Laiou,
Harvard University/Academy of Athens

The paper opens with a discussion of the role of regional trade in the structure and development of pre-industrial economies and specifically the Byzantine economy. I will discuss the preconditions for the rise of regional trade and its connections with local trade on the one hand and interregional or international trade on the other. I will then take three important areas and examine what we know of regional trade in various periods. The three areas are: Thrace (in the large, antique sense of the toponym), Macedonia and Epiros, and Greece and the Peloponnese. I will look at the centers of production, the objects exchanged, the catchment areas of trade, and speculate as to merchants. Obviously, this cannot be done in detail for the entire period. Keeping to the Indoeuropean triad, I plan to produce stills of three periods, that is to say, 9th–10th century, 11th–12th century, 14th century, discuss the constants and the changes from one period to the other, and provide an interpretation of the factors that induced change. This will lead into a discussion of the impact of domestic and foreign demand upon regional trade. To the degree possible, I will examine the movement of bulk products as well as semi-luxury manufactured items. Archaeological evidence will be important in this discussion, as will textual evidence -both types of source, of course, being lacunary. Finally, I will address the somewhat theoretical question of the positive and negative aspects of the relationship between production and regional trade.

Business as usual? Archaeological evidence for Byzantine commercial enterprise in Anatolia in the 7th–11th centuries.

Christopher Lightfoot,
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cities, towns, and large settlements form the basis for any effective commercial activity since it is only in such places that markets can thrive and workforces can be concentrated. For many years deurbanization in the 7th century has been seen as compounding the problems caused by a severe contraction in both the production of and the demand for goods throughout the Byzantine Empire. Combined these factors are taken to signify the impoverishment of the state and a sharp decline in the standard of living for the majority of its population. Yet an increasing amount of archaeological evidence from sites in Anatolia suggests that the infrastructure of communities and communications may have been more robust and sustainable than had previously been recognized. In this paper new discoveries from Amorium and other inland sites will be discussed, and the argument will be made that there existed a vigorous environment of regional supply and demand in central Anatolia that was relatively unaffected by the decline in long-distance trade and was only partially reliant on state support.

Ships, shipwrecks, trade and markets

Michael McCormick,
Harvard University

Nautical archaeology is transforming our knowledge and understanding of ancient and medieval shipping, exchange, and markets in the Mediterranean. I would like to inventory areas where we could find some new data and insights. Questions about information arise concerning what we know and what we do not know about ancient ships and cargoes from the nautical archaeological evidence, about updating and digitizing a comprehensive database of shipwrecks based on Parker's foundational work, about survey projects, the potential of simplified ship typologies, capacity, dendrodata, GIS applications, etc. Questions about historical processes involve the development and transmission of technologies of ship design and operation, the changing intensity of activities on particular routes and/or particular types of cargoes and how that might correlate with the changing configurations of major home ports, destinations, and market structures over time.

Weighing, measuring, paying: exchanges in the market and the marketplace

Cécile Morrisson,
Dumbarton Oaks/ Centre national de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris

This paper will review on the one hand the textual evidence for the regulation of exchanges in the marketplace and on the other hand will examine written and numismatic or archaeological testimony regarding its enforcement and the observed practice. It will outline the variety of legal and material procedures which aimed at securing exchanges (control of measures and coinage, efforts to circumvent fraud, sealing of commodities like coins or textiles in sacks or liquids in amphorae, etc.).

The management and exploitation over the longue durée of trading places like fairs, markets, shops, and money-changers' tables will also be investigated. An attempt will be made to assess the revenues which could accrue from the control of these places and activities either to the State or to private institutions such as oikoi or monasteries, through taxes and rents.

A distinction will be drawn between the early period (6th–11th centuries), in which the unified and trustworthy system of weights, measures and coinage offered exchanges an integrated environment, and the late Byzantine one, from the 12th to the 15th centuries. In the latter period, from the 12th century onward, this unified framework was gradually weakened, first by granting to the Italian communities the privilege of using their own weights and measures and later on in the second half of the 13th century by tolerating the use of foreign coins in high-value transactions.

Regional and interregional exchanges in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Early Byzantine period : the evidence of amphoras

Dominique Piéri,
University of Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne

Our knowledge of the typology of eastern Mediterranean amphoras during Late Antiquity has seen a spectacular evolution over the last few years. These advances make amphoras accurate indicators for the chronology of stratigraphy at a number of Mediterranean sites.

The appearance of new amphora types, revealed by the most recent surveys, and their integration into a more complex typology, underline the dynamism of production especially in the Near East (Cilicia, Phoenicia, Syria, Palestine).

The commercial success of certain products, especially wine, from the beginning of the Vth century, widespread in all the regional areas which participated in long-distance trade in Late Antiquity, offers testimony of a new way of production and of a successful commercial reconversion.

The precise definition of production areas is the new goal of specialists interested in the organization of the centers of production in the East. This is difficult to establish because of the paucity of data concerning amphora workshops which depend on random finds in archaeological surveys. However, comparison of different sources (texts, iconography, typology) enables the reduction of possible areas and the evaluation of their place in the mechanisms of trade and diffusion.

Markets and daily exchanges in Byzantium: archaeological and iconographical evidence

Brigitte Pitarakis,
Centre d'Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance, CNRS-Collège de France

The purpose of this paper is to provide a description of the buoyant dynamics of the market place in Late Antiquity and Byzantium through a combined exploration of archaeological, visual and written sources. I wish to provide a comprehensive picture of the day to day market place activities characterising this period, with shop keepers or itinerant traders engaged in their trading activities, board-game players playing along porticoed streets, and the eating and drinking taking place in nearby taverns and restaurants.

Rather than concentrating on the distribution of the commercial space and the industrial installations, my research will focus on temporary structures, such as the wooden counters and benches, and the major categories of objects or tools used in the practice of trade instead. My work will assess and depict such objects in the context of their daily use by drawing parallels between their findspots in archaeology, their illustration in visual sources and the regulations mentioned in the tenth-century Book of the Prefect. Specific examples will include funnels used for transferring liquids from large storage vessels to smaller containers, baskets and sacks used for storing and carrying goods, sealing and stamping implements, weighing devices and equipment used for measuring dry and liquid quantities. In my approach to the material culture of daily exchanges in Byzantium, I will also consider the important issue of apotropaic and religious devices intended to inspire trust in transactions and act as further support to official legislation.

Trade and Economy in Cilicia and the Antioch Region in the 12th–13th Centuries

Scott Redford,
Research Center for Anatolian Civizations, Istanbul/Georgetown University

In the 10th–14th centuries, the region of Antioch and Cilicia lay intermediate between Muslim and Christian powers in the Levant and Anatolia. Especially in the 12th and 13th centuries, and largely as a result of the establishment of Frankish states in the eastern Mediterranean, this region was contested and claimed by Byzantines, Armenians, Franks, Seljuks, Zangids, Artuqids, Ayyubids and Mamluks. In addition, its proximity to Cyprus, and Antiochene and Armenian alliance with the Mongols beginning in the mid 13th century helped integrate it into international trade networks.

In addition to serving as a conveyor for long distance luxury and shorter distance commodity trade over land and by sea, the region was rich in natural resources sought after especially by an Egypt hungry for the timber, pitch, and iron. This region was also sought after for its human resources-slaves, horses and other beasts of burden, and raptors for hunting. It served as well as the center for the manufacture of the most widely traded and imitated of all 13th-century glazed ceramics, Port Saint Symeon ware.

This paper will use written and archaeological sources to evaluate the economy of the region. It will be based on a reexamination of the excavations of Antioch undertaken in the 1930s, a recent reevaluation of 1930s excavations at Port Saint Symeon, the port of Antioch, and Kinet, a Templar port on the boundary between the Frankish and Armenian principalities. More specifically, it will examine trade relations between this region and its neighbors, be they in Syria, Anatolia, or Cyprus.

Regional exchange and the role of the shop in Byzantine and early Islamic Syria-Palestine: an archaeological view

Alan Walmsley,
University of Copenhagen

Studies on trade in the Byzantine and Islamic eastern Mediterranean have persistently focused on interregional trade, especially the exchange of prestige goods, and much less on what can be perceived as the more mundane business of how local networks operated at the regional level. However, a fuller consideration of commercial systems and their social implications requires a more complete presentation and analysis of the available data, much of which is archaeological for the period in question (ca. fifth to eighth centuries CE). This paper will detail different categories of material, from ceramics and glass to base coinage, in order to map out in greater detail the geographical reach and level of activity in regional trade networks in Syria-Palestine between the Byzantine and early Islamic periods. Work to date reveals that local networks were especially vibrant in this period, and probably a significant factor in the prosperity of Syria-Palestine at that time, facilitating not only local exchange but also, on a wider scale, the transportation of goods from outside the immediate region.

Crucial to this trade system at the local level was the shop. Archaeological evidence for a shop-based market system has expanded greatly in recent years, giving a detailed insight into the system of exchange within an urban context. However, its social function as an urban institution has been, by comparison, little considered. This paper will reflect on the shops, their keepers, the suppliers and the patrons as a system of economic exchange and cultural interaction in post-classical Syria-Palestine. Attention will focus on how the physical centrality of the shop was matched by its defining social role on a daily basis; therefore, the study of the shop and its contents also promises to offer a fascinating insight into the changing social outlook in towns. Recent discoveries reveal that in areas as diverse as weights and measures to language a tangible change can be observed as Byzantium gave way to Islam in the towns of seventh and eighth century Syria-Palestine. Hence the study of trade is not only a matter of economic history, but also a key to comprehending social transformations at the end of antiquity.

Document Actions