“Why Byzantine Economy Remained One of the Most Powerful in Europe Through Early Middle Ages?”

Topics: Byzantine Empire, Centuries, Constantinople Pages: 5 (2055 words) Published: October 7, 2012
“Why Byzantine economy remained one of the most powerful in Europe through Early Middle Ages?” The Byzantine cconomy was one of the largest systems throughout Europe and the Mediterannean for many centuries. Both local and international trade were of huge importance for the Byzantine Empire. Lower class, including traders, depended on the upper class. Their need of the foreign goods in order to stay in Local trade was much less popular. Throughout the fourth and sixth centuries, long-distance trade was operating successfully, until the plague appeared, which killed around one-third of the citizens in the Byzantine Empire, and ruined the trade networks. The Byzantine economy had recovered in the tenth century, and Italian merchants contributed to its steady growth in the Mediteranian through the tenth and eleventh centuries (Katz 27-39). To begin, the decades of instability as well as foreign invasions mostly by Germanic tribes, led to an establishment of a new military, political, and administrative framework under Diocletian (284-305), and Constantine I, which also led to a new economic power in Byzantine and Constantinopole. From 395 to 476, the Empire was in a big crisis until the Germans left the territory. Emperor Justinian I provided the growth of the economy, but also the growth period ended with the “Justinian Plague” that broke out in Egypt in 542, and reduced the population in all provinces of the empire. The “Justinian Plague” continued until the 8th century. At the same time, political disadvantage occurred with the warfare against Sasanian Persia in 6th and 7th century, which had a really bad impact on Byzantine economy. In the 7th century, after the death of Prophet Mohammed, the Arabs started to invade eastern parts of the empire, and the Byzantine was still weak from the war with Persia, and until 642, most of the revenue of the empire was gone, but due to their unbreakable economic system, the empire survived again. After the survival of Arabian attacks, Byzantium appeared as a completely new power that was financed by a new effective tax system. In the 9th century, conditions in the empire largely improved, which led to an increase of security and economic growth. After that, Byzantium was a completely new empire (Laiou 9-28). The Byzantine economy was based on money provided by taxes which enabled government to receive huge budgets, which is enormous even nowadays. The well organized economy of the empire allowed it to survive dangers of money shortage. In the 950 and 1200 Byzanine economy grew rapidly, which led to a creation of aristocracy, which was a basic link in the state system. Public expenditures were primarily annual payments in gold to state functionaries, military, Constantinopolitan and provincials. However, a desire for the coinage grew with the growth of the economy, but actually it was not easy for Byzantium to meet the standards for coinage, and it appeared that coins were in a short supply once again in Constantinopole. This suggested a sustained thirst for gold to service the state economy. From the 4th to the end of the 6th century people were using coinage called “solidi”, from 7th to 11th century “nominsata”, and from 12th to 14th century “hyperpyra”. In 540 annual revenue of the empire was 11,300,000 solidi which was more annual revenue than in any other year from 4th to 6th century (Morrison 900-1000). The 6th century economy had a power that accompanied the whole Mediterranean, followed by Justinians conquests. In the period of his reign, the economy was full of activity and exchange, that lasted until middle of the sixth century. The trade networks expanded, and Byzantine trade developed as far as England to the west and to the east,including the Red Sea and beyond as far as India. A significant economic undertaking also represented the construction of cities in the fifth and sixth century and new ways of architecture and infrastructre. (Morrison 172). However, trade was more...
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