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The Byzantine economy

The Byzantine economy was among the strongest economies in the Mediteranian for many centuries. From the first centuries of existence the byzantine state assured a ballanced economic life capable to respond not only the internal needs, but also the accumulation of reserves for unpredictable situations (drought, epidemics or natural disasters). The two main sectors the rural (chora) and the urban (polis) were in permanent contact. The agriculture assured supply for cities, most of all the capital, Constantinopole (a very big danger in case of food shortages) when the industry oferred what needed in village. The exchange of goods between the rural and the urban world always worked and is a specific thing for the eastern empire and a permanent rule for the byzantine history. In Byzantium there were three agricultural regions: Egypt, the most evolved region; Balkan peninsula and Asia Minor. The latter were also good lands for cattle breeding. The vine cultivation was widespread and the vine collection offered the occasion for celebrations. Hunting was the main pleasure of the byzantine society. We are familiar with the time devoted by the emperors for hunting, but this taste had spread at all the social media. Very popular was hunting with birds of pray (hawks, falcones, eagles). The second and probaly the most important element for the byzantium economy was the great trade. Only if we look at the position of Constantinopole we can see that the empire has a commercial vocation dominating the road network on witch Rome built in Anatolia and the Balkans located on the shores of the Bosphorus straits, the capital was clearly a place of convergences. The Anatolian network had the crossroads places at Nicaea, Ancyra, Theodosioupolis and Melitene allowing to reach Iran, Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt threw Antioch and Damascus. At the same time we have to mention the Balkan network: basilikos dromos (the imperial road) crossing Adrianople and Singidunum (Belgrade) reaching the Danube and Central Europe; via Egnatia crossing the empire from Constantinople to Thessaloniki, Ohrid and Dyrrachion where people could embark to Italy. Contantinopole was also a crossroad for seaways.

Main goods: wares from Syria and Egypt, Gaya and Sarepa wines were very popular and were competing with the italian ones. Oil and fruits are imported along with oriental products like papyrus from Egypt, purple ink, spices, silc, perfumes and cotton fabrics brought from Palestine. From Mediterranean and Egypt, Constantinopole import marble capitals in the construction of churches and palaces. The byzantium economy helped this empire to rise as a great power and also helped him to go through periods of crisis.