Byzantine society

Byzantine society

Byzantine society was very colorful: aristocrats, officials, intellectuals, clergy, merchants, artisans, peasants and slaves.

Aristocrats performed certain public duties in combination with a pleasant rest. Mental labor involved employees of state and church institutions, that is, bureaucracy. The average and higher officialdom lived not so much at the expense of state fees, but at the expense of bribes and thefts. Higher and middle officials received from Vasilevs gifts and various privileges. Teachers, students, scientists, healers, astrologers, and so on. were a minority.

The main source of the existence of the clergy came from church lands, workshops and shops, as well as donations and laymen’s fees for rites. Each village courtyards paid a special tax with money,

grain, flour, cattle, wine and poultry.

The Byzantine merchants grew rich through intermediary trade. Trade centers were fairs, which were arranged on holidays in cities, large villages and near the walls of the largest monasteries. Here you could buy a wide variety of goods. Fairs were especially famous in Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Trabzon and other cities. Merchants from Italy, Spain, Egypt and Russia came here.

The bulk of the products that entered the market were made by artisans. In each of them there was a small workshop where the owner-master himself and two or three assistants worked. This craft workshop was also a shop at the same time. Traders and craftsmen united in corporations. Belonging to the corporation was not an obligation, but a privilege. The craft could be dealt with outside the corporation. But then the artisans were in more difficult conditions: they were charged an increased fee, they did not have the right to sell their products until the goods of corporations were sold.

In the Byzantine Empire, craft and trade were treated with disdain. Negative attitude to these activities was especially cultivated among the nobility. Emperor Theophilus was very angry when he learned that his wife was the owner of a cargo ship, had profits from trade, and disgraced basileus as a “pathetic shopkeeper.” And the ship was burned along with the goods.

The main breadwinner was peasants. They lived in small communities in villages, had equal rights, paid taxes for the use of land and performed numerous duties in favor of the state.

In Byzantium there were also slaves from prisoners of war.


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Byzantine society