3 years ago

The Circulation, Distribution and Consumption of Marine Products in Byzantium: Some Considerations

Efi Ragia


Marine exploitation in Byzantium had developed to become an industry by the early 10th century, but the systematic study of the various pieces of information scattered through a range of sources has only just begun. Despite the piecemeal nature of the evidence, it has been possible to sketch out a picture of the organised and methodical exploitation of the empire’s marine resources through large and expensive investments, such as in epochai and vivaria, which facilitated an uninterrupted supply of marine products to the cities. It is the development of these features that merits the use of the term “industry”. Byzantium sustained elaborate methods for supplying food to its employees which was provided either during the exercise of their duties, as part of their reward, as a mark of their privileged status, or even based on legitimate legal claims. Large groups of people benefited from the work of those involved in primary production (fishermen, epochai/vivaria owners and lease holders), without necessarily having contributed to the initial investments or expenses. By clarifying these distribution methods, it is evident that the circulation and consumption of marine products in Byzantium was larger than previously thought, and middle and lower class citizens actually did participate and have a share in it. Marine product consumption was not simply restricted by the producer-buyer or offer-demand relationship, it involved social parameters that are not immediately and easily recognisable because of the fragmentary nature of the available information.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11457-018-9213-3

DOI: 10.1007/s11457-018-9213-3

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