Economic Thought and Economic Life in Byzantium 2013933774

Angeliki Laiou (1941-2008), one of the leading Byzantinists of her generation, broke new ground in the study of the soci

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Table of contents :
Contents: Preface; Introduction, Cécile Morrisson; Part I Economic Thought: God and Mammon: credit, trade, profit and the canonists; The Church, economic thought and economic practice; Social justice: exchange and prosperity in Byzantium; Nummus parit nummos: l’usurier, le jurist at le philosophe à Byzance; Economic concerns and attitudes of the intellectuals of Thessalonike; Le débat sur les droits du fisc et les droits régaliens au début du 14e siècle. Part II Economic Life: On individuals, aggregates and mute social groups; Priests and bishops in the Byzantine countryside, 13th-14th centuries; The peasant as donor (13th-14th centuries); A history of mills and monks: the case of the mill of Chantax (with Dieter Simon); The Byzantine village (5th-14th century); The Byzantine city: parasitic or productive?; Index.
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Economic Thought and Economic Life in Byzantium

KOC Univ ersity Libra ry

III II 1111111111111111111111I111 111 3 1093 6189157 6

Angeliki E. Laiou

Economic Thought and Economic Life in Byzantium

Edited by Cecile Morrisson and Rowan Dorin

Angeliki E. Laiou (2008)


This edition © 20 13 Vassili Thomadakis Vassil i Thomadakis has asserted the moral right of Angeliki E. Laiou, under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

Published in the Variorum Collected Studies Series by


Ashgate Publishing Company Suite 3-1 110 Cherry Street Burlington, VT 05401- 38 18 USA

Ashgate Publishing Limited Wey Court East Union Road Farnham, Surrey GU9 7PT England

Preface Introduction by Cecile Morrisson Acknowledgements

vii IX



British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

God and Mammon: credit, trade, profit and the canonists

The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows: 2013933774

{'toupyHx ' ' . the commentaries . to canon in 12 of the second Council of Nicaea, RP II, 592-611, and cf. canons 26 and 33 of Carthage, RP III, 372 ff, and 390 ff., as well as RP II, 648-53. 2 ; E.g., canon 12 of the Council of Sardica, RP III, 262-65. 3 Canon 40 of the Council of Carthage, RP Ill, 405; canon 54 of the Apostles, RP II, 71 ff.; canon 9 of the Council in Trullo, RP II, 326-28. For a distinction 285



I Credit, Trade, Profit

two principles, the first general and the second specific. The general principle is that clerics should not derive their living from shameful activities; the specific principle is that taverns are frequented by bawdy people, and are no place for members of the clergy to be seen, since their mores may be corrupted. 74 But the canonists also extend the statements of the canons, and provide interpretations which go beyond the canons. First, Zonaras and Balsamon, who seems to be following Zonaras, draws a clear distinction between owning a tavern, and operating one. He glosses the term exEw of the Council in Trullo to mean actually operating a tavern, which is certainly a plausible interpretation of that canon. He then distinguishes between investment in such activities (i.e. owning a tavern), which he finds acceptable, and actual participation in them, which is rep~ehensible. Deriving income (rent) from a tavern he finds perfectly legitimate, which would seem to go against the injunctions of canon 16 of the Council of Carthage, and undoubtedly reflects the contemporary fact that the church owned much urban property, and many shops, taverns among them. This is exactly what Balsamon says in his own commentary. 75 The differentiation between rent income and income from the operation of such a shop is not drawn by Aristenos. It is an important distinction, for two reasons: first because it suggests a conformity of the thought of Zonaras and Balsamon to the realities of the economics of the church in their own day, and secondly because it posits a theoretical distinction between the propriety of rent income and the impropriety in actually engaging in some of the activities that produce that income. The canons are also extended to cover economic activities other than the specific one of tavern-keeping. This extension is made by Balsamon, and seems to be connected to a decree of the patriarch Loukas Chrysoberges. Balsamon re~rts a semeioma promulgated by the Patriarch, which extended the category of dishonorable professions to include not only the traditional ones of pander and tavern-keeper, but also those who operated(? as opposed to owned; the term is between a iax,pov and anµov, see Zonaras' commentary to canon 16 of the Council of Carthage, giving pimping as an example of the first, and the running of a tavern "or other such things" as an example of the second. In his own commentary to that canon, Balsamon does not draw a distinction between the two terms: RP III, 342-44. For a contemporary view of some humble trades see Nicetas Choniates, Historia, ed. Van Dieten, 349-50. On what fo llows, cf. ~ - Papagianni, 'ETm:pE1t6µEvEc; 1ml aitayopr.uµi:vr.c; 1cocrµucec; ivacrx,oA.TJcrr.ic; "tou Bu~avnvou ICA.TJpOu, LI ' l1aV£AAIJVt0 'l. Cf. Luke 19.23: Kai 6m1i ouK i:6roKa~t6 iipy6p16v µoo tn:i tp /iv m\to r.n:pa~a. 29 Bogaert, 244-246: the bankers are the poor, or the clergy, or all Christians.


John Moschos, Pratum Spirituale, PG 87ter, no. 203. The Laughable Stories Collected by Mar Gregory John Bar-Hebraeus, Maphrian of the East from A.D. 1264 to 1286, E. A. Wallis Budge, ed., trans., (London, 1897), 10931






12% per annum (the centesima, hekatoste) for loans in money, and 500/o for loans in kind. 32 The concerted effort by church and state to regulate - though not abolish - lending at interest shows an understanding ·of the need for lending - whether for production or for consumption and also the ideological position, on the part of the church, that this activity is not one in which the clergy should engage, i.e., that it is morally suspect. It is of some interest to follow this in practice, and in the subsequent ecclesiastical and state legislation, both in Byzantium and in the other eastern churches. In terms of practice, many scholars have already noted that the church did engage in banking and business activities, which is to say, that it did not follow its own legislation very closely. The Vita of St. John the Almsgiver, Patriarch of Alexandria in the seventh century, has provided particularly rich material for observations to this effect. The stories told in it show that considerable business activity was carried out by the church of Alexandria, and that the church both borrowed and lent money. That the church borrowed at interest is certain; that it lent out at interest, these sources do not wish to make as clear. 33 More telling, for it is a good example of shifting realities and values, is the story of the young man to whom the patriarch (Apollinaris) of Alexandria pretended he owed 50 pounds. 34 According to the story, there was, in Alexandria, a young man who had inherited considerable property which, however, he lost because of misfortunes, such as shipwrecks. The Patriarch of Alexandria took pity on him, and on the reverses of his fortune, and decided to help him. He had the lawyer of the Patriarchate forge a loan contract, showing that the Patriarch owed the young man's father 50 pounds of gold. One is reminded here of St. John's Chrysostom's statement that 32

Cod. Theod. 2.33.1; Laiou, "God and Mammon," 270ff; Bianchi, "In tema d'usura," 326. 33

G. R. Monks, "The Church of Alexandria and the City; Economic Life in the Sixth Century," Speculum 28 (I 953), 349-62, esp. 359-62, with references to Leontius, Vita S. Johannis Ellemosynarii, ed. Heinrich Gelzer (Freiburg and Leipzig, 1893), and to John Moschos, Pratum Spirituale, 193. On this, cf. H. MagouJias, "The Lives of the Saints as Sources of Data for the History of Commerce in the Byzantine Empire in the Vlth and VIIth Centuries," I0.17povoµia 3 (1971), 303-330. Very similar in spirit is the story related by John of Ephesus of two brothers who were traders and who began by being agents for other people and ended up in business for themselves. Alhough they did not behave as other traders did, with bargaining, oaths, lying etc., and although they constantly distributed their property to the poor, their wealth, both material and spiritual, kept increasing: E. W. Brooks, John of Ephesus, Lives of the Eastern Saints, (II), in R. Graffin - F. Nau, Patrologia Orientalis, XVII (1924), 374ff. 34 Moschos, Pratum Spirituale, no. 193.



inheriting a ypuµµuw1ov is more profitable than inheriting cash. After much play-acting, the Patriarch said he would pay his debt, but asked the young man to remit the interest. Delighted, the man said he would also reduce the capital, but this generosity was not accepted. The story has some interesting points: the Patriarch's lawyers knew perfectly well how to draw up a loan contract, which included the interest, and also how to fake it so that it looked old; but the young man, when presented with this unexpected piece of papyrus, instead of hastening to collect the debt, first asked whether the debtor was rich or poor - and subsequently made the Patriarch a gift of the interest and even offered to reduce some of the capital. A thoroughly uneconomic behavior upon a background of thoroughly economic appearance. At the same time, and equally praiseworthy from the view-point of the ecclesiastical story-teller, there is economic recompense for economically dubious behavior. Such is the story of the man from Nisibis, related in the Pratum Spirituale, who wanted to do something that made perfectly rational economic sense: he had a certain sum of money (SO large miliaresia) and wanted to lend it at interest, instead of spending it. His wife, a Christian, told him to lend the money to the Christian God, who would double the capital and return it with interest. The Christian God was represented by the poor of the city, to whom our hero gave the money. Three months later, the couple were in need of money, and the man tried to retrieve his loan; he found, on the floor of the church, a single milaresion, with which he bought goods of consumption: bread, wine and fish. Inside the fish, the wife found a beautiful stone that turned out to be so precious, that when the man took it to a banker who was also a moneychanger/jeweler, the moneychanger, after a one-sided bargain, bought it for 300 miliaresia. The wife, a devout Christian, explained the miracle to her husband by saying that God had returned to him both the capital and the interest, and it had taken only a few days: "Behold, she said, the God of the Christians - how good he is, and grateful, and rich." Unable to resist such persuasion, her until then pagan husband became Christian.35 35

Moschos, Pratum Spirituale, no. 185; Bogaert, 263 uses this story to show the ambiguity in the professions of banker and merchant of precious metals and jewelry. The story refers to a 111).iapiE1v Kai rrEp1yp