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Subjects in FocusEvery day life in Byzantium

Every day life in Byzantium

Byzantine society
Urban professions
Rural professions
Monastic life
Women in Byzantine society
Children in Byzantine society

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Miniature of a pedlar from a manuscript of the Homilies of Ioannis Damaskinos, 11th century, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale.

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Urban professions

Miniature of a pedlar, 11th century, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale

The exercise of a profession in Byzantine times was controlled by the state, and organized in guilds. The character and functioning of each guild was clearly defined by law, and no one was allowed to belong to two guilds simultaneously. Some professions were subject to restrictions, such as potters, who had to build their kilns at a distance from inhabited areas and from each other. The same restrictions applied to tanners and dyers.

Workshops and stores were sited in the towns. Each guild had its workshops or shops in a specific part of the town. For instance, the coppersmiths of Thessalonike had their workshops close to the church of the Panagia Chalkeon, their patron. Among the shops were bakeries and general stores, butchers and greengrocers. A host of pedlars served the needs of the housewife as they passed by her door.

Master builders and their apprentices were subject to strict laws providing for a ten-year guarantee of the houses they erected, and protecting owners from bad workmanship. There were also tutors, doctors, and perfumers who sold medicines as well as perfumes.

Among the women who worked were weavers, pot-herb gatherers, fruit and vegetable sellers, and 'kourisses', who dressed women's hair and were employed in private homes and in the baths.

Macedonian Heritage
Content courtesy Ekdotike Athenon S.A.