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Subjects in FocusEvery day life in Byzantium

Every day life in Byzantium

Byzantine society
Urban professions
Rural professions
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Women in Byzantine society
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Tax collecting
Miniature illustrating the collection of taxes, 1136-1155, Saint Catherine's Monastery, Sinai.

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Rural professions

Tax collecting
Sinai, Saint Catherine's Monastery, 1136-1155

Agriculture and grazing were the basis of the Macedonian economy by reason of the nature of the terrain. The various small landowners, tenant farmers, and serfs were tied to the soil they cultivated. Vineyards and gardens were situated close to villages, as were the plots in which a variety of produce was grown. Fields for crops lay at a greater distance, their boundaries defined by ropes and markers, which often led to disputes between neighbours.

The financial system of the Byzantine state rested on the agricultural production of an organized village society. However, taxation, which bound them firmly to the land and to their fellow villagers, natural disasters, and the passage of troops and consequent seizure of their produce made life difficult for farmers and frequently led them into borrowing money. Inability to repay debts led in turn to destitution and flight.

Small-holders often chose to sell their land together with their freedom in order to resolve their difficulties. By making serfs of themselves, they helped enlarge the already extensive properties of the big landowners. As the centuries passed, the latter succeeded in bringing ever increasing areas under their control, while simultaneously enjoying considerable tax exemptions, despite the attempts by central authority to limit their power.

By contrast, the pastures, which lay beyond the cultivable fields, belonged collectively to the community. Graziers managed their flocks and herds with the help of shepherd dogs.

Macedonian Heritage
Content courtesy Ekdotike Athenon S.A.