«The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World edited by Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh published by Dumbarton Oaks ...»
According to William of Tyre, after his accord with Godfrey of Bouillon, Alexios sent him every week, between Epiphany and Ascension, as many gold coins (“auree monete”) as two strong men could carry, and 10 modioi of copper coins (“de ereis vero denariis X modii”), to be distributed among his nobles and the plain soldiers: William of Tyre, 2.12 (1:176 ﬀ).
Alexiade 10.11.5 (ed. Leib, 2:233).
Fulcher of Chartres, 333–34. Is the “silver” coin the electrum trachy?
Fulcher of Chartres, 333–34; Stephen of Blois boasted to his wife that he doubled his worth in gold and silver: RHC, HOcc 3:886.
M. F. Hendy, Studies in the Byzantine Monetary Economy c. 300–1450 (Cambridge, 1985), 515.
Orderic Vitalis, 5.334, says that the tetartera were as current as bezants in transactions in Thrace and Bithynia.
E.g., Raymond d’Aguilers, ed. Hill, 111: 15,000 aureos from the governor of Tripoli; Gesta Francorum 80.
See, e.g., Gesta Francorum 97; Raymond d’Aguilers, ed. Hill, 111–12.
[ 170 ] Byzantine Trade they are not for small coins, but rather for gold hyperpyra or dinars exchanged for silver (billon) deniers. One is the rate of 8 hyperpyra for 120 soldi (1 soldo, a unit of account 12 deniers), outside Antioch, at a time of famine: “vendebant [the Syrians and Armenians] onus unius asini octo purpuratis, qui appreciabantur centum viginti solidis denariorum,” that is, 1 hyperpyron for 15 soldi, or 1 hyperpyron for 180 deniers.78 This is high in terms of the approximate intrinsic value of the coins in question.79 It represents a rate of exchange for poor Western coins in times of famine. The other rate of exchange is not with the hyperpyron but rather with the gold coin of Tripoli: “Valebat quippe unus aureus eo tempore octo vel novem solidos monetae nostri exercitus,” says Raymond of Aguilers, and continues with the famous list of seven coins that he considered to be the army’s money (or at least the money of the army of Raymond of St. Gilles).80 Of these coins, the denier of Le Puy is said by Raymond of Aguilers to have been worth only half the value of the others.81 One wonders whether the diﬀerence in ﬁneness was as obvious to the locals as it was to Raymond of Aguilers and is to modern numismatists. In any case, if the gold coin in question was the normal dinar, the Crusaders got approximately double what they had received outside Antioch. The rate of exchange with the dinar seems normal, and therefore the Byzantine one was very detrimental to the Crusaders.
Gold and silver were apparently exchanged on the basis of intrinsic value. Outside Antioch, the exchange was between hyperpyra and billon deniers, and was heavily inﬂuenced by the Crusaders’ need.
More interesting phenomena start with the Second Crusade. The Second and Third Crusades were diﬀerent from the First in the matter of exchange as in other matters. All the kings who planned to go through the Byzantine Empire asked not only for markets but for fair exchange; and undoubtedly Manuel I was as interested as they were in some kind of regularization of the currency exchange, without which the problem of provisioning was bound to become exacerbated. Also, the participants of these betterorganized expeditions seem to have carried considerable amounts of money with them.
It is also with the Second Crusade that Western sources begin to show an evident concern with problems of currency exchange, and there are strident complaints from the pen of Odo of Deuil.82 The complaints, and the situation to which they refer, repay close examination.
The members of the French army had brought both silver deniers (presumably the denier Parisis, which I will take as the basis for calculations) and marks of silver (it is not clear which mark is meant). The money, as far as we can tell from the complaints, was not accepted as means of payment in the local markets. The insistence of Louis VII on concambium competens also suggests that coins were exchanged, as does Choniates’ state´ Gesta Francorum 33. I am very grateful to Philip Grierson and Cecile Morrisson for their valuable help with this section. According to Michael Hendy, the “purpuratus” is the nomisma trachy, 20.5 carats ﬁne, introduced by Alexios I: Hendy, Coinage and Money, 34–35. Throughout this section, the reader should consult the ´ table and Cecile Morrisson’s appendix.
See the appendix below.
Raymond of Aguilers, ed. Hill, 111–12.
Metcalf, Coinage of the Crusades, 13.
Odo of Deuil, 40, 66.
Angeliki E. Laiou [ 171 ]
ment—unless it is rhetorical—that people cheated the participants of the Second Crusade of their gold and silver.83 On what basis did the exchange take place?
We note, ﬁrst, that Odo of Deuil quotes the exchange rates as between the denier and the mark of silver and the “stamenon,” that is, the petty Byzantine coin, not the gold hyperpyron. The stamenon, a corruption of the rare Byzantine term histamenon, is the billon trachy (“aspron trachy”), a billon coin, mostly copper, with, at that time, 6.3 Choniates, ed. van Dieten, 66. See also P. Grierson, “A German Crusaders’ Hoard of 1147 from Side (Turkey),” in LAGOM: Festschrift fur Peter Berghaus (Munster, 1981), 195–203. The West had no gold coinage ¨ yet; Choniates may be referring to either unminted gold or Byzantine gold coins acquired by exchange. C. Morrisson and Marc Bompaire suggest that by “concambium competens” Louis VII may have meant that the French coins should be exchanged on the basis of their intrinsic value plus a corresponding premium. According to M. Bompaire, such a practice is attested in French documents of the late 12th century for coins circulating outside the territory where they were legal tender and where they had a nominal value higher than their ´ ` real value. Cf. M. Castaing-Sicard, Monnaies feodales et circulation en Languedoc, XIIe au XIIIe siecle (Toulouse, 1961).
I am grateful to M. Bompaire for this information and for the reference.
[ 172 ] Byzantine Trade percent silver.84 The Crusaders refer to it as a copper coin, as, to all intents and purposes, it was. Thus they suﬀered a ﬁrst, psychological, shock, at the exchange of silver for copper.
Within the Byzantine Empire, the billon trachy functioned as a virtual token or quasitoken coin.85 Its equivalence to the hyperpyron was legislated, and, in 1136, it was worth 1/48 of an hyperpyron, that is to say, one gold coin was worth 48 billon trachea or stamena.86 The intrinsic value of the billon trachy (based on its silver content) would have been much lower. It was, then, against this token coin that the denier and the mark were exchanged.
The question arises whether the exchange was based on the intrinsic value of the coins or not. M. Hendy has suggested that the Crusaders would have expected an exchange based on the intrinsic value of each denomination, while the Byzantines would have insisted on the oﬃcial (partly token) value of the billon trachy.87 This is a highly plausible hypothesis and may well help interpret some of the complaints of the Western sources;
but by itself it does not suﬃce to explain the actual exchange rates.
Odo of Deuil mentions three exchange rates, two in the provinces and one in Constantinople. The rates in the Balkans and in Asia Minor were very close to each other, and very diﬀerent from that in Constantinople.
According to Odo of Deuil, when the Crusaders ﬁrst entered the Byzantine Empire, they bought 1 stamenon for 5 deniers, “et pro duodecim solidis [earum] marcam triste dabamus vel potius perdebamus,” that is, they bought 144 billon trachea for one mark of silver.88 In Asia Minor, three days’ march away from Constantinople, the exchange rate was almost exactly the same.89 This exchange rate was very unfavorable to the Crusaders, whether the exchange was Hendy, Coinage and Money, 21, 31. The billon aspron trachy, with a “pronounced silvery surface” (on which see M. F. Hendy and J. A. Charles, “The Production Techniques, Silver Content, and Circulation History of the Twelfth-Century Byzantine Trachy,” in Hendy, The Economy, no. ), would not have been mistaken for a silver coin.
Copper money was almost always a token coin in Byzantium. The billon coin is called by C.
Morrisson ` “‘fausse monnaie’ ou monnaie ﬁduciaire au sens large”: “La monnaie ﬁduciaire a Byzance, ou ‘vraie monnaie,’ ´´ ` ‘monnaie ﬁduciaire’ et ‘fausse monnaie’ a Byzance,” Bulletin de la Societe francaise de Numismatique 34 (1979):
The rate is given in the typikon of the monastery of Pantokrator in Constantinople: A. Dmitrievskii, Opisanie liturgiceskih rukopisei, hranyasˇihsya v bibliotekah pravoslavnogo Vostoka, vol. 1 (Kiev, 1895), 689. See the ˇ ˇc Table, above.
Hendy, Coinage and Money, 21. Cf. above, note 82.
Odo of Deuil, 41. The part about the exchange rate of the mark has been misunderstood by Chalandon, ` ` ` Les Comnenes, 2 vols. (Paris, 1900–1912), vol. 2, Jean II Comnene (1118–1143) et Manuel I Comnene (1143–1180), 298–99 n. 2, and, following him, by the most recent editor of Odo of Deuil. The correct interpretation was suggested to me by Philip Grierson and hinges on the fact that the “duodecim solidi” means 12 units of 12 stamena, i.e., 144 stamena. There is a further uncertainty concerning the mark, which had diﬀerent weights in diﬀerent parts of Europe. I assume that, unless the sources explicitly state otherwise, when they mention marks they refer to pure silver weighing one mark. On the circulation of unminted silver, traveling in bars of ingots of a standard ﬁneness and “frequently of a standard weight,” see P. Spuﬀord, Money and Its Uses in Mediaeval Europe (Cambridge, 1988), 209–24. I owe this reference to C. Morrisson. On the ingots in the “Barbarossa hoard,” see below, note 100.
Odo of Deuil, 66: they bought one stamenon for 5 or 6 deniers and paid one mark of silver for 144 deniers.
Angeliki E. Laiou [ 173 ] based on the nominal value of the billon trachy or on the intrinsic value of the coins.90 If, indeed, the equivalence in the Byzantine Empire was 1 hyperpyron 48 billon trachea, the Crusaders paid 240 deniers for 1 hyperpyron (and 1 mark of silver for 3 hyperpyra), much more than in the First Crusade or in the negotiated settlement of 1190.91 This shows that, if the calculations are made on the basis of the hyperpyron, the Crusaders would have lost even more money than would be expected by an exchange on the nominal value of the billon trachy.
They lost considerable money also if the exchange was in terms of the intrinsic value of the coins. It is very diﬃcult to ﬁgure the intrinsic value of such coins, but an exercise might be interesting. The denier Parisis at the time of Philip Augustus weighed approximately 1 gram, and contained 36–37 percent silver, thus having about 0.4 g silver. The billon trachy weighed around 4.30 g and its ﬁneness was 6.3 percent silver, therefore its silver content was about 0.27 g.92 The diﬀerence was visible to the naked eye. The silver content of the billon trachy was less than that of the denier Parisis both absolutely and relatively, and any exchange rate that quoted the billon trachy in multiples of the denier Parisis was bound to be excessive.
A fair exchange, in the eyes of the Crusaders, was what they got in Constantinople, after an agreement with the emperor: 1 stamenon for less than 2 deniers,93 and 396 stamena for 1 mark of silver.94 If we translate that into hyperpyra, and assume a nominal value of 1/48 hyperpyron for the stamenon, the Crusaders would have bought 8.25 hyperpyra for 1 mark of silver in Constantinople, a rate much more favorable to the mark than at the time of Frederick Barbarossa. The implied gold-silver ratio would be 1:7.86, very weak for Byzantium.
Certain observations are in order. The exchange rate between the stamenon and the denier, as that between the stamenon and the mark of silver, is consistent, grosso modo, with an exchange based on the nominal value of the stamenon, which normally was overvalued by something like 2.5 times its intrinsic value.95 If the Crusaders then bought hyperpyra with their stamena, the gold-silver ratio would have been 1:8. It is, however, much more likely that the conversion of stamena to hyperpyra was either impossible or extremely limited, since both the ﬁduciary nature of the stamenon and the cheap rate that would result for the hyperpyron argue against it.
The diﬀerence in exchange rates between Constantinople and the provinces is striking indeed. In part, it reﬂects the real problems of exchanging money in the provinces. The presence of large Crusader armies would mean a sharp rise in demand and a shortage of Byzantine coins, thus making them expensive. Add to this the cost of metallic exchange to the money changer. The result was high rates and a psychological shock to the Crusaders, who exchanged silver for what looked to them like copper.
In Constantinople, Manuel seems to have insisted on the nominal value of the staSee the Table, above.
The diﬃculty with the mark, mentioned in note 88, must be kept in mind. For 1190, see below, 175.
See the appendix below.
` Odo of Deuil, 66; cf. Chalandon, Jean II Comnene, 298–99 n. 2.
“[E]arum triginta tres solidos propter marcam,” i.e., 33 units of 12 stamena for one mark of silver.
Cf. the appendix below.
[ 174 ] Byzantine Trade menon, a deal that the Crusaders also considered to be fair. He may also, however, at the same time, have devalued the stamenon given to the Crusaders, as Choniates charges, taking with one hand what he had given with the other. Hendy discounts the possibility that Manuel had minted debased billon trachea speciﬁcally for the Crusaders, as charged ´ `