«The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World edited by Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh published by Dumbarton Oaks ...»
One other point is worth noting. None of the sources for the Second Crusade mentions an exchange rate for the hyperpyron, although we are told that in Constantinople the Crusaders did, in fact, exchange silver, both minted and unminted, for gold.97 This suggests that the negotiated rates involved only the petty Byzantine coin and did not extend to gold-silver exchanges. In this case, the rate of exchange for gold and silver would have been negotiated on the ground, leaving open the possibility that the Crusaders overpaid for Byzantine gold, according to their need.
This hypothesis ﬁnds some corroboration in a wonderful story, related by Odo of Deuil, which also shows how the exchange took place. In Constantinople the Crusaders could exchange money on board the food ships and also “ante palatium vel etiam in tentoribus,” that is, the money changers came to them at the site of the camp; or they could change money in the money changer’s shops.98 Once the Crusaders had left the city to cross over to Asia, they were attended by food ships, on which there were also money changers (cum cambitoribus). The money changers disembarked and set up their benches, which fulgent auro. Here came the Crusaders to exchange money as they needed to. Odo of Deuil speaks of the silver vessels that the money changers had bought from the Crusaders; so they also exchanged unminted metal for coin. A fairly orderly procedure, except for the fact that there were some heroic Crusaders who thought this a good occasion for plunder. A riot ensued, where the money changers lost their money and ﬂed to Constantinople. Eventually Louis VII made restitution, and the money changers returned. But this is a rare picture of how operations took place: the money changers were right at the place where the food was, and the currency exchange went hand in hand with the purchase of necessities.99 How such transactions were carried out in the provinces is less clear; in fact, we have no information. One can imagine, however, that part of the business of creating a market included setting up facilities of exchange. Indeed, it is almost necessary to posit this, and it is not at all a far-fetched supposition, since we know that at Byzantine fairs credit transactions also took place; so the money changers were used to being at fairs. Nor
would the money changers have been averse to setting up business on the route of the Crusaders: even if Manuel had not debased the coinage (indeed, especially if he had not debased the coinage), they stood to gain quite a lot in their transactions with people in need who had money of which to be relieved.
By the time of the Third Crusade, the balance of blackmail had changed, so that Frederick Barbarossa was able to exert great political and military pressure on the Byzantines.100 The exchange agreements between the German emperor and Isaac II, in 1190, were highly sophisticated. The Treaty of Adrianople quotes both the exchange rate of the mark of silver, in hyperpyra, and the equivalence between the hyperpyron and the billon trachy. One mark of (pure) silver would sell at 5.5 hyperpyra, each hyperpyron to be counted as being worth 120 stamena, whether these were old or new stamena.101 Thus no one could play games by giving diﬀerent rates for hyperpyra and stamena. According to another Western source, the exchange rate between the mark and the hyperpyron varied according to whether the mark was non examinata or examinata, that is, non-assayed or assayed, with a control stamp, in other words, impure or pure. In the ﬁrst place, the exchange rate would be 3 hyperpyra to the mark, in the second, 5 hyperpyra to the mark.102 The distinction may well have been made on the insistence, not of the Germans, but of Isaac II or, more likely, the money changers of Constantinople, who would otherwise have assumed the risk involved in changing impure silver ingots into gold hyperpyra. The rate oﬀered for the impure mark represented considerable compensation for the risk of the money changers.
The rate of exchange between the hyperpyron and the pure mark of silver seems to be within the normal boundaries of the gold-silver ratio. The growing sophistication of exchange transactions is indicated by the fact that the treaty states the equivalences between the hyperpyron and the billon trachy. The equivalence 120 new (debased) stamena to the hyperpyron implies the overvaluation of the stamenon and thus its ﬁduciary nature. When the same equivalence is applied to the old stamenon, however, then the ﬁduciary nature of the coin is undermined, and the emperor abandons part of his seignorage, that is, the state’s premium, the buying power that is over and above the intrinsic value of the coin. One may suppose that this latter equivalence was a special arrangement extracted by Frederick I and did not obtain in normal transactions in Constantinople.
Later in the century, in 1199, Pisan notarial records give the rate of 184 stamena to the hyperpyron.103 This was undoubtedly the market (exchange) value current in Constantinople. There may have been a further devaluation of the billon trachy between Barbarossa’s army must have brought quite a lot of money. The “Barbarossa hoard” contains 7,700 coins as well as ingots: Metcalf, Coinage of the Crusades, 8–10. The Byzantines, too, had learned that their coins were ˇ much sought after: as Frederick Barbarossa attacked the area of the monastery of Backovo, in the fall of 1189, its treasurer buried part of the annual budget: M. F. Hendy, “The Gornoslav Hoard, the Emperor Frederick I, and the Monastery of Bachkovo,” in idem, The Economy, no. .
Ansbert, 66; Hendy, Coinage and Money, 21–22. Hendy posits a devaluation of the billon trachy, which would have been the reason for this last provision.
Hampe, “Ungedruckter Bericht,” 400.
Muller, Documenti, no. , p. 77; Hendy, Coinage and Money, 22.
¨ [ 176 ] Byzantine Trade 1190 and 1199, although the coins of Alexios III do not show lower silver content than those of Isaac II.104 But devaluation is not really what makes the diﬀerence between the negotiated rates of 1190 and the attested rates of 1199. Rather, the diﬀerence is due to a revaluation down of the billon trachy, to reﬂect a demand that would bring it closer to its intrinsic value, probably as a result of the double pressure of foreign merchants and Crusaders. Thus the highly overvalued equivalences mandated by the state in the 1130s were no longer eﬀective, even though the face value of the stamenon remained lower than the nominal value; that is to say, the overvaluation of the billon trachy continued, but at lower levels than had obtained earlier. A hundred and ﬁfty years later, Pegolotti wrote of the stamenon: “ma a questi stammini non si fa nullo pagamento se none in passagio di Gostantinopoli per lo paese, e per erbe e cose minute.”105 In their exchange transactions with the Crusaders, the Byzantines seem to have made good money and shown considerable knowledge of monetary matters. The merchants must have played an important role in transactions on the ground, if only because exchange was so closely tied to the purchase of merchandise on the part of the Crusaders.
Those merchants who had activities both with the countryside and with Constantinople would have proﬁted very considerably, especially given the unequal exchange rates obtaining in the capital and in the provinces. The merchants would have acted also as money changers.
There are indications of such a development in the exceptional importance assumed by merchants and money changers in late twelfth-century Constantinople. The Treaty of Adrianople provides a ﬁrst glimpse into this development, but it is a striking one. The treaty was guaranteed not only by the oaths of representatives of the two emperors and the conﬁrmation of the patriarch, but also by the oaths of large numbers of their subjects.
In the case of the crusading army, the oath was taken in Adrianople by 15,000 milites, in the presence of Byzantine ambassadors.106 This was given in exchange for an oath taken in Constantinople, in the solemn precincts of Hagia Sophia, by “500 men of the market´ ` ´ ` place and the court” (ajpo tw'n ajgoraiwn kai th'" basileiou aujlh'"),107 who swore “that the emperor would keep the treaties inviolate and would give the leaders of the Germans safe passage and provisions.”108 This is an unprecedented event in Byzantine international relations, with obvious constitutional overtones. The oath was undoubtedly demanded by Frederick Barbarossa, as Ansbert’s text suggests; and the men who took it, whom another source calls “quingenti de melioribus terrae,” were understood to have sworn “quod ipse rex Grecie concanbium bonum et forum rectum et omnium suorum tutelam sine mala fraude ineundo et redeundo postaret.”109 The latter source is a letter, by an unknown author, that reports on the terms of the treaty as he heard them Hendy explains the drop in the value of the billon trachy between the time of John II and the end of the 12th century by the decline in ﬁneness: Studies, 518. However, his own ﬁgures show that the rate of decline in ﬁneness is less than the rate of decline in value.
Francesco Balducci Pegolotti, La pratica della mercatura, ed. A. Evans, Medieval Academy of America Publication 24 (Cambridge, Mass., 1936), 40.
Ansbert, 66, calls them “quingenti homines meliores civitatis et imperii.” Choniates, ed. van Dieten, 411.
Hampe, “Ungedruckter Bericht,” 399.
Angeliki E. Laiou [ 177 ] from “cives noti qui... Constantinopoli fuerunt”; the editor of the letter suggests, very plausibly, that the cives noti were (Italian) merchants.110 These Italian merchants, then, understood that their equivalent Byzantines, the very men who would have been engaged in trade and money changing, were made to guarantee the Treaty of Adrianople.
Was their oath (along with that of some of Isaac’s aristocrats) demanded by the German emperor because he was used to dealing with the “best men” of cities? Or were the “best” businessmen of Constantinople playing a new role in relations with Westerners, merchants, and states?
Here we must recall the near-contemporary aﬀair of the piratical attack of summer 1192 and the subsequent negotiations, with which we began, and Isaac II’s eﬀorts to get reparations for the goods of “the ﬁrst among the merchants of Constantinople,” in whom it is legitimate to see a subgroup of the meliores terrae of the Treaty of Adrianople.111 It is pertinent to our discussion that it was these merchants (and money changers too, ´ undoubtedly) who functioned as guarantors (ejgguhtai) of the goods of Genoese and Pisan merchants held in deposit. Thus they engaged in money business as well, a phenomenon already mentioned above in connection with the probable role of merchants in money transactions during the Crusades.112 John Oxeobaphopoulos, who returned the deposit to the Genoese, bears a name that clearly connects him to the marketplace, for it means the “‘red’ purple dyer”; whether he was a silk manufacturer or a silk merchant, or both, or whether his was a family name, cannot, of course, be determined.
Kalomodios, the one great merchant and money changer whose name and profession are explicitly attested, lived in the same period, during the reign of Alexios III. We also know that during Alexios III’s reign, cloth merchants and money changers and other ` ` ´ tradesmen were able to buy honoriﬁc titles: oiJ ejn triodoi" kai ajgorai'" kai kollubis´ tai kai pratai tw'n ojqonw'n sebastoi ejtimhqhsan.113 The important and complex role of the Constantinopolitan merchant and banker is the result of many developments: the extensive commercial activity of the Byzantines in the twelfth century; the development of Byzantine-Italian relations, which, on the institutional front (and I mean legal and economic institutions), was proceeding at a rapid pace and creating new situations; and undoubtedly to some extent it was also due to the active role of the merchants and money changers in the negotiations with Crusaders and in the implementation of agreements. The Treaty of Adrianople did not create this group. But it gave its existence a certain solemnity; and it may have contributed something to this group’s apparently signiﬁcant power in Constantinople, and so to the fact that its interests were very much taken into account in the state relations between the empire, Genoa, and Pisa—and in the discussion of the terms in which both trade and piracy were to be conducted. The expanded role of the merchants and money changers, which recalls the earlier developments of the eleventh century, was cut short by the events of 1204.
Would these developments have been diﬀerent in degree or in kind without the pasIbid., 400 n. 5.
Choniates, ed. van Dieten, 523–24, 483–84.
[ 178 ] Byzantine Trade sage of the Crusader armies? One does not wish to engage in counterfactual argumentation. What may be stressed is the fact that relations between Crusaders and Byzantines, especially during the Second and Third Crusades, were arrangements between states.
Thus they ratiﬁed and conﬁrmed developments that may already have been taking place.