«The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World edited by Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh published by Dumbarton Oaks ...»
After 1291 and the fall of Acre, we know that there were repeated calls in the West for a boycott of trade with Egypt. This did not involve Byzantium; on the contrary, some of the plans for a boycott of Egyptian trade included, as a side eﬀect of the eventual rearrangements in the eastern Mediterranean, the reconquest of Byzantium by the Crusaders.176 Interestingly, however, there were, in the early fourteenth century, some vague and some not-so-vague mutterings in Byzantium against the continuation of good relations with Egypt: vague in the comments of Theodore Metochites, who, in his Oration to the neo-martyr St. Michael, somewhat sheepishly and defensively explains that the Byzantine emperor was in the habit of sending frequent embassies and friendly messages to the “impious ruler... not because of some need,” since they were not contiguous neighbors and thus did not have the close contact of contiguous neighbors, but because the emperor always did everything in his power for the protection and well-being of Christians in the Mamluk possessions.177 In a much more explicit manner, George Pachymeres criticized in no uncertain terms the policy of Michael VIII that “opened the way” to the Egyptians toward the “Scythians,” that is, the Cumans of the Black Sea. He Ioannis Cantacuzeni eximperatoris historiarum libri quattuor, ed. L. Schopen, 3 vols. (Bonn, 1828–29), 3:90– ˆ ` ` 104; cf. M.
This includes the early plans of Marino Sanudo, ca. 1306–12: A. Laiou, “Marino Sanudo Torsello, Byzantium and the Turks: The Background to the Anti-Turkish League of 1332–1334,” Speculum 45 (1970): 374–92.
On the crusading plans of this period, see S. Schein, Fideles Crucis: The Papacy, the West, and the Recovery of the Holy Land (1274–1314) (Oxford, 1991).
AASS, Nov. 4: 672–73. Dolger thinks the embassy in question may have been the one dated 1311–13:
¨ Regesten, no. 2326. This text also provides important information regarding Byzantine trade relations with Egypt. According to Metochites, Alexandria is always full of people—among them, Byzantines—who go there for trade and other reasons (676). At the time of the martyrdom of St. Michael, there were, in the city, both Byzantine ambassadors and Byzantine merchants (673, 676). The ambassadors seem to have sailed on a Byzantine ship, for Michael, a captive in Alexandria, tried to escape on this ship by disguising himself as one of the passengers or crew who were to sail back to Constantinople (673). This incidental information suggests that even in the early 14th century there were Byzantine ships sailing these seas and that the Italian control of shipping in the eastern Mediterranean was not absolute.
[ 192 ] Byzantine Trade connected that with the Egyptian oﬀensive against the last remaining Crusader possessions in Palestine (1268–91); he lamented the fall of these possessions; and he ended this narrative with the statement: “This is the proﬁt to Christendom wrought by our imprudence and our ungoverned impulsive actions and appetites.”178 Pachymeres, clearly, would much rather have seen a Christian economic and political alliance that would have kept the Egyptians out: something like the boycott advocated in Western Europe. Thus, after a very long time, the Byzantines themselves connected the Crusades and the fate of the Crusader states with the trading policies of the Byzantines and the Muslims.
To the modern scholar, the connections between the crusading movement and the Byzantine commercial relations with Christians and Muslims appear much more complex. The complexity is partly the result of the fact that with the Crusades the entire political scene of the Middle East changed; and with the expansion of Italian merchants the economics of the area changed as well. These are long-term phenomena, and there is a broad and long-term connection between political and economic aﬀairs. There are also short-term and immediate connections between speciﬁc crusading eﬀorts and matters aﬀecting commerce, for example the grant of speciﬁc charters of privilege. I have tried to focus on the phenomena that lie between the long term and the short term and to point out some of the structural and institutional developments that may be considered to have occurred because of the Crusades wholly or, more often, in part. The development of exchange mechanisms and mechanisms of negotiation in Byzantium were connected both to speciﬁc events, the Second and Third Crusades, and to the evolving presence of Western merchants. The terms of trade with Christians and Muslims, in the exemplar case of the law of salvage, have been seen to have evolved over the entire eastern Mediterranean, in response to both political events and economic necessities, the evolution starting in Byzantium and making the rounds of the Crusader states and Egypt, becoming reinforced on the way. In the case of Byzantine trade relations with the Muslims, the Crusades appear to have imposed two successive reorientations—and political and economic aﬀairs were closely intertwined. In sum, in my view, the Crusades and the existence of the Crusader states played a much greater role than modern scholars tend to allow, not only in the general patterns of trade in the eastern Mediterranean but also in the conditions and mechanisms of trade between the Byzantines and the Muslims, and especially between the Byzantines and the Western Christians.
1. Comparison of the Known Exchange Rates from the First Crusade (comments on pp. 169–70) The exchange rate deduced from the Gesta Francorum (1 hyperpyron 15 soldi 180 deniers) is evidently one obtaining in an exceptional context (famine and the presence of a huge army). The intended coins are obviously, on the one hand, the hyperpyron, although the Gesta provides, to my knowledge, the only occurrence of the form purpurati.1 The Crusaders may have coined this name by identifying hyperpyra with “imperial” coins, as purpuratus had primarily this meaning. On the other hand, which deniers the author of the Gesta may have had in mind is not clear. His South Italian origin could have made him allude to the deniers from Pavia, Lucca, Venice, and Rouen,2 which are attested there by textual and archaeological evidence in the late eleventh century. Or he might simply have alluded to the various French and Italian deniers that the Crusaders brought with them.
Little is known of the silver ﬁneness of these,3 and we have to be content with mentioning ﬁgures for royal French deniers of the late eleventh century. The deniers Parisis
of Philip I (1060–1108) were struck at 1/312 or 1/324 to the pound (1.30–1.26 g) and had a ﬁneness of 40 percent.4 Alexios I’s hyperpyra, weighing ca. 4.30 g, are, according to the latest analyses,5 some 82 percent ﬁne. The comparison of these average intrinsic values, 3.74 g ﬁne gold 90.7–93.6 g ﬁne silver,6 entails a gold-silver ratio of 1:24 to 1:25, apparently excessive but understandable in the circumstances.
The rate of 1 “aureus” to 8 or 9 soldi (96–108 deniers) appears to be a more “normal” one. In fact, the contemporary Tripoli dinar had, like the other Fatimid dinars, a very high purity (ca. 97%).7 Reckoning a denier with some 0.5 g silver ﬁne, the comparison becomes: 4.07 g ﬁne gold 48–54 g ﬁne silver, entailing a gold-silver ratio of 1:11.8 or 1:13.2, more usual in an eastern Mediterranean context.8 Michael Metcalf is therefore right when he comments on this famous statement of Raymond of Aguilers and concludes that “eight or nine shillings does not sound in any way extortionate as an exchange-rate against the Islamic gold dinar.”9
2. Intrinsic Value of Coins Exchanged during the Second Crusade (comments on pp. 170–75) The exchange rate in the Balkans of 1 stamenon to 5 deniers, in terms of the intrinsic values involved, implies equating ca. 0.27 g ﬁne silver in the Byzantine stamenon10 to the 2 or 1.9 g represented by 5 deniers Parisis of the time.11 The denier’s real value was thus grossly underestimated (by about 7 to 8 times). As A. Laiou points out (p. 173), “any exchange rate that quoted the billon trachy in multiples of the denier Parisis was bound to be excessive.” The other equivalence between 1 mark of silver and 3 hyperpyra (144 stamena rated
at 48 to the hyperpyron) implied the following approximate intrinsic values: 234.4 g ﬁne silver12 10.86 g ﬁne gold.13 This entails an excessive gold-silver ratio of 1:26.
The rate in Constantinople of 1 stamenon to less than 2 deniers amounts to equating the Byzantine billon coin containing 0.28–0.26 g ﬁne silver with two Western silver ones containing 0.8–0.76 g silver. It implies overvaluating the stamenon nearly three times (2.8–2.9) and agrees with M. Hendy’s conclusion, on a diﬀerent basis, that “the overvaluation will have been something in the order of 2 1/2 times the bullion value of the trachy.”14 The other Constantinopolitan exchange rate of 396 stamena for 1 mark of silver leads to roughly the same result: 396 0.27 g 106.9 g, being considered equivalent to the
234.4 g ﬁne silver in a mark, which implies an overvaluation of the stamenon of some
The more favorable rating of the mark may be attributed to its guaranteed, or easily assayable, ﬁneness and to its mere bulk (important absolute value) compared to retail exchanges dealing with small sums in all sorts of deniers of varying ﬁneness.
3. Intrinsic Value of Coins Exchanged during the Third Crusade and the Exchange Rates (comments on pp. 175–76) The 1190 treaty probably involved the Cologne mark, which was slightly lighter and contained some 231 g of highly pure silver. The rate of 5.5 hyperpyra for an assayed (examinatum)15 mark amounts to equating some 19.7 g16 ﬁne gold to 231 g ﬁne silver and implies a gold-silver ratio of 1:11.8.17 The diﬀerence between examinata and non examinata (the latter rated 1.8 times less than the former, at 3 hyperpyra) seems at ﬁrst very high, but must have incorporated an important premium for risk. Moreover, it is known that “all of the surviving German A Troyes mark with a weight of 244.7 g and a ﬁneness of 12d in argent-le-roi (95.8%). If the mark were one of pure or nearly pure silver, the silver weight would be ca. 240 g and the ratio 1:21.87. The order of magnitude is the same.
Manuel’s hyperpyron with a weight of 4.3 g and a ﬁneness of ca. 85% (84.2% Au and 12% Ag) would amount to 3.65 g ﬁne (see above, note 5).
M. F. Hendy and J. A. Charles, “The Production Techniques, Silver Content, and Circulation History of the Twelfth-Century Byzantine Trachy,” in M. F. Hendy, The Economy, Fiscal Administration, and Coinage of Byzantium (Northampton, 1989), 18.
“Examinatum” is clearly a technical word for assay. In the late 12th century, the mint of Melgueil, for instance, had two gardes: one in charge of the custody of dies and the other in charge of issag, i.e., the punch used to certify the testing of the ingots’ ﬁneness.
Isaac II’s hyperpyron with a weight of 4.3 g and a ﬁneness of ca. 83.3% (82.2% Au and 14% Ag) would amount to 3.58 g ﬁne (see above, note 5).
Watson, “Back to Gold,” 23: “before Europe returned to gold the ratio in most parts of Europe was generally between 9 and 10.” See P. Spuﬀord, Money and Its Use in Medieval Europe (Cambridge, 1988), table 2, p. 272.
[ 196 ] Byzantine Trade ingots that have been analyzed have proved to be of various poor qualities of argentum usuale.”18 The oﬃcial value of 120 stamena to the hyperpyron equates the ca. 12 g silver contained in the now debased billon coin19 with ca. 3.58 g ﬁne gold. The implicit goldsilver ratio is three times less than the one derived from the exchange rate of the assayed mark and three times less as well than the one assumed to have prevailed in the eastern Mediterranean. This is a good index of the persisting overvaluation (partly token nature) of the billon denomination.
In 1199 the decreasing value of 184 stamena to the hyperpyron deduced from Pisan documents equates ca. 14.7 g silver with 3.6 g ﬁne gold. The implicit gold-silver ratio is 21 percent higher than the 1190 one and conﬁrms the downward trend of the stamenon overvaluation emphasized above (p. 175).
It should be pointed out that comparisons between the metal contents of the stamenon and the hyperpyron as well as the implicit derived ratios are very unreliable for two reasons: ﬁrst, the uncertainty of metrological ﬁgures, but above all the limits certainly ﬁxed to the exchange of stamena into hyperpyra, as is always the case with token coinages.20 ` CNRS-College de France, Paris, and Dumbarton Oaks Spuﬀord, Money, 221, quoting A. [von] Loehr, “Probleme der Silberbarren,” NZ 64 (1931): 101–9, with illustrations. The ﬁgures given by von Loehr (p. 106) for ingots of the early 13th century vary between 85.4% and 79.8% ﬁne.
Assuming 120 stamena of 4–3 g with a ﬁneness of 2.5% (0.1 to 0.07 g ﬁne silver), equating a hyperpyron ` of 3.58 g. Hendy and Charles, “Byzantine Trachy”; T. Bertele, Numismatique byzantine (Wetteren, 1978), 77.
To the observation of Pegolotti mentioned above (176 n. 105) might be added the fact that the Nea Logarike, according to my interpretation at least, only accepted the (electrum) aspron trachy and not the stamenon in payment of taxes (C. Morrisson, Monnaie et ﬁnances a Byzance [Aldershot, 1994], no. , 460–64).