History of Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire for Kids

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Byzantine Empire Trade and Trade Routes

The trade in the early Byzantine Empire used the pattern established by the Roman Empire. Trade within the Empire was great because the empire was like one big trading organization. This is because there were low tax rates, common currency, and custom fees. The government interfered with much of the trading, so private individuals were not able to operate factories.
Small trades still happened on a local level in forms of exchange. Trade and industry in the cities were so rigidly controlled by the government that almost the only profitable form of investment for private enterprise was the acquisition of landed property.

Trade and industry were probably stimulated by the termination of the chrysargyron, a tax in gold paid by the urban classes. If, by way of compensating for the resulting loss to the state, the rural classes had then to pay the land tax in money rather than kind, the mere fact that gold could be presumed to be available in the countryside is a striking index of rural prosperity. In the East, the economic resurgence of the 4th century had persisted, and it is not surprising that Anastasius enriched the treasury to the extent of 320,000 pounds of gold during the course of his reign.

In the 6th century AD the Byzantines both fought the Antes and sought their alliance against other tribes. Byzantine chronicles mention Rusí attacks in about 842 and a Rusí siege of Constantinople in 860. At approximately the same time that Rusí and Byzantium began to trade, using the Varangian route, the Christianization of Ukraine was facilitated by the Byzantine colonies on the northern coast of the Black Sea.

During the 600's, the wars and the plagues resulted in a decline in the population. This made the economy mostly agricultural because the people concentrated on producing enough for them to eat. The empire lost much land to the Arabs, and they felt the lost of Egypt with their grain. After the Arabs took over most of the Byzantine Empire, trade was mostly centralized in Constantinople and the Black Sea. Though the population and prosperity grew most of the people were still rural.

In the reign of Theodosius II (408-450), the Huns under their chieftain Attila received subsidies of gold that both kept them in a state of uneasy peace with the Eastern Empire and may have proved profitable to those merchants of Constantinople who traded with the barbarians. When Marcian (ruled 450-457) refused to continue the subsidies, Attila was diverted from revenge by the prospect of conquests in the West.

Then in the 900s, the western Europeans began trading with the empire using merchants who set up colonies there. Eventually, the ruling class began renting out land to the merchants. In the 1000s, the Byzantine Empire began to move into larger cities. The empire then extended its trade to Italy, Egypt, Russia and Turkey. Though the Byzantine merchants became wealthy with all this trading, they still had little power in the Empire.

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