This paper studies the issue of food supply and famine during sieges of Roman cities of the Eastern Mediterranean in Late Antiquity. While many urban communities were besieged by the enemies for extended periods of time, few cases of subsistence crisis were recorded, and only those living in Amida and Thessaloniki suffered from severe famine. The examination of the nature and context of these armed conflicts suggests that famine during sieges would actually have been a dynamic process which might have resulted from the interaction of both the enemies’ military activities and the Roman Empire’s policies and strategies.
Between 1058 and 1072 CE, the Fatimid state of Egypt experienced a combination of famine and civil war that devastated Egypt as a whole and the city of Fustat/Cairo in particular. When we examine abundant and contemporary sources such as poetry, religious and medical treatises, and other writing not usually used by historians, we find that the Fatimid court in the period prior to 1058 CE was a hub of intellectual activity. The scene was vibrant and the work was optimistic and exuberant. After the crisis, there were fewer intellectuals in Cairo and the work that they produced was more somber and morose.
A wealthy city, the logistical centre of Portugal’s Algarve region, Silves was the subject of numerous sieges and conflicts between the Portuguese and the Muwahid (Almohad) Emperor for nearly a century. A royal taxation charter details the logistics and financing of Silves’s very prosperous food trade in 1267 CE is contrasted to the desperate famine described in the testimonies of two eyewitnesses of the original Portuguese/Crusader attack on Silves in 1189 CE. The speaker has studied medieval Silves for over a decade, translating these documents to English; archaeological, geographical, and other evidence shall be included to provide a multidisciplinary approach.