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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 348: Late Antique Economies of and beyond the Medieval Mediterranean

Monday 3 July 2023, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Jaume Marcé Sánchez, Institut de Recerca en Cultures Medievals, Universitat de Barcelona
Paper 348-aThe 6th-Century Monastic Economy according to the Letters of Gregory the Great
(Language: English)
Roy Flechner, School of History, University College Dublin
Index terms: Ecclesiastical History, Economics - General, Monasticism, Social History
Paper 348-bFinancing the Conquest: The Economy of the Sasanian Conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean, 610-630
(Language: English)
Khodadad Rezakhani, Department of History, Princeton University
Index terms: Economics - General, Historiography - Medieval, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Numismatics
Paper 348-cPaying the Army during the Last Century of the Western Roman Empire
(Language: English)
Ralph Mathisen, Department of History, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Index terms: Administration, Economics - General, Military History, Numismatics
Paper 348-dUnwinding the Threads: Maritime Network Dynamics in the Late Antique Western Mediterranean
(Language: English)
Rowan Munnery, School of Classics, University of St Andrews
Index terms: Archaeology - General, Economics - Trade, Maritime and Naval Studies

Paper -a:
The letters of Pope Gregory the Great are a rich source of anecdotal evidence on the economics of monasteries in Italy, Gaul, Sicily, and other Mediterranean islands. They inform us about agricultural practices, technology, craft production, markets, commerce, provisioning, spatial divisions, labour (including gendered aspects), slavery and unfreedom (ditto), taxes, rents, book-keeping, travel and mobility, management of dependencies, and so on. This paper is a systematic attempt to glean patterns across dozens of monastic properties mentioned in the letters and to define 6th-century monasteries from an economic perspective.

Paper -b
The Sasanian conquest of Syria, Palestine, Anatolia, and Egypt between 610-628 was a major cataclysmic event that led to permanent change in the subsequent history of the entire Mediterranean. This has often been, rather simplistically, considered a major contributor to decline, indeed 'a collapse', in political, and even more importantly, economic systems of both the Sasanian and the Byzantine Empires, leading to the collapse of these empires in front of the incoming Arab/Islamic onslaught.

This paper aims to study the economic resources of the Sasanian empire and its preparedness for these conquests, as well as their effect on the imperial economy at the conclusion of the conflict. It will be argued that the conquests were in fact the result of a century of preparation, including a major overhaul of the Sasanian finances and economy in Mesopotamia and Western Iran. Furthermore, the paper will study the Sasanian economy at the close of the war and during Heraclius' famous counteroffensive and argue that the quick collapse of the Sasanian imperial system had partly to do with factors of population change, extensive growth, and the destabilising effect of a sudden injection of cash into the economy.

Paper -c:
The big question regarding why the western half of the Roman Empire came to an end in the late fifth century but the eastern half did not often is seen as being connected to economic issues. Simply put, the east had access to many more financial resources that could be used to fund the military than did the west. As a testament to this economic reality, one has but to compare the immense issues of gold coinage in the east with the pathetic output of the west. Western emperors such as Honorius and Valentinian III lamented the lack of military funding, and, trying to do the best they could with what they had, came up with some imaginative methods for dealing with a depleted treasury that necessarily resulted in a lack of military manpower. This paper will investigate the methods used by western emperors in attempts to deal with this funding crisis, such as trying to find new ways to raise money and using measures designed to put their slim financial resources to the best possible use.

Paper -d:
The Roman era has had considerable emphasis placed on the large-scale networks of directed exchange that interlinked across the Mediterranean. However, the development of maritime exchange in the turbulent period of late antiquity, amongst its major geopolitical and economic changes, is still the centre of considerable debate. This paper uses formal network models to describe the commercial connectivity that is revealed in the late antique western Mediterranean through analysis of an archaeological dataset that includes all published shipwreck sites of this period. This allows for an in-depth examination of their changes and gradual unravelling, providing important insights into the shifting inter-regional relationships of the late antique economy.