chapter  5
39 Pages

Byzantium

ByKOSTIS SMYRLIS

To a large extent the evolution of the Byzantine economy runs parallel to that of Western Europe and this includes the fourteenth-century crisis which interrupted a long period of demographic and economic growth.1 Besides certain more or less important structural differences, what above all distinguishes Byzantium from other countries in the late Middle Ages are the extremely unstable political conditions and almost constant warfare that marked the period extending from the 1340s to the defi nitive establishment of Ottoman power in the Balkans, more than a century later. The combined effect of these circumstances and the plague are responsible for the severe demographic and economic crisis of the last Byzantine century. But the agrarian economy was apparently experiencing diffi culties already before these troubles occurred.