Article

The Village

Alan Harvey

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199252466.013.0031

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

 The Village

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The village occupied a central place in the economy and society of Byzantium and was an essential element in the fiscal administration of the empire. Villages had a legal identity and their inhabitants acted collectively to protect their interest. As a convenient unit of fiscal assessment, the village attached importance to maintaining the viability of peasant communities. Peasants were reliant on agriculture for their livelihoods, but often supplemented their incomes by engaging in crafts. In the late sixth and the seventh century, the village economy suffered as a result of the decline in imperial authority, undermined by Slav incursions in the Balkans and the raids of the Persians and Arabs in Asia Minor. By the tenth and, especially, the eleventh century, however, the empire saw a revival in its rural economy. Still, villagers found it increasingly difficult to defend their interests against powerful neighbours and to maintain their social status.

Keywords: villages; Byzantium; fiscal administration; agriculture; rural economy; social status; peasants

Article.  2779 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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