Silk Production

David Jacoby

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

 Silk Production

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Written sources provide important evidence regarding the economics of silk production in Byzantium. In addition, some Byzantine silks have been excavated in Egypt and at various sites in Asia and Europe. Precious silk textiles acquired an important symbolic role in the life of the imperial court during the reign of Justinian I (527-65). In addition to fulfilling liturgical and ornamental functions in churches and monasteries, silk was an indication of social status. The late Roman Empire manufactured textiles with foreign silk, although it also imported silk fabrics from inner Asia. The development of new silk centres boosted exports to the Latin West. In the early thirteenth century, however, huge fires and the Latin conquest of Constantinople doomed the city's silk industry. Despite the Byzantine recovery of the city in 1261, its silk manufacture never recovered. The partition of the Byzantine Empire as a result of the Fourth Crusade drastically affected silk production and trade in the western provinces occupied by the Latins.

Keywords: silk; silk production; Byzantium; silk textiles; exports; Constantinople; Byzantine Empire

Article.  3576 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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