Social structures and Byzantine administration in early medieval Greece

Florin Curta and Siu-lun Wong

in The Edinburgh History of the Greeks, c. 500 to 1050

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780748638093
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670741 | DOI:
Social structures and Byzantine administration in early medieval Greece

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With the withdrawal of the urban elites from cities in the late sixth and early seventh century, all links to the late antique social hierarchy were severed. The aristocracy of early medieval Greece was essentially of military origin, and often not of local extraction. Public power in early medieval Greece remained, however, in the hands of the local elites, with little, if any interference from government officials. Early medieval elites resided in cities and engaged in activities, such as feasting or games (tzykanion) to mark the social boundaries separating them from the rest of society. By the mid-eleventh century, some were also involved in public displays of piety through religious confraternities. The status of aristocratic men was also vicariously represented, especially in funerary ceremonies, through their womenfolk. By contrast, very little is known about the daily life of peasants, although it is clear that the number of freeholders began to drop dramatically by the mid-eleventh century. The distinction between free and non-free in early medieval Greece was associated with the use of violence. Moreover, the existence of slaves in early medieval Greece is amply documented in the sources, leaving the impression that it was quite normal to purchase, sell or own slaves.

Keywords: Elites; titles; feasting; female burials; peasants; slaves; Jews

Chapter.  8480 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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