History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


VIII. Macedonia from the beginning of the 18th century to the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1774


4. Imports and exports of Macedonia through the port of Thessalonica after the middle of the 18th century



Α Venetian consular report, dated May 1762, contains some details about the export and import trades in Macedonia during the second half of the 18th century, and I think they are worth quoting here.


Among the goods exported from Thessalonica we find listed every kind of grain, cotton, tobacco, wax, silk, box-wood, camel-hair, wool and hides. Coarse woollen cloths, 'kapes' (thick shepherds' cloaks), blankets and thread (white and red) are manufactured, the whole lot lumped together under the well-known name of 'salonikiá'. There was also an illicit export of cereals to Leghorn, Genoa, France, Spain and Portugal. In times of peace, 5.000 bales of cotton, 5.000 of wool, 400 of wax and 300 of manufactured goods (such as those mentioned above) were exported to France annually.


To Leghorn and Genoa there were carried, per annum, 12.000 bales of tobacco, 3.000 of cotton, 1.000 of wool, 400 of wax, 400 of textiles, and 12.000 okas (15.000 kgs.) of raw silk. But to Ancona and Trieste went only 3.000 bales of tobacco and 1.000 bales of cotton. Tobacco (6.000 bales) and a small quantity of hides were shipped to the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily. Venice herself imported 6.000 bales of cotton, 5.000 of tobacco, 500 of wool, 200 of textiles and a small quantity of box-wood and camel-hair.


Regarding Thessalonica's trade with the countries to the north-east we have but scanty information. The Venetian consul states only that 25.000 loads of cotton are dispatched to Hungary per annum.


The city's import trade is equally significant. Egypt provides Rumeli with the following colonial products: coffee, sugar, rice, flax, incense, henna, ammonia, mother of pearl, linen goods, linen thread, and fruit. The value of all these products together reached one and a half million kuruş. In exchange Thessalonica sent to Egypt tobacco, to the value of 600.000 kuruş, iron in bars and knife-blades to the value of 100.000 kuruş, furs worth 50.000 kuruş, and timber for building purposes the value of 30.000 kuruş.


From France came 400 bales of light woollen goods worth 200.000 kuruş and to a similar value tin, pepper, coffee, sugar, logwood chips for dyeing, cochineal, indigo and paper. The same products, except for the woollen goods, were imported also from Genoa and Leghorn to an equivalent value. From Venice came glassware, wall-hangings, paper and other goods to the value of 150.000 kuruş. Just at this time, inci-





dentally, a number of small factories—or rather, small textile workshops — were opened on the island of Chios, which tried to copy the kind of silk brocades which came from India and Aleppo. Their arrival on the market caused a drop in the importation of woollens and silks from Venice.


Britain sent merchandise worth 50.000 kuruş, which included heavy cloths, lead, logwood chips, woollen textiles, pepper, sugar, cochineal, etc; while from Holland came only 30 bales of woollen goods of various kinds. From Germany were imported utensils and tools to the value of 50.000 kuruş, as well as luxury clothing (some with gold embroidery or lace) from Leipzig [1]; these came either overland or by sea via Trieste, which was now emerging as a commercial centre of great potentialities, rivalling the Serene Republic.


But at this period it was not only the French, Austrians and Germans who were setting themselves up in serious rivalry to the Venetians: Greek merchants, by reason of their energy and initiative, were destined to supplant them within a few years [2]. The Greeks of Thessalonica worked in harmony with their fellow-countrymen already established in Venice, and had an agreement whereby they hired vessels from Messolonghi, which sailed under the Turkish flag. These left the port of Thessalonica fully laden en route for Venice, while vessels under the Venetian flag left half-empty. The result was that not only Venice's trade but her shipping interests also suffered eclipse.


The economic fortunes of the Thessalonian Greeks, on the other hand, were registering a rapid upward trend. Within a few years, using 'French help', as the Italian historian R. Cessi alleges, they achieved complete domination in their market, making 'easy' gains and growing rich "at the Venetians' expense" [3]. But Cessi's assertion is unjust: the Greeks had to rely upon their own resources and capabilities. They extended the scope of their endeavours in every direction and sought to take advantage of the rivalry that existed among the foreign commercial powers. I also believe that the Greek merchants cooperated quite as much with German capitalists as they did with French.



1. Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, pp. 388-389. In 1759, 20.000 bales of tobacco was exported to Christian Europe. Of the same author, Συμπλήρωμα, p. 66. For details about the increase in French merchandise and the corresponding decrease of Venetian, see Gessi, Il consolato veneto, pp. 9-14. For linguistic and folkloric material from the life of the bee-keepers, see D. Petropoulos, Μελισσοκομικὰ Χαλκιδικῆς καὶ Δυτικῆς Μακεδονίας, «Λαογραϕία» 17 (1957-1958). See also the Appendix.


2. Gessi, ibid., p. 10.


3. Ibid., pp. 11-12.





Trade between Macedonia and the German countries showed a continuing expansion (much to the detriment of the Venice's commercial interests in that sphere) [1], and this was due largely to the cooperation of Greeks settled in those parts (a subject we shall be examining in a separate chapter). Balkan lands — indeed the Ottoman empire generally — were destined to prove a very favourable outlet for the industrial goods of Central Europe, while to the latter was opened up a wonderful market for their raw materials. It was, in fact, the Greek merchants themselves who were mainly responsible for directing Austrian attention to that very important quarter. To illustrate this point, we may instance a report written by the Venetian consul at Thessalonica, dated June 1766, which speaks of the initiative and drive shown by Austrian capitalists, who were turning their attention towards Thessalonica and, via her port, still further eastwards. Here we have the preliminary phase of the Drang nach Osten.


In the same report, the consul states that a rumour is going about that Count Starhemberg of Vienna is planning to establish a new trading company in Thessalonica, with a view to capturing all the trade of the Ottoman empire carried on hitherto between Italy and the Near East. In fact, the first steps had already been taken towards putting this plan into operation, for just a few days previously the brother-in-law of Starhemberg, Baron Gadnaz, had arrived in the city from Constantinople. Included in the Baron's numerous entourage, which had been quartered in a large building in Thessalonica, there was a certain Manolis Rizos, a Thessalonian who gave the appearance of being the chief agent in the introduction of this scheme, and who, it seems, was the director in charge of correspondence with the other establishments in Semlin, Vienna, Triest and Venice (the latter city was in all likelihood to be the headquarters of the company).


The Venetian consul appears to have been very disturbed, for he knew that if this projected trade monopoly was to be actually realized, it would damage the interests of the other states, and none more than Venice's, in as much as ships under Russian flag would be engaged, and the Russian flag was particularly popular with the 'fanatical Greeks'. The Starhemberg company was principally interested in tobacco and cotton, which were the most important items in Thessalonica's export trade [2].



1. See Gessi, Il consolato veneto, pp. 12-13.


2. Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, pp. 422-423.





Starhemberg's affairs went well, for by the end of thc 18t  century we find that he has founded agencies of Sérres, Lárissa, and throughout the whole of Thessaly. The establishment of the Austrians in Northern Greece gave from the very start a considerable boost to the cotton trade to the thread-dyeing industry. This impetus was to prove highly advantageous to the Greeks, especially to the Thessalians from the Vale of Tempe, who won large profits in consequence [1].


Side by side with the swift expansion of trade is to be observed a similar development in the realm of industry, which was organized within the framework of the guilds. Already by 1759 we find mention of a large number of guilds in wide variety at Thessalonica: guilds of farriers, trunk-makers, thinsmiths, coppersmiths, saddle-makers, etc. [2].



1. Beaujour, Tableau, l, p. 291.


2. See a list of them in Mertzios, Συμπλήρωμα, p. 61-63.


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