Byzantium: its internal history and relations with the Muslim World

Speros Vryonis Jr.


Internal History



(In: Dumbarton Oaks Papers, XVII ( 1963). The Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies) 


1. Introduction
2. The Guilds Prior to the Eleventh Century
(Political Activities; Wealthy Guildsmen; Organization - Book of the Eparch; Topographical Location of the Guilds; Munera; Conclusions on Political Potential Of Guilds Prior to the Eleventh Century)
3. Urban Violence and Guilds in the Eleventh Century
4. Michael V Calaphates
5. 1057-1081




BEFORE entering upon the subject of Byzantine guilds and urban violence in the eleventh century, it would be useful to set forth certain major questions or observations in connection with mediaeval guilds in general. Though there will be no attempt to answer these broader questions here, nevertheless these questions will contribute to a better understanding of Byzantine guilds themselves and possibly also to the understanding of the relationship between guild organizations and urban political activity in the mediaeval world from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. Such a course would serve the function of putting my own more particularized researches on the Byzantine guilds into a broader and perhaps more meaningful context.


The first of these observations is the apparent similarity of many aspects of Latin, Byzantine, and Islamic societies in the mediaeval period. Islam, Byzantium, and the Latin West were all, to a lesser or greater degree, the heirs of Graeco-Roman antiquity. The very geography of these three cultural blocks forced the heritage of late antiquity upon the emerging societies. Secondly, in many of the provinces where these three cultures developed and came to predominate, a number of the forms of Graeco-Roman economic organization continued, though of course in varying degrees. Consequently, the forms of the organization of agricultural, artisan, and commercial energies in these three areas often bore certain resemblances.


The third observation is more in the nature of an unanswered question. To what extent are these similarities in Byzantine, Latin, and Islamic economic organization due to common origins and to what extent to like necessities and functions? To put the question in more obvious terms: To what degree was the organization of craftsmen and merchants into apparently similar corporations under the control of urban officials in Pavia, Constantinople, and Damascus, say in the tenth century, [1] due to common institutional ancestry, and to what degree was it due to a common need of some kind of control of the labor forces and production of urban society? There is a similarity, and how does one explain it ? But a similarity which is even more striking lies in the political activity, violence, and political programs of these urban organizations which fill a significant number of pages in the mediaeval Latin and Arab chronicles. Latin and Arabic sources are consciously separated from the Byzantine sources in the preceding statement. For though Islamists have accumulated abundant testimony as to the political activities of the akhis, [2]



1. J. Lestocquoy, Aux origines de la bourgeoisie: le gouvernement des patriciens (XIe-XVe siècles) (Paris, 1952), 17. G. Mickwitz, Die Kartellfunktionen der Zünfte und ihre Bedeutung bei der Entstehung der Zunftwesens (Helsingfors, 1936), 188-190.


2. F. Taeschner, “Akhi," Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed., I (1960), 321—323. C. Cahen, “Ahdath,” in the same volume, 256, suggests that the ahdath were perhaps a survival of the old Byzantine factions in the cities of the Levant. If this is so, it would strengthen the whole likelihood of the existence of certain other similarities between Muslim and Byzantine cities.







and though the dynamic consequences of guild participation in the active political life of many of the western towns are known, [3] nothing of the sort has been connected with the Byzantine guilds. [4] It does seem strange to the historian of Byzantium that, whereas it has been established for both western and Islamic mediaeval society that the inhabitants of urban centers often found expression for their political natures and political programs through their economic organizations, the guilds, the standard treatments of Byzantine economic and urban life are almost devoid of references to such facts. In making this statement, one is of course aware that the results of this research will become suspect; suspect as having been forced to appear under a certain Toynbeean constraint, so that the conclusions will not be admitted before history’s tribunal of fact. But this is not at all valid. Such a judgement would tend to condemn the value of comparative history. For even though most historians are agreed that history does not repeat itself as exactly as Polybius felt it did in connection with the history of Roman political institutions, or as Ibn Khaldun felt it did in connection with the rise and decline of dynastic power, they will agree that similar situations recur. Given the above similarities of urban and socio-economic organization in the three great mediaeval cultural spheres, given also the political articulation of the corporations in the West and in the Islamic realm, one might with some profit approach the Byzantine sources with a view toward ascertaining whether or not the Byzantine corporations were likewise active in urban political life. [5]



3. R. Lopez, “The Trade of Medieval Europe: The South,” 295-296, and M. Postan, “The Trade of Medieval Europe: The North,” 220-222, in The Cambridge Economic History, ed. by M. Postan and E. Rich, II (Cambridge, 1952).


4. A. Rudakov, Ocherki vizantiĭskoi kul'tury po dannym-grecheskoi agiografii (Moscow, 1917), p. 120, was the first, to my knowledge, to hint at the connection in Byzantium. Most recently A. Kazhdan, “Gorod i derevnia v Vizantii v XI-XII vv.,” XIIe Congrès International des Études Byzantines, Rapports, I (Ohrid, 1961), 43, has emphasized the activity of the tradesmen in the twelfth century. The author has attempted to draw the same connections for tenth-century Constantinople in his Derevnia i gorod v Vizantii IX-X vv. (Moscow, 1960), 375, 386, 392, but on the basis of inconclusive evidence.


5. For comments on the elements of continuity between Graeco-Roman antiquity on the one hand and mediaeval Latin and Islamic civilization on the other hand, and also for remarks on the elements of similarity in the cultural, political, and economic realm, see the following: C. Dawson, The Making of Europe (New York, 1957), 25-72, for general cultural and political continuity in the West. In the sphere of economic continuity, scholarship during the first quarter of the present century had moved away from the theory of Roman origins of the western guilds to the theory of completely independent origins, J. Kulischer, Allgemeine Wirtschaftsgeschichte des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit, I (MunichBerlin, 1928), 181-192. Since then there has been a gradual and limited modification of this stand to the point where possibilities of continuity of Roman and similarity to Byzantine economic institutions are being reconsidered. G. Mickwitz, “Un problème d’influence: Byzance et l’économie de l’Occident médiéval,” Annales d'histoire économique et sociale, VIII (1936), 21-28. R. Lopez, op. cit., 269-280, 295-296, comments on the elements of economic continuity and survival in Italy, and on the political activities of the guilds in eleventh-twelfth-century Italy. M. Postan, op. cit., 157-159, 220-222, comments on the same phenomena in northern Europe. F. Dölger, “Die frühbyzantinische und byzantinisch beeinflusste Stadt,” Attı de Congresso Internazionale di Studi sull' Alto Medioevo (Spoleto, 1958), 17-20, 32-33, on guilds and cities. B. Mendi, “Les corporations byzantines,” Byzantinoslavica, XXII (1961), 301-319. V. Hrochova, “La révolte des Zélotes à Thessalonique et les communes italiennes,” Byzantinoslavica, XXII (1961), 1-15.


In the realm of Islam: G. von Grunebaum, Medieval Islam. A Study in Cultural Orientation, 2nd ed. (Chicago, 1953)» 2—3, 8, and B. Lewis, The Arabs in History, 2nd ed. (London, 1954), 66, 86, 138-139, on economic, political, artistic, and intellectual continuity. On the elements of continuity in the cities, guilds, and the fiscal system, B. Lewis, “The Islamic Guilds,” The Economic History Review, VIII (1937), 20-37; C. Cahen, “Zur Geschichte der städtischen Gesellschaft im islamischen Orient des Mittelalters,” Saeculum, IX (1958), 59—76; F. Dölger, Beiträge zur Geschichte der byzantinsichen Finanzverwaltung besonders des 10. und 11. Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1927), 94.





Byzantine δημοκρατία, [6] that is the political agitations and manifestations of the demos, the urban populace, has been for the past half century the central theme of a number of learned studies. In picking up this seemingly exhausted theme once more, this study will concentrate almost exclusively upon the intense political agitations and demonstrations that were characteristic of the Constantinopolitan scene in the eleventh century. The virulent participation of the urban populace in the political life of the empire is well known to the historian of Byzantium during the earlier centuries, especially from the fifth to the seventh, at which time the local urban groups, the so-called demes (militia) and the circus parties (Blues and Greens), were the vehicles of popular political expression. [7] Similar activity seems to have burst forth in twelfth-century Constantinople when the citizenry raised an outcry against Italian economic domination. [8] Nicetas Choniates has recorded a vivid description of one such outbreak (that of May 2, 1171) which is particularly worthy of reference here :


“The throngs of other cities rejoice in disorder and are with great difficulty kept in hand. But the populace of the market place in Constantinople is the most disorderly of all, rejoicing in rashness and walking in crooked ways. As it is governed by different peoples [9] and because of the



6. Consult the remarks of

·       G. Bratianu, “Empire et Démocratie à Byzance,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift, XXXVII (1937), 87-91, on the meaning of the word δημοκρατία in Byzantine times.

See also the detailed study of

·       D. Xanalatos, Βυζαντινά Μελετήματα. Συμβολὴ εἰς τὴν ἱστορίαν τοῦ βυζαντινοῦ λαοῦ (Athens, 1940).

·       Kazhdan, “Sotsial’nyĭ sostav naseleniia vizantiĭskikh gorodov v IX—X vv.,” Vizantiĭskiĭ Vremennik, VIII (1956), 87-90, and

·       N. Skabalanovich, Vizantiĭskoe gosudarstvo i tserkov’ v' XI veke (St. Petersburg, 1884), 233-235, for a description of the make-up of the city populace.


7. The literature on the circus factions and demes is considerable, amongst the more important items of which are the following.

·       Maricq, “Factions de cirque et partis populaires,” Bulletin de la Classe des Lettres, Académie royale de Belgique, XXXVI (1950), 396—421.

·       Diakonov, Vizantiĭskie demy i faktsii (τὰ μέρη) v V—VII vv.,” Vizantiĭskii Sbornik, I (1945), 144—227.

·       G. Manojlović, “Le peuple de Constantinople,” Byzantion, VI (1936), 617—716.

·       F. Dvornk, “The Circus Parties in Byzantium,” Byzantina-Metabyzantina, I (1946), 119-134;

·       see also his remarks in The Photian Schism, History and Legend (Cambridge, 1948), 6-9.


8. For details on the urban outbreaks in the twelfth century one may consult the studies of:

·       F. Cognasso, Partiti politici e lotte dinastiche in Bizanzio alla morte di Manuele Comneno. Reale Accademia delle scienze di Torino, 1911ı—12 (Turin, 1912);

·       F. Chalandon, Les Comnènes : Études sur l'empire byzantin aux XIe et au XIIe siècles (Paris, 1900-12);

·       H. F. Brown, “The Venetians and the Venetian Quarter in Constantinople to the Close of the Twelfth Century,” Journal of Hellenic Studies, XL (1920), 68—88;

·       E. Besta, La cattura dei Veneziani in Oriente (Feltre, 1920);

·       M. Siuziumov, “Vnutrenniaia politika Andronika Komnina i razgrom prigorodov Konstantinopolia v 1187 godu,” Vizantiĭskiiĭ Vremennik, XII (1957), 58—74;

·       Kazhdan, “Gorod i derevnia v Vizantii v XI-XII vv.,” XIIe Congrès International des Études Byzantines, Rapports, I (Ohrid, 1961), 41—42.


9. The writings of the twelfth-century poet John Tzetzes bear colorful testimony to the polyglot nature of the Constantinopolitan population. In Chiliades, ed. T. Kiessling (Leipzig, 1826), lines 360-369, he remarks both on the polyglot and corrupt nature of the citizens :

Οὐ γὰρ πάντων ἐστὶν ὁμὸς θρόος, οὐδ’ ἴα γῆρυς,

Ἀλλὰ γλῶσσα μέμικται, πολύκλεπτοι δ᾿ εἰσὶν ἄνδρες,

Οἱ πόλιν γὰρ τὴν ἄνασσαν ναίοντες Κωνσταντίνου,

Οὐχὶ μιᾶς φωνῆς εἰσὶ καὶ ἔθνους ἑνὸς μόνου,

Μίξεις γλωσσῶν δὲ περισσῶν, ἄνδρες τῶν πολυκλέπτων,

Κρῆτες καὶ Τοῦρκοι, Ἀλανοὶ, Ῥόδιοι τε καὶ Χῖοι,

Ἁπλῶς ἔθνους τοῦ σύμπαντος, τῶν ἁπασῶν χωροῦντες,

Ἅπαντες οἱ κλεπτίσεροι καὶ κεκιβδηλευμένοι,

Χειροτονοῦνται ἅγιοι τῇ πόλει Κωνσταντίνου.

Ὤ τῆς τοσαύτης ὕβρεως ἀνθρώποις τῶν ἀσκόπων.

The verses edited by G. Moravcsik in “Barbarische Sprachreste in der Theogonie des Johannes Tzetzes,” Byzantinisch-neugriechische Jahrbücher, VII (1930), 356—357, are of particular interest in this respect, for they reflect again the variety of tongues to be heard on the streets of Constantinople. Tzetzes boasts to the reader that he can address a person in seven languages, and what is more he implies that he can speak each with a good accent :

„καὶ Σκύθην Σκύθαις εὕροις με, Λατῖνον τοῖς Λατίνοις

καὶ πᾶσιν ἄλλοις ἔθνεσιν ὡς ἕνα γἐνους τούτων.

και Σκύθην ἀσπαζόμενος οὕτω προσαγορεύω·

σαλαμαλὲκ ἀλτὴ (– –) σαλαμαλὲκ ἀλτοῦγεπ.







variety of the trades, one may say that its mind is easily altered. But since the worst always wins out, and one scarcely finds amongst the sour grapes a ripe one, the populace of the market place upon whatever undertaking it embarks, does not do so reasonably, nor with good will, nor suitably. But at a mere word it disposes itself to rebellion and becomes more destructive than fire ... accordingly, it suffers from an inconstancy of character and is untrustworthy. Nor are these people ever detected doing those things which are most advantageous to themselves, nor were they ever persuaded by others who counselled them for their own good. But they always do those things which are detrimental.... Their indifference to the rulers is preserved in them as if it were inborn. Him whom today they raise as legal magistrate, this same one next year they will tear to pieces. [10] They do not perform these things with any logic, but through simple-mindedness and ignorance.” [11]


It would be strange indeed, however, if between the seventh and the twelfth centuries the inhabitants of the largest and wealthiest city in Europe



10. This line would imply that the citizens played an active role in the appointment and removal of governmental officials.


11. Nicetas Choniates, Historia, ed. I. Bekker (Bonn, 1835) (hereafter, Nicetas Choniates), 304-305. Choniates is the single most important text for the events concerning Byzantine urban violence in the twelfth century.





(with a population of perhaps 500,000) [12] had failed to leave any significant record in the pages of history as to their political existence. As a matter of fact, one does see in the tenth- and above all in the eleventh-century Byzantine chroniclers, as well as in the somewhat later Arab chronicle of Ibn al-Athir, abundant testimony to the fact that the Constantinopolitans had not abandoned their time honored taste for strife, rebellion, and riot. The citizenry of the capital played important roles in the deposition of four emperors (Michael V, Michael VI, Michael VII, Nicephorus Botaniates), and it becomes evident from the sources that the emperors attempted, increasingly, to win the support of the urbanites by extensive grants and favors.


What is most interesting is the fact that the heart of all this urban political activity seems to have been the vast guild system of the city, as will soon become apparent. It would seem extraordinary that this connection between the artisan class and the eleventh-century urban disturbances should have been neglected by the social historian of Byzantium, for, as was mentioned earlier, the connections between urban violence and guilds have been described in detail by historians of the mediaeval West as well as by the historians of mediaeval Islam. The Byzantine guilds, though they too have been studied in a number of significant monographs and articles, have been studied primarily from the point of view of their economic significance and organization. [13]



12. A. Andreades, "Le montant du budget de l’empire byzantin," Revue des études grecques, XXXIV (1921), 29. See also the remarks of P. Charanis in his review of G. Downey, Constantinople in the Age of Justinian (Oklahoma, 1960), in Speculum, XXXVI (1961), 477—478, where he defends this more generous estimate of the city’s population.


13. The literature on the guilds and tradesmen is extensive and scattered throughout a wide variety of periodicals. A satisfactory monograph on this vast and complex subject is still lacking. It is hoped that the following bibliography, though not complete, will be of some use.

·       F. I. Uspenskii, "Konstantinopol’skiĭ eparkh," Izvièstiia russkago arkheologicheskago instituta v Konstantinopolie, IV, 2 (1899), 79—104.

·       J. Nicole, Le livre du préfet ou Védit de l’empereur Léon le sage sur les corporations de Constantinople (Mémoire de l’Institut National Genevois, XVIII) (Geneva-Basel, 1894).

·       H. Gehrig, "Das Zunftwesen Konstantinopels im X Jahrhundert," Hildebrands Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, 93 (1909), 577—596.

·       Stöckle, Spätrömische und byzantinische Zünfte Klio, Beiheft 9 (Leipzig, 1911); reviewed by E. Meyer, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, XXI (1912), 531—535, and by Bezobrazov, Vizantiĭskiĭ Vremennik, XVIII (1911), 30—38, 2nd pagination.

·       E. Chernousov, "Rimskie i vizantiıskie tsekhi," Zhurnal ministerstva narodnago prosvîèshcheniià, 52 (Sept. 1914), 154-178.

·       Rudakov, Ocherki vizantiĭskoi kul’tury po dannym grecheskoi agiografii (Moscow, 1917), 120ff.

·       Macri, L’Organisation de l’économie urbaine dans Byzance sous la dynastie de Macédoine (Paris, 1925); reviewed by F. Dölger, Byzantinisch-neugriechische Jahrbücher, V (1927), 235—243, and by F. Ganshof, Byzantion, IV (1927), 658—660.

·       T. Begleres, "Ἀνακοίνωσις περὶ ἐμπορικῶν σωματείων ἢ συστημάτων παρὰ βυζαντινῶν καὶ περὶ ταβουλαρίων," Ἐπετηρὶς Ἑταιρείας Βυζαντινῶν Σπουδῶν, VII (1930), 414-416.

·       G. Zora, Le corporazioni bizantine (Rome, 1931); reviewed by G. Ostrogorsky, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, XXXIII (1933), 380-395, where he includes a considerable bibliography on the Book of the Prefect.

·       Christophilopoulos, Τὸ Ἑπαρχικὸν βιβλίον Λέοντος τοῦ Σοφοῦ καὶ αἱ συντεχνίαι ἐν Βυζαντίῳ (Athens, 1935), reviewed by G. Mickwitz, Byzantinisch-neugriechische Jahrbücher, XII (1936), 368—375.

·       Mickwitz, “Un problème d’influence: Byzance et l’économie de l’Occident médiéval," Annales d’histoire économique et sociale, VIII (1936), 21—28.

·       Mickwitz, Die Kartellfunktionen der Zünfte (Helsingfors, 1936); reviewed by H. Seeveking, Deutsche Literaturzeitung, LIX (1938), 928—930.

·       Ghinnis, "Τὸ Ἐπαρχικὸν βιβλίον καὶ οἱ νόμοι Ἰουλιανοῦ τοῦ Ἀσκαλωνίτου," Ἐπετηρὶς Ἑταιρείας Βυζαντινῶν Σπουδῶν, XIII (1937), 181—191.


L. Bréhier gives a review of literature on the Book of the Prefect in Revue historique, CLXXXIV (1938), 355—358.

·       Christophilopoulos, "Ζητήματα τινὰ ἐκ τοῦ ἐπαρχικοῦ βιβλίου," Ἑλληνικά, XI (1939), 125—136.

·       R. S. Lopez, "Silk Industry in the Byzantine Empire," Speculum, XX (1945), 1—42; reviewed by A. Kazhdan, Vizantiĭskiĭ Vremennik, III (1950), 290-293.

·       P. Koukoules, Βυζαντινῶν βίος καὶ πολιτισμός, II, 1 (Athens, 1948), 179—249.

·       Μ. Siuziumov, Kniga Eparkha. Ustavy vizantiĭskikh tsekhov X v. (Sverdlovsk, 1949); reviewed by A. Kazhdan and M. Zaborov, Vizantiĭskiĭ Vremennik, V (1952), 273-276.

·       Siuziumov, "Remeslo i torgovlia v Konstantinopole v nachale X v.,” Vizantiĭskiĭ Vremennik, (1951), 1l—41.

·       S. Runciman, “Byzantine Trade and Industry,” Cambridge Economic History, ed. by M. Postan and E. Rich (Cambridge, 1952), 86-118.

·       Kazhdan, “Tsekhi i gosudarstvennye masterskie v Konstantinopole v IX—X vv.,” Vizantiĭskiĭ Vremennik, VI (1953), 132-155.

·       G. Spyridakis, “Τὸ ἔργον τοῦ μιτωτοῦ κατὰ τὸ Ἐπαρχικὸν βιβλίον Λέοντος τοῦ Σοφοῦ,” Mélanges, ed. by Ο. et P. Merlier, II (Athens, 1953), 417-423.

·       P. Nasledova, “Remeslo i torgovlia Fessaloniki kontsa IX—nachala X v. po dannym Ioanna Kameniaty,” Vizantiĭskiĭ Vremennik, VIII (1956), 61—84.

·       I.Fihman, “K kharakteristike korporatsiĭ vizantiĭskogo Egipta,” Vizantiĭskiĭ Vremennik, XVII (1960), 17—27.

·       Kazhdan, Derevnia i gorod v Vizantii IX—X vv. (Moscow, 1960), 301 ff.

·       Mendl, "Les corporations byzantines (Οἰ μὴ ἐν τῇ ἀπογραφῇ ὄντες),” Byzantinoslavica, XXII (1961), 309—319, includes some recent bibliography by Loos, as well as useful comments.

In Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopädie, the following articles, amongst others, are of use; "Monopole,” “Industrie,” "Collegium,” "Berufsverein,” and "Naviculari.”

Unfortunately some of the recent Soviet literature has not been available to me, as for instance:

 M. Siuziumov, "O pravovom polozhenii rabov v Vizantii,” Uchenye zapiski sverdlovskogo gosudarstvennogo pedagogicheskogo instituta, II (1955), as well as a second article by the same author on Julian the Ascalonite in Uchenye zapiski Ural'skogo universiteta, XXXVIII (1960), I, 3—34, and a third article in the same journal, XXV (1958), 147—173, on hired labor.

Nor have I yet seen the study of V. Shandrovskaia, on the crafts in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Byzantium in Issledovanie po istorii kultury narodov Vostoka (Moscow-Leningrad, 1960). In recent years various articles in Voprosy Istorii (no. 10 [1958], 91; no. 3 [1959], 112—113) have given a rapid survey of the literature which has been published on this subject in the Soviet Union. Since this article went to press there has appeared the interesting article of E. Frances, "L’État et les métiers à Byzance,” Byzantinoslavica, XXIII (1962), 231-249.





J. B. Bury came close to discovering the relationship of guilds and violence in Byzantium many decades ago. But he misinterpreted a critical text. He recognized that the text in question referred to political activity on the part of certain urban groups, the ἑαιρεῖα, which he translated to mean private political clubs. [14] As we shall see, the phrase referred to the public guilds. And this puts into bold relief one of the basic difficulties of the problem, that of semantics. For many of the terms used in the texts are ambiguous and vague, and could refer not only to guilds but to organizations in general.



2. The Guilds Prior to the Eleventh Century


What do we know, if anything, of the Byzantine guilds prior to the eleventh century that might suggest their political potential ? First there are the scattered references in the chronicles which, because of the extraordinary nature of a particular event, the chronicler has chosen to record. That is to say, very little has been preserved. These meagre sources are supplemented by the Book of the Eparch, The Book of Ceremonies, and the lives of the saints.


1. Political Activities


We have records of “political” activity amongst the guildsmen as far back as the reign of Justinian I, when members of the jewelers guild, the argyropratai, plotted to assassinate the emperor and to this end supplied their accomplices with fifty pounds of gold (3,600 nomismata). [15] In 623 Heraclius left Constantinople, accompanied by a formal procession, to greet the Avar Khan in Thrace.



14. J. B. Bury, Selected Essays (Cambridge, 1930), 207—208. The texts were Joannes Zonaras, Annales, ed. by T. Büttner-Wobst, III (Bonn, 1897) (hereafter all texts are of the Bonn edition unless otherwise stated), 664, and Cedrenus, II, 635.


15. Theophanes, Chronographia, ed. by C. de Boor, I (Leipzig, 1883) (hereafter, Theophanes), 237—238.





We are told that the guildsmen participated in this procession alongside the nobles, clergy, and demesmen. [16] In 695, when Justinian II equipped a large fleet and sent it on an expedition to Cherson, he drafted guildsmen, demesmen, and senators to augment the military catalogues. [17] In 775 Leo IV associated his son Constantine VI in the imperial power and had the officials and citizens swear an oath on the relics of the Holy Cross to accept as emperor only his offspring. Those who swore the oath were the thematic officials, the senate, the guards, the citizens, and the guildsmen. [18] Constantine Porphyrogenitus remarks that when the enemy appears before the walls of the city, the military contingents in the city and the guilds are to assume the military defense of Constantinople. [19a] These few passages imply, in one case at least, that the guildsmen did indulge actively in political life. At the same time the recourse of the emperors to the guildsmen for military, ceremonial, and dynastic purposes implies that they were a real force in the society of the capital.


2. Wealthy Guildsmen


The texts reveal that guildsmen often managed to accumulate considerable wealth. Sozomenus relates that when the Gothic general Gainas entered Constantinople he intended to plunder the shops of the argyropratai because of their great wealth. But as the guildsmen got wind of the barbarian’s intentions, they removed their goods from the shops and hid them. [19] The chronicler Theophanes records the fact that the wife of Justin II, the Empress Sophia, dissolved all debts owed to the argyropratai by the citizens. As these were very extensive, the citizens acknowledged Sophia as a great benefactress. [20]



16. Chronicon Paschale, I, 712.

“ἀλλά γὰρ καὶ ἐργαστηριακῶν καὶ δημοτῶν ἐξ ἑκατέρου μέρους καὶ πλήθους ἄλλου οὐκ ὀλίγου.“


17. Theophanes, I, 377.

“πᾶσαν ναῦν δρομώνων τε καὶ τριηρῶν καὶ σκαφῶν μυριαγωγῶν καὶ αλιάδων καὶ ἕως χελανδίων, ἀπὸ διανομῆς τῶν οἰκούντων τὴν πόλιν συγκλητικῶν τε καὶ ἐργαστηριακῶν καὶ δημοτῶν καὶ παντὸς ὀφφικίου.”


Nicephorus, Breviarium, ed. by C. de Boor (Leipzig, 1880) (hereafter, Nicephorus), p. 44.


18. Theophanes, I, 449.


19a. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Caeremoniis, ed. by I. Reiske, I (Bonn, 1829) (hereafter, De Caeremoniis-Bonn), 449.

This passage could possibly refer to the guilds. M. Siuziumov has so interpreted the passage, “Remeslo i torgovlia v Konstantinopole v nachale X v.,” Vizantiĭskiĭ Vremennik, IV (1951)* 40·


19. Sozomenus, Patrologia Graeca, LXVII (Paris, 1864), 1524.


20. Theophanes, I, 242. The argyropratai appear more frequently in the sources than do most of the other guildsmen. See Tipucitus, ed. by F. Dölger, Studi e Testi, LI (1929), xi, 1; xix, 1. Also, their guild seems to be the only one which emerges from the sources with a personality. Nicetas Choniates, 156-157, relates that during the visit of the Seljuk Sultan Kilij Arslan to Constantinople, the Emperor Manuel I took him to see the games at the hippodrome. One of the scheduled performances was to have been a flight through the air from a high tower by a Muslim garbed in a sail-like garment. However, the flight failed and the Muslim was killed, much to the distress of the Sultan and his Turks, but to the merriment of the Greeks. Afterwards, when any of the Turks appeared in the agora the argyrocopoi no sooner caught sight of them than they began to ridicule them and to strike their tables loudly. For the greater context of this “flying” story, see L. White, “Eilmer of Malmesbury, an Eleventh-Century Aviator,” Technology and Culture, II, 2 (1961), 98ff. Leo Gramaticus, 121-122, records a humorous incident in which a “chemist” defrauds the argyropratai.





We have yet another anecdote in Theophanes concerning the wealth of a member of the candlemakers' guild, a cerularius. During the course of his financial exactions Nicephorus I had a cerularius brought to court and forced him to declare the extent of his wealth, which amounted to 100 pounds of gold (7,200 nomismata). The Emperor confiscated the greater part of the gold, leaving the candlemaker only 100 nomismata. [21] One is better able to grasp the true significance of the man's wealth by comparing it with the salary of the strategus. The highest paid strategus, or general, in the Byzantine army received forty pounds of gold a year. Thus we see that guildsmen could become very wealthy from their trades. As will become clear at a later point, this wealth was an important factor in the social fluidity of a number of the guildsmen as well as in their political importance. In the eleventh century there are examples of a patriarch, a general, [22] two emperors, [23] and a high administrative official who were of families with guild or artisan backgrounds. [24]


3. Organization - Book of the Eparch


The only document which deals specifically and exclusively with the guilds of Constantinople is the well-known Book of the Eparch. [25]



21. Theophanes, I, 487-488.


22. Such would seem to be the case from the verse edited by S. Lampros. “Τὰ ὑπ᾿ ἀριθμὸν PIZʹ καὶ ΡΓʹ κατάλοιπα,” Νέος Ἑλληνομνήμων, XVI (1922), 45.


23. The members of the Paphlagonian dynasty obviously had some connection with the artisan class.


24. The twelfth-century literary figure Ptochoprodromus has left us an interesting poem which is as informative in regard to the economic well-being of the artisan class as it is humorous in depicting the poverty of the intellectuals and scribes. The poet begins by telling the reader that he studied letters in obedience to his father’s admonitions. But now arrived at man’s estate, with vast literary learning and talent, Ptochoprodromus complains (to no less, a person than his patron the Emperor) that he is starving to death. In contrast to the penurious income of his own profession, the trades of the tailor, cobbler, baker, seller of whey, etc. enable these artisans to eat veritable banquets. The food larders of the latter are plentifully stocked with tunny and mackerel, and their daily meals include tripe, Vlach cheese, stew, marinated roasts, boiled dishes, wine, pure wheat bread, etc. Ptochoprodromus concludes by anathematizing the day on which, as a young boy, he had been turned over to the grammarians. He informs the Emperor that should his neighbor seek advice as to his son’s education, he (the poet) will advise the father to have the son taught the trade of a cobbler. The facts and sentiments are not unfamiliar to twentieth-century society! See the text in D. Hesseling and H. Pernot, Chrestomathie Néo-Hellénique (Paris, 1925), 42—46.


25. The Book of the Eparch was edited by J. Nicole, Le livre du préfet (Geneva, 1894). T. Zepos reproduced the text in Jus Graecoromanum, II (Athens, 1931), 369—392. There are translations in English by A. E. R. Boak, “The Book of the Prefect,” Journal of Economic and Business History, I (1929), 597—618, and also by E. H. Freshfield, Roman Law in the Later Roman Empire (Cambridge, 1938). There is an annotated translation in Russian by M. Siuziumov, Kniga Eparkha. Ustavy vizantiĭskikh tsekhov X v. (Sverdlovsk, 1949). For other literature, footnote 13 supra.





Unfortunately, this tenth-century compilation is not a collection of guild statutes, but rather a collection of state ordinances pertaining to certain trades. The Book of the Eparch regulates the relationship between these select guilds and the state and the populace of Constantinople. It mentions nineteen guilds:


tabularioi (notaries),

argyropratai (jewelers),

trapezitai (bankers),

vestiopratai (dealers in silk garments),

prandiopratai (dealers in Syrian silks),

metaxopratai (dealers in raw silk),

catartarioi (silk spinners),

sericarioi (silk weavers),

othoniopratai (dealers in linen),

myrepsoi (dealers in perfume),

cerularioi (candle-makers),

saponopratai (soap-makers),

saldamarioi (grocers),

lorotomoi (leather cutters),

macellarioi (butchers)

choiremporoi (dealers in pork),

ichthyopratai (fishmongers),

artopoioi (bakers), and

capeloi (innkeepers). [26]


It is obvious that this list contains the most highly esteemed guilds and those that were essential to the business and provisioning of the capital.


Though the Book of the Eparch is not specifically concerned with the internal organization of a guild itself, one may examine the regulations governing the corporation of the tabularioi with some profit. To enter the guild, the initiate had to learn the forty titles of the Prochiron by heart and also the sixty titles of the Basilica. He had also to pass an examination in this before a meeting of the guild, at which time his candidacy for entrance was accompanied by the testimonies of witnesses as to his worthiness. He was elected by the vote of the guildsmen and their chief, the primicerius. Part of the ceremony is described in the Book of the Eparch.


“The election of the candidate shall be carried out as follows. After the hearing of the witnesses and the examination, he shall present himself wearing a cloak before the most glorious Prefect of the City, accompanied by the guild of the notaries and the primicerius. These shall swear before God and by the safety of the emperors that he is being enrolled in the order not through any favor, influence, family connections, or friendship, but by reason of his good conduct, knowledge, ability, and general fitness. After the oaths have been taken, by means of a sign the Prefect in office shall elect him in the prefectural bureau, and he shall be enrolled in the guild and numbered among the notaries. Then he shall go to the church which is nearest his residence, while all the notaries wear their cloaks, and, doffing his cloak and donning a white surplice, shall be consecrated by a prayer of the priest. He shall be escorted on his way by all the notaries clad in their cloaks, while the primicerius himself holds a censer and directs



26. The question has arisen whether other guilds existed aside from those mentioned in the Book of the Eparch. Basilica, LIV, vi, 6-16 (Zepos edition), seem to provide a positive answer to the question, Ἀργυροκόττοι, σκυτοτόμοι, χρυσοχόοι, ζωγράφοι, μαρμαράριοι are listed amongst the various occupations. Since the first three are mentioned as having guilds in the Book of the Eparch, it would seem that the grouping of all of them together in the Basilica would imply that all had guilds. Stöckle, op. cit., says that it is impossible to determine from the Book of the Eparch whether there were guilds other than the nineteen mentioned in the heads of the chapters. Christophilopoulos, op. cit., p. 9, repeats this judgement. But the Book of the Eparch does furnish evidence that there were guilds other than those of the chapter headings : In chap, xiv, para. 2, we find two other guilds, that of the μαλακατάριοι (the softeners of leather), and of the βυρσοδέψαι (tanners). See also the remarks of B. Mendi, loc. cit., 303.





the fumes towards him, the newly elect, who carries the Bible openly before him; this signifying that his ways shall be made straight as the incense ascending before the face of God. In this glorious fashion he shall proceed to the seat to which he has been allotted and then return home with the same pomp, there to feast and rejoice with his associates.“ [27]


The newly elected member had to pay to the primicerius three nomismata as initiation fee, and to each of the tabularioi one nomisma. He also had to contribute six nomismata for table expenses. No member of the guild could be absent from imperial processions when the eparch commanded them to participate, as absence from such processions drew a fine of four ceratia. When the chief of the guild, the primicerius, was no longer able to perform his functions he had to retire and was then given a pension. Though the eparch appointed the ranking tabularius to replace him, here the members of the guild could exercise some choice. For if they did not want the primicerius chosen by the eparch, they could declare him unworthy, and the eparch would choose the second or third in line for the office. Amongst the duties of the primicerius was that of adjudicating minor disputes between the members of the guild. The Book of the Eparch also regulates the salaries of the tabularioi. A tabularius received twelve ceratia in drawing up any contract in which the subject matter was not worth more than 100 nomismata. If the value exceeded this sum, then he received one nomisma. If the value far exceeded 100 nomismata, he received two nomismata. No member of the guild could employ a secretary without first presenting him to the primicerius and the guild, and obtaining their approval. Finally, whenever a member of the guild died, he was buried by the guild. Any member of the corporation who was absent from the funeral procession paid a fine of six ceratia. [28]


The provisions governing the remainder of the guilds are not quite so extensive. Most of them seem to have had similar ceremonies of initiation, and the duties of the heads of the guilds were more or less similar. One of the more interesting features of these regulations is the exclusion of the nobles or archontes from participation in many of the trades of the guilds. [29]


Without going into any further detail, it should be pointed out that these regulations reveal a guild system, descended from that of the fourth century, which created a certain cohesive and corporate spirit among the members of an individual guild, and perhaps among the guilds themselves. And though all were, theoretically, under the close supervision of the prefect of the city, they held certain internal administrative and judicial power in their own hands.


4. Topographical Location of the Guilds


The location of the guild establishments in the city is an important factor in considering the political potential of these groups. Fortunately the sources are much more ample here than they have been in the preceding considerations.



27. Boak, loc. cit., 601.


28. Book of the Eparch, I.


29. Book of the Eparch, V, 4; VI, 10.





The Book of the Eparch specifies that the argyropratai could carry on their business only in their workshops on the Mese. [30] Theophanes indicates that their shops stretched along the Mese from the Forum of Constantine to the Palace of Lausus. [31] The chalcopratai had their shops near the western door of St. Sophia. [32] The fur-dealers had their shops in the Forum of Constantine, [33] while the slave-dealers had their establishments near the bakeries. [34] The artopoioi had their bakeries between the Forum of Constantine and the Forum of Theodosius along the Mese [35]. The candle-makers had their shops in the forum and also in the church of St. Sophia. [36]


The life of St. Andrew the Fool is of particular interest in this connection, for it takes place in the milieu of the guilds, shops, and working people. We find mention of innkeepers and saldamarioi (grocers) in the antiforum, and of the prostitution establishments near the Forum of Constantine and the artopoleia. [37] The Book of the Eparch says of the saldamarioi that they were to have their shops all over the city so that the provisioning of the inhabitants would be facilitated. [38] It also includes a rather interesting specification concerning the place of business of the myrepsoi.


“They shall place their show tables with the containers in a line extending from the sacred image of Christ our Lord which is by the Chalce up to the Milestone, so that these may send forth a savory aroma befitting the image, and make pleasant the porches of the palace.” [39]


It is obvious that a considerable portion of the shops and warehouses of the guilds was located along the triumphal boulevard of Constantinople, the so-called Mese, [40] and in the Milion in the vicinity of the palace. So in more recent times the great covered bazar of Istanbul was not too far from the saray of the Ottoman sultans. By their location and concentration in the administrative and commercial heart of the city, the guildsmen could and did convulse not only the economic life of the city but the political life of the whole of the empire.


5. Munera


Another aspect of the relationship of the guilds to the government is apparent in the fact that a number of these groups was still, as in the fourth century, responsible for certain munera. The Book of Ceremonies of Constantine VII



30. Book of the Eparch, II, n.


31. Theophanes, I, 184.


32. R. Janin, Constantinople Byzantine (Paris, 1950), 97-98.


33. Theophanes Continuatus, 420.


34. Pseudo-Codinus, 50.


35. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Caerimoniis, ed. A. Vogt, I (Paris, 1935) (hereafter, De Caerimoniis-Vogt), 44-51.


36. Theophanes Continuatus, 420.


37. Vita Andreae, Acta Sanctorum, Maii Tomus Sextus (Paris-Rome, 1866), appendix, 2-14.


38. Book of the Eparch, XIII, 1.


39. Boak, loc. cit., 611.


40. On this street, consult R. Guilland, “Autour du Livre des Cérémonies de Constantin VII Porphyrogénète,” Actes du VIe Congrès International D'Études Byzantines, II (Paris, 1951), 171-182.





gives a number of details concerning the guilds in the imperial processions of the tenth century. In the processions of the emperors from the palace to St. Sophia the guilds of the vestiopratai and of the argyropratai were responsible for adorning the tribunalium with purple silk cloths, and gold and silver objects. And all of the guilds of the city, under the leadership of the eparch, took part in the procession. [41] The court ceremonial prescribed that emperors returning to the capital after a period of absence were to proceed to the church of the Holy Apostles, then through the Mese to the palace. On their way from the church to the palace they were received along the Mese by the eparch and all the guilds. [42]


In the official reception given the Arab ambassadors from Tarsus by Constantine VII and Romanus II, the argyropratai, under the direction of the eparch, were responsible for the decoration of the tribunalium with silk cloths and objects of gold and silver. Not only were the guildsmen responsible for the decoration of the tribunalium, but the members of the guilds and their officers were present in the tribunalium during the reception. The archontes or chiefs of the guilds wore the six platonica chlanidia of the secreticoi, while the others wore the white chlanidia of the tagmata. [43]


That these guildsmen were members of the public guilds and not of the imperial workshops within the palace is demonstrated by two facts. First Constantine Porphyrogenitus mentions that they were under the direction of the eparch. According to the Basilica and to the Cletorologion of Philotheus, the public guilds were under the jurisdiction of the eparch. And in these processions and receptions the guilds mentioned are under the prefect or eparch of the city. [44] The craftsmen of the imperial workshops were under a separate official. [45] Secondly, Constantine Porphyrogenitus distinguishes between the public and imperial craftsmen by referring to the latter as βασιλικοί and by usually referring to their workshops as βασιλικὰ ἐργοδόσια, while the workshops of the public guilds were generally ἐργαστήρια. [46]



41. De Caerimoniis-Vogt, I, 9.


42. De Caerimoniis-Bonn, I, 497—498. "ὡς δὲ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὴν μέσην. . . τάξις τῶν ἐπάρχων καὶ τοῦ ἐπάρχου, ἀργυροπράται καὶ πάντες πραγματευταί, καὶ πᾶν σύστημα."


43. De Caerimoniis-Bonn, I, 572, 579.


On other munera, see P. Koukoules, op. cit., IV, 339 ff. Cedrenus, II, 300, for a brilliant reception given an Iberian prince in the agora.


44. J. B. Bury, The Imperial Administrative System in the Ninth Century, with a Revised Text of the Kletorologion of Philotheos (London, 1911) (hereafter, Philotheos), 131, 71. Basilica, VI, iv, 13. "πάντα τὰ ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει σωματεῖα καὶ οἱ πολῖται καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ δήμου παντὸς ἐπάρχῳ τῆς πόλεως ὑπόκεινται.’’ Peira, LI, 29. "οἱ τῶν τεχνῶν τῷ ἐπάρχῳ ὑπόκεινται.”


45. De Caerimoniis-Bonn, I, 720. "... τῷ δὲ ἐπὶ τοῦ εἰδικοῦ λόγου. . . ἄρχοντες τῶν ἐργοδοσίων, ἐβδομάριοι καὶ μειζότεροι τῶν ἐργοδοσίων.”


46. My colleague Prof. Lopez has, I think, erred in his identification of the imperial "guilds" (he says the "public” and "imperial" guilds are one and the same thing) with what he calls the δημόσια σώματα. These public or imperial guilds are, he says, differentiated from the "private" guilds by the fact that the former are δημόσια σώματα and the latter are simply σώματα. In fact, then, the adjective δημόσιον is the key word, its use indicating that the guild is an imperial-public one. However, it is much more probable that in the tenth century δημόσιον σωματεῖον (σωματεῖον is far more common in the literature than σῶμα) was not an imperial-public guild at all. In fact, one really wonders to what extent the groups of imperial craftsmen working in the palace constituted guild groups. Further, his use of the word “public” as the equivalent of “imperial” is confusing. Certainly the Byzantine texts of this period do not use this adjective, δημόσιον, in describing the artisans and workshops of the palace; they use the adjective βασιλικόν for this purpose. Thus, when Leo Diaconus (146-147) speaks of the imperial textile workshop, he uses the phrase βασιλικὴ ἱστουργική. Theophanes, I, 469, uses the same adjective in describing the imperial workshops, “ἀνήφθη καὶ μέρος τοῦ βασιλικού ἐργοδοσίου, τῶν χρυσοκλαβαρίων κατὰ τὸν χρυσεῶνα.” So also Pseudo-Codinus, p. 74, “τὰ δὲ Μάγγανα ὁ Μέγας Κωνσταντῖνος ἔκτισε λόγῳ τῶν βασιλικῶν ἐργοδοσιῶν”; on pp. 118, 121, he simply refers to the imperial workshops as ἐργοδόσια. Nicetas Choniates, 157, “. . : δῶρα πολλὰ ἐκ τῶν βασιλικῶν χρυσώνων.. ..” De Caerimoniis-Bonn, I, 725, “ἀκολουθεῖν δὲ εἰς τὰς προελεύσεις τοὺς ῥάπτας τοὺς βασιλικοὺς καὶ τοὺς χρυσοκλαβαρίους καὶ τοὺς χρυσοχοῦς”; also 518, 572. The members of the imperial workshops, then, were called imperials, βασιλικοί, not δημόσιοι. Further, public and imperial are quite different. Often the meaning of δημόσιον is “public,” even though it is also used to denote the fisc. This adjective is frequently employed to denote anything having to do with the citizenry. Thus in one of the letters of Psellus, Miscellanea, ed. by C. Sathas, Μεσαιωνικὴ Βιβλιοθήκη, V (Paris, 1876), 320, the expression δημοσίων καπηλείων is used to refer to the public inns and taverns. As the Book of the Eparch, XIX, testifies, these were to be found all over the city. Therefore, they were not “imperial” guilds simply because they are described as δημοσίων. Basilica, LIV, xxxvii, 4, uses the adjective δημόσιον to refer to the public stoas of Constantinople, δημοσίαις στοαῖς. These are not imperial from the utilitarian point of view. They were intended for public rather than for imperial use. Therefore βασιλικόν and ἐργοδόσιον have to do with the imperial artisans and workshops. Δημόσια σωματεῖα have to do with corporations in which were enrolled artisans of the city itself. On this point, see also the remarks of M. Siuziumov, “Remeslo i torgovlia v Konstantinopole v nachale X veka,” Vizantiĭskiĭ Vremennik, IV (1951), 28, no. 3.


Prof. Lopez further states that the provisions in the Basilica refer only to the imperial guilds, and that the guilds of Constantinople are not mentioned here. The latter, he concludes, are present only in the Book of the Eparch. Now it so happens that he used the Heimbach edition of the Basilica, asserting that there was no other. However, he was not aware of the slightly improved edition of Zepos. Had he referred to this latter edition, he would have seen that the Basilica do deal with the public corporations. LIV, vi, 6—19, lists over forty guilds, among which are the architects, doctors, veterinarians, painters, sculptors, masons, woodworkers, potters, goldsmiths, glassworkers, fullers, silversmiths, coppersmiths, etc. But even the Heimbach edition mentions a number of public guilds (“private” guilds, according to Lopez). LIV, vii, 1, mentions tabularioi; LIV, xx, mentions the guilds of the pork-dealers and innkeepers, and other guilds as well; LIV, xxi, mentions chalcopratai and trapezitai; LIV, xxv, mentions artocopoi. Most of these latter guilds appear in the Book of the Eparch as well, which, according to Lopez, is the only document describing the public (“private”) guilds. Therefore, the Basilica, as well as the Book of the Eparch, deal with the non-imperial guilds, those which I refer to as public guilds.


On the imperial craftsmen, see, in addition to the work of Siuziumov cited above, A. Kazhdan, “Tsekhi i gosudarstvennye masterskie v Konstantinopole v IX—X vv.,” Vizantiĭskiĭ Vremennik, VI (1953), 150-153. J. Ebersolt, Les arts somptuaires de Byzance (Paris, 1923), is of some use on the subject. Unfortunately he has interpreted the regulations of the Book of the Eparch as intended for the imperial workshops.





It was certain of the public guilds, then, that were responsible to a great extent for the splendid and luxurious furnishings so pleasing to Byzantine spectators and so dazzling to the eyes of foreign envoys. The guilds and their chiefs were important enough to take part in the actual receptions of foreign ambassadors in the palace.


6. Conclusions on Political Potential Of Guilds Prior to the Eleventh Century


This rapid survey of the condition of the guilds prior to the eleventh century shows them to have possessed much of the apparatus necessary to participate significantly in the political life of the imperial capital.





Their political potential was manifested in their actual participation in political life, in the considerable wealth accruing to many of the guildsmen (which wealth, in one case, was applied to the attempted assassination of an emperor), in the guild organization which provided the guildsmen with a close knit corporate spirit, [47] in the geographical proximity of the guilds to the palace enabling them to terrorize the government, and in the fact that the government and emperors relied upon them for certain munera and for occasional military service. Between the reigns of Heraclius and Leo III the political prominence of the demes and circus factions declined considerably. They were apparently reorganized and took on functions which were completely ornamental. The imperial government assumed charge of the circus games in the hippodrome, and the factions henceforth made their appearance only in the official processions and imperial ceremony. Such was their role in the Book of Ceremonies. [48] Thus, with the suppression of these circus factions, the guild system, along with the church, seems to have remained as the only major organization of the inhabitants in the capital with sufficient power to take an active part in the politics of Constantinople.



3. Urban Violence and Guilds in the Eleventh Century


The salient feature of the history of Byzantium in the eleventh century was the bitter and fatal struggle between the civil bureaucrats and the provincial feudal generals for the possession of supreme power. [49] With the death of the last male ruler of the Macedonian dynasty in 1028, the ambitious generals began to hatch plans and conspiracies which, they hoped, would give their families the throne. These provincial generals were representative of the some forty-five most prominent families of the provinces, families with traditions of illustrious military service often going back two to three hundred years, and in one case half a millennium. These generals were at the same time the great landowners of the provinces.


The generals, in their quest for imperial power, were violently opposed by the bureaucracy in the capital. This was a disparate group in its composition, drawing its leading members from the actual corps of administrators, especially the eunuchs, but also including the professors from the university of Constantinople and a certain group which we may describe as the urban aristocracy or nobility.


So the greater part of the eleventh century is the story of the attempts of the provincial generals to remove the civil aristocracy from the direction of affairs in Constantinople.



47. They had certain favorite saints. See the life of St. Artemius, Papadopulos-Kerameus, Varia Graeca Sacra in Sbornik grecheskikh neizdannykh bogoslovskikh tekstov IV—XV viekov (St. Petersburg, 1909), 1-79. As the healer of hernia St. Artemius was of particular importance to the artisans.


48. De Caerimoniis-Bonn, I, 798-799. F. Dvornik, “The Circus Parties in Byzantium,” Byzantina-Metabyzantina, I (1946), 119-134.


49. For what follows, see, S. Vryonis, “Byzantium: The Social Basis of Decline in the Eleventh Century,” Greek Roman and Byzantine Studies, II (1959), 157-176.





Their obvious strength lay in the fact that they had the provinces and provincial armies in their hands. Before the militarists, under Alexius I Comnenus, finally triumphed in 1081, the bureaucrats put up a long and very spirited resistance, for they had a number of advantages. In their hands were the imperial palace, the central offices and finances of the state, the small but crack body of troops and the fleet stationed at Constantinople, and, most importantly, the imperial city itself with its invincible walls. It is remarkable to what degree the ideology of the Byzantine Empire was centered on Constantinople. The very fact that the imperial capital was in the hands of the bureaucrats for the greater part of the eleventh century was almost enough in itself to thwart the fifty or sixty rebellions raised by the provincial militarists during the period between 1028-1081. For no matter how long a rebellious general might hold Anatolia or the Balkans, without the conquest of the city on the Bosphorus it was a meaningless achievement. It is interesting that these generals did not, for the most part, think in terms of founding separatist states.


Given the importance of the actual possession of Constantinople in this struggle between the bureaucracy and the provincials, any group within the city that was articulate politically acquired increasing significance in the affairs of that day. And in fact two Constantinopolitan groups do come to the fore in this tense polarization of political forces, the church and the very populace of the city. It is with the latter rather than with the former that we are here concerned.



4. Michael V Calaphates


In 1042, when the upstart Michael V Calaphates attempted to remove his aunt by marriage, Zoe, and with her the Macedonian dynasty, he first strove to secure the support of the upper class, but also, and especially, the support of the people, by conferring favors. [50] The removal of the Empress from the palace would be an extremely touchy matter at very best. Hence Michael was obliged to proceed cautiously. He decided to test the populace and its sentiments on Easter Sunday.


“The imperial procession having been prepared, the προεξάρχοντες [51] of the agora strewed the ground with luxuriously woven silk carpets from the very palace to the gates of the revered and most holy St. Sophia. They had prepared these so that the Emperor might pass through in honor with his armed retinue.” [52]



50. Psellus, Chronographia, ed. by E. Renauld, I (Paris, 1926) (hereafter, Psellus, Chronographia), 96.


51. Προεξάρχοντες would seem to refer to the heads of the guilds, or at least to the heads of the agora. The heads of the guilds appear variously as προστάται, προστατεύοντες, πρωτοστάται, πριμικήριοι, ἔξαρχοι, ἐξάρχοντες. Stöckle, op. cit., 78—79, 84-85. Nicole, op. cit., 29. Sathas, op. cit., VI, 645. Whether it refers to the heads of the guilds or to the officials of the eparch, the total effect is the same here. It is the populace of the market place that Michael was sounding out.


52. Attaliates, p. 12.





Satisfied with the luxurious reception given him by the people, Michael decided to make yet one more sounding as to his popularity in the city; so the court announced a public procession on the Sunday following Easter. The Emperor was to go through the streets to the church of the Holy Apostles. [53] This was to be the final test as to whether he could openly propose the deposition of Zoe to the populace.


“The Emperor, crowned, proceeded with the senate, the whole of the city having gathered for the sight. Those who lived on this boulevard hung out silver and gold vessels and carpets and other gold cloths. And they greeted him with such shouts that it seemed as if they were pouring out their very souls.“ [54]


The narrative of Psellus completes the picture given by Attaliates and Cedrenus of the people’s reaction to Michael.


“There remained, however, the problem of the others—the pick of the city populace and all those who belonged to the people of the agora and the manual workers. Their adherence, too, was assured and the hearts of the people won over by his favors. It was a necessary expense, for one day, if need arose, he might want their backing for his projects. The people, on their side, were genuinely attached to him and their sentiments found expression in certain obvious marks of goodwill. For instance, they would not allow him to walk on the bare ground : it would be a dreadful thing, they thought, if he did not tread on carpets. His horse, too, must needs revel in covers of silk. These compliments, not unnaturally, gave him pleasure and in his elation he began to reveal what his secret designs were.” [55]


It is rather obvious that in the above passages the populace of Constantinople, i.e., the πολῖται, the δῆμος, was the prime concern of Michael in his bid for support. More specifically, he was concerned with the agora and its inhabitants, i.e., the craftsmen and shopkeepers, that is, the members of the guilds. [56] Psellus says that he bestowed favors on “ὅσοι τῆς ἀγοραίου τύρβης ἢ τῶν βαναύσων τεχνῶν...,” on all of the people of the agora and craftsmen. As a result, the craftsmen gave the Emperor a brilliant reception on Easter Sunday and on the following Sunday when his entourage passed through the agora and silk carpets covered the street over which he was to pass. In the first instance, Attaliates relates that the προεξάρχοντες of the agora were responsible



53. Cedrenus, II, 536.


54. Cedrenus, II, 536. Attaliates, p. 12.

Note that where Cedrenus refers vaguely to the whole city, Attaliates speaks of the inhabitants of the market place.


55. The Chronographia of Michael Psellus, tr. by E. R. A. Sewter (London, 1953) (henceforth, Sewter), p. 93. Psellus, I, 96.


56. Psellus, I, 96.





for the strewing of the streets with silk carpets. These προεξάρχοντες seem to have been the heads of the guilds.


The second procession, to the church of the Holy Apostles, went through the Mese, the great street of Constantinople along which were located the majority of the shops and where the craftsmen and merchants practiced their trades. [57] Cedrenus says that the procession passed through the λεωφόρος to the church. As is well known, λεωφόρος refers to a boulevard, a great street. Further, it is a well established topographical fact that it was the Mese which led from the palace to the church of the Holy Apostles. [58] Cedrenus says that it was the inhabitants of the Mese, the shopkeepers and craftsmen, who decorated it with silver cloths, and gold and silver objects. Attaliates remarks that the whole agora, “...was garlanded...” on the occasion. The objects displayed during both processions were products of craftsmen who were obliged by law to have their shops on the Mese, i.e., gold and silver objects could be handled only by the ἀργνροπράται. These ἀργυροπράται were obliged to have their shops on the Mese. [59] Also, the πέπλα σηρικὰ καὶ ὑφάσματα χρυσοϋφῆ were restricted to certain workshops along the Mese. A close examination of the ornaments that adorned the procession in such great number suffices to indicate that the guilds were responsible for the reception, for, as we have already seen in the Book of Ceremonies, the guilds were responsible for decorating the processional way. Thus, it becomes strikingly obvious that Michael was seeking to ensure the support of the shopkeepers and craftsmen who had their places of business in the vicinity of the Mese and in the neighborhood of the palace.


As a result of the two receptions which he had received, Michael felt that he had this support. The night of the Sunday after Easter he had the unfortunate Zoe brought from her chambers and accused her of attempting to poison him, after which she was exiled to the isle of Principo where she was shorn and forced to don the monastic garb. The next day the populace gradually learned of Zoe’s fate, and the popularity of Michael amongst the citizens was soon replaced by anger. [60] As a result, Michael gave a dramatic account of the events which had transpired to the senators, and secured their approval. Then a pittacion was drawn up and given to the eparch of the city who was to read it to the people at the Forum of Constantine. [61] Michael thus hoped to quiet the unrest. The eparch, the patricius Anastasius, proceeded to the Forum of Constantine and read the letter, the contents of which are preserved in Cedrenus.


“As Zoe has plotted against my imperial power I have exiled her, and her accomplice Alexius has been removed from the church. You, my people, if you persevere in your good faith in me, shall receive great honors and benefits and you shall live a clean and sorrowless life.” [62]



57. Stöckle, op. cit., 71-72.


58. R. Janin, op. cit., map no. 5.


59. Nicole, op. cit., 24. “Μή ἔχειν κελεύομεν ἐξουσίαν χρυσοχόον οἴκοι ἐργάζεσθαι χρυσὸν ἢ ἄργυρον, ἄλλ᾿ ἐν τοῖς ἐργαστηρίοις τῆς Μέσης.”


60. Attaliates, 13.


61. Attaliates, 14. Cedrenus, II, 536-537· Psellus, I, 98-100. Zonaras, III, 609.


62. Cedrenus, II, 537. 20





The silence which followed was broken by a single voice which cried out,

“We do not want a blasphemer of the cross and a caulker as our emperor, but the original heir, our mother Zoe." [63]

And immediately the crowd began to shout,

“Curse the bones of Calaphates." [64]


This was the usual curse employed by the rioting demes in the earlier period of Byzantine history. Then the crowd gathered sticks and stones and would have slain the eparch had not he and his troops fled from the scene. The pittacion infuriated the crowd and set in motion the rioting which eventually overthrew Michael. [65]


On the second day after Easter the whole city was aroused and certain officials and the clergy openly denounced Michael's act. The members of the guilds, i.e. the tradesmen in the ἐργαστήρια, were preparing an uprising. [66] As Psellus remarks, ”... the people of the agora, already let loose, were moving to replace the tyranny of the tyrant." [67] Then they began to gather, with the intention of setting fire to the palace. The gathering was formed into a military formation, [68] and though some of the mob were armed with axes, swords, bows, and spears, the majority were armed only with stones. [69] But both Psellus and Attaliates imply that the group was more than a rabble, for it followed certain thought out plans. [70] The jails were opened and the prisoners enlisted in the forces of the rebels.



63. Cedrenus, II, 537.


64. Cedrenus, II, 537. “ἀνασκαφείη τὰ ὀστὰ τοῦ καλαφάτου."


65. Attaliates, p. 14. “ἔλαθε δὲ τὸν καπνὸν ὑπεκκλίνων εἰσβολὼν εἰς τὸ πῦρ."


66. Psellus, I, 102. “οἱ δ᾿οὖύν ἐπὶ τῶν ἐργαστηρίων καὶ πρὸς μεγάλας τόλμας παρεσκευάζοντο." The ἐργαστήρια were the workshops of the craftsmen along the Mese. Stöckle, op. cit., 71—72. Nicole, op. cit., 24. “. . . ἐν τοῖς ἐργαστηρίοις τῆς Μέσης."


67. Psellus, I, 102. “τὸ δὲ ἀγοραῖον γένος καὶ ἄφετον ἤδη που καὶ παρεκεκίνητο ὡς ἀντιτυραννῆσον τῷ τυραννεύσαντι." Here the phrase ἀγοραῖον γἐνος really refers to the people of the agora, that is, to the craftsmen. This is made clear in other passages. Psellus relates that women left their seclusion to join the rebellion,


68. Psellus, I, 103. “τὰ μὲν πρῶτα κατὰ μέρος καὶ ὥσπερ κατὰ σύστημα ἐπί τὸν πόλεμον κατεστρατοπεδεύοντο, ἔπειτα ὅλῃ τῆς Πόλεως κατ᾿ αὐτοῦ συνεστρατήγουν τῇ φάλαγγι."

Constantine Manasses, 263.

“θυμοῦ καχλάζει τῇ πυρᾷ, λίθους εὐθὺς ἁρπάζει,

ξύλα καὶ πᾶν τὸ προστυχόν, βώλους, κορύνας, ξίφη."


69. Psellus, I, 103.


70. Attaliates, 14-15.

Psellus, I, 103. “. . . ὁ δῆμος ἅπας ἐπὶ τὸν βασιλέα κεκίνηται καὶ ὥσπερ ὑφ᾿ ἑνὶ συνθήματι πρὸς τὴν αὐτὴν γνώμην συνείλεκται.” Cecaumenus, Strategicon, ed. by B. Vasilievsky and V. Jernstedt (St. Petersburg, 1896) (hereafter, Cecaumenus), 99.

Ibn-el-Athiri, Chronicum quod perfectissimum inscribitur, ed. by C. Tornberg, IX (Leiden, 1863), 342, supplements the accounts of Attaliates and Psellus. Ibn al-Athir remarks that the leader of the outbreak was the Patriarch. This makes sense in the light of the other urban outbreaks which occurred during the eleventh century. For it was the patriarch who usually assumed the over-all direction of the revolutions. Ibn al-Athir remarks that the Emperor had had the Patriarch arrested and then ordered the Bulgarian and Russian guards to execute him. But the Patriarch succeeded in winning them over to his side and so obtained his release. According to the narrative of the Arab chronicler, the Patriarch then proceeded to the church (St. Sophia), summoned the citizenry, and urged them to remove Michael. See also Matthew of Edessa, Chronique de 952 à 1136, tr. by E. Dulaurier (Paris, 1858), 72-73.





The property of Michael’s family was then razed to the ground. At first Michael had not feared the uprising, considering it little more than a popular tumult. However, when the citizens’ army (Psellus speaks of it as the πολιτικόν στράτευμα) [71] appeared before the palace, Michael saw that the people were drawn up according to battalions and that the formation was of considerable size. It was then that he began to despair. [72]


After the appearance of the rebel army before the palace, Michael’s position was somewhat strengthened by the arrival of his uncle, the nobelissimus Constantine, with his private troops. The newly arrived soldiers were placed in the heights of the palace, and they showered missiles and stones on the people’s phalanx below. But after a temporary success in breaking up the military formation of the citizens, the latter once more returned to the attack. [73] Meanwhile Zoe had been recalled from Principo by Michael, who hoped to quell the disturbance by presenting her to the crowd fully garbed in imperial raiment. However, the appearance of Zoe did not put an end to the citizens’ attack on the palace, for a group of citizens proceeded to St. Sophia, where, after consultation with the Patriarch Alexius, it was decided that they would retrieve Zoe’s sister, Theodora, from the monastery of Petrion. [74] The patricius Constantine Cabasilas and a section of the people’s army were dispatched to the monastery. At first Theodora refused to leave the sanctuary, but was eventually dragged out by members of the citizens’ army. She was clothed in the imperial robes and escorted to St. Sophia where she was acclaimed empress. [75]


The battle between Michael’s forces and the citizens was by now raging furiously. The rebels were divided into three sections. One was attacking the palace in the section of the excubita, a second was in the hippodrome, and a third in the tzycanisterion. Though the arrival of Catacalon Cecaumenus from Sicily had strengthened the forces of the Emperor, on the evening of the second day of the revolt, the citizens’ army prevailed over the imperial forces by weight of sheer numbers, and succeeded in smashing the gates of the palace. On entering the secreton, they plundered the gold and other objects accumulated there and destroyed the public registers. Michael and his uncle hastily boarded a ship and sailed to the monastery of Studion for refuge, where they adopted the monastic habit. But the battle, which had lasted for roughly twenty-four hours, [76] had been a bloody one, and over 3,000 citizens had fallen. [77] As a result, when Zoe addressed the people and asked what was to become of the deposed Michael, their cry was for vengeance.



71. Psellus, I, 108.


72. Psellus, I, 104. “ἐπεὶ δὲ ἤδη λαμπρὰ ἡ ἀποστασία ἐγἐνετο, καὶ ὁ δῆμος κατὰ λόχους συνῄεσαν, καὶ ἀξιόλογος ἡ παρεμβολὴ ἐγεγόνει, τότε δὴ δεινῶς τε ἐστρέφετο τὴν ψυχήν. . . .“


73. Psellus, I, 105.


74. Attaliates, 16; Psellus, I, 108; Cedrenus, II, 537. Psellus specifically states that the crowd sought out Theodora only after Zoe had been displayed in the imperial raiment. Cedrenus implies the reverse. The reference to the fact that the rebels went to the Patriarch for instructions confirms that which Ibn al-Athir has to say about the role of the Patriarch in the rebellion.


75. Psellus, I, 108-109; Attaliates, 16. Cedrenus, II, 537, says that both Zoe and Theodora were acclaimed.


76. Cedrenus, II, 539.


77. Cedrenus, II, 538—539. “καὶ γίνεται φόνος πολὺς τῶν πολιτῶν οἵα γυμνῶν καὶ ἀόπλων πρὸς ἐνόπλους ἀγωνιίομένων μετὰ ξύλων καὶ λίθων καὶ τῶν παρατυχόντων εἰδῶν. φασὶ γὰρ ὡς ἀπώλοντο κατὰ ταύτην τὴν ἡμέραν... ἄνδρες ἀμφὶ τὰς τρεῖς χιλιάδας.“





Cedrenus, who preserved many of the curious details of the revolt, included here the answer of the crowd.


“Kill the abominable one, remove the sinner. Let him be impaled, crucified, blinded.” [78]


Zoe hesitated to punish Michael, but Theodora ordered the new eparch, Campanares, to blind Michael and his uncle. The citizens accompanied Campanares to Studion where they removed the two unfortunate men from the sanctuary by violence and the bloody deed was performed at the Sigma. [79]


Clearly, Michael had realized the importance of obtaining the support of the guilds. But he overestimated the success of his policy of bribes, and underestimated the great strength of dynastic sentiment. He overplayed his hand, and the guilds, speaking for the populace—and in the very words traditionally spoken by the demes—condemned him. Δημοκρατία had the last word.


In the reign of Constantine IX Monomachus, the sources reveal that the Constantinopolitans continued to be active in the political affairs of the city, though there is no mention of any connection specifically with the guilds. Constantine had established an amorous liaison with the beautiful Scleraina prior to his accession to the throne. After his coronation Constantine kept Scleraina as his mistress, in spite of his marriage to Zoe, thereby inducing a fear on the part of the demos that the lives of Theodora and Zoe were endangered. It was this apprehension of the citizens which produced riots of such violence that the new Emperor was almost overthrown. Attacking Constantine and a considerable armed retinue which were on their way to religious services, the populace repudiated Scleraina and clamored for their “mothers“ Zoe and Theodora. Had not the two women been summoned and presented to the populace, Constantine’s reign would surely have come to an abrupt end during the course of the riot. [80]


In 1047 the revolt of Leo Tornices and his advance on Constantinople occurred so unexpectedly that there were not sufficient forces within the walls for the defense of the city; so the Emperor was forced to raise levies from the populace which were then posted upon the walls. [81]



78. Cedrenus, II, 540. "αἶρε τὸν παλαμναῖον, ποίησον ἐκ μέσου τὸν ἀλιτήριον. ἀνασκολοπισθήτω, σταυρωθήτω, τυφλωθήτω.”


79. Cedrenus, II, 539—540. See Schlumberger, L'Épopée byzantine à la fin du dixième siècle, III (Paris, 1905), 377, for a reproduction of the Scylitzes miniature which depicts the dragging of the victims across the agora.


80. Cedrenus, II, 555—556.

Ibn al-Athir, IX, 352, implies that the Muslim and Christian foreigners in Constantinople had played some role in the rioting. As a result, Constantine banished from Constantinople all foreigners who had been residents there for less than thirty years. He gives an obviously exaggerated number for those banished, over 100,000!


81. Cedrenus, II, 563-564. When Tornices arrived before the walls he made overtures to the citizen defenders of the walls to desert Constantine. It was on such occasions of emergency, remarks Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Caerimoniis-Bonn, I, 449, that the guildsmen were recruited for military service on the walls.






5. 1057-1081


During the period 1057-1081 the populace of the capital figured in four major rebellions, three of which succeeded in dethroning monarchs. In fact, the turbulence of the people was such that the newly crowned sovereigns in most cases attempted to secure their good will by the bestowal of favors.


In 1057 the patriarch Cerularius was able to dethrone Michael VI by promoting a revolution of the Constantinopolitans. Michael had realized the danger which a hostile citizenry posed and consequently had attempted to secure its good will. [82] When the revolt did break out in the capital, the citizens all gathered at St. Sophia and acclaimed Isaac Comnenus emperor. [83] Amongst those present were the heads of all the guilds, [84] and Attaliates relates that groups of citizens and soldiers then transferred the seat of government to St. Sophia. After Isaac’s coronation by the Patriarch, the new Emperor rewarded all his followers, amongst whom were, of course, the populace of the capital. [85]


When Constantin X Ducas succeeded to the throne in 1059 he made a determined effort to secure the favor of the people. At his acclamation were gathered all the guilds and the senate, and after addressing them, he rewarded many of the people and senators. [86] Zonaras reports that numerous senators and large numbers of the common people were raised to higher ranks. [87] In a unique passage, Psellus elucidates somewhat the vague statement of Zonaras.


“Not a single man out of that assembly was sent away without some reward. The government officials, their deputies, the minor workers, even the manual workers, all received something. In the case of the last named, he actually raised their social status. Until this time there had been a sharp distinction between the class of ordinary citizens and the Senate, but Constantine did away with it. Henceforth no discrimination was made between workers and Senators, and they were merged into one body.” [88]



82. Cedrenus, II, 634. “ὁ δὲ γέρων συνέσφιγγε εἰς αὐτὸν τῶν πολιτῶν εὔνοιαν. . . .” Psellus, II, 103—104. “δέδοικα γὰρ τὸ τε δημοτικὸν πλῆθος. . . ἵν᾿ οὖν μὴ κινήσω πράγματα ἐπ᾿ ἐμέ. . . .“


83. Attaliates, 58. “καὶ ὁ δῆμος ἅπας τῆς πόλεως αὐτὸν εὐφημεῖ.”


84. Cedrenus, II, 635. “οἱ τῶν ἑταιρειῶν πάντες ἄρχοντες, καί τινες ἄλλοι τῶν ἀφανεστέρων.” Zonaras, III, 664. Ἑταιρεῖα would seem to indicate the guilds. Ἑταιρεῖα is used as a designation for guild, along with σύστημα, σωματεῖοv etc., in Basilica, VIII, 2, 101; XI, 1, 14. Ἑταιρεῖα is often used to designate the body of mercenary troops in the palace. But Attaliates, 58, says that the palace guard remained loyal. Thus, it is the guilds about which Cedrenus, II, 635, is talking, In addition, he uses the plural form of the word, not the singular.


85. Attaliates, 60. “. . . φροντιστὰς πολλοὺς τῶν δημοσίων ἀποδείξας συλλόγων, οὕτω καὶ τὸ δημοτικὸν τῆς προσηκούσης τιμῆς ἀξιοῖ.”


86. Attaliates, 70-71.


87. Zonaras, III, 674. “πολλοὺς τῶν τῆς συγκλήτου βουλῆς καὶ τοῦ δημώδους πλήθους εἰς μείζονας ἀξιωμάτων βαθμοὺς προεβίβασε.”


88. Sewter, 258. Psellus, II, 145.





Attaliates specifically states that those honored were τῆς ἀγορᾶς, [89] and further confirms this statement of Psellus in a passage describing the donations which Nicephorus Botaniates distributed after his coronation: “The whole senate, numbering thousands of men, was. . . rewarded“. [90] Thus, it is quite clear from the sources that Constantine changed the nature of the senate by a wholesale incorporation of the βάναυσοι, the guildsmen. [91]


A further confirmation of the fact that members of the guilds had entered the senate is the chrysobull issued by Alexius Comnenus entitled, “Guildsmen and merchants may not take the oath in their homes.“ [92] This decree was issued either in 1083, 1098, or 1113, and was pronounced in a dispute over certain merchandise between two merchants and a woman named Anna. When the former were asked to testify under oath, they demanded to take the oath in their homes rather than in a public court, claiming this prerogative on the grounds that they were both senators. [93] But Anna protested that they were merchants and did not have the right to take the oath privately. [94] The case was deadlocked over this issue and so the eparch referred it to the Emperor. Alexius decreed that guildsmen who also had senatorial rank were required to take the oath in public, just as those guildsmen who did not have senatorial rank were required to do. For as members of the corporations, they were under the jurisdiction of the eparch. [95] The contents of this chrysobull make it quite clear that members of the corporations had entered the senate as a distinct group.


The motives of Constantine X Ducas in opening the senate to this group most probably lay in the fact that he wished to find stronger support for his family as the new dynasty, and support also in the struggle against the military element. It is probable that members of the more powerful and respectable guilds received senatorial rank.


The rebellion which broke out on the feast day of St. George in 1059 was largely engineered by the leaders of the army and navy, but the inhabitants



89. Attaliates, 71.


90. Attaliates, 275. “πᾶσα γὰρ ἡ σύγκλητος, ὑπὲρ μυριάδας ἀνδρῶν παραμετρούμενη ... ἠξιοῦντο τιμῶν.“


91. Here βάναυσοι and οἱ τῆς ἀγορᾶς refer to the members of the trades and corporations rather than to the rabble. This is made clear by Attaliates, 275—276. Here these new senators, the βάναυσοι of Psellus, are carefully distinguished from the “... ἀργοὶ καὶ πένητες τῆς βασιλευούσης, οἱ ταῖς ἐπισκέπεσι τῶν λεωφόρων, αἱπερ ἔμβολοι λέγονται, περινοστοῦντες καὶ ἐμφωλεύοντες, καὶ παρασίτων τάξιν ἢ κολάκων. . . .” Βάναυσος was most often used to designate the lower trades. Theodore Studites, Patrologia Graeca, XCIX (Paris, 1903), 273, “... τῶν βαναύσων τεχνῶν. . . ὅθεν ὑφάνται τε καὶ ῥαφεῖς, σκυτοτόμοι τε καὶ σκηνοποιοί, λεπτουργοί τε καὶ οἰκοδόμοι, κανοποιοί τε καὶ μαλακοργοί. . . .” See also P. Koukoules, op. cit., II, 221 ff., “ὅς ἐν τοῖς ἀγενέσιν ἔργοις ” Psellus, I, 132, indicates that Constantine IX had already attempted to gain the favor of the commoners by similar concessions,

The senate seems also to have been opened to people on the basis of intellectual accomplishment, Psellus, ed. by Sathas, IV, 430-431.


92. Novellae, ed. by I. Zepos and P. Zepos, Jus Graecoromanum, I (Athens, 1931) (hereafter, Novellae), 645. “περὶ τοῦ τοὺς συστηματικοὺς καὶ πραγματευτὰς μὴ οἴκοι ὀμνύειν.“


93. Novellae, 645. “καὶ οἱ μὲν οίκοι ὀμωμοκέναι προετείνοντο, τὸ εἶναι συγκλητικοὶ προβαλλόμενοι.”


94. Novellae, 645. “ἡ δὲ γυνὴ δημοσίᾳ τὸν ὅρκον αὐτοὺς ὑποσχεῖν, πραγματευτὰς εἶναι τούτους διατεινομένη.”


95. Novellae, 645. “τοὺς δὲ συστηματικοὺς καὶ πραγματεύεσθαι βουλομένους, μὴ τοῦ προνομίου τούτου ἀπολαύειν. . . δημοσίᾳ τούτους ὀμνύειν, καθάπερ τοὺς μηδενὸς τετυχηκότας ἀξιώματος.”





of the capital were also involved. [96] The head of the conspiracy within the city was the eparch, responsible for the maintenance of order in the capital, and in direct and immediate control over the city’s guilds. Before the Caesar John Ducas was able to restore order, the citizens had thrown the city into chaos. [97]


The next reference to the political activities of the populace of Constantinople occurs during the revolt of Nicephorus Botaniates in 1078. The circumstances were quite similar to those of Isaac’s revolt, as once more the conspirators gathered at St. Sophia where Botaniates was proclaimed the new emperor. Attabates reports that present in St. Sophia at that moment were the synod, the more prominent members of the senate, the clergy, the more prominent monks, and people from the agora, the tradesmen. [98] After the acclamations at St. Sophia the people and those prominent persons involved in the rebellion were drawn up into some kind of military formations. [99] Letters were sent by the Patriarch to all those in the government who were not yet a party to the conspiracy, urging them to join, and whoever refused to join the rebellion was threatened with the destruction of his home and property. [100] This was the same weapon Cerularius had used in the revolution of 1057 when he turned the citizens loose on the properties of all those who had opposed the acclamation of Isaac. The rebel army of citizens then besieged and took the great palace. Michael VII had previously summoned Alexius Comnenus and asked his advice as to what should be done. Alexius replied that it would be possible to smash the rebellion, for most of the crowd which had gathered was βάναυσον and therefore inexperienced in warfare. That is, they were of the market place. [101] Michael disregarded the advice of Alexius, and at the end he was taken captive and the citizens took possession of the palace.


Botaniates had been able to enter the capital only because of the revolt which had opened the gates to him. At the same time the revolt of Bryennius in the western provinces posed a serious threat to Botaniates; so he was forced not only to reward those who had opened the city to him, but also to ensure their future loyalty in the face of his rival, Bryennius. This he did by a very liberal bestowal of titles and money.



96. Psellus, II, 148. “μέτοχοι δὲ τοῦ σκέμματος οὐ τῶν ἀγενῶν μόνον καὶ ἀνώνυμοι.” Attaliates, 74, speaks of the ἀφανέστεροι in the rebellion.


97. Attaliates, 73. “καὶ ὁ δῆμος ἅπας συνεκροτεῖτο καὶ συνηθροίζετο, καὶ ταραχῆς ὑπῆρχον τὰ κατὰ τὴν πόλιν ἀνάμεστα....”


98. Attaliates, 270. “κἀκεῖσε μετὰ τῆς συνόδου συγκροτοῦσιν οἱ τῆς συγκλήτου λογάδες. . . πᾶς ὁ κλῆρος. . . καὶ ὅσοι τῆς ἀγορᾶς, καὶ τῶν Ναζιραίων οἱ δοκιμώτατοι.” Zonaras, III, 719. “. . . τὸ τε ταύτης δημοτικὸν καὶ τὸ ὑπερέχον ἐν ἄρχουσι... καὶ τῶν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ . . . τὸ ἔκκριτον.” Bryennius, 123. “. . . τὸ πλεῖστον ἀπόλεμόν τέ ἐστι καὶ βάναυσον.”


99. Attaliates, 270. “καὶ τηνικαῦτα κατὰ φατρίας διαιρεθἐντες οἱ τῆς πολιτείας ἐπώνυμοι καὶ πάντες οἱ τῆς Ῥωμαίων φυλῆς . . . συνταγματάρχαις τε αὐτόμολοι ἐχρήσαντο.” Zonaras, III, 719. “διαιρεθἐντες οὖν κατὰ φατρίας τῆς πολιτείας οἱ ἔξοχοι καὶ κατὰ φάλαγγας συνασπίσαντες....”


100. Bryennius, 122. “καὶ ἐμπιπρᾶν τὰς οἰκίας ἠπείλουν εἰ μὴ πρὸς αὐτοὺς παραγἐνοιντο καὶ τοῦ σκέμματος κοινωνήσαιεν.”


101. Bryennius, p. 124. “ἔφησε γὰρ ὡς τοῦ συναθροισθἐντος πλήθους τὸ πλεῖστον ἀπόλεμόν τέ ἐστι καὶ βάναυσον, καὶ οὐκ ἄν ὑποσταῖεν καθωπλισμένους ἄνδρας ἰδόντες καὶ πρὸς μάχην ἐτοίμους.” Here the word admits of the more general meaning, i.e., the crowd. In any case, the passage refers to the political activities of the citizens.





All taxes owed to the treasury before his accession were cancelled, and all the senate, now including a vast host of artisans (Attaliates says thousands), was rewarded. [102] The chronicle, in meter, of Constantine Manasses, describes this scene in very interesting detail :


“He (Botaniates) cloaked in garments gleaming with gold,

and in purple raiment of golden brocade studded with pearls

which gave forth a purple and golden brilliance

. . . . . .

sat high on a silver-studded throne

bestowing ranks on all those who came forward:

Blacksmiths, woodcutters, diggers, merchants, farmers, [103]

cobblers, rope-makers, fullers, vineyard workers.

He debased the things of honor and defiled things of illustrious nature,

by sending down such glory to the craftsmen (βαναύσους),

which rewards former emperors had bestowed

to those achieving great deeds of glory

and to those who were of illustrious lineage and blood.” [104]


Finally, during the revolution of Alexius Comnenus, Botaniates had been forced to supplant the garrison of the walls with levies of citizens. Zonaras states that the Emperor recruited them from the people of the market place and from the city mob. [105]


The events described in the preceeding paragraphs show that the inhabitants of Constantinople exercised considerable influence on the course of the internal history of the period. They were a force to be considered by both the bureaucrats and the generals. Further, the terminology employed in the sources to describe these activities indicates that the guilds were the leaders in the political activities of the Constantinopolitans.


Attaliates speaks of the δημοσίων συλλόγων, and of the σωματεῖα τῆς πόλεως [106]



102. Bryennius, 128; Zonaras, III, 719; Attaliates, 275.


103. Γαιομάχος in D. Demetrakou, Μέγα Λεξικὸν τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς Γλώσσης, II, 1537, is defined as “ὁ ἀπὸ γῆς, ἀπὸ τῆς ξηρᾶς μαχόμενος.” But the Latin translation of the Bonn text, agricola, seems closer to the meaning intended here.


104. Constantine Manasses, 285.


105. Zonaras, III, 728. “σύγκλυδες ἄνθρωποι καὶ πολέμων οἱ πλείονες ἀδαεῖς ἢ μᾶλλον ἐξ ἀγοραίων ἀθροισθἐντες καὶ πληθύος δημότιδος.” Ἀγοραίων again almost certainly refers to the craftsmen of the market place, as has been shown above in footnote 81. Notice that Zonaras seems to differentiate between ἀγοραίων and πληθύος δημότιδος.


106. Attaliates, 60, 70; Cedrenus, II, 641.





Cedrenus speaks of the ἑταιρειῶν. [107] And finally, Psellus and Bryennius mention the βαναύσων. [108]


Σύλλογος, [109] ἑταιρεῖα, [110] σωματεῖον, [111] σύστημα, [112] the terms used in the texts, all refer to the guilds. This is clear from their use in the legal literature of the tenth and eleventh centuries, i.e., in the Basilica, the laws of Leo VI, the Book of the Prefect, and the Peira. Βάναυσος [113] refers to the members of the lower guilds. As mentioned above, βάναυσος admits of two meanings. It specifically refers to artisans and craftsmen, but is also used in a less specific sense to denote a rabble. However, in our texts it generally implies the former, i.e., artisans and craftsmen. This is usually evident from the general context of the passages quoted. [114] Most illustrative in this respect is the text of Constantine Manasses quoted above (p. 312) where he employs the term βαναύσους and spells out the exact meaning by saying that the term includes, amongst others, blacksmiths, woodcutters, diggers, merchants, cobblers, rope-makers, fullers, etc. [115]


Thus, the heads of the guilds played an important role in the rebellion which overthrew Michael VI. [116] After Isaac Comnenus was crowned he rewarded the populace and took a certain interest in the guilds. When Constantine Ducas was crowned, he summoned the guilds of the city and addressed them. After the address many members of the guilds were made senators. The guilds again played an important role in the revolt that overthrew Michael VII Ducas. In the defense of the walls against the forces of Alexius Comnenus, Nicephorus Botaniates had to employ artisans.



107. Cedrenus, II, 635; Zonaras, III, 664.


108. Psellus, II, 145; Bryennius, 123.


109. Nicole, op. cit., 15—16.


110. Basilica, VIII, 2, 101, equates ἑταιρεῖα with σύστημα and σωματεῖον. Basilica, XI, 1, 14, equates ἑταιρεῖα with σύστημα and κολλέγιον. This word is missed by Stöckle, op. cit. Bury, Selected Essays (Cambridge, 1930), 207-208, makes the following remark on Cedrenus, II, 635, and Zonaras, III, 664 :


“. . . party organizations or clubs, hetaireiai. These clubs which Zonaras has fortunately mentioned, had politically somewhat the same significance in the eleventh century as the demoi or factions of the hippodrome in the sixth; though doubtlessly they were much smaller and possessed far less influence than the blues and greens.”


Bury seized upon the political significance of the hetaireiai but failed to identify them properly.


111. Basilica, VIII, 2, 101. “οὐ πᾶσιν ἐφεῖται ποιεῖν ἑταιρείας ἢ συστήματα, ἢ σωματεῖα.” Basilica, VI, 4, 13. “πάντα τὰ ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει σωματεῖα. . . τῷ ἐπάρχῳ τῆς πόλεως ὑποκείσθωσαν.” See also Basilica, LX, 32, 2. Peira, LI, 7, distinguishes between σωματεῖον and σύστημα,


112. This is the term used most frequently in the Book of the Prefect to signify guild. Nicole, op. cit., IV, 5; VI, 6, 10, 12, 13; VII, 3, 6; VIII, 13; IX, 6; XII, 2, 6; XIII, 4; XIX, 4. Basilica, VIII, 2, ιοί; XI, I, 14; LIV, 6, 16; VI, 4, 13; VII, 8, 10. De Caerimoniis-Vogt, I, 13, 498.


113. Psellus, I, 148. “. . . τῶν ἐπὶ τῆς ἀγορᾶς ἐργαστηρίων, ἐφ᾿ ὧν οἱ βάναυσοι τῶν τεχνῶν καὶ ἐμπύριοι τὴν ξυντέλειαν ἔχουσι.” A great number of these ἐργαστήρια were located on the Mese. Psellus, I, 96, speaks of the βαναύσων τεχνῶν.


114. Psellus, I, 96, 148. According to the distinction made between the σωματεῖον and σύστημα in the Peira, the βάναυσοι would have belonged to the σωματεῖα. However, it is highly doubtful whether such a distinction is observed in the terminology of our chroniclers.


115. See supra, note 104.


116. The heads of the guilds are designated variously; προστάται, προστατεύοντες, προεστώτες, πρωτοστάται, πριμικήριοι, ἔξαρχοι, Stöckle, op. cit., 78. Attaliates, 12, seems to refer to them as οἱ τῆς ἀγορᾶς προεξάρχοντες, and Cedrenus, II, 641, is possibly referring to them when he speaks of φροντισταί; Attaliates, 60. These ἔξαρχοι had considerable jurisdiction within the guild.





This review or summarization of the evidence shows beyond a doubt that the citizens were active politically during the eleventh century, and that their activity was centered in the guilds.


Meager though the evidence of this period is, one can formulate a hypothesis. The guilds of eleventh-century Constantinople exercised some of the political functions of the old demes and circus factions. By political functions is meant that they were a vehicle of political expression of the people. At the same time their repeated use for garrison duty along the great walls of the city is reminiscent of some of the duties of the demes. A text from the eleventh-century provincial general Catacalon Cecaumenus furnishes what would seem to be a striking confirmation of the hypothesis that the Constantinopolitan guilds of the eleventh century were engaged in political as well as in economic endeavor. Cecaumenus exhorts his son:


“Beware that you have extreme exactness in the affairs of the city, so that nothing may escape your knowledge ; but have spies on every side and everywhere in all the guilds, so that whenever something is plotted, you shall learn of it.” [117]


With the suppression of the political life of the demes in the seventh and eighth centuries, the political life of the Constantinopolitans possibly became connected with the corporations. The sources of the ninth and tenth centuries indicate that these bodies played a significant role in the general life of the capital, though they do not say very much as to their political role. But if these sources are reticent in this respect, the sources of the eleventh century leave no doubt whatsoever. The appearance of the guilds as such important elements in the internal history of eleventh-century Byzantium is to be explained not only by their economic strength and organization, but also by the tense division between, and opposition of, the civil and military factions. The guilds (along with the church) were, therefore, often the decisive force in this struggle.


The emergence of the guilds as political factors in the life of the capital is doubly significant. First, as mentioned above, on the local scene it accounts, in part, for the successors to the demes. Second, in terms of mediaeval society generally, it shows that just as a certain relationship existed between urban political violence and the guilds at various times in the Islamic East and the Latin West, so also such a relationship existed in eleventh-century Byzantium. And even though this similarity may not have been due completely to common institutional ancestry and development, nevertheless it indicates a certain basic affinity among the three mediaeval societies.



117. Cecaumenus, 5.

In the German translation of Cecaumenus by H. G. Beck, Vademecum des byzantinischen Aristokraten, in Byzantinische Geschichtsschreiber, V, 26, συστήματα has been translated as Zünfte.


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