Byzantium: its internal history and relations with the Muslim World

Speros Vryonis Jr.


Internal History



(In: Speculum, XXXVII n. 1 (1962). The Mediaeval Academy of America 1-17) 


- Asia Minor
- The Balkans


Where did Byzantium get its metals after the period of the Arab conquest? These metals — primarily gold, silver, copper, iron, and lead — were of considerable importance to Byzantium for its superb coinage and manufacture of luxury items, as well as for the manufacture of weapons and for other industries. The problem of the source of these metals has not been satisfactorily treated and perhaps it really cannot be completely solved because of the lack of sufficient source material. M. Bloch and M. Lombard touched on this point when discussing the general question of the circulation of gold in the Middle Ages. According to these two scholars, Byzantium was, up to the seventh century, the domain of gold par excellence for three reasons: (1) a favorable balance of trade which brought in a steady stream of gold; (2) arrival of new gold from neighboring lands which possessed gold mines; (3) the already existing stock of gold within the Empire. But by the end of the sixth century Byzantium’s gold stocks had greatly diminished because of the flux of gold to the East, and because, with the Arab conquests in the seventh century, the Byzantines lost contact with those lands where the gold was mined. Of course this reasoning left the phenomenon of the gold solidus unexplained. If Byzantium did lose control of the gold to the Arabs, how was it that the Byzantine solidus remained pure and stable to the middle of the eleventh century, i.e., for a period of over four hundred years after the Arab conquests had begun? The explanation which Lombard and Bloch give is that (1) Byzantium began to touch its inactive gold stocks, and (2) it eventually acquired a favorable balance of trade with the West, which in turn was acquiring gold from the Arabs in favorable commercial relations. But one might well ask whether Byzantium might not have obtained gold, or other metals, within its own domains. [1]


In the question of Byzantine mines one must begin, as with so many other aspects of Byzantine history, with the sources of the late Roman Empire. Except for a limited number of inscriptions, the principal source is Roman legal literature.



1. M. Lombard, “Les bases monétaires d’une suprématie économique: L’or musulman du VIIe siècle au XIe siècle,” Annales, n (1947), 146-160; M. Bloch, “Le problème d’or au moyen-âge,” Annales d'histoire économique et sociale, y (1933), 1-34.







Here the most important testimony is that of the Codex Theodosianus, the mining decrees of which are repeated, often verbatim, in the Codex Iustinianus, the Basilica, and the Hexabiblos of Armenopoulos. The information in the Codex Theodosianus is of a general nature. One of the most striking facts which emerges from this legal collection, and a not unexpected one, is the widespread use of work in the mines as punishment for criminals and prisoners of war. This is of course an old practice. To condemn someone to the mines, in metotlum damnare, or in Byzantine language, μεταλλίζειν, was probably the worst punishment in Roman law next to the punishment of death itself. The unfortunate individuals condemned to such a life naturally sought to escape it by any means, with the result that the legal proscriptions forbidding the hiding of escaped miners are severe. Most of these unfortunate miners were no doubt employed in mines belonging to the state. A combination of the rigors of mining life and the scarcity of labor manpower in the late Empire forced the emperors to issue measures which would keep the supply of miners from dwindling. Thus we read a decree of the Emperor Theodosius II to the Count of the Sacred Imperial Largesses Maximus dated 424 :


If miners should desert the district where they appear to have been born and should migrate to foreign parts, they shall undoubtedly be recalled to the family stock and the household of their own birth status. Moreover, if such men and women should prefer to chose marriage unions from the homes of private citizens, their progeny shall be divided into equal parts between My fisc and the parents and those who are proved to be parents of only one shall surrender such a single child entirely to the fisc. In the future, if any person shall be borne from a miner and from any other stock, he shall necessarily follow the ignoble birth status of a miner. [2]


However, it seems that not all miners belonged exclusively to the state during the later Roman Empire, for a decree of Emperors Valentinian and Valens addressed to Cresconius, Count of Minerals and Mining, in 365 reads:


With long pondered deliberation We consider that a sanction must be issued to the effect that if any person should wish the industry of mining to flourish by his own labor he may acquire advantages both for himself and for the state. Therefore, if any persons voluntarily should come together in large numbers for this purpose, Your Laudability shall require such persons to pay eight scruples each of gold dust. Moreover, if they should be able to collect more, they shall preferably sell the same to the fisc, from which they shall receive an appropriate price from Our Largess. [3]


And the edict of 424 quoted above also implies that not all miners were slaves :


“If it should be claimed that any person has purchased the property of miners that is obligated to the aforesaid compulsory service, he shall undoubtedly become subject to the compulsory public services which the author of his right was accounted to fulfill.” [4]


Here we see miners who can dispose of their property and even leave the profession,



2. Theodosiani Libri XVI cum Constitutionihus Sirmondianis, ed. T. Mommsen, I (Berlin, 1905) (hereafter Cod. Theod.), x.19.15. The Theodosian Code, tr. C. Pharr (Princeton, 1952) (hereafter Pharr), p. 285. See also Codex Ιustianianus, xi.7.7.


3. Pharr, pp. 283-284. Cod. Theod., x.19.3.


4. Pharr, p. 285. Cod. Theod., x.19.15. This is repeated in Cod. Ιust., xi.7.7.





provided, of course, that their services are taken over by the purchasers of the property. But in the middle Byzantine period the fixing of urban and industrial society to its professions and trades was relaxed, as implied in the Book of the Eparch. So it is quite possible that it was relaxed in the sphere of non-slave miners. The Byzantine government continued to permit private individuals to engage in mining alongside the state mining enterprises. Thus the private ownership of mines is described in the Basilica and in certain scholia on the Basilica: “If he found clay or silver, or other substance, or metal ore, it is reckoned as ‘fruit’.” [5] — “It is also possible for a private individual to have mines of clay, silver, and the like.” [6] On the other hand, the grimmer aspect of mining life was retained, and the ancient practice of sending the condemned to the mines remained in force. [7]


Thus, from this brief survey, it does not seem to be stretching the point to say that mining held the same position in Byzantine society that it did in the society of the late Roman Empire. The question has been raised by certain scholars, however, whether the Byzantines, after the great losses to the Arabs in Africa and Asia, were not in fact cut off from the mines which had supplied them with the various metals. To phrase the question differently, did the Byzantines actually derive any of their mineral supply from the Balkans and Asia Minor after the Slavic invasions in the Balkans and the Arab conquests in the East, or were they simply left without any mines and mining industry? The discussion of mines and mining is no mere academic exercise, for it must be obvious that they were important sources of raw material and wealth for ancient and mediaeval society. In fact the importance of mines and the mining industry have been given great emphasis for the actual or comparative prosperity of ancient and mediaeval states. This has been asserted for the Hetite state of Asia Minor. One historian maintains that the failure of the mines in the western half of the Roman Empire and their continuity in the eastern half help to explain the collapse of the empire in the West and its survival in the East. [8] Another historian posits the development of the mining industry in the Balkans as one of the bases for Bosnian and Serbian strength and prosperity in the fourteenth century. [9] But in discussing Byzantine mines one meets with an obstacle which plagues the historian of Byzantium all too frequently.



5. Basilica, ed. G. Heimbach, vol. III (Leipzig, 1843), xxviii.8.30. “εἰ δὲ κριταρίου ἢ ἀργύρου, ἢ ἑτέρας ὔλης, ἢ ψάμμου μέταλλον εὗρεν, εἰς καρπὸν λογίζεται.” A scholium, y. 376 (Dorotheus), on this passage reads’ “εἰ δὲ καὶ κριτάριον ἤτοι λευκόγειον ἐξώρυξεν ἐκ τοῦ προικιμαίον ἀγροῦ, ἢ ἀργύρου εὗρε μέταλλα, ἢ χρυσίου, ἢ ἄλλας οἱασοῦν ὔλης, ταῦτα πάντα ἐν καρποῖς τοῦ ἀγροῦ ψηφίζεται.”


6. Scholium, y. 376 ; “Δυνατὸν γὰρ καὶ ἰδιώτης μέταλλα κριταρίου καὶ ἀργύρου, καὶ τῶν παραπλησίων ἔχειν.”


7. Asterius of Amaseia, Homilia VIII in SS. Petrum et Paulum, in Patrologia Graeca, xl (1863), 276, remarks” “ Ἄποροι δὲ παντελῶς καὶ οἱ τὸν χρυσὸν ἀνορύττοντες, τὸν βασιλέα τοῦ πλούτου. Μία γὰρ αὐτοῖς ἀξίνη συνεργεῖ. ξύλινος πίναξ, ὁ τῆς γῆς τὸν χρυσὸν ἀποκρίνων.”


8. Ο. Davies, Roman Mines in Europe (Oxford, 1935) (hereafter Davies, Roman Mines), p. 2.


9. C. Jireček, Die Handelsstrassen und Bergwerke von Serbien und Bosnien während des Mittelalters (Prague, 1879) (hereafter Jireček, Bergwerke), p. 41.





Unlike the Muslim authors the Byzantines, because of their indifference or sophistication, do not bother to discuss such matters. [9a] The little information to be gleaned on this subject is scattered amongst a small number of Byzantine, Armenian, Arab, Persian, Turkish, and Latin sources. Though this information is not plentiful, when one combines it with what is known about pre-Byzantine and early Ottoman mining in Asia Minor and the Balkans, it is possible to get a general answer to the problem of Byzantium’s source of metals after the Arab conquest.





The most informative of the classical authors on the subject of mining, for our purposes, is the geographer Strabo. An inhabitant of northern Asia Minor writing in the first century A.D., Strabo took particular care to record the presence of several mining districts in Asia Minor, the seat of the Hetite Empire, whose primary economic basis was the mining industry, and the home of the Chalybys, to whom Homer attributes the invention of the art of mining. [10] Strabo speaks of gold mines at Syspiritis near Kaballa, a considerable distance to the southeast of Trebizond. [11] He gives the most information concerning the Pontic coast with which he was so familiar, as this was the place of his origin. He says of the northeastern Pontic coast: “Generally in these lands the coast is extremely narrow, and the mountains lie immediately beyond, being full of mines and thickets. There is little agriculture, and the miners make their livelihood from the mines.” [12]


Strabo mentions specifically the presence of iron mines at Pharnaci (Byzantine Cerasus) to the west of Trebizond, [13] mines at Cabira (Byzantine Neocaesareia) to the southwest of Trebizond, [14] and mines in Mt Sandaracurgium south of Sinope. [15] Finally he mentions the presence of copper mines on Cyprus. [16] Thus in the first century A.D., according to Strabo, there were in Asia Minor and Cyprus mines providing gold, copper, and iron; and the eastern Pontic region seems to have been the most important mining area. [17]


The gold miners of the area of Asia Minor come up for specific mention in the



9a. See for instance D. M. Dunlop, “Sources of Gold and Silver in Islam according to al-Hamdānī,” Studia Islamica, viii (1957), 29-50.


10. Homer, Iliad n. 857.


11. Strabo, Geography, ed. H. L. Jones, vol. V (1928) (hereafter Strabo, with vol. and page numbers), p. 328; Μέταλλα δ᾿ἐν μὲν τῆ Συσπιρίτιδί ἐστι χρυσοῦ κατὰ τὰ Κάβαλλα.


12. Strabo, V, 402.


13. Strabo, V, 400. “ἐκ δὲ τῆς γῆς τὰ μέταλλα, νῦν μὲν σιδήρου, πρότερον δὲ ἀργύρου.“


14. Strabo, V, 428.


15. Strabo, V, 450.


16. Strabo, VI, 383.


17. On ancient mines see also the articles “Gold,” “Silber,” “Kupfer,” “Bergbau,” in Pauly-Wissowa. On the mines of Anatolia and their working a certain amount of material has been collected in Tenney Frank, An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome, iv (1959), 620-623, 693-695, and in D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor, i-ii (1950), 7, 43-44,179, 375. There is a short note on Byzantine mining in P. Koukoules, Βυζαντινῶν βίος καὶ πολιτισμός, il 1 (Athens, 1948), 203-204. On mediaeval mining there is the useful study of J. U. Nef, “Mining and Metallurgy in Medieval Civilization,” Cambridge Economic History, ii-(1952), 430-492.





Theodosian Code, first in the year 370 and then a few years later in 392. The first of these two decrees was issued jointly by Emperors Valentinian, Valens, and Gratian to Probus the Praetorian Prefect. “Just as our Lord Valens commanded throughout all the Orient that if the miners with vagrant wandering should there seek out the mineral gold, they should be kept away from the property of all landholders.” [18]


The second decree was issued by Emperors Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius to Romulus, Count of the Sacred Imperial Largesses. This is of interest in that it seems to be indicative of active mining operations in western Asia Minor. “Each year seven scruples per man shall be paid to the largesses by the gold miners, not only in the Diocese of Pontus but also in the Diocese of Asia.” [19]


There are also a few interesting references to a century-long dispute between the Sassanids and Byzantines over what must have been comparatively rich gold mines in the border regions of Armenia. Disputes over the rights to these mines figured as principal causes in at least four wars between Persia and Byzantium, giving them somewhat the appearance of economic wars. These disputes took place first in 421-422, then under Anastasius (491-518), again in 530, and finally in 534. On his accession Vahram V began a persecution of the Christians in Persia, and Emperor Theodosius II used this persecution, along with the refusal of the Persians to hand back certain gold mines, as a causus belli in 421. “It happened at this time that the Rhomaioi were vexed with the Persians because of another reason; because the Persians, having those gold mines which they had leased from the Rhomaioi, did not wish to give them back.” [20] Apparently the Persians were leasing the mines from the Byzantines at this time.


Malalas records the fact that in the reign of Anastasius (491-518) certain gold mines in Armenia were taken over by the Byzantines at the expense of the Persians.


He took as a pretext the [matter] of the gold-streaming [mountains] which were found previously, in the time of Anastasius the emperor, in the possession of the Rhomaioi. Formerly these mountains were under Persian rule. The gold-streaming mountains are located between the boundaries of the Armenians, Rhomaioi, and Persarmenians, as those who know say. These mountains bring forth much gold. When rains and storms occur, the earth of these mountains is brought down, and nuggets of gold gush up. Formerly certain persons leased these mountains both from the Rhomaioi and Persians for two hundred pounds of gold. Afterwards these same mountains were seized by the most sacred Anastasius, and the Rhomaioi alone received the decreed revenue. And as a result of this the treaty was violated. [21]


The mines in these mountains were very rich, and the gold was so near to the surface that after heavy rains nuggets of gold could be found on top of the soil. Hence extraction of the metal presented no problem at all. Malalas seems to imply that formerly these mines were leased out by both Persians and Byzantines



18. Pharr, p. 284. Cod. Theod., x.19.7.


19. Pharr, p. 285. Cod. Theod., x.19.12. This is repeated in Cod. Iust., xi.7.5, and in Armenopoulos, Hexabiblos, ed. G. Heimbach (Leipzig, 1851), p. 310.


20. Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. W. Bright (Oxford, 1893), pp. 298-299.


21. Ioannes Malalas, Chronographia, ed. B. Niehbuhr (Bonn, 1831), pp. 455-456.





to certain individuals for two hundred pounds of gold, presumably per year. No doubt the yield of the mines was then sold to one or other or both of the governments.


According to Malalas, the disputed ownership of these mines became the pretext for war between Justinian I and Kavades in 530. In this war the Byzantines took possession of certain other mines held by the Persians at Pharangium and Bolum in Armenia. [22] Kavades had leased the working of one of the mines to a local business man, Symeon by name.


But from there begins the territory of Persarmenia; and here is the gold-mine which, with the permission of Kavades, was worked by one of the natives, Symeon by name. When this Symeon saw that both nations were actively engaged in the war, he decided to deprive Kavades of the revenue. Therefore he gave over both himself and Pharangium to the Rhomaioi, but he refused to deliver over to either one the gold of the mine. [23]


Symeon was very shrewdly playing off one side against the other and attempting to retain the gold taken from the mine, instead of turning it over either to Persians or Byzantines. The new mines at Pharangium and Bolum, first mentioned by Procopius, would seem to be mines other than those seized by Anastasius as reported by Malalas. [24] For at the outbreak of hostilities between Justinian and Kavades, Pharangium and Bolum were held by the Persians, and the other mines were in the hands of the Byzantines. The peace concluding this war in 532-533, however, provided that Pharangium with its gold mine should be returned to the Persians. [25] But, evidently, either the terms of this treaty were not kept, or a violation of some earlier mining agreement was alleged, for the Persians once more declared war on Byzantium in 534 over the gold mines. [26] This short survey makes it clear that the gold mines of the border areas were a prime factor of contention between the Sassanids and Byzantines for over a century. Evidently the output of the mines was considerable.


Armenian, Arab, Persian, and Turkish sources also mention the presence of mines in northern and eastern Anatolia. Lazarus of Pharbe (about 500 A.D.) says that gold, copper, and iron were to be found in the province of Ararat, [27] while Ghevond (about 778-785) mentions the discovery of a new vein of silver in Armenia. [28] However in the eighth century this was utilized by the Muslim governor of Armenia for his mint, and the silver could not have been available to Byzantium until a later date, when the Armenian provinces were incorporated into the Byzantine Empire.



22. Procopius, History of the Wars, ed. H. B. Dewing (London, 1954) (hereafter Procopius), I.xv.18. “τότε καὶ Περσῶν χωρία ἐν Περσαρμενίοις Ῥωμαῖοι ἔσχον, φρούριόν τε τὸ Βῶλον καὶ τὸ Φαράγγιον καλούμενον, ὅθεν δὴ τὸ χρυσόν Πέρσαι ὀρύσσοντες βασιλεῖ φέρουσι.”


23. Procopius, Ι.xv.27-29.


24. On this point see E. Stein, Histoire du Bas-Empire, ii (Paris, 1949), 291-292.


25. Malalas, p. 477; Stein, ii, 294.


26. Theophanes, Cronographica, ed. C. de Boor, i (Leipzig, 1883), 179. “ἀφορμὴν δὲ ἔβαλεν περὶ τῶν χρυσορυχίων τῶν ἐν τοῖς ὄρεσι, Ἁρμενίας, ὥς πρῴην ἀνὰ τάλαντον τελούντων Ῥωμαίοις τε καὶ Πέρσαις, νῦν δὲ ᾿Ρωμαίοις μόνοις τελούντων.”


27. Lazare de Pharbe, in Collection des historiens anciens et modernes de l'Arménie, ed. V. Langlois, II (Paris, 1869), 263.


28. Ghevond, Histoire des guerres et des conquêtes des Arabes en Arménie, tr. G. V. Chachnazarian (Paris, 1869), p. 149.





Copper mines were also located at Varajnounik (northwest of Van), Gougark, and Mananaghi in Armenia. [29] Most of the later references to mines in Byzantine and eastern Asia Minor come from Muslim geographers and travellers. Istahri, writing in 951, speaks of gold, silver, copper, and iron in the vicinity of Taron, [30] and his contemporary al-Maqdisi mentions copper mines in eastern Anatolia. [31]


The anonymous Persian work, Hudud al-Alam, which was written in 982-983, gives a number of references to mines in the area. It mentions the presence of gold in the mountains between Rum and Armenia, gold and lead in the mountains of the Alans, silver and copper in the mountains of the Georgian border, silver and copper in Cyprus. [32] Though the references in this author are rather hazy, they point to the general area of northeast Asia Minor and Cyprus as regions with mines in operation. Finally the placename Χαλκουργία in the epic of Digenis Acrites indicates the presence of copper mines near the Syria border. [33] In an interesting article published in 1937 R. P. Blake attempted to show that from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries exports and minting of silver in the Muslim east declined sharply. He maintained that one of the reasons for this was the fact that during this time the Muslims had lost control of certain argentiferous lands, amorgst them parts of Asia Minor and Armenia. It was at this time, then, that many of the mines in Armenia must have passed into Byzantine hands. [34]


There is also mention of the mines of Anatolia in later Islamic authors after Asia Minor had been overrun and settled by the Seljuks and had thus become more accessible to the Muslim travellers. Yacut, a Greek slave from Asia Minor who turned Muslim, reports the presence of copper mines in eastern Asia Minor around Chliat, [34a] while Abul Feda speaks of silver mines at Amasya. [35]



29. J. Laurent, L'Armenie entre Byzance et l'Islam (Paris, 1919), pp. 37, 41, 98. According to Laurent, the Ashot family had as a basis of its wealth and power private silver mines. On silver in mediaeval Armenia there is an article by Ritter in Erdkunde, x, which was, unfortunately, unavailable to me. For mediaeval Armenian legislation on mines see, Sempadscher Kodex aus dem 13. Jahrhundert, tr. J. Karst, i (Strassburg, 1905), 25.


30. Al-Istahri, Viae Regnorum, ed. M. J. de Goeje, in Bibliotheca Geographicorum Arabicorum, i (Leiden), 1927), 190-191.


31. Al-Mokaddasi, Descriptio Imperio Moslemici, ed. M. J. de Goeje, in Bibliotheca Geographicorum Arabicorum, III (Leiden, 1877), p. 148.

E. Honigmann, “Un itinéraire à travers le Pont,” Annuaire de l'institut de philologie et d'histoire orientales et slaves, iv (1936), 263. He seems to imply that Muslim prisoners of war were working these mines.


32. Hudud al-Alam, tr. V. Minorsky (London, 1937), pp. 59, 67-68.


33. Digenes Abrites, ed. J. Mavrogordato (Oxford, 1956), p. 156. “καὶ τῆς ὁδοῦ ἡπτόμβθα ὡς πρὸς τὴν Χαλκουργίαν (τόπος γὰρ οὗτος πέφυκε πλησίον τῆς Συρίας)."


34. R. Ρ. Blake, “The Circulation of Silver in the Moslem East Down to the Mongol Epoch,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, II (1937), 291, 301-310.


34a. Yacut, Jacut's geographisches Wörterbuch ed. F. Wustenfeld, iv (Leipzig, 1869), 92-93.

See also I. H. Uzunçarşilioglu, Anadolu Beylikleri ve Akkoyunlu, Karakoyunlu Devletleri (Ankara, 1937), p. 111.





Marco Polo  saw the rich silver mines of Paipurt and Argyropolis-Gümüsh Hane when lie went through Asia Minor on his way to China in the thirteenth century. [36] Ibn Battuta, in his travels through Asia Minor, visited the silver mines of Gümüsh Hane in eastern Anatolia and remarks that a number of merchants from Syria and Iraq come to this city, no doubt to buy the silver. [37] His travels also carried him to the area of Taganrog in southern Russia. This area, formerly either under Byzantine control or in close contact with Byzantium, in Ibn Battuta’s time still had a good number of Greeks. Perhaps the product of the mines in this region had been available to the Byzantines at the time when Byzantine influence had still been paramount there.


A day’s march from this town are the mountains of the Russians. These are Christians, red-haired and blue eyed, with ugly faces and treacherous. In their country are silver mines and thence are brought the ingots of silver with which selling and buying are done in this land (Crimea). The weight of these ingots is five ounces. [38]


The most detailed and best informed source as regards the mines of Asia Minor in this Islamic period of Asia Minor prior to the Ottoman conquest is the Arab geographer al-Umari, who seems to have got much of his information from a Genoese renegade to Islam. He mentions the presence of one iron and four silver mines.


In the part (of Asia Minor) occupied by the lieutenants of the princes descended from Jingiz Khan, there are three silver mines: one is in the vicinity of the city of Luluh; the second is near Gumush; and the third near Badhert... in the year 733 these mines were still in full production and producing a very pure silver. [39]



35. Abul Feda, Géographie d’Aboulfeda, ed. M. Reinaud and M. de Slane (Paris, 1840), p. 383. These are also mentioned by the fourteenth-century biographer of the Mevlevi dervishes, Eflaki, Les saints des derviches tourneurs, tr. C. Huart, II (1922), 380.


36. Marco Polo, The Description of the World, ed. A. C. Moule and Paul Pelliot, I (London, 1938), 96-97. It is interesting that Marco Polo still refers to Gümüsh Hane by its earlier Byzantine name, Argiron. “The others are Argiron which is great, and a very great quantity of silver is dug there and in a certain village which is called Paperth there is a very large silver mine.”


37. Ibn Battuta, Voyage d’Ibn Batoutah, ed. C. Defremery and B. Sanguinetti, π (Paris, 1877), 293.


38. Ibn Battuta, II; 414.

Byzantium was one of Kievan Russia’s main sources of gold, silver, and copper. G. Vernadsky. Kievan Russia (New Haven, 1951), pp. 46, 112.


39. Al-Umari, Al-Umari's Bericht über Anatolien in seinem Werke Masalik al-absar fi mamalik al-amsar, ed. F. Taeschner (Leipzig, 1929) (hereafter al-Umari), p. 20.

Also p. 31. The productive nature of the Anatolian mines is confirmed by the fourteenth century author, Hayton, La flor estoires de terre d'orient in Recueil des historiens des Croisades: Documents arméniennes, II (Paris, . 1906), 132. “Le roiaume de Turquie est molt grant e riche. Miniers y a d’argent, d’araim, de fer, e de lume asses e bones.”





This passage refers to the city of Luluh in southern Anatolia near the modern Ulukishla, to Gümüsh Hane in northern Anatolia (mentioned by Ibn Battuta), and to Paipurt (mentioned by Marco Polo). Then al-Umari in his description of that part of Anatolia, in the west, which was not directly under the rule of the Mongols, describes an important silver mine in the principality or beylik of Germian (the regions about Cotyeion-Kutahya).


He (the bey of Germian) has under his dependence a city named Gumush-Sar, that is the city of silver, which one must not confuse with that of the same name which is in the lands of the family of Jingiz Khan. One sees there a prosperous mine, of a rich product and great importance, which is far superior to that of the lands under the domination of the Mongols in respect to the metal’s quality, the accessible nature of the land, and the ease of exploitation. [40]


This latter notice is particularly interesting in that it refers to western Asia Minor, an area which produced metals in Hellenistic and Roman times. Finally, he says that there was an important iron mine in the southern Anatolian district of Ermenak: “In their land (the Karaman dynasty) is an iron mine which has greatly contributed to their success and assures them considerable profits.“ [41]


The Byzantine jurist Armenopoulos, writing in 1345, records that each gold miner of Pontus and Asiane (western Asia Minor) had to pay a sum of seventeen keratia, annually, to the government. [42] It is difficult to tell, however, whether this is anything more than an anachronism and a carry over from the earlier legislation on the subject.


The Greek and Ottoman historians of the fifteenth century record more pertinent information on the mines of Pontus, information which indicates that they were flourishing in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. These mines, which yielded copper for the most part, were located at sites near Castamon, Samsun, Tzanik, Osmanjik, and Sinope. Bayazid I brought the rich copper mines of Castamon, Samsun, Tzanik, and Osmanjik under Ottoman control during his reign. [43] In the beginning of the fifteenth century Mehmed I forced Ismael of Sinope to turn over to him the rich revenues of the copper mines of his city, [44]



40. Al-Umari, p. 35.


41. Al-Umari, pp. 23-24.


42. Armenopoulos, p. 310. “Ἐν ἑκαστῳ ἐνιαυτῷ δέκα κεράτια εἶς ἔκαστος ἄνθρωπος χρυσολέκτης παρεχέτω οὐ μόνον τῆς Ποντικῆς διοικήσεως, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς Ἀσιανῆς,” Possibly this was merely an archaistic repetition of the provisions of the Theodosian and Justinianic Codes.


43. J. von Hammer-Purgstall, Geschichte des osmanischen Reiches, i (Pest, 1827), 227, 607. These mines were leased out annually for a sum of 10,000 vatman of copper. The mines at Castamon are also mentioned by Iacopo de Promontorio who visited the Ottoman Empire in 1475. F. Babinger, Die Aufzeichnungen des Genuesen Jocopo de Promontorio-de Campis über den Osmanenstaat um 1475, Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil.-Hist. Klasse, Sitzungsberichte, (1956), p. 67.





and in 1425 Murad II retook the mines of Castamon. [44a] At the time of the conquest of Sinope by Mehmed II in the middle of the fifteenth century the mines brought in annually 50,000 gold pieces in taxes alone. [45]


With these references to the mines of Asia Minor in the Byzantine and Ottoman historians of the fifteenth century we come to the Ottoman period proper. For this period the Ottoman archives and sources throw a great deal more light on the problem of mining in Asia Minor and in the Balkans as well. Thanks to the publications of Anhegger, Gordlevsky, Refik, and others, quite a bit is known about mining in the Ottoman Empire, and it is now obvious that the mines continued to be active throughout this later period. [46] In addition to the aforementioned mines in Anatolia, there were deposits of gold at Artvini, and of copper, lead, and iron in the valleys of the Chorokh and Oltis-Tsgali. Along the Debeda valley to the east of Kars were also deposits of gold, copper, lead, and at Akhtala gold and silver. [47] An interesting sidelight is the persistence of the mining skills and traditions amongst the Greeks of Pontus (the descendents of the Byzantine inhabitants of the area) down to the beginning of the twentieth century. The core of these Greek miners lived to the south of Trebizond at Gümüsh Hane (Argryopolis), and from time to time throughout the centuries of Ottoman rule they sent out mining colonies to thè south as far as the Taurus at Bulgar Maden. They also sent mining colonies to the region of the Pyramis river, to the lead and silver mines of Keban Maden on the Euphrates, and to the copper mines of Arghana Maden in the vilayet of Diyarbekir. [48] In the eighteenth century the Georgian king Irakli brought in many of these Greek miners to work the gold and silver mines at Akhtala. [49]



44. Chalcocondyles, Historiarum Demonstration's, ed. E. Darko, i (Budapest, 1922-23), 173-174. “πρεσβείαν δὲ πέμψας καὶ τάζάμενος ἀπάγείν φόρον τὴν τοῦ χαλκόν πρόσοδον, (δοκεῖ γὰρ τοῦτο τὸ χωρίον τῶν κατὰ τὴν Ἀσίαν φέρει μόνον, ὧν ἡμεῖς ἴσμεν, τὸν χαλκόν).“ In this last particular Chalcocondyles is certainly mistaken. Critobulus, Historiae, ed. C. Müller in Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, v (Paris, 1870), 138, adds: “καὶ πολλοῖς εὐθηνονμένη τοῖς ἀγαθπῖς, ὅσα φέρουσι ὧραι καὶ γῆ καὶ θάλασσα (τὸ μέγιστον ὁ χαλκός ἐστι, ὁς ἄφθονος ἀναρυττόμενος αὐτοῦ γεωργεῖται, καὶ διαδιόμενος πανταχοῦ τῆς Ἀσίας τε καὶ Εὐρώπης καὶ διατιθέμενος), προσόδους μεγάλας χρυσοῦ καὶ ἀργυροῦ παρέχει τοῖς ἐν αὐτῇ.”


44a. Nešri, Kitâb-i Cihan-nümâ, ed. F. R. Unat, M. A. Köymen, ιι (Ankara 1957), 576.


45. Chalcocondyles, ii, 242. “χαλκὸν δέ, ὥς ἄλλοθι μοι τοῦ λόγου, φέρει ἡ χώρα αὔτη μόνη τῶν ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ, χαλκὸν δέ κάλλιστον μετά γε τὸν Ἰβηρίας χαλκόν, ἀφ᾿ ὅὗ δὴ προσήει τῴ βασιλεῖ ἐπέτειος φόρος χρυσίου πέντε μυρίαδες στατήρων.”


46. A number of documents dealing specifically with mines in the Ottoman Empire were published by Ahmet Refik, Osmanli Devrinde Türkiye Madenleri, 967-1200 (Istanbul, 1931). An article on Turkish mining based to a great degree on these documents but also based on a wider selection of sources was published by V. Gordlevsky, “Эксплоатация недр земли в Турции,” Советское Востоковедение, III (1945), 109-145. The first volume of what promises to be the last word on the subject has appeared, R. Anhegger, Beiträge zur Geschichte des Bergbaus im osmanischen Reich, i: Europäische Türkei, i (Istanbul, 1943). This work is cited hereafter merely by the author’s name.


47. W. E. D. Allen, A History of the Georgian People (London, 1932), pp. 57, 59, 201.


48. R. M. Dawkins, Modern Greek in Asia Minor (Cambridge, England, 1916), pp. 6-8. There are some very interesting comments on the descendants of these miners and communities in the early nineteenth century in Kyrillos, Ἱστορικὴ περιγραφὴ τοῦ ἐν Βιένῃ προεκδοθέντος χωpoγραφıκoῦ πίνακος τῆς μεγάλης ἀρχισατραπίας Ἰκονίου (Constantinople, 1815), pp. 14-15, 23, 55. He records that some of these mining communities had immigrated from the mines of the Pontic region.


49. W. E. D. Allen, p. 201.








The references to mining in the Balkans during the Byzantine period are even fewer than in the case of Asia Minor. Strabo mentions the presence of gold mines at Datum on the Strymon Gulf [50] and extensive gold mining at Crenae near Mt Pangaeus, as well as on Mt Pangaeus and in the land of the Paeonians. [51] Concerning the famous silver mines of Laurion, he says that in his time these were already exhausted. [52] However, in the late Roman period the Balkans were a very important source of metals. A certain amount, although not enough, is known about these mining activities from the decrees and inscriptions addressed to the mining officials and organizations. For example, the “comes metallorum per Illyricum” is mentioned in the fourth century, and an inscription mentions the “procurator argentariarum per provincias Pannoniam et Dalmatiam,” and a “collegium auriarium.” [53]


Two edicts in the Theodosian Code for the years 370 and 386 reflect certain difficulties which the state was having with the mining industry. The first of these, addressed to Probus the praetorian prefect by the emperors Valentinian, Valens, and Gratian reads:


Just as our Lord Valens commanded throughout all the Orient that if the miners with vagrant wandering should there seek out the mineral gold, they should be kept away from the property of all landholders, so Your Sincereity by edict should notify all provincials throughout Illyricum and the Diocese of Macedonia that no person shall suppose that on his own landholding any Thracians may be harboured any further, but that each and every one of them shall be compelled rather to return to the land of his birth, whence they are known to have come. Otherwise a grievous punishment shall be inflicted on that person who furnishes hiding places to such men after the issuance of this interdict. [54]


There is no doubt that the invasions and attacks of the Goths increased the confusion in the Balkans and cut down the output of the mines. Ammianus Marcellinus reports that the Thracian miners, because of the excessive taxation, joined the Gothic army.


Besides these there were not a few who were expert in following out veins of gold, and who could no longer endure the heavy burden of taxes; these were welcome . . . and rendered great services ... as they wandered through strange places, by pointing out hidden stores of grain, and the secret refuges of the inhabitants. With such guides nothing that was not inaccessible and out of the way remained untouched. [55]


The edict of 386 which Emperors Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius addressed to Eusignius, the praetorian prefect, further reflects the troubles and disruption which the invasions had brought.


Since the procurators of the mines within Macedonia, Midland Dacia, Moesia, and Dardania,



50. Strabo, III, 854.


51. Strabo, III, 354.


52. Strabo, v, 12-13. But this does not seem to have been true, at least for the later period.


53. Davies, Roman Mines, pp. 2, 7, 9.


54. Pharr, p. 284, Cod. Theod., x.19.7.


55. Ammianus Marcellinus, ed. and tr. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, England, 1942), xxxi.6.6-7.





who are customarily appointed from the decurions and who exact the usual tax collection, have removed themselves from this compulsory public service by pretending fear of the enemy, they shall be dragged back to the fulfillment of their duties. [56]


It is obvious that the mining industry of certain areas in the Balkans was partially disrupted. But it would be incorrect to claim that it was permanently discontinued. First of all, the Goths left the area, and secondly, we have the decree of 424 (quoted above) which attempts to prevent the miners from leaving their homes to go elsewhere. It would seem that scarcity of manpower and the difficult nature of the work were more important obstacles to a successful mining industry at this time than were the Gothic invasions.


Where were the Balkan mines located? The sources here are relatively abundant for the period of the late Roman Empire, and for the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries for mediaeval Bosnia, Serbia, and the Ottoman Empire. But the period between the two is almost blank as far as records of mines or mining are concerned.


The mining center of Illyricum in the Roman period seems to have been the city of Vrbas in modern Bosnia. According to Pliny, the area produced fifty pounds of gold daily. [57] Silver was mined at the sight of modern Srebrenica in Bosnia, while iron and lead were also found in the area. An inscription of the second century mentions a procurator of the silver mines of Pannonia and Dalmatia who was stationed at Srebrenica. These deposits continued to be exploited systematically in the fourth century as is indicated by the appointment of a comes metallorum in Illyricum. [58]


Dacia, after it was opened up by Trajan’s conquest, became a rich source of metals for the empire. Evidently the mining centered in central and southern Transylvania. Immediately upon the conquest Trajan settled the Pirustae, who had practiced mining in northern Albania, in the area of modern Rosia Montana (Verespatak) where there were important gold mines. [59] Gold was also mined at Zalatna, Ruda, and Boicza. John Lydus informs us that Trajan reconstituted Roman finances with gold from the province of Dacia to the tune of 5,000,000 pounds of gold and 10,000,000 pounds of silver. [60] The figures are without a doubt exaggerated, but nevertheless are symbolic of the comparative wealth and importance of the Dacian mines. Copper and iron, and probably silver and tin, were also mined in the area. It has been maintained that as a result of the barbaric invasions the mining industry here broke down between the second and fourth centuries, and that mining was renewed only in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries with the appearance of the Saxon miners in the Balkans. [61] This is an important point and will be dealt with in a later section.



56. Pharr, p. 35. Cod. Theod., 1.32.5.


57. Pliny, Natural History, ed. H. Rackham (Cambridge, England, 1942), xxxiii.21.67. For a general survey of the Balkan mines see Davies, Roman Mines, pp. 182-267.


58. Davies, Roman Mines, pp. 182-187.


59. Davies, Roman Mines, p. 201, feels that these mines were deserted as a result of the Marcomanni Wars. However, G. Teglas, “Zur Verwaltungsgeschichte der römischen Eisenbergwerke in Dakien,” Klio, ix (1909), 376, shows that mining did not cease after these wars and invasions.


60. Ioannes Lydys, De magistratibus populi romani libri tres, ed. R. Wuensch (Leipzig, 1903), n.28.


61. Davies, Roman Mines, p. 206.





Moesia was also productive from the point of view of the mining industry, though we know fewer of the details here. The Theodosian code mentions procuratores metallorum of this district along with the other Balkan districts. [62] It has also been asserted for this area that with the barbaric invasions all mining activity ceased until the appearance of the Saxons in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. [63]


Metals were mined in Macedonia, Thrace, and Greece as well during the period of antiquity. The sites of Kratovo and Osogov produced lead, gold, silver, and copper, and Bozica produced iron. [64] Above we noted the itinerant Thracian gold washers in the Theodosian Code in A.D. 373. Most of the streams of the Rhodope region were probably auriferous at that time. In the peninsula of Chalcidice, the later area of the Mademochoria, the metals were mined extensively, as also at the rich fields of Mt Pangaeus. A smaller amount of the precious metals was also extracted from the mines of eastern Thrace and the islands. In Greece there were the mines of Attica producing silver, lead, and iron, the copper mines of the Othrys range, silver in the vicinity of Lake Ochrid, and copper in Euboea. [65]


From this rapid survey it is highly probable that the later Roman and early Byzantine Empires drew a considerable revenue and metal supply from the mines of the Balkan area. Let us now examine the sources for the next thousand years and see what is mentioned about this rather extensive mining industry. It has been implied, by Davies in particular, that mining ceased in the Balkans as a result of the various invasions. And the relative silence of the sources would seem to favor this view. Literary references to the sources of Byzantium’s metals are extremely rare. One such reference is in the sixth-century description of the church of St Sophia, in which Paul Silentiarius mentions silver from Pangaeus and Sounion. [66] A certain number of place names from this period refer to mines, though it is not possible to say whether the mines were being worked at the time that the names are mentioned. Such are Metallus, Argentares, Ferarria, [67] Sidera Chora, [68] and Siderocausa. [69] Metallus has been identified with Boizica, which in later times produced iron. Siderocausa is in the peninsula of the Chalcidice; it is the area later called Mademochoria which flourished as a mining center in Ottoman times. Davies has rejected Siderocausa as a genuine Byzantine place name on the grounds that it is a combination of Greek and Turkish words, σίδηρος and



62. Cod. Theod., 1.82.5.


63. Davies, Roman Mines, pp. 209-210.


64. Davies, Roman Mines, pp. 227-229. He asserts that they did so only under the Romans and Saxons.


65. Davies, Roman Mines, pp. 267, 289-251. Again, he maintains that they were worked in Roman and Turkish times, but not, generally, by the Byzantines.


66. Paulus Silentiarius, Descriptio S. Sophiae et Ambonis, ed. I. Bekker (Bonn, 1837), p. 33.

“ἐνθάδε Παγγαίοι ῥάχis καὶ Σουνιάς ἄκρη

ἀργυρέας ὤϊξαν ὅλας φλέβας.”


67. Procopius, Buildings, ed. H. B. Dewing and G. Downey (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1954), iv.4; iv.ll.


68. Zonaras, Annales, ed. B. Niebuhr, in (Bonn, 1897), 889.


69. G. Smyrnakis, Τὸ Ἅγιον Ὄρος (Athens, 1903), p. 25. By the time of Leo VI, Chalcidice was called Siderocausa because of its mines.





kapusu, an imperfect translation of Demir kapusu ‘iron gate.’ Therefore, since this place name is a late one, it does not indicate the presence of mines in the area in Byzantine times. However, there is no reason to doubt that Siderocausa is truly a Byzantine place name, Σιδηρόκαυσα, [70] and therefore probably refers to a Byzantine mining center. [70a] In addition to these few references and place names, a small amount of archaeological evidence indicates that in some areas the older Roman mines continued to function in Byzantine times. Davies has himself concluded on the basis of this latter type of evidence that the Byzantines continued to mine at Siderocausa(!), Pangaeum, and further to the north. [71] He also refers to the fact that gold was mined at Baia-Mara in Transylvania in 1086. [72] In Bulgaria coin finds in the area of the mines and in one case inside the mines, at Stara Planına and Etropolje, from the period of Anastasius I to Isaac II Angelus indicate that possibly the mines were not completely abandoned. [73] Jireček has maintained that the mining activities in the Balkans, though they may have diminished after the downfall of the Roman Empire in the West, never completely disappeared, and that there was a certain continuity in Balkan mining from late antiquity to the end of the Middle Ages. [74]


References to Balkan mining reappear with increasing regularity from the thirteenth century onwards, exactly the period in which non-Byzantine sources begin to become more plentiful. These sources are in part local, such as Ragusan archival material and Bosnian documents, and partly western, such as Venetian reports. This reappearance of mining activities in the sources is probably to a certain extent connected with the establishment and expansion of the various Balkan states and with the efforts of the local rulers to exploit the old and familiar mines. From the end of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth centuries this flowering of the mining industry in the Balkans is accompanied by an extensive colonization movement, a diaspora of Saxons, which placed them in all the mining centers of the northern and central Balkans, in Bosnia, Serbia, and Transylvania. They were followed by Ragusan capitalists and metal craftsmen.


Two Bosnian documents of 1339 and 1426 state that gold and silver were being exported by Bosnia, and the gold of Vrbas is once again mentioned in the fifteenth century. [75] In Serbia the presence of Saxon miners is first mentioned under Stephen Urosh II Miliutin (1282-1320).



70. Davies, Roman Mines, p. 233, n. 5. Even the Turkish spelling in the Ottoman documents published by Ahmet Refik testifies to this. Here the name appears as Sidre Kapsi, not as Sidre Kapusu.


70a. See the Athonite documents in F. Dölger, Aus den Schatzkammern des heiligen Berges (Munich, 1948), p. 338, where the name appears during the Byzantine period.


71. Davies, Roman Mines, p. 234.


72. Davies, Roman Mines, p. 198. He lists his source as Maclaren, Gold, a work which, unfortunately, was not available to me.


73. Davies, Roman Mines, p. 244. C. Jireček, “Archäologische Fragmente aus Bulgarien,” Archäologisch-epigraphische Mitteilungen aus Österreich-Ungarn, x (1886), 75-85.


74. As pointed out above, Teglas confirms that the Marcomanni Wars did not put an end to Dacian mining. The Theodosian Code implies that in the years 386 and 424 mining was being carried on in spite of invasions. It is too easy to attribute to the invasions everything that is convenient for the historian.


75. C. Jireček, Bergwerke, p. 42. For a detailed analysis of the Ragusan archives on the subject of mining see pp. 48-58 of this work.





It seems that the Serbs were actively engaged in mining at Kopaonik in the twelfth century. Kopaonik and Novo Brdo came to be the chief centers of Serbian mining activity (they produced mostly silver and iron). The French monk Brocard reported, perhaps with some exaggeration, that in 1332 the Serbian king had five gold mines, five silver mines, and one mine which produced both silver and gold. [76] Exports of gold to the coastal city of Ragusa are mentioned as early as 1253. [77] Novo Brdo by the fourteenth century was producing both silver and gold in appreciable quantities, and after the battle of Kossovo in 1389 the sources report that Bayazid I acquired considerable revenue from the Serbian mines. [78] The Frenchman Bertrandon de la Brocquière mentions that the income of these mines in 1433 amounted to 200,000 ducats annually. [79] When Mehmed II took the city in the middle of the fifteenth century it was still an important source of revenue, and though he enslaved much of the population and led it away, he allowed the miners to remain so that the mines would continue to produce. [80]


As has been indicated above, a great deal of the metal from the Balkan mines in Bosnia and Serbia made its way to the Dalmatian port of Ragusa. [81] In addition to gold, quantities of lead, copper, and iron from Olovo, Srbrnica, and Rudnik made their way to Ragusa. After the Ottoman conquest, of course, the flow of the metals was diverted to the capital city on the Golden Horn.


With the establishment of Ottoman control in the Balkan area, references to the mining industry become even more numerous in the fifteenth century. The Genoese Iacopo de Promontorio, who visited the Ottoman Empire in 1475, only twenty-two years after the fall of Constantinople, mentions a number of mines in the Balkans: “Caue, id est minere d’ariento existente in Ceruia, Novo Brodo, in Boxino, Zelebrinaza, Cratauo, Pristina, Ceres, Salonichi, Sophia.” [82] Thus the Ottoman conquest brought no disruption to the major Balkan mining centers. The appearance of Thessalonike in this list of the Genoese merchant no doubt refers to the mines of Siderocausa-Mademochoria in the nearby vicinity, which, as we noticed above, continued to function in Byzantine times.



76. Jireček, Bergwerke, p. 43. He implies that the ancient mining tradition had not died out.


77. Jireček, Bergewerke, p. 47. Most of it probably came from Novo Brdo and Bosnia.


78. Jireček, Bergwerke, p. 47. Critobulus, 110. “ἀφικνεῖται ἐς πόλιν ἐχυρὰν και εὐδαίμονα Νοβόπροδον οὔτω καλουμένην ... οὗ δὴ καὶ πλεῖστος ἀργυρὸς καὶ χρυσὸς γεωργεῖται ἀναρυττόμενος.” Ducas, Historia Byzantina, ed. I. Bekker (Bonn, 1834), p. 17. “ . . . καὶ ἀργυροῦ τάλαντα ἱκανὰ ἐκ τῶν μετάλλων Σερβίας” Ducas, p. 208, records a conversation in which the minister of Murad II is supposed to have advised him to take the city of Novo Brdo for the following reason.

 “ἄρωμεν ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ τὰς πηγὰς τὰs ἀειζώους τὰς βρυούσας ὥς ὔδωρ ἀένναον τὸν ἄργυρον καὶ τὸν χρυσόν, καὶ σῦν αὐτὰς (sic) κερδήσομεν Οὐγγρίαν και ἐπέκεινα Ἰταλίας φθάσομεν, ταπεινώσαντες τοὺς ἐχθροὺς τῆς ἡμετέρας πίστεως.”


79. Anhegger, p. 156. Bertrandon de la Brocquière, Voyage d'outremer de Bertrandon de la Brocquière, ed. C. Shefer (Paris, 1892), p. 214. “Et en ceste ville a mine d’or et d’argent tout ensemble, et en tire tous les ans plus de IIe mille ducatz, et se n’estoit cela, je tiens qu’ils fust ores chacie hors de son pays de Rascie.”


80. Chalcocondyles, II, 177.


81. Jireček, Bergwerke, p. 48. Mining on a smaller scale seems to have been carried on by the Venetians and others in Seriphos, Crete, and the Morea. Davies, Roman Mines, p. 254.


82. F. Babinger, p. 64.





It is of interest to note that these mines at Siderocausa were of considerable extent in the sixteenth century, the earliest date at which we have a detailed description of them. According to the French traveller Pierre Belon, who visited the mines in the sixteenth century, they employed 6,000 men, possessed 500-600 furnaces, and the monthly revenues of the mines ranged from 18,000-30,000 ducats. [83] In this period the ancient mines of Pravion on Mt Pangaeum continued to yield silver, lead, and gold, while even at Sounion a small quantity of silver was being produced. [84]





1. The method which has been pursued in this short note is the following. The references to mines within the area of Asia Minor, the Balkans, and Cyprus have been gathered and grouped in three separate chronological groups. The first chronological group begins with Strabo in the first century A.D. and comes down to the fourth century, the period of the founding of the Byzantine Empire. The second chronological group begins here and comes down roughly to the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries. The third chronological group, overlapping the second somewhat, begins with the expansion of the Balkan states and appearance of the Muslim Turks in Asia Minor.


2. The sources of the first group, i.e., of the late Roman Empire, indicate that the mines of the Balkans, Asia Minor, and Cyprus were very important and produced considerable gold, silver, copper, iron, and lead.


3. The sources of the second group, i.e., the Byzantine group proper, produce far smaller numbers of references to mining activity. In fact one is struck by the paucity of the references. Yet they do indicate that gold, silver, copper, iron, and lead were being produced in Asia Minor and that mining continued in the Balkans.


4. The third group, covering the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, is more rewarding than either of the first two groups. We see here a great deal of mining activity both in the Balkans and Asia Minor. Whereas silver, copper, and iron seem to have been the principal metals mined in Asia Minor, all these and lead and gold as well were being mined in the Balkans.


5. Now the problem remains of explaining the comparative silence of the second group of sources, those which we may roughly equate with the most important period of Byzantine history. One explanation of the sources’ comparative silence is that the Arab invasions cut Byzantium off from those lands in the east which produced the metals, while the Germanic and Slavic invasions in the Balkans performed the same function in that area.



83. Anhegger, i, 182,197, 204. D. Zacynthinos, “La commune grecque,” L'Hellenisme contemporain, II (1948), 807. P. Belon, Les observations de plusieurs singularitez mémorables (Paris, 1538), p. 102: “Les minieres de Siderocapsa rendent une moult grande somme d’or & d’argent a l’Empereur.” See also pp. 116-117. On pp. 125-126 he notes that silver is being mined on Mt. Pangaeus and that silver, lead, and a little gold are being mined in the vicinity of Philippi. In reference to the great productivity of Siderocapse he states that the miners are forced to work seven days a week without pause.


84. Anhegger, i, 204-205.





As a result Byzantium had no access to mines and therefore they do not appear in the sources. [85]


A second explanation, which seems more plausible, is that the Byzantine sources simply do not mention this type of ordinary or common matter. Most of the historical sources and narratives are Constantinople-centered, and, in contrast to the Muslim sources, we have very little in the way of histories and geographies of the provinces. Fortunately the eastern sources, in contrast to the contemporary Byzantine sources, give us sufficient information for Asia Minor to show that the Byzantines did in fact have access to metals and mines. And those Muslim geographers and historians of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries who devoted special sections of their works to Anatolia did in fact observe that there was active mining in the area. It would indeed be strange that the conservative Byzantines with all their inherited technical skills — the Muslims professed such an admiration for the technical skills of the Rum that they could only compare them with the technical skills of the Chinese — should have permitted the practice and science of mining to fall into disuse. The generalization above holds true also for the Balkan area. What scant archaeological and source materials exist for the Byzantine period seem to indicate that some of the mines were functioning. In addition, the Byzantines continued to exercise political authority for considerable lengths of time in certain areas of the Balkans where a number of these mines were located. And when the non-Byzantine sources of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries become relatively plentiful, the mining industry appears to be an active one. Now it is a perfectly logical argument that the rise of the local kingdoms and the appearance of the Saxon miners gave impetus to a greater development of the mining industry, but it does not mean that mining did not exist in the area before their appearance. Even this phenomenon of the greater mining activity of the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries would make more sense if, as Jirefcek states, the Slavs never completely broke the continuity with late Roman mining traditions and practices. In addition, the mining sites of the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries both in Asia Minor and the Balkans were more or less the same as those in late antiquity.


It is obvious, then, that gold, silver, copper, iron, and lead were available to the Byzantines on their own soil and in the neighboring lands, in mines which probably continued to function from antiquity down into Ottoman times. Thus the Byzantines were not altogether dependent on trade or a favorable balance of trade for these metals. Given the sparse nature of the sources, it is impossible to say much about the quantity in which the metals were produced. But they certainly must have been important for Byzantium’s coinage and manufactures.


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85. F. Heichelheim, Wirtschaftsgeschichte des Altertums, i (London, 1938), 833, is of the opinion that the invasions never broke the continuity of mining activity in the Balkans.


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