An Economic History of Italy: From the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century

By Gino Luzzatto; Philip Jones | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Beginnings of Revival in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries

1. THE CITIES OF BYZANTINE ITALY: RAVENNA, ROME, BARI, AMALFI

AMONG the causes of change in the social and economic order of the countryside, some of which as we shall see were purely internal, was the steady growth of trading connexions with the East by way of Byzantine Italy. Both the provinces which were still occupied by the Greeks and those which had passed since the time of Pepin under the nominal if ineffective rule of the papacy had certainly suffered the same desolation and depopulation as the rest of Italy; but society had not yet surrendered to the feudal system, at least in the south and islands, where feudal institutions were only introduced by the Normans in the eleventh century, and in Sardinia by the Aragonese in the fourteenth.

It was not so much the forms of rural organization, however, which differentiated the papal and Byzantine regions from other parts of Italy, as the precocious development of the towns, especially those near the coasts. Ravenna, it is true, had declined since the days when it served as the capital of the western Empire, and then of Gothic and Byzantine Italy. The brief but calamitous Lombard occupation under Liutprand was followed almost immediately by annexation to the Papal States, which detached the city from Byzantium and deprived it of its status as a capital. Even so Ravenna preserved something of its prosperous past. It was still the seat of one of the richest and most powerful bishops in Italy, and was still the home of numerous negotiatores and of various categories of artisans, some

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