21 January 2013

Squeezing the serfs

paroikoi -- serfs -- on all those church lands, and most of the other land in the Morea, were obligated to the landholder for a certain number of days of work (γγαρεῖαι, angarias) each year, in addition to assorted taxes and percentages of produce -- oil, grain, wine. There is no information about angarias in the Byzantine Morea, and very little for the small Venetian territories, but there are indications that the obligations were similar. One writer has found variations of 12, 24, and 52 annual days of labor in other parts of the late empire. Where angarias are mentioned, the details are usually taken for granted, but obligations included gathering straw for the governor's horses and firewood for the governor's residence, a contribution of five pounds of wax annually, repair work on fortification walls or the roads, rowing on the local galley, and guard duty.

In extraordinary circumstances military duty was an
angaria, such as the time Bartolomeo Minio called up all the men in Nauplion territory and supplied them with weapons in anticipation of an Ottoman attack. (This was during the harvest season, when meant that the next year's tax revenues were lower because of crop losses.) At another exceptional time Minio needed an angaria of the paroikoi, their boats, and their mules for an elaborate
construction project for the lower city walls which required bringing in lime for mortar, and boat-bridges so work could be done from the water side.  He wrote, "And I myself worked with them."  The Naupliots remembered this, and it was recorded in a chronicle that Minio had built the lower city and had worked in person with the Greeks.

During the first half of the fifteenth century, we can see the Venetian cities shifting from day-labor to cash angarias, and at times suppressing them because of labor disappearing from the territory. In 1414 Koroni changed the angaria owed from one day a week, to one day a month, supplying the paroikoi a guard against the Turks when they went out to get lime for construction, but in 1439, because of losses to plague new angarias were imposed. Angarias in Methoni and Koroni (which sometimes differed from each other) differed somewhat from those in Nauplion-Argos, and from those among the Venetian island holdings and there were attempts at rationalization. Special groups, especially much-needed new settlers, might be exempted for a period -- new settlers in Argos in the late 1390s were to be free of angarias for five years and were given their land -- and in one case Tinos and Mykonos were exempted from all angarias because the islands were so much more fertile than expected.

Sometimes paroikoi could get away with non-performance of their angarias. In 1456 Methoni was trying to demand angarias from their paroikoi, a situation that had apparently been been going on for twenty years. But then, there were so many raids from the Despotate on the paroikoi and their farms that the area had become depopulated, and Methoni was always on the edge of a food crisis.  Over and over, paroikoi in Venetian territories made demands for lighter angarias, and Venice often made pragmatic arrangements, such as requiring day-labor or the loan of farm animals, but not both at the same time, or, a requirement for less straw since one governor had fewer horses than the previous. Nauplion allowed paroikoi to make use of the town boat to bring in required firewood, but when they protested having to carry the wood up to Akro-Nauplion from the port on foot and asked to be able to borrow animals, they were told to continue the way they had been doing it.

The surviving documents that record the lands in the Morea held by Nicholas Acciaiuoli (d. 1365) and his family give a dense view of the paroikoi and their obligations. The Acciaiuoli had allegiance to the court of Naples, and it is not easy to know the extent to which these represent Neopolitan custom or if they are consonant with Byzantine.  I think one has to assume there is not too much difference from the Byzantine, if only because paroikoi could always disappear and go to another rule.

What comes immediately clear is that a great many of the obligations were paid in cash, meaning that the paroikoi had not only the burden of labor, but of marketing their produce for coin.  The Morea is notoriously short of coin finds in the archaeological record for the medieval period, and the lists of obligations suggests that they used a mixture of coins: the ones mentioned here are hyperpera (more likely to have been an accounting value rather than a coin) and sterlings, or deniers. (I have a sterling, a small silver coin of the period, from Apulia.) Other coins are Frankish tornesi and Venetian soldini.

Here are some of the paroikoi in the area of Clarenza. The first two numbers have to do with land rent and produce, the last is for angaria:

* Theodosios Politis - 2 hyperpera, 8 1/2 sterlings, & 5 hyperpera
* Basileos Presbyteropoulos -- 1 hyperper, 3 4/10 sterlings, & 5 hyperpera * Christos Raptopoulos -- 2 hyperpera, 3 1/2 sterlings, & 5 hyperpera
* Potheka, widow of Constantinos Raptopoulos -- 2 hyperpera 3 1/2 sterlings, & 5 hyperpera

In that list of 26 names -- most names came with a family -- each family unit was obligated for 5 hyperpera annually as angaria, and on another list, some were obligated for 2 1/2 hyperpera.  I do not know what 2 1/2 or 5 hyperpera would have meant in real life, in purchase terms, but occasionally an alternative is shown, so that when someone owes 2 pounds of wax
,1 the value is shown as 10 sterlings, 3 pounds of wax are 15 sterlings, and 5 pounds are 1 1/2 hyperpera. Another who owes 6 pounds is given the same equivalent of 1 1/2 hyperpera. Johannes de Bon owes, annually, one container for wax, at a value of 15 sterlings, while Stephanos Mavros owes for his garden in Andravida a wax containter to the value of 4 sterlings: others just owe wax containers, no value specified.

Freddy Thiriet gives some monetary equivalents. 1 hyperper = 24 soldini/deniers/sterlings = 1/2 ducat1 soldo = 4 tornesi/toneselli

We do not know the form of bee hive.  A print from the late 17th century offers a different model from the manuscript picture above.

Other lists indicate a variety of obligations, though there is not enough information to know the differences in the land holdings. A few individuals have immunity from obligations.  A few other obligations:
* Demetrios Kobotos -_ 1 hyperper, 12 1/2 sterlings, 1 chicken & 10 eggs.

* Georgio de Blasio -- 1 1/2 hyperpera, 1 chicken & 30 eggs.
* Johannes Romaza - 1 hyperper, 1 pound wax, 3 chickens & 100 eggs.
Constanta Pellekanos and Nikolaos Anastasopoulos were also obligated for chickens and 100 eggs each. Other individuals owed 40 eggs, or 76, and quite a few owe 10 pigeons.

Zacconi (a Tzakonian?) was an archer and so was obligated to serve with his arms.

Much more could be said about these Acciaiuoli documents.  There will be another entry later.

 1Observation of our own beehive demonstrated that one large beehive produces five pounds of wax a year.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I will not publish Anonymous comments.