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Constantinople : The Great Crossroads

Strange as it may seem the collapse of the Western Empire had immediate beneficial effects on the Eastern Empire. For centuries the wealthy east had been supporting the poor west but after 476 the situation changed dramatically and the Eastern Roman Empire could keep all its riches to itself. But why was the Eastern Roman Empire (which we shall now call the Byzantine Empire) so rich? If you look at the map below you can see that Constantinople was at the centre of four major trade routes:

Constantinople: The Great Crossroads

 

Explanation of the map

  • to the north lay the Black Sea and what we would now call Russia and the Ukraine. From here came products such as iron, timber and animal furs (especially the very valuable sable).

  • to the west lay the rest of Europe from which Byzantium obtained cereals, wine, flax (to make linen) and animal hides to make leather.

  • to the south lay Africa and especially Egypt. The Nile valley still produced enormous quantities of food as it had done in pharaonic times. It also supplied gold and copper and precious ivory from more southern regions.

  • to the east lay the most important trade route of all. From Arabia came valuable perfumes, from Persia expensive carpets, from India spices and precious stones (especially rubies and emeralds) and from China came silk.

 

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