Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition

March 14–July 8, 2012


Trade routes extended throughout Byzantium's southern provinces carrying rare goods and daily necessities throughout the region and across the Mediterranean. Silks and spices from the Far East, thought to be the last lands before Paradise, traveled up the Red Sea past Mecca and Medina to Alexandria, with its world-famous lighthouse, and then north by land and sea to Constantinople. Textiles were produced throughout the southern provinces, with silk being the luxury good of the era. Egyptian wheat was sent to feed the poor of Constantinople. To ensure fair trade and the payment of taxes, the Byzantine Empire and subsequent Islamic states established standard weights and measures. Byzantine coinage, with its figurative imagery, set the standard for the world to such an extent that the initial efforts by the new rulers of the region, the Umayyads, to establish a new system of coinage were rejected by the local population. Subsequently, Muslim coins, with their standard weights and handsome calligraphic inscriptions, were widely accepted.