Dr. Pamela Armstrong, Senior Research Fellow at Campion Hall, has been given an award from the Venetian Research Programme of the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation to work on Merchants of Venice at Thebes and Euripos. She will spend a month in Venice studying and recording a series of unpublished trading contracts, commenda, drawn up between Venetian merchants and landowners in Greece from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, preserved in the Archivio di Stato in Venice. The contracts contain many types of information that span a range of historical fields, from minutiae of the lives of individuals, through prices and quantities of commodities that were being dealt, to logistics of transport. When set against the wider historical circumstances in which the Venetian merchants were operating they provide an important source of the details of everyday life that are missing from political histories, and the building blocks for a new understanding of the structures of trade operating in those centuries.
Venetians began to trade in silk produced in the Greek city of Thebes from the middle of the eleventh century; within a few decades a major ceramic manufactory had been established at the nearby port of Euripos; at the beginning of the twelfth century amphora production began at Euripos for the export of local wine. Significant archaeological evidence has come to light in the past few years which suggests that the operations of the Venetian merchants at Thebes went far beyond simply buying and selling commodities, so that they were involved in instigating developments of the infrastructure that made possible the mechanics of packaging and transporting the traded goods.
The aim of the study is to collect information available in the commenda about Venetian activities in Thebes in the context of the production and export of ceramics and wine from Euripos as money-generating cargoes supplementary to the primary export commodity, silk.