Genoese Trade with Syria in the Twelfth Century
By Eugene H Byrne
The American Historical Review, Vol.25:2 (1920)
Introduction: The economic significance of the medieval Italian cities has received less attention from historians than it has deserved, perhaps because their political and artistic importance has been so striking. But the bonds of medievalism were material as well as spiritual. Life in the Middle Ages was freer and richer not only because the spiritual bonds were being shattered but because physically men were more comfortable; because the new tastes could the more easily be gratified through the possession of greater material means. In the increasing interchange of commodities throughout the Mediterranean that assisted so much in this transformation if the Middle Ages, Florence, Venice and Genoa played the dominant role. The first two, as centres of medieval civilization and trade, have justifiably received the greatest attention; with the Genoa failed to compete in any but the commercial field. The Genoese have not thought deeply nor built grandly. They never achieved the political coherence of Venice or the solid native industrial foundation of Florentine life. Yet in commercial and colonial exploitation no shore of the Mediterranean escaped Genoese influence, and in a large measure the peoples on its western shores for centuries were dependent on the Genoese merchants for most luxuries and many necessities. To the historian, moreover, Genoa should be particularly interesting, because the preservation of the archival records has been so nearly completed from the twelfth to the sixteenth century that the economic phenomena of the changing world can best be observed there in fine detail.