Byzantine Empire Daily Life
Daily life in the Byzantine Empire, like almost everywhere else before or since, largely depended on one’s birth and the social circumstances of one’s parents. There were some opportunities for advancement based on education, the accumulation of wealth, and gaining favour from a more powerful sponsor or mentor. Work, in order to produce or buy food, was most people’s preoccupation, but there were many possibilities for entertainment ranging from shopping at fairs held at religious festivals to chariot races and acrobat performances in the public arenas most towns provided for their inhabitants.
As in most other ancient cultures, the family one was born into in Byzantium greatly determined one’s social status and profession in adult life. There were two broad groups of citizens: the honestiores (the “privileged”) and the humiliores (the “humble”), that is, the rich, privileged, and titled as opposed to everyone else. Legal punishments were more lenient for the honestiores, in most cases being composed of fines rather than corporal punishment. Flogging and mutilation, most commonly having one’s nose cut off, were common forms of punishment for such crimes as adultery and the rape of a nun. For crimes such as murder and treason, no social distinction was made with the death penalty for all. Below the two broad groups mentioned above were the slaves who were acquired in markets and through warfare.
Life expectancy was low by modern standards, anyone who got past 40 years of age was doing better than average.
Family names became increasingly descriptive of a person’s profession or geographical location, for example, Paphlagonitis for people from Paphlagonia or Keroularios the “candle-maker”. Life expectancy was low by modern standards, anyone who got past 40 years of age was doing better than average. Wars occurred roughly once every generation while diseases were rife and ever-present. The primitive medicine was often as dangerous as the illness it sought to cure, too.
Credit : Mark Cartwright for www.ancient.eu