A way to find out is to focus our research into the buying power of the coin in question during the era it was minted. However this is not always easy, simply due to lack of available and specialised historical information. It is much simpler to start with an investigation into the overall characteristics of the society the coin represents. That of course will be fairly generic and it may span several centuries, but as most of us are not scholars with access to academic sources, it can't be really helped. The culture I want to present to you today is the Byzantine one, and another inspiration to this was an earlier thread from @furryfrog02 who kindly received a free old issue of National Geographic along with a coin he ordered. That issue was a Byzantine Empire special, and as soon as it came to my attention I knew I had to get it. Luckily, NG is a popular magazine and I had no trouble at all locating a copy at a very reasonable price. A few days later, it arrived in my mailbox: The article inside was fascinating and very interesting as it drew my attention to those aspects of every day existence that we sometimes forget about. I felt quite driven to research it further and to my surprise I came to ascertain that the Byzantine community was very interesting even after putting military affairs and scheming emperors aside. I would like to share some of those aspects with you, but before I even start doing that, I probably need to briefly explain what the Byzantine empire was for those yet unfamiliar with it. In a nutshell, it was the continuation of the eastern part of the Roman empire. As many of us are aware, it was originally partitioned into west and east in the year 285 AD by emperor Diocletian for administrative purposes, making Constantinople the capital of the east. The partition was roughly based along ethnic and linguistic criteria, as the west comprised mostly of the Latin speaking world whereas the east was mostly Greek. When Rome fell in 476 AD, the eastern part survived and flourished for another 1000 years, and that civilisation is what is known today as the 'Byzantine Empire'. Its Greek nature forced Historians to come up with the term 'Byzantine' in order to distinguish it from the earlier Roman empire which to them was a very different beast. It wasn't that different to begin with, though. It was a gradual shift, rather than a sudden one. Roman administrative practices were dominant in the early days and were only slowly phased out as the centuries passed. It wasn't until the 7-8th century when most people (including the ones at the top) could not read a word of Latin, that you can safely say that Byzantium had fully transformed into a Greek-Orthodox Christian world. Despite that, many elements of Roman structure survived till the very end of the empire in 1453 when Constantinople fell to the Turks. It was actually this mixture of Roman organisation, Greek education/culture, combined together by Christian morals and ideology, that created an entity strong and cohesive enough to survive for a thousand years after the fall of Rome. You see the Byzantine empire was never about conquest or military might, and its wars were mostly defensive or about re-capturing lost territory. The Byzantine army never enjoyed large numbers and it often relied on the clever use of technology and foreign mercenaries. It was the strength of Byzantine economy and society that kept it strong for so many years, which is the main theme of this write-up. Because of such strong foundations the empire managed to survive its fair share of bad emperors who embezzled, fornicated, drunk, and took advantage of their position rather than use it to promote and support the interests of the state. General economy and taxation The best way to go about this is to focus on each aspect separately. The most important one would always be the economy, as a successful one is really a pre-requisite for every other one to flourish and develop. As in most ancient economies, the biggest sectors were agriculture and trade which makes sense considering the vast and diverse territories within the Byzantine domain. What made a big difference though is the way it was structured and combined together in order to transform grain into gold. Location, location, location is the principal motto of modern-day realtors, but it is also very useful into turning your produce into a commercial commodity, and the Byzantines were lucky enough to control key parts of the Mediterranean and the fertile lands surrounding it. The Anatolian peninsula in particular was of the outmost importance, and the most productive of them all. The economy was strongest during the periods where this area was peaceful and Byzantine, and it struggled when the Arabs and Turks started making their presence and territorial ambitions known, interrupting both production and the long established trade routes that reached all the way to China. Cereal crops, fruits, wine, olives and its oil, were the Byzantine farmer's specialty, something that had barely changed since the times of the ancient Greek city-states. It is interesting to note that even though there were large estates controlled by the rich few (with the locals being tenants to the land they cultivated), there was also the 'village' system which was effectively corporations of small free-holders that owned their land and employed either slave or immigrant labour. (Slavery fell out of favour after the 7th century under pressure from the church, and it comprised of prisoners of war anyway) The central government profited from both systems through taxation, and in return was responsible for organising the flow of commerce and setting up the standards. The Byzantines were among the first to establish tightly regulated guilds, controlled prices and rent, standardised weights and measures, and even hold regular inspections to ensure traders and merchandise adhered to those trading and quality standards. For many centuries there was a harmonious relationship between the various classes involved in the running of the economy. Farmers, merchants, suppliers, manufactures and all the administrators in-between helped to run a very tight ship. There was no shame into being a trader or manufacturer, but pride and acknowledgement of usefulness. While most western Europe bartered, banking, insurance and credit was developed in the east with fixed ceiling for interest rates ( 8% during Justinian's times - 12% for maritime as there was increased risk involved). And even though there was a fair amount of corruption, a benefits system based on merit was introduced, and officials and judges were paid regular salaries in order to to deter bribery. Some people say that the Byzantine society was somewhat too bureaucratical, but that was to the direct benefit of the common people, as there were things like housing codes and planning standards (for example you were not allowed to build anything closer than 10 feet to adjacent property). Many of these marvellous bureaucratic practices are described in detail in the 'Book of the Prefect' (Τὸ ἐπαρχικὸν βιβλίον) which was a commercial manual written under Leo VI the Wise... End of Part 1 - To be continued on a later date... This Byzantine write-up is too generic and it is going to get long... I decided to do it in parts and update this thread with the latest ones every time I get new Byzantine coppers/bronzes. It is a bit ambitious, but just innocent fun really... Feel free to add coins or anything relevant till then. Let's get the Byzantine discussion going!