About the Webinar: 

Currently, there is no detailed study of the commercial relations between Byzantium and the Near East in the central Middle Ages, an astounding fact when one considers the enormous wealth, high population and extensive urbanization in these two worlds as well as the size and complexity of the Byzantine and Islamic markets. Primary sources written in Medieval Greek and Arabic attest to intensive commercial exchanges between the Byzantines and the Abbasid and post-Abbasid polities from the ninth to the eleventh centuries. The purpose of this talk is to discuss the commodities exchanged, the merchants who traded them, and the routes that these merchants used to travel within a framework organized by political structures. A special emphasis will be on the eastern land frontier of Byzantium extending from Trebizond in the Pontos to the Cilician plains on the Mediterranean. The participants will be invited to a journey through the stalls of exotic spices in Constantinople brought all the way from the Indian Ocean as well as the textile shops in Baghdad filled with Byzantine linen.


About the Speaker:


Koray Durak is Associate Professor in the Department of History at Bogazici University and Vice-director of the Byzantine Studies Research Center in Istanbul. Since 2008, he has been teaching courses on the history of the medieval Mediterranean region, Byzantine history, and the history of Byzantine Constantinople. His main areas of research interest include Byzantine and medieval Islamic trade and networks of exchange, historical geography, and geographical imagination in the Middle Ages. Among his publications on geographical imagination is an article on the contemporary use of archaizing terms in Byzantine literature in Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik (May 2009), and another one on the Definition of Bilād al-Rūm (Land of the Romans) in Medieval Islamic Geographies in the Journal of Intercultural Studies (June 2010). Among his works on economic history are “Commercial Constantinople” in Cambridge Companion to Constantinople in 2021 and “The Economic and Commercial History of Trebizond and the Pontos Region from the Seventh to the Eleventh Centuries” to be published in the Mediterranean Historical Review. He is currently working on a monograph on exchanges and communications between Byzantines and Islamic Near Easterners in the early Middle Ages.