Pirenne, Henri: The Expansion of Islam in the Mediterranean Basin [2]

The letters of Saint Boniface tell us that the Anglo-Saxons travelled to Rome overland instead of by way of Marseilles, which necessitated the crossing of the Alps. And in the 9th century the monk Bernard, proceeding to Alexandria, sailed from Tarento.(46)

Not only is it impossible to find a single text which mentions the continued presence of Syrian or Oriental merchants, but we shall discover that from the 8th century onwards all the products which they used to import were no longer to be found in Gaul; and this argument is unanswerable.(47)

Papyrus was the first to disappear. All the works written in the West on papyrus of which we have knowledge are of the 6th or the 7th century. Until 659-677 nothing but papyrus was used in the royal Merovingian chancellery. Then parchment made its appearance.(48) A few private documents were still written on papyrus, doubtless obtained from old stocks of this material, until nearly the end of the 8th century. There is no sign of it after that. And the explanation cannot be that it was no longer manufactured, for this supposition is disproved by the beautiful papyrus documents of the 7th century in the Arab Museum of Cairo. The disappearance of papyrus in Gaul can only have been due to the fact that commerce first declined and then ceased. Parchment does not seem to have been widely used at first. Gregory of Tours, who calls it memirana, mentions it only once,(49) and seems to indicate that it was manufactured by the monks for their own use. Now, we know that the habits of a chancellery are extremely tenacious. If at the close of the 7th century the royal offices had ceased to make use of papyrus it was because it was becoming very difficult to obtain any.

Papyrus was still used to some extent in Italy. The Popes employed it for the last time in 1057. Are we to suppose, with Breslau, that they were using up old stocks» Did it come from Sicily, where the Arabs introduced its manufacture in the l0th century? As a matter of fact, it has been disputed that it came from Sicily. It seems to me that it was probably obtained through the trade of the Byzantine ports: Naples, Amalfi, Gaeta, and Venice.

But as regards Gaul, it was no longer procurable.

Mention of spices, like that of papyrus, disappears from the texts after 716.(50)

The statutes of Adalhard of Corbie mention only pulmentaria, which was a kind of vegetable soup.(51)

Actually spices must have disappeared at the same time as papyrus, since they came in the same vessels.

Let us glance through the capitularies. Actually only those spices and exotic products are mentioned which could be cultivated in the villae,(52) such as madder, cummin and almonds.(53) But there is not a single reference to pepper, cloves (cariofilo), nard (spico), cinnamon, dates or pistachios.

The Carolingian tractoriae mention, among the foodstuffs which were served to functionaries on their travels, bread, pork, fowls, eggs, salt, herbs, vegetables, fish, and cheese, but not a single kind of spice.(54)

Similarly, the tractoria “de conjecta missis dando”(55) of 829 enumerates as provisions to be furnished to the missi, 40 loaves, pork or lamb, 4 fowls, 20 eggs, 8 setiers of wine, 2 measures of beer, 2 measures of wheat. It is a rustic menu.

The Capitula episcoporum(56) of 843-850 allow for the bishops, when they travel from place to place, 100 loaves, pork, 50 setiers of wine, 10 fowls, 50 eggs, 1 lamb, 1 porker, 6 measures of oats for the horses, 3 cartloads of hay, honey, oil and wax. But in all this list there is no mention of condiments.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

You may also like...