THE BYZANTINE REGIONAgriculture in General
In the Byzantine Region of the Middle Ages, the agricultural techniques were generally the same as those used in ancient Rome. The two-field rotation method of cultivation prevailed: one field was cultivated while the other left fallow, and this was alternated with each growing season. This procedure gave the soil rest, allowing for moisture and minerals to accumulate, such that the land would be able to support future crops. During the 10th century, livestock was very cheaply sold in this region, particularly in Sangarios, which is now Bulgaria. This province of Sangarios became the richest empire in cattle, and was famous for its cheese, pork, wool, and poultry. It was also the first to have bred sheep, swine, and oxen. During the 11th and 12th centuries, livestock was given the privilege of indoor maintenance in the forms of stalls and sties. Mule fertilizer gradually became more commonly used, and the percentage of cattle increased during this time period.
Tillage did not make use of the horse, for there was no such beast of burden in this region during the Middle Ages. Instead, human labour accomplished most of the tillage and ploughing that was necessary on the farmland. These labourers made use of tools such as plain or two-pronged matlocks and spades; hoes were also used in the vegetable gardens and vineyards. However, some Byzantine farmers preferred to use ploughs in order to help them till the raw land. The most common type of plough in use was that of the sole-ard, which had no wheels and served as a breaker for the top soil. It consisted of a stilt, a sole, which was a beam of hardwood set in a horizontal position, and a curved beam, which was connected to the sole by pegs. This plough was fitted with an iron-socketed plough-share, or cutting edge, increasing its effectiveness. These sole-ard ploughs were drawn by a pair of oxen. They were ideal in semi-arid zones, where light and frequent stirring of soils were greatly needed. Sickles, known as drepana, were used by labourers during the harvesting seasons. The grain was cut halfway up the stalk, so that only the ears were reaped, simply for the reason that straw was regarded more valuable as a fertilizer than as livestock feed. Another method used to thresh a large area of grain was the employment of an oxen-drawn implement: it consisted of a wooden board and pieces of flint or iron, which were embedded on the underside. Mills were used in order to grind the harvested grain and produce the flour needed for daily medieval life. These were often powered by water or beasts of burden, and even windmills were introduced to this region by the 13th century. Another interesting machine was one that prepared dough; this was powered by animal labour.
Types of Crops
The grain fields were the most important crops of the Byzantine region. Barley was the most common grain used to make bread; other grains used were wheat, millet, bran, and flax. Millet was grown mainly for the purpose of feeding livestock, as was oat and vetch, a weed-like plant. Another important crop in the vineyard was the grape vine, which was used to make wine. Orchards were grown which produced apples, peaches, pears, figs, walnuts, cherries, almonds, mulberries, pomegranates, chestnuts, and lemons. Olive trees were not grown in this region simply because they could not survive in such semi-arid areas. Farmers in this region also kept gardens that produced cabbage, onions, leeks, carrots, garlic, squash, melons, and cucumbers.
The Arab Green Revolution
This special Arab Green Revolution of cultivation occurred in the Byzantine period during the Middle Ages. A variety of new crops emerged, which were originally grown in tropical regions whose climates were characterized by heavy summer rains. Thus, a form of irrigation technique was needed to sustain these new products. The variety of soils during the revolution was much greater than ever before in the Byzantine region. Lands previously deemed unfit for agriculture were cultivated. The soil was dressed with different kinds of fertilizers and additives in order to correct natural deficiencies.
Types of Crops
The original crop triad, known as the classical triad, consisted of winter wheat, the grapevine, and the olive tree. This enriched food base was what allowed for the provisioning of dense urban populations in the Byzantine region during this revolution. Foreign products brought by the revolution were: the sour orange, banana, watermelon, artichoke, eggplant, citrus varieties, rice, and cotton; it might be surprising to note that several of these examples were of East Indian origin. The Arabs further introduced various yields, such as non-irrigated cereals, hard wheat-which was known for its durability in the storage room--, and sorghum-a summer rice crop. Furthermore, new varieties of crops were acclimated in this region through botanical gardens, during the 16th century; these gardens were left under the direction of agronomists, since they were so difficult to cultivate. One such crop was that of the sugar cane: it was cultivated in a wide strip of land extending from northern India to the Tigris Euphrates Valleys. By the 10th century, it was first grown, but only as animal fodder. The banana and the plantain originated from Southeast Asia, and the watermelon originated from Northwest India. Spinach came from central Asia; Colocasia was a tuber of Southeast Asia. The eggplant came from India, and cotton was also a fibre of Indian origin. During the Arab Green Revolution, The Maiaga was an important growing centre for fig trees. These figs were sold as far away as India and China. Alsharaf was the best known olive-growing region in the Byzantine. aljarate oil was imported throughout the East. Grape vines were widely grown in the region.
As wheat-growing Christians began to immigrate to Spain in the Byzantine region, they were not being replaced in their native country, and the agricultural balance shifted from dry farming to irrigation and agriculture. The single-rotation method prevailed.
Types of Crops
Eventually, the sorghum replaced the millet as the staple cereal grain used by the peasants. Arriving in the 11th century, its production has since then decreased. A grain, called herenales, was harvested green simply for livestock forage. Oats, which were rarely grown before the 10th century, experienced a dramatic increase in popularity. Fields of turnip were cultivated, a vegetable introduced during the late 13th century. Wheat was harvested in the summer, while the turnips were planted and harvested in the spring; barley and millet were also planted in the spring. This cycle was repeated every two years. In Calalonia, grape-wines invaded the hill countryside. During the 10th century, extensive terracing was practiced. Although the soil was quite acidic, these grapes were one of the most important crops in medieval life. Since the 7th century, free or state peasantry had become dominated by the Byzantine countryside. As a result, slave labour was restricted mostly to the pasture. Peasants separated large strips of land into different fields, called zeuglogia, and these were used collectively as a common arable field by a large farming community.
MEDITERRANEAN REGIONGeneral Information
The Mediterranean region consisted mainly of the Iberian peninsula, Midi, Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, and the Balearic Islands. The landscape was irregular: most of the soil was light and sandy. The summers in this region were hot and dry, since the rains were sparse; the winters were warm and humid. The abrupt autumn season resulted in the limitation of olive cultivation and, since the olive governed the boundary of the region, the expanse of the medieval Mediterranean region was limited. Most Mediterranean people consumed their fat energy from olive oil, a small amount of lard, and goat cheese.
The Roman plough was used in this region, as were common agronomical procedures and principles. The deep-share ard plough, which evolved from the digging stick, was used in Portugal, Galicia, Morocco, Algeria, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, and Midi. On the other hand, the crook plough, which did not cultivate soil as deeply, was utilized on drier soils. These soils were located in Spain, Tunisia, the Moroccan Rif, and Majorca. Another tool used in this region was the pitchfork or the forquier.
The Arab Green Revolution
During the early Middle Ages, the Arab Green Revolution also occurred in the Mediterranean, resulting in the introduction of new crops and an intensified practice of irrigation. In Islamic areas, such as central and northern Italy, and southern France, it ensured that areas of agricultural practice would be inevitably united by the end of the Middle Ages.
Distinctive characteristics can be found of the types of techniques used during this revolution. Examples of such labour-intensive techniques were: irrigation-a supplementary technique since it was not dependent on summer crops--terracing, more complex rotations, and horticultural methods-which were used in areas of extensive dry-farming. The Roman biennial rotational method was practiced, which used an intense technique in spite of the low yield. The Castilian triennial rotational method allowed one course of wheat to be followed by two courses which were left fallow. This method was particularly effective in the arid summer season. Polyculture was also exercised in this region when fruit trees were interplanted with grapevines, vegetables, or cereal grains; this served as a means of intensifying their agricultural worth due to habitually low yields. In Portugal, the wheeled plough was used as an agricultural technique; rye was also cultivated in this region. In the Northwest, extensive arboriculture and pastures with irrigation were highly important. By the 13th century, shepherding became a dominant form of agriculture. However, of all the techniques used during the Arab Green revolution, the most distinguishing was the practice of variegated planting methods. Although this intercultivation technique was inherited from the ancient Romans, the Arabs of this revolution encouraged the introduction of a longer roster of irrigated summer crops and the utilization of a wider variety of soil types.
Types of Crops
The central Mediterranean area was reserved for the cultivation of cereal grains. However, in Italy, there was a great variety of winter grains; these compensated for the lack of spring planting. The apple tree was the most popular fruit in the Basque country. In Valencia, oranges were grown for ornamental use, as were lemons, limes, sorghum, rice, carob bean, and figs. Pears, cherries, peaches, plums-these were all also widely grown, as was the staple fodder. After the conquest of Toledo, in 1085, olive production had decreased until the 14th century, simply due to the fact that the new settlers were unaccustomed to the cultivation of this crop. Fruit trees were also grown intercultivated with vines in wine country, since they were able to serve as vineyard borders. Vegetable gardens were also evident, which were irrigated by hydraulic wheels. Rice and sugar cane appeared near the end of this revolution.
NORTHERN EUROPEAgriculture in General
In the Northern European region, the great rolling plains extended from the Atlantic ocean deep into the Soviet Union. In contrast to the Mediterranean region, the summer rains were frequent, and thus soils rich in clay were produced. Fields in this region were square in shape, and suited for chalky, upland soils and climates. One agricultural technique, called cross-ploughing, was utilized in this region due to the aridity of the soil in this region: it preserved the moisture below the surface, and fertilized the land by capillary attractions that drew up minerals from the subsoil. However, the three field rotation system, was the most common technique practiced in this region. This technique proved to be effective in areas which received adequate summer rains, and was completed biannually. During the first year, the first field was left fallow, while the second was planted with grain in late autumn; this was harvested in the following summer, while the third field was planted with oats, barley, peas, and broad beans in the following spring; finally, the last field was harvested in the following autumn. During the second year, the fallow field was planted with winter crops, the field previously planted with winter crops would be planted with summer crops, and the field previously planted with summer crops would remain fallow. Many new villages converted to the three field rotation system when they realized all the benefits. It increased the production of legumes, improved soil fertility, and it provided a better diet for lower class peasants. In addition, it reduced the risks of crop failure, since the planting and harvesting was divided into two seasons, it distributed the ploughing labour more evenly, and it enabled a group of peasants to cultivate considerably more land with the same amount of labour, as opposed to using the two-field rotation method.
The heavy plough was first invented in the near East. Originating from a digging stick drawn by two oxen, it stirred soil and created furrows. Since the rainfall was quite frequent in northern Europe, there grew an importance in the need to drain the soil rather than to retain the water. By cutting deep into the earth with a plough, in order to turn the lower layers of dirt, fields began to be refreshed. A larger, heavier plough was required to accomplish this task: it required wheels for better mobility, and two extra oxen to pull it. There were advantages with such a heavy plough: the iron blade was vertically fixed beneath the plough beam, allowing an accurate line of furrow to have been carved; a flat iron share was set horizontally to undercut the soil at the desired level; finally, a wooden moldboard scooped and turned over the ribbon of sod. This new plough was able to cultivate a richer, slicker, bottomland soil, thus making cross-ploughing unnecessary. The rapid harrowing exercised by this technique broke up the larger clods while covering the seeds. Since it took so much time to turn such a big team of oxen around, the field eventually acquired the shape of a long strip. Although this plough cost much greater than the lighter plough, the disadvantages were far outweighed by the advantages. The scythe was symbolic of the harvest of the growth because it could cut the stalk with ease, and was less likely able to shatter the grain head into pieces. This tool indicated that the peasants had a strong interest in working the meadows and fields, and that they were concerned with feeding their livestock in the winter. The introduction of the oat grain in Northern Europe was essential, because it enabled the peasants to replace the ox with the domesticated horse as the chief draft animal on the field. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the horse was generally used as an animal for battles or for sports, because the yoke harness was entirely unsuited to their external anatomy. Once this animal was recognized for its efficiency and speed, 800 new forms of horse harnesses began to appear in Europe; these harnesses were composed of breast straps and rigid collars. Peasants realized that the horse was four to five times stronger than the ox; by the 9th century, horseshoes appeared, which greatly increased their staying power. Although the oats were expensive, the horse was able to work for longer hours. By 1095, plough horses became so common that Pope Urban II placed these horses under the peace of God.
Diet of the Region
The Northern European diet consisted mainly of carbohydrates and cereals, such as wheat, rye, oats, barley, and buckwheat. These grains were used in breads, porridges, dumplings, and beer. The spread of water-powered mills shifted the diet from porridges to bread. In times of famine, the people ate beech nuts, acorns, and staple vegetable proteins, like peas and broad beans. The pig was an important discovery during the Middle Ages. It could produce two liters of seven piglets every year at the least. Unlike other livestock, the pig grew quickly and was able to range the surrounding forests by eating the acorns and beech-nuts. Another domestication was the free-range, omnivorous chicken. Finally, the rabbit was also another source of meat in Northern Europe. This was the most recently added animal to the "to be eaten" list for the middle Ages, and was first mentioned in cookbooks at around 1186. The meat itself was quite meaty for such a small animal, and the fur was very useful. However, rabbits were particularly special: they used internal bacteria to turn the grass they ate into a high-protein excretion, which they then consumed for their own benefit. Thus, even the poorest peasant could gather weeds to feed his rabbits; they did not require much maintenance. In conjunction with the domestication of the rabbit, the ferret was introduced, who chased the rabbits out of their warrens and into the waiting nets. The ferret no longer exists in its wild form. Cheese was a major source of protein and fat in Northern Europe; it was often used to pay food taxes. Many sorts shipped quite well, and ended up being used as items of commerce. Each peasant house boasted a garden, which was totally owned and laboured on by the peasants. Scattered fruit trees and orchards were also evident in these gardens. Some vegetables grown during the Middle Ages included the kohlrabi; cauliflower, which originated from the Muslims; Brussels sprouts, which came from Flanders; spinach, native of Islamic Spain; and romaine lettuce. During the 14th century, carrots arrived from Afghanistan. However, these were an unpleasant purple-yellowish in colour, and they only became the standard orange vegetable we know in Netherlands, during the 17th century. Celery was used as a spice and a medicine. Again, the fleshy version of the vegetable with which we are familiar emerged only in the 19th century.
THE SLAVIC REGION
Agriculture in General
Agriculture played a central role in the lives of the whole Slavic Region. The West Slavs was a group of people consisting of Poles, Czechs, and Slovaks. For them, in particular, the harvest was a major event. West Slavs used primitive farming implements and techniques: their hook-plow barely created furrows in the topsoil, while their slash-and-burn technique for clearing forests was quite brutal. When the Slavs became Christian, German colonists began to arrive at around the 12th century, and German immigrants flooded to Poland and Bohemia during the first half of the 15th century. This allowed for the many positive contributions to agriculture experienced in this region; it brought superior farming implements, such as the heavy-plough, and water-driven mills. From the Germans, the Slavs learned to drain marshes, build dams, and eventually adopt the three-field rotation system of tillage. As a result, new markets, towns, and cities sprung up along the countryside. The slash-and-burn technique required one to chop down a large number of trees, and allow them to dry. Underbrush was then added, and the wood set on fire so that it would burn clear off the field. Sometimes, trees were killed ahead of time by stripping the bark around the trunk. This technique was used to clear fields and raise crops, providing an ash-covered surface which was ideal for the planting of seeds. After the first year of crop burning, an excellent yield was produced; however, so little was produced after the second or third clears, that the field had to be abandoned after two to three years. Before slash-and-burn could be used in the area again, new trees had to grow; it was a laborious and wasteful technique. Improved harnesses and connecting gear allowed the Slavs to gain more control over the livestock as draft animals. Ash was used as an early fertilizer. Organic fertilizer was used as well, which often consisted of a mixture between straw and manure. By the late Middle Ages, all Slavs eventually discovered the value of using organic fertilizers through the observance of their own animal enclosures. As more animals were being raised, more natural fertilizer was available.
Among the West Slavs, an evolution of tillage methods was apparent. First of all, pointed sticks and hoes were used by the people to loosen the topsoil. Secondly, wooden furrowing sticks were introduced, which dug out longed rows. The third step marked the development of the wooden scratch plough, which was pulled by either a labourer or a beast of burden. Next, ploughs with metal tips were employed during the 7th and 8th centuries. Finally, some form of crop-rotation emerged after the 10th century, and the slash-and-burn technique disappeared. To accomplish the three-field rotational system, the chief tools that were in use were the light and heavy ploughs. The heavy plough was generally used during the 12th century, originating in Germany. Drawn by two or more oxen, it dramatically increased the production of the field. The two front wheels aided with the furrowing, making it easier for the plowshare to pass through the soil. Attached to the
Diet of the Region
The milleti grain was an oriental contribution. Wheat and Barley came from East Asia and north Africa, respectively. Oats and rye arrived from Persia and Asia Minor. Finally, in Buckuneat, legumes, flax, and hemp . The Slavs were famous for their honey and wax, which were obtained from the forest or from raised bees in tree-trunk hives. In Rome, during the 11th and 12th centuries, fruit growing was organized in this region, and the need for wine in Christian liturgy led to the planting of vineyards in the East. The Slavs fished and hunted using traps, bows, and arrows; they raised livestock and practiced falconry, which was an aristocratic past-time originating in the Orient. Even sheep raising had risen to the point when wool trading was able to dominate grain cultivation in certain areas of the region.
Agriculture in General
The South Slavs was a group of people consisting of the Yugoslavs and the Bulgarians. They also engaged in the slash-and-burn tillage technique at the beginning of the Middle Ages. However, they, too, began to make the transition towards ploughs and ironshares during the 8th and 9th centuries. By the 10th century, the light plough was in use; it even developed a foot to dig up and remove the sod during tilliage. The farming conditions were far from ideal. Many areas either had poor soil, or lacked sufficient rainfall. There were years of drought, years of flood, and years of frost. On top of this, swarms of locusts periodically ravaged the land.
Diet of the Region
Although they adopted the fruit cultivation from the Germans in the 11th and 12th centuries, the South Slavs also began planting vineyards in order to meet the Lithurgical needs as early as the 8th and 9th centuries. .
Agriculture in General
The East Slavs were a group of people consisting of the Ukrainians, the White Russians, and the Great Russians. They lived in settled farming communities, and tended fields with definite boundaries and enclosures. Farming, hunting, fishing, and forestry were among the major strengths of this region. Farming was undeniably primitive in both tools and methods of tillage. The most primitive technique for farming took place in the northern area of the region, where the population was relatively sparse and the temperature was often frigid.
A sandy loamy soil was not as fit for agriculture; in addition, much of the land in the North remained as forest. Thus, the slash-and-burn technique was widely used here. In any case, by the 10th century, pre-plough agriculture gave way to ploughing agriculture, which required the use of horses and oxen. Crops grown in this area of the Slavic Region might include: Millet, wheat, vetch, various beans, and peas. Grain was harvested by sickles, then ground up by manually operated mills. Forests served as homes for many game: it was full of elk, bear, and hare. Rivers and lakes brimmed with fish, while the breeding of livestock played a large role in the economy of the Middle Ages.
The two-field rotation system, of which each field lay fallow in alternate years, prevailed in this area of the Slavic Region. By the 15th century, the three-field rotation system came into practice, as well as the use of natural fertilizer. Eventually, tools such as the hoe, light, and heavy ploughs were utilized. Unfortunately, many small farmers could afford neither the heavy plough, nor the horse, nor the oxen. However, sickles and scythes were widely used, and by the 12th century, water mills appeared. Farmers in this area raised a variety of field crops: oats, wheat, millet, rye, buckwheat, five types of flax, poppies, and hemp.