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Medieval and Byzantine History Medieval and Byzantine History Forum - Period of History between classical antiquity and modern times, roughly the 5th through 16th Centuries


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Old December 8th, 2017, 02:52 PM   #11
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Those population figures are monumentally over inflated. 350,000 people is almost closer to the population of all Sicily circa 1000ad than it is to the population of 11th Palermo, which reasonable higher estimates place at around 100-150,000 before the Norman conquest and 80-100,000 after. Regarding Cordoba, the city likely had a population of some 225,000-300,000 people at the turn of the millennium, which is still, when the goal of the estimate isn't to make up for feelings of inadequacy to Rome, positively huge by any pre-modern, let alone medieval, standard.

Remember that cities weren't, and aren't, just abstract numbers that increased or decreased in proportion to the sophistication of a civilization, they were organic collections of people that only grew, or even sustained their current population, if there existed both the means and incentives to do so. Cordoba reached the peak population outlined above because there were enough jobs, there was enough food, enough water, and enough of an incentive for peasants to emigrate from the countryside that, despite disease and the occasional crop failure, it was able to sustainably function at that exceptional level. The city, like its rough equals in population Alexandria, Antioch, Cairo, and high medieval Paris, reached these heights in large part because of the creation of jobs, expansion and concentration of the patrician class, and influx of food from the countryside brought about by its status as the long-term capital of a great power.

What it did not have, on the other hand, is any special draw or crutch that put it on the level of Rome or Xi'an. There was no reason for the population of Hellenistic Alexandria to be 2 or 3 hundred thousand after 3 centuries of being the unmolested capital of a great kingdom but the population of Cordoba to be double or triple that, let alone 1,000,000, after only 2, meaning it almost certainly wasn't.
I am curious if there are census data like the Roman or Chinese records, or are these just educated guess people do?
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Old December 8th, 2017, 02:55 PM   #12

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Roger II of Sicily and Frederick II Hohenstaufen were relatively learned men and skilled monarchs so if anything I would point to the Angevin conquest of Sicily in the latter part of the 13th century as being more decisive in the trends you describe.
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Old December 8th, 2017, 03:59 PM   #13

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I've seen recent research which suggests that by 1000 AD cities were back up in the 100'000's range, with cities like Rome and Paris hitting around 200,000, while Constantinople was probably as large as it was in late Antiquity (and largest in the world) at about 900,000.

I'd have to email my college professor (who's a crusades historian) and get the sources on it. I'll get back to you.
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Old December 8th, 2017, 08:09 PM   #14
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Hard to notice any act of vandalism re Islam or most anything in the Norman Kingdom of Sicily.

Al-Idrisi drew his map of the world working for Roger d'Hauteville. An Egyptian chronicler part of a diplomatic mission was astounded when meeting his grandson Frederick II in Palermo not just to hear the muezzin call to prayer at the specified time, but to see the ENTIRE imperial retinue present, Emperor alone excepted, perform their prayers — though clearly Fredrick selected his people at the meeting to make a point.

The Imperial Treasurer of Fredrick's was a man called Johannes Maurus, John the Moor. And the Imperial treasury was located in the Muslim military town on mainland Italy Fredrick created at Lucera, right on the border with the Papal State. Again Fredrick making some kind of point by placing an army of Muslims loyal to him right on the Pope's doorstep.
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Old December 8th, 2017, 08:31 PM   #15

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Hard to notice any act of vandalism re Islam or most anything in the Norman Kingdom of Sicily.

Al-Idrisi drew his map of the world working for Roger d'Hauteville. An Egyptian chronicler part of a diplomatic mission was astounded when meeting his grandson Frederick II in Palermo not just to hear the muezzin call to prayer at the specified time, but to see the ENTIRE imperial retinue present, Emperor alone excepted, perform their prayers — though clearly Fredrick selected his people at the meeting to make a point.

The Imperial Treasurer of Fredrick's was a man called Johannes Maurus, John the Moor. And the Imperial treasury was located in the Muslim military town on mainland Italy Fredrick created at Lucera, right on the border with the Papal State. Again Fredrick making some kind of point by placing an army of Muslims loyal to him right on the Pope's doorstep.
To be fair weren't the Muslims sent to Lucca partially due to repeated rebellions on Sicily?

As for other comments about city populations- it is tempting to think everytime a city changed rulers there was a decline in population if it happened via conquest or simply not longer the political center of a state but many times it was a gradual process like Cordoba and the Quadilquiver river. Silting and intensive irrigation made a river which had allowed ships to sail all the way from the mouth and dock in Cordoba unnavigable past Seville in a couple century span that overlaps with the Christian capture of Toledo and the rise of Seville and decline of Cordoba.

Later under Spanish rule ships were unable to manage the journey to Seville and Cadiz took over as the main Spanis Atlantic port though large works projects in the late 18th and early 20th centuries re-opened the Guadalquivir up to Seville.

Cordoba paid its protection money regularly and there weren't a large number of raids into the Guadalquivir valley nearly up until Cordoba fell in 1236 so the reason for the population decline which was already long ongoing before rulership changed was due to other processes than war in this instance.

Last edited by Ichon; December 8th, 2017 at 08:33 PM.
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Old December 9th, 2017, 10:12 AM   #16

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I am curious if there are census data like the Roman or Chinese records, or are these just educated guess people do?
Most fall into the category of guesswork, ranging from "eh, that sounds about right" to proper estimates taking into account archaeology, food supply, descriptions in primary sources, population density, historical precedence, etc., and everything in between. The estimates laid out in the OP for the population of Muslim Palermo and Cordoba land solidly in the former, while the estimates presented for the populations of Antioch and Paris come from extensive analyses of the available data (one is actually a doctorate thesis) that fall squarely into the latter. Those of Alexandria and Cairo are more in the middle, but most scholars tend to agree on that general ballpark from what I've seen.
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Old December 9th, 2017, 10:39 AM   #17

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I understand Paris at no more than 30,000 in the 12th century is accurate. London at 20,000 to 25,000 until after 1200

Last edited by SufiMystic; December 9th, 2017 at 10:41 AM.
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Old December 9th, 2017, 11:04 AM   #18

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I understand Paris at no more than 30,000 in the 12th century is accurate. London at 20,000 to 25,000 until after 1200
Italian municipalities were bigger in Medieval time. Milan was substantially the biggest city in Europe with about 100,000 - 150,000 inhabitants.
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Old December 9th, 2017, 11:13 AM   #19

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I've seen recent research which suggests that by 1000 AD cities were back up in the 100'000's range, with cities like Rome and Paris hitting around 200,000, while Constantinople was probably as large as it was in late Antiquity (and largest in the world) at about 900,000.
I don't think what you were seeing is actual research, because those numbers are utterly implausible. Paris only hit 200,000 in the 13th century, having perhaps 30 thousand in 1000 ad, and Rome had a population of only 150,000 circa 1800, in 1000 being a clerical ghost town with maybe 20 thousand residents.

Constantinople was approximately the same size it was in antiquity, perhaps slightly smaller, but this puts its 1000 ad population at around 350,000 by lower estimates and a little over 500,000 by higher ones. 900,000 people would barely fit inside the walls, even if we assume that everyone lived in 3 storey apartment buildings, which isn't corroborated by either archaeology or literature. In fact, we actually have consistent descriptions of a large underdeveloped area, home mostly to farmland and monasteries, between the walls and the city center, both in the era of Justinian and at the turn of the millennium.

Keep in mind that this still made the city of Constantine absolutely massive by any pre-industrial standard, a true megalopolis, but a population of 900,000 simply wasn't reachable without an empire the size of ancient Rome's, comparable logistics, and a healthy dose of time; only Tang China came close in the medieval period (hell, Rome itself was often smaller, even in prosperous times).

Last edited by JeanDukeofAlecon; December 9th, 2017 at 11:28 AM.
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Old December 9th, 2017, 11:25 AM   #20

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I understand Paris at no more than 30,000 in the 12th century is accurate. London at 20,000 to 25,000 until after 1200
I haven't seen any estimates for that period specifically, but I would guess that Paris had a population closer to 80-100,000 by the end of the 12th century, since in-depth estimates of the mid-late 13th century population put it between 210 and 260 thousand and I doubt it more than quadrupled in the meantime. From what I've seen 25,000 for 12th century London is accurate enough though, if perhaps a bit low.
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