We examine the social burden associated with resilience to environmental shocks in pre-modern societies. We argue that analyses of state-level interventions to mitigate the consequences of catastrophic events tend to isolate these measures from their larger social contexts and thereby overlook the uneven distribution of their burden across different groups. We use three cases of pre- modern societies in the northeastern Mediterranean - the sixth century Roman Empire, the tenth century Byzantine Empire, and the sixteenth century Ottoman Empire. We demonstrate how the adaptive processes that reinforced resilience at the state level incurred different burdens for those at lower levels of the social hierarchy. We found that some groups sustained losses while others gained unexpected benefits in the context of temporary systemic instability. We also found that although elites enjoyed enhanced buffers against the adverse effects in comparison with non-elites, this did not consistently guarantee them a better outcome. We conclude that the differentiated burden of resilience could in some cases entrench existing political or economic configurations, and in other cases, overturn them. Our case studies indirectly address the pressing issue of environmental justice. . . . . Keywords Resilience Social differentiation Roman Empire Byzantium Ottoman empire Introduction resilience by one organization may be isolated from its effects on sub-, supra-, and parallel systems. How the resilience of The popularity of resilience in academic literature and policy- one component of a society affects other groups and institu- making has increased over the past few decades (Folke 2006). tions within the same society is therefore less frequently Resilience, in the sense of bouncing back after an unexpected discussed (Olsson et al. 2015). shock, was originally used to conceptualize natural systems. The Nevertheless, resilience often incurs costs, which are often term was soon introduced to the social systems and even the externalized and unevenly distributed across different social humanities (e.g., for archaeology Redman and Kinzig 2003; classes and environments. Although theoretically possible, Redman 2005). As its use expanded, however, some have argued cases in which resilience benefits everyone and everything against its usefulness (Joseph 2013;Olsson et al. 2015). alike are rare. Policy-makers pursuing resilience must face Social science research usually presents resilience as an questions raised by Cote and Nightingale (2012) about resil- attractive attribute or goal of economic and political systems. ience Bof what^ and in particular Bfor who;^ these questions Analyses of resilience may therefore influence decision- may in turn raise ethical dilemmas regarding the maintenance makers seeking to achieve resilience for a business, agency, of power structures and vested interests. For example, the or entire government. In these contexts, the pursuit of scholarly discourse of resilience as a concept had incorporated neo-liberal ideals such as an emphasis on individual adaptabil- ity from an early point (e.g., Holling 2001; for neo-liberalism * Adam Izdebski see Harvey 2005). Subsequent scholars have critiqued the email@example.com concept and in particular its use in policy literature, asserting that the discourse surrounding resilience perpetuates neo- Institute of History, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, ul, Golebia liberal views of governance (Joseph 2013; for similar 13, 31-007 Krakow, Poland developments in climate impact studies, see Hulme 2011). Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Kahlaische The three case studies below examine complex societies in Str. 10, Jena 07745, Germany the northeastern Mediterranean (the Roman, Byzantine, and Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, USA Ottoman empires) and the ways in which they spread the Department of History, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA social burden of resilience across their different constituent 292 Hum Ecol (2018) 46:291–303 groups. Each occupied a similar geographical region where modern populations at the group level, the other four factors they represented the dominant political, economic and cultural play a major role in the pre-modern case studies below. force. They proved to be sustainable and adaptable socio- In our analysis we follow Steadman and Ross (2017)and political entities that survived and thrived for centuries. Tainter (1988) and define complex societies as those that pos- Despite changes of names, dynasties and religions, there were sessed a common set of institutions beyond kinship bonds that a number of key structural continuities between them, espe- guided their political, social, economic, and religious organi- cially in the case of the Roman and Byzantine empires. zation. Social complexity is thus an abstract, continuous var- Our research concerns the socio-cultural burden of resil- iable, which is typically correlated with increased population, ience in these three complex pre-modern societies. Each en- inequality, and heterogeneous occupational specialization. countered socio-environmental challenges in the form of nat- ural and social disasters, adverse climate and pathogenic dis- ease, which interacted with the system’s vulnerabilities. In Case Studies from the Premodern Eastern each case, the state appears to be a resilient social structure Mediterranean that was able to mitigate the socio-environmental effects and adapt to a new reality, maintaining its continuity over time. The Sixth Century: Disasters and Civic Response However, a closer investigation of the social elements that in the Roman Empire constitute the larger system (whether socio-economic groups such as elites or peasantries, or institutions such as aspects of The Levant was one of the richest regions of the Roman the state’s operations, or the church, for example), reveals that Empire. The interregional trade routes that passed through it the costs—and benefits—of its resilience were not divided mixed people, goods, and ideas. Speckled with large cities, it equally. Rather, in each case the benefits and burdens of resil- was a cultural and religious center, home to a wealthy, educat- ience were distributed across society unevenly. Resilience (or ed, and Romanized population. This idyllic picture, however, vulnerability) in one sector of a society directly impacts its was shattered over the sixth century when frequent earth- other sectors in different ways. quakes, multiple waves of bubonic plague, and devastating Our research corresponds to two of the key questions enemy attacks strained established political and economic of historical ecology raised by Armstrong et al.(2017): structures. (1) How did past societies respond to sudden environmen- Relative to modernity, very little evidence survives for late tal shocks? (2) What factors have made some communi- antiquity and researchers are dependent chiefly on the results ties more adaptable to environmental stress than others? It of archaeological excavations and a few historical texts that also responds to Adamson et al.(2018), who encouraged describe politics and war far more frequently than social, cul- more nuanced uses of the past in the study of how soci- tural, and environmental developments. Within the region, we eties adapt to climate change. know most about the central city of Antioch (Antakya or Since the environment interacts with human societies rather Hatay in southeastern Turkey), which experienced more than than determines their fate, environmental effects are never 36 disasters over the century (Mordechai 2017). Despite the uniform for all parts of a society (e.g., Adger 2001;Houston paucity of direct evidence for other settlements in the region, 2008; Sandoval et al. 2014). Each subgroup of a complex they must have experienced many of the same events as society has its own set of vulnerabilities and thus will be Antioch. To simplify the analysis, we examine this ancient affected in a different manner as a result of its particular inter- metropolis and two other cities: Apamea (Afamiya, Syria), action with the environment. For example, we would expect 90 km south of Antioch, and Berytus (Beirut, Lebanon), an- that a drought would have differential effects on farmers living other 190 km southwest. Antioch and Apamea were capitals in a village compared to bureaucrats living in the nearby city. of their provinces while Berytus was a major cultural center Even highly destructive events are socially patterned: the iso- (Fig. 1). lated, weak, and less wealthy consistently fare worse Enough independent types of evidence survive to convey (Matthewman 2015: 20), while certain groups can benefit the extent of disruption. Seismic activity in the region in- even when society as a whole suffers (Campbell 2016). creased fourfold over the sixth century (Khair et al. 2000). Cutter et al.(2003) aggregated about 20 general factors that Antioch itself experienced several major earthquakes over can affect the social vulnerability of individuals or groups. the period (Guidoboni 1994;Ambraseys 2009). Using modern data, they found that the most important of Contemporaries described these events, which would affect these were personal wealth, age, density of the built environ- other settlements as well, in stark terms such as Balmost the ment, single-sector economic dependence, and housing stock whole of Antioch collapsed in ruins^ (Chronicle of 724, 143 and tenancy. Together, these five factors explain about 50% of in Guidoboni 1994:346) and Ban unquantifiable multitude [of the variability in social vulnerability at the US county level. people] was caught^ in the destruction of Antioch (Evagrios Except for age, which remains unknown for practically all pre- Scholasticus, trans. Whitby 2000: 6.8). Antioch further Hum Ecol (2018) 46:291–303 293 Fig. 1 Sites and areas discussed suffered, among others, from a major fire (525), a Persian sack projects. Government officials also allocated resources of their (540) after which the city was burned and its residents forcibly own to rebuild and repopulate Antioch after disasters resettled in Persia, and at least four Bwaves^ of the Justinianic (Procopius Buildings, Dewing 1914a: 2.10; Downey 1961: plague (beginning in the early 540s). Only a few scattered 548-553; Malalas, Jeffreys et al. 1986: 421-24, 444, 450, anecdotes describe the fate of Apamea and Berytus. The for- 452, 470-1; Evagrios Scholasticus 6.8). The imperial govern- mer was plundered by the Persians in 540, and again in 573, ment further signaled its commitment to maintain Antioch as a when a Persian general looted the city, captured its inhabitants major city through a public relations campaign and free bread andburnedit(Foss 1997: 205-229). The earthquake of doles (e.g., the city’s name was changed to Theoupolis, liter- 551 caused substantive damage to Berytus (Darawcheh et al. ally BThe City of God,^ Malalas 443; Evagrios Scholasticus 2000;Hall 2004). 6.8). From the empire’s perspective, this series of disasters en- In the wake of the numerous disasters that Antioch experi- dangered its hold on some of its wealthiest regions. enced during the century, these measures lured more inhabi- Furthermore, imperial obligations elsewhere limited the re- tants into the city. For a modern comparison, the post- sources at the government’s disposal. Yet despite such chal- destruction rebuilding efforts after the 1908 earthquake in lenges, the state maintained its control over Syria throughout Messina (Sicily), which killed about half of the city’s pre- the century. Its strategies included direct investment in the earthquake population (about 150,000), also offered attractive region and outsourcing some of the tasks to locals through new opportunities: state-funded jobs, cheap land, and even coercion. Altogether, the sixth-century imperial system dem- looting the ruins. As a result, Messina’s population swelled onstrated outstanding resilience at the state level. A closer to 118% of its pre-earthquake size in 13 years (Restifo 1995; examination, however, reveals a more nuanced reality at the Parrinello 2012). Similar trends took place in late antique city level and even more variability among the social groups Antioch as people from its hinterland and other cities in the within each city. region resettled in it and benefited from parallel economic Although one might expect Antioch to have collapsed after opportunities. Unfortunately for the residents, the rebuilding so many disasters, the city survived. While it had not process was cut short by the early seventh century Persian completely recovered by the time of the Persian conquest conquest, which focused the historical narrative on the city’s (see below) there is enough evidence to attest to its continued decline (e.g., Downey 1961). great size and importance in the late sixth and early seventh Apamea enjoyed far less governmental attention than centuries (see for example Evagrios Scholasticus (6.8) who Antioch: none of the historical sources that refer to it over claims that 60,000 people died in 588, or John of Ephesus the sixth century mention any type of imperial support follow- 226 [in Payne Smith 1860]). A number of key factors might ing the disasters that afflicted it. Prokopios’ Buildings, a pan- explain this surprising outcome. egyric to emperor Justinian (527-565) for his building activi- First, contemporary emperors took a personal interest in the ties throughout the empire, includes an entire chapter about city’s recovery and wellbeing. For this purpose they infused it Antioch but does not mention Apamea at all (Procopius with cash and implemented large-scale reconstruction Buildings, Dewing 1914a: 2.10, 5.9.27). Furthermore, few of 294 Hum Ecol (2018) 46:291–303 the dozens of sixth-century inscriptions in the area mention There is no evidence that the law schools or the silk indus- the emperor as a sponsor or in an invocation (Trombley 1997). try ever returned to Berytus, and contemporaries lamented the Apamea was left to its own devices but was not city’s destruction after the earthquake (Piacenza Pilgrim: 159 depopulated or abandoned. The city’s main street and walls in Wilkinson 1977: 79; Iohannes Barbucallus in Paton 1917: were rebuilt - actions attributed to emperor Justinian al- 236-237). Although the city disappears from the written though there is no concrete evidence for his involvement. sources almost completely after the vague reference to re- Building projects in the area continued into the seventh building, archaeological evidence reveals surprising continui- century but were undertaken by local elites, many of whom ty and even innovation. The ceramic evidence, for example, did not list any affiliation they may have had with the cen- shows that local workshops continued to produce pottery but tral government in surviving inscriptions. This alienation changed their fabric and firing methods and introduced differ- could explain why Apamea’s citizens preferred to surrender ent designs. New pottery imports from northern Palestine ap- each time the city was threatened (540, 573, 610/1 and ca. pear on the site, while there is evidence for the city shipping its 640). In 540 the citizens de facto accepted the Persian king local amphorae after a long hiatus (Reynolds 2000:391; as their ruler (Procopius, Wars,Dewing 1914b: 2.11.14), Reynolds and Waksman 2007:61). The plentiful glass material whereas during the Arab conquest (ca. 640) they supposed- found at the site suggests that there were enough raw mate- ly greeted the Arab armies with tambourine players and rials. The number of glass lamps increased dramatically and singers (al Baladhuri, Futuh: 131). Similar capitulations new forms began appearing after the earthquake (Jennings took place in 573 (John of Ephesus, Payne-Smith 1860: 2004-5: 134, 185 and passim). The published coin material 6.6) and 610/1 (Foss 2003). Archaeological evidence sug- from the city, which can be dated with more precision than the gests that the city’s elite eventually emigrated to other types of evidence, shows only a brief drop after the Constantinople, while the new economic opportunities in earthquake, which could be interpreted as evidence for a the city lured people from its surroundings who moved into short-term decline in monetary activity (Fig. 2). the houses of the now-absent elite (Balty 1984a). These The central government and its actions had a direct influ- migrations changed the nature of the city and its society ence on the trajectory of at least some of the groups in Berytus. became less stratified. Estimating Apamea’s population is Its centralizing efforts weakened both the law school and the difficult, but coin use in the city appears to have increased silk industry in Berytus, which collapsed as a result of the until the late eighth-early ninth century, hinting at more earthquake, incidentally benefiting the Constantinople silk in- economic activity (Balty 1984b;Nègre 1984). dustry and law school. After the earthquake the government Berytus, Bthe jewel of Phoenicia^ (Agathias, Histories, also contributed at least partially to the reconstruction of Frendo 1975: 2.15.2), was a smaller city but a cultural and Berytus, facilitating its survival. In all three cases, therefore, the state’s resilience had sig- economic center. It was a key point for the silk industry, importing raw material from the east and processing it before nificant costs at the city level that were determined by the shipping it around the Mediterranean. It also housed a re- interaction between the environment, the state, and specific nowned law school that Bconferred an aura of peculiar prestige cities. We know most about the central government’sactions: and distinction on the place^ (Agathias, Histories: 2.15.3) and its commitment and support-maintained Antioch as a major was attended by students from all over the empire. In the 530s center, but its lukewarm treatment of Apamea undermined the and 540s, centralizing policies drew much of the silk trade and several of the law school’s faculty members to the capital 1.2 Constantinople (Procopius, Secret History, Dewing 1914c: 25.13-26; the law school professors went to revise the law, see Hall 2004: 212-213). While both institutions probably 0.8 survived, they would have been left in a more vulnerable state 0.6 after losing human and material capital. 0.4 According to both literary and archaeological evidence, 0.2 the earthquake of 551, which coincided with a tsunami and caused a major fire, destroyed parts of the city, including Jusn I Jusnian I Jusn II Tiberius II Maurice the facilities used for teaching (e.g., Agathias, Histories: 518-527 527-565 565-578 578-582 582-602 2.15.1-4; Saghieh 1996: 40). Estimates put its local mag- Emperors and their regnal years nitude at 7.3-7.8 and its epicenter was probably a few Fig. 2 Coins per year in the reigns of emperors between 518 and 602, kilometers off the shore of the city (Darawcheh et al. found in Berytus excavations. The two black outlines represent the ratios 2000;Elias et al. 2007). The surviving written sources before and after the earthquake of 551. The coin data (which does not agree that the emperor sent some funds for relief and re- include hoards) was taken from Butcher 2001-2002; Finkbeiner and Sader 1997; Nurpetlian 2016a; Nurpetlian 2016b construction efforts (Hall 2004:70-75). Coins/year of emperor found Hum Ecol (2018) 46:291–303 295 loyalty of local elites. The environmental stress in Berytus (Delehaye 1923: 205 (for Anatolia); Wahlgren 2006: 330; coincided with the city’s government-induced vulnerabilities, other sources in all probability deriving from the ones refer- resulting in the collapse of its most famous institutions. enced here in Telelis 2004: 373). Surprisingly, whereas the This analysis preserves echoes of the choices individuals Byzantine sources unanimously describe the winter as unusu- had to make within the parameters determined by the interac- ally long and cold, no currently available palaeoclimate proxy tion between the government and the environment. Villagers confirms the occurrence of a strong winter cooling, or at least around Antioch who lost the markets to which they exported a potential increase in snowfall, at that time. An annually- their products, people who lost their homes in earthquakes, or precise regional hydroclimate proxy from Central Anatolia, the silk merchants in Berytus were all likely to readjust their Lake Nar, which reflects winter precipitation, shows no sig- lives to fit a new reality. Others, such as the government con- nificant variability for the decades of 920s and 930s (Lake Nar tractors who provided the free bread for Antioch, those who chronology is based on varve-counting: Jones et al. 2006; worked at the law schools in Constantinople, and even the similar conclusions can also be reached when looking at a immigrants who took over the mansions in Apamea all chronologically less precise hydroclimate proxy from north- benefited from the same realities. western Anatolia, the Sofular Cave: Göktürk et al. 2011;for The extent to which the state was aware of these trends or snowfall and winter tempratures, see the Kocain cave tried to reverse them remains unknown because of the lack of data, Göktürk 2011). The summer temperature reconstruc- sources. Nonetheless, the elite officials that made up the gov- tions for Europe – strongly correlated with the annual temper- ernment must have experienced conflicts of interest between ature, with the r value of 0.66 – suggest a steady increase in advancing the collective goals of the institution they led and warmth for the summer months over the 920s and 930s until a their private gain. Such factors, perhaps just as much as stra- major volcanic eruption occurred in 939 CE (PAGES 2k tegic planning, would have determined the nuanced patterns Consortium 2013, correlation value: Table 1; Toohey and of resilience in sixth century Roman society. Sigl 2017;Oppenheimer et al. 2018)(Fig. 3). Moreover, re- cent palaeoclimate model simulations for the entire Aegean The Tenth Century: Severe Winter and Social area suggest that throughout the 920s average temperatures Transformation in Byzantium remained relatively stable (Xoplaki et al. 2016). To conclude, it seems that while the winter of 927 CE in Anatolia and the The severe winter and consequent great famine of 927 CE in Southern Balkans (the core territories of the Byzantine Empire the Byzantine Empire represent a classic case of a major at that time) might have been colder and longer than usual at climate-related subsistence crisis that accelerated the pace of that time, as reported in the written sources, there occurred no social change, creating opportunities for some social groups at major general cooling and some winters during the later tenth century might have actually been much colder, as suggested the same time as aggravating the situation of others. We know the events in relative detail thanks to contemporary imperial by the European temperature anomalies (Fig. 3). legislation dealing with provincial land ownership for most of The apparent discrepancy between the written records and the tenth century (927-996). This collection of legal docu- the palaeoclimate data is worth further investigation. First, ments contains a number of highly rhetorical passages within there is no reason to doubt that a famine occurred in some key pieces of state legislation, which set out the reasons for Byzantine lands in 928 CE. Second, contemporaries seem to their promulgation, providing valuable information on their have related it to some kind of unusual winter conditions. If context (analysed in detail in Kaplan 1992: 414-426; edition we are to take the reports of the written sources at face value, of the Greek text: Svoronos 1994; English translation: freezing temperatures or frosts would have continued into the McGeer 2000). The winter and the subsistence crisis of spring months (i.e., until April), shortening the vegetation sea- 927 CE are also described in Byzantine hagiographical and son and impeding seed germination (winter conditions were historical accounts (Morris 1976; Telelis 2004:373). Taken crucial for the late spring cereal harvest – Geoponica, Beckh together, these sources provide a fairly good understanding of 1895: II 14). Given the fact that cereals provided some 30- both the environmental and societal aspects of these events. 50% of the calories consumed by the medieval population, In the Byzantine cultural memory, the winter of 927-28 this could have led to a subsistence crisis (Kaplan 1992:25- stands out as particularly severe, and this period later was 32; Bourbou et al. 2011;Zuckerman 2016). Thus, the climate- remembered as a time of BGreat Famine.^ Tenth-century related shortage-generating mechanism reported by the sources describe the winter as characterized by an unusual sources sounds plausible. However, it is striking that this fam- cold spell that lasted for as long as 120 days, starting on ine occurred at the beginning of a centuries-long period of Christmas 927 CE. It is unfortunately difficult to translate economic expansion in the Byzantine Empire (Fig. 4). the reports of the sources into more precise spatial terms: During such a period, one would expect a society to be resil- one source tradition is very general and gives no geographical ient enough to buffer environmental stress rather than to ex- details, while the other one may be coming from Anatolia perience a major climate-related famine. 296 Hum Ecol (2018) 46:291–303 Fig. 3 Annually-precise palaeoclimate proxies for the Byzantine Empire. The black line marks the year AD 927. Lake Nar δ18O data: Jones et al. 2006 values are reversed so that the higher values represent wetter winter conditions); summer temperature anomalies are relative to 1961-1990 (in °C): PAGES 2k Consortium 2013 (r correlation value between the summer and annual temperature reconstructions: 0.66) The necessary clue to understanding what happened in the This development eventually increased elite control over Byzantine lands in 928 may be found in the legal sources. In the peasants while also disintegrating village communities in their description of the social crisis that resulted from the harsh the affected provinces. Since the Byzantine taxation system winter and the poor harvest, they distinguish between the was based on villages organized as fiscal units with communal Bpowerful^ and the Bweak;^ the latter were selling their land tax liability (as described in the Farmer’s Law, Medvedev to the former for food or money to save their lives. Closer 1984; for a broader discussion, see Morrisson 1991; analysis reveals that the Bpoor^ were those engaged in phys- Oikonomidès 1996; Górecki 2004), the impoverishment of ical labor, while the Bpowerful^ were the Byzantine military peasant producers, the frequent result of selling their land, and civil officials paid in cash (usually gold) by the imperial eventually began to erode the tax base and the social system government (Morris 1976). For centuries, the government in itself. Thus the Bweak^ – or peasants – were not the only ones Constantinople maintained a hierarchy of offices that were whose situation deteriorated as a result of the Bgreat famine.^ paid in gold by the state to ensure the loyalty of its officials, The larger-scale socioeconomic change forced the state to a highly unusual institution in the medieval period. In fact, intervene in order to protect its resources and attempt to stop during the seventh to the tenth century, the gold payments the processes of transformation that were amplified by the made by the state to its elites were probably the largest transfer long winter and the subsistence crisis. Emperor Romanos of currency occurring every year in Anatolia and the Balkans, Lekapenos (920-944) issued a law in 934, limiting the right and the most important source of revenue for Byzantine elites of the powerful to buy peasants’ land. His goal was first of (Haldon 2009). As a result, the Bpowerful^ Byzantine officials all to stabilise land ownership patterns and associated tax had constant access to liquid assets they could invest in land or structures rather than to help those who had recently suffered any other type of property. This was indeed a rare situation in from the famine. The imperial response also aimed at improv- an age when the Byzantine economy was primarily not mon- ing the material situation of the peasantry, but by 934 it was etized and coin finds are usually associated with the activities too late for further relief measures to revert the social transfor- of the state and its officials, a situation which only started to mation that had been taking place (Kaplan 1992, p. 421-426). change in the decades preceding the great winter of 927/928 In other words, the emperor’s goal with this particular law was (see Fig. 4). It is not surprising, therefore, that a climate- to stop the ongoing social change rather than react directly to related subsistence crisis – even if the weather conditions were the immediate consequences of the winter of 927-928 (which actually not so unusual compared to the rest of the tenth cen- he probably did, but it did not reverse the trend toward the tury – provided them with an opportunity to quickly exchange social change either - Wahlgren 2006:330). money for land (for the central role of the socioeconomic A comparison of the palaeoclimate, pollen, archaeological, context in creating famines even during major climate- and written evidence makes clear that the climate anomaly of related food shortages, see Slavin 2016). 927-28 did not cause substantial social change but rather the Hum Ecol (2018) 46:291–303 297 Fig. 4 Archaeological and palaeoenvironmental proxies showing that the economic expansion in the Byzantine Empire began already in the 10th c. CE, prior to the BGreat Famine^ of 927 CE (original values were standardized for the period of 300-1500 CE). Coin finds: Harvey 1989, 86-89; Morrisson 2002 (average of standardized values from individual sites, showing polynomial trend line); pollen data: Izdebski et al. 2015. Pollen and coin find sites are shown on Fig. 1 long winter was later connected with what the state and the From a broad perspective, then, Byzantine society proved peasants perceived as a socioeconomic crisis. The long winter resilient, surviving the crisis caused by the long winter of 927- was thus used as a way of understanding the reasons for the 28. When seen from the point of view of specific social social transformation as it accelerated this process and brought groups, however, the price for this resilience was a significant it to contemporaries’ attention. The environmental stressor – shift in the balance of socioeconomic relations. The winter of even if in physical terms it was not the harshest winter of the 927-28 offered an opportunity for the more affluent to take tenth century – impinged upon the complex web of crop ecol- advantage of peasants whose livelihoods depended on ecolog- ogies, social relations, and the state’s interests. Thus, it added ical niches that were not capable of withstanding the effects of new momentum to the extant social dynamic – that of office- a prolonged cold spell. Thanks to the buffers of their existing holding elites accumulating wealth that allowed them to be- estates, their accumulated gold, and their local connections come an increasingly powerful social group within contempo- such elite groups could exploit local subsistence crises across rary Byzantine society. the Byzantine provinces in order to improve their situation 298 Hum Ecol (2018) 46:291–303 with regard to both the producing population and the state data) provide strong indications of rapid population growth. itself. Moreover, even though there is no concrete evidence, The number of individuals and rural households with little or we could expect the same dynamic to take place for other, no land rose much faster than the population as a whole. The more local and less extreme environmental (and social) overall output of grains and livestock grew, but agriculture stressors that occurred in the context of the social dynamic faced diminishing marginal returns, shrinking per capita pro- of tenth-century society. In this way, environmental stressors duction and therefore limited surplus for imperial provision- and the crises they provoked stimulated social evolution in the ing. At the imperial level, the growth of the capital (Istanbul), Byzantine world. major cities, army, and navy generated larger demands for resources. To meet the needs of major military campaigns, The Sixteenth Century: Prolonged Drought the empire depended on extraordinary taxation and requisi- and Economic Crisis in the Ottoman Empire tions from the core provinces in Anatolia and the southern Balkans (Cook 1972; Faroqhi 1984). Developments in the Ottoman Empire demonstrate how large- Expansion thus buffered Ottoman systems of resource, la- scale state intervention in local settlement and land use could bour, and military mobilization from small impacts but ex- aggravate rather than buffer environmental stress and amplify posed them to a growing risk of systemic breakdown in the the scale of social transformation it occasioned. During the face of multiple, larger shocks. This situation helps explain the late sixteenth through early seventeenth centuries the empire scale of crisis in the empire during the 1590s-1600s. During experienced a major crisis triggered by multiple environmen- 1591-96, central Anatolia experienced one of its longest and tal and human stressors, followed by a protracted and inter- deepest droughts of the past millennium, as described by con- mittent recovery in terms of population, agricultural produc- temporary sources and confirmed by tree-ring and lake sedi- tion, political stability, and military power (as described in ment studies (Fig. 5) (Touchan et al. 2005; Roberts et al. more depth in White 2011). This period of Ottoman history 2012). Drought during the spring growing season appears to provides a well-documented illustration of the burden of resil- have been especially damaging to the grain crop in central and ience in a pre-industrial Eastern Mediterranean society. western Anatolia during the middle years of the decade. Food Although the state and Ottoman dynasty endured, their sur- prices more than doubled and some primary accounts suggest vival necessitated the abandonment of pre-crisis settlement food was often unavailable. During and after those years of patterns, provisioning systems, and fiscal arrangements. The drought, there are anecdotal descriptions of extraordinarily burden of this transformation fell principally on the Anatolian cold winters, a phenomenon possibly linked to large tropical reaya (peasantry). volcanic eruptions, including Nevado del Ruiz (1595) and Until the crisis, the Ottoman Empire sustained its political Huaynaputina (1600) (Sigl et al. 2015;Xoplaki et al. 2018). The combination of drought and cold likely contributed to the and economic resilience throughout rapid territorial expan- sion. From modest beginnings in northwest Anatolia ca. outbreak of a major epizootic disease, which affected sheep 1300, Ottoman rulers conquered territory on three continents and cattle across Anatolia, the Crimea, and the Balkans, even- covering all or part of 30 present-day countries. The empire tually passing through Hungary into Central Europe. The drew on administratively and geographically diverse sources death of livestock deprived Ottoman peasants of a major of tribute, taxation, and requisitions. It adapted pre-Ottoman source of wealth and subsistence, and deprived Ottoman traditions and developed new systems to mobilize crucial re- armies of a key source of protein (White 2017). sources from distant locations to provision its cities and mili- The Ottoman Empire might have been able to contain the tary and to balance regions of surplus and deficit. These pro- crisis but for the distractions and demands of military cam- visioning systems included food (grains, rice, sheep), labour paigns during the so-called Long War (1593-1607) with the (human and animal), and strategic materials (timber, gunpow- Habsburg Empire. Rather than reducing taxation or providing der, alum etc.). The security provided by Ottoman soldiers as relief supplies, as during previous droughts and famines, well as legal and tax provisions encouraged the expansion of Ottoman rulers actually increased requisitions from the worst agriculture and the containment of mobile pastoralism. When hit Balkan and Anatolian provinces, escalating shortages and tested by a series of local droughts, shortages, and famines famines. Imperial demands for sheep from Karaman province during the 1560s-1580s, Ottoman officials were able to con- (the region around today’s Konya) appear to have been the tain the damage by shifting tax burdens from the affected proximate cause for a major rural uprising, the Celâlî areas, ordering fixed-price sales of grain from other provinces Rebellion (1596-1610). Positive feedback among famine, vi- and in some cases arranging direct shipments from local or olence, population displacement, and contagious disease gen- imperial granaries (Ágoston 2005;Mikhail 2011). erated a significant mortality crisis in parts of the empire. At the same time, the empire’s growth generated vulnera- Many households were displaced from rural to urban areas, bilities at both the household and imperial scales. Cadastral which faced higher levels of endemic and epidemic disease surveys and poll tax records (although imperfect sources of and mortality. Pastoralists reoccupied much farmland Hum Ecol (2018) 46:291–303 299 Fig. 5 Hydro-climate proxies for Ottoman Anatolia: δ13C values for the Sofular Cave and δ18O for Lake Nar. The values are reversed so that the higher values represent wetter conditions. The black line marks the year AD 1591. Sofular Cave data: Göktürk et al. 2011 (with the revised STALAGE age- depth model). Lake Nar: Jones et al. 2006 abandoned during this mortality peak, which precluded its to pay taxes levied on them collectively, often fled to towns immediate return to agriculture. Although exact figures are and cities, where they faced periodic persecution and ex- impossible to come by, household counts in certain tax records pulsion (White 2011). The costs of imperial resilience thus from the 1620s-30s suggest losses of half or more in many fell on those least able to bear it. parts of Anatolia since the 1580s (Özel 2016). These decades of crisis witnessed what has been termed a Btransformation^ of political and fiscal structures, or even the Conclusions beginning of a Bsecond Ottoman Empire,^ involving the mod- ification or abandonment of some pre-crisis provisioning sys- These case studies reveal the implications, or social burden, of tems, systems of revenue-raising based on land holdings, and resilience in highly complex pre-modern societies. In all three military service in return for assignments of local revenues. In cases, the state as the central institution demonstrated resil- their place, the empire resorted to cash taxes levied collective- ience to combined socio-environmental stressors over a period ly on groups of rural households as well as the sale of short- of a few years to several decades. The scholarly focus on the term tax farms and the use of irregular mercenary armies state in these cases often derives from the simple fact that (sekban). Although these measures diminished the personal more surviving evidence covers this level of a given social authority of Ottoman sultans and entailed significant decen- system. Keeping the focus on the state, however, occludes tralization of power, they enabled the imperial government to the parallel processes taking place at other levels of a society. co-opt potentially rebellious elites and to pay soldiers fre- The case study of the sixth century Roman Empire demon- quently enough that the state and dynasty survived the extraor- strates the difficulties a centralized decision-making apparatus dinary turmoil of the early seventeenth century and eventually such as a government encounters when it attempts to balance its developed more stable political and fiscal institutions (Darling interests (sustainable survival) with those of the institutions and 1996; Tezcan 2010). sectors under its influence (e.g., individual cities, industries, or This political survival, however, imposed significant even elite constituencies). The tension between these sets of burdens on Anatolian peasants. The state could no longer interests and the power relations embedded in and between grant tax relief or implement sales or distributions of grain the social system and its sub-systems shapes their response to to provinces facing poor harvests and shortages during the stress. This set of responses, in turn, becomes the reality within frequent adverse climate conditions during the seventeenth which individuals operate and make their own decisions. century. The immediate demands of short-term tax farmers The case of Byzantium emphasizes the long-term unfore- clashed with the need to restore stability and investment in seen implications of environmental stress and the extent to agriculture. State officials were no longer in a position to which the social context determines the actual socio- ensure the tax exemptions and security from banditry that economic impact of even a relatively modest stressor. It dem- had previously supported the expansion of rural settlement. onstrates that the societal effects of such stressors can develop Communities facing violence and population loss, unable slowly and over time while accelerating existing trends or 300 Hum Ecol (2018) 46:291–303 exploiting existing vulnerabilities in society. The long winter These historical case studies provide important insights into and subsistence crisis strained weaker social groups in the discussion within current research on social-environmental Byzantine society; stronger, wealthier groups of elites – with resilience as the Bgold standard^ for future policy-making, in the connections to government structures – were not only better context of growing environmental concerns (e.g., global climate buffered to stave off the crisis, but also exploited it to their change; for problems associated with this approach, see Cote and advantage. This in turn exacerbated the crisis for the weaker Nightingale 2012; Olsson et al. 2015;Olsson 2017). They dem- groups and undermined the state’s potential capability to mit- onstrate the importance of being aware of implicit value judge- igate its effects, triggering a major famine. ments as well as the interests of all social groups involved, even The Ottoman Empire illustrates how political resilience could those which are normally not involved as stakeholders in impose differential social and economic costs. For the state to decision-making processes. By contextualizing resilience, our endure the crisis of the late sixteenth to early seventeenth centu- work touches upon the notion of environmental justice, namely ries it had to resort to short-term expedients that shifted burdens the fair treatment of all people with respect to the benefits they onto rural populations and undercut elements of provincial pro- can draw from the environment, and the risks from it to which visioning andsecurity.Theeffectsofthestate’sapproachcascad- they are exposed. In this context, we can suggest that the deep ed into longer-term changes, with large numbers of the roots of some of the social challenges of the twenty-first century, impoverished rural communities moving into urban areas, in- including poverty, can be traced back to mechanisms that are creasing social unrest and decreasing the empire’stax base. much older than our contemporary global order (Fitzpatrick The cases all demonstrate that socio-ecological resilience 2014). Moreover, as our case studies demonstrate, these chal- incurs differential burdens across the levels of a social system, lenges are integral to the structure of a social-economic system and can further impose collateral costs at the same hierarchical itself and are not in themselves caused by climate change or any level (whereas the classical panarchy model tends to other environmental stressor. This should assist in recognising emphasize effects between the different hierarchical levels of both the real scale of the problem and in encouraging more the same system, see, for example, Holling 2001; Gunderson comprehensive approaches to its solutions. and Holling 2002). Certain institutions, social groups and in- There can be no doubt of the value of studying the historical dividuals pay more – a cost that can reach up to and including past for resilience theory in light of the countless surviving pre- their lives. In parallel, others can improve their position. As industrial case studies that demonstrate social responses to envi- such, socio-environmental stress can lay bare the configura- ronmental stressors (on integrating history and palaeoscience, see tions of power within a social system as well as its working Haldon et al. 2014; Izdebski et al. 2016; Haldon et al. 2018). and failing. Moreover, our case studies demonstrate that the These case studies offer observers the opportunity to trace the impacts of environmental stressors, and of the disasters asso- results of socio-environmental interactions retrospectively over ciated with their occurrence are themselves socially construct- different chronological time frames. The wide spatial perspective ed. They are modified by social circumstances and are articu- offered by the historical examples presented here permits consid- lated through the networks of political institutions, social ac- eration of the interests of and outcomes for the multiple sub- tors, economic relations and cultural phenomena in which groups that are the subject of our investigation. By the same they are embedded (Janku et al. 2012;Schenk 2017). token, historical research also reveals the importance of taking Despite theirpower and potentialtodominate theexploitation into account the interests, perceptions, and beliefs of all those of available resources, pre-modern states did not necessarily fare involved within a system when considering questions of resil- best, as illustrated by the case of tenth century Byzantium. ience (Haldon and Rosen, this issue). Vacuums created by the weakened state’s absence, such as the former farmland in the sixteenth-century Ottoman Empire, Funding Information Open access funding provided by Max Planck quickly can be taken over by more adaptive non-elite groups, Society. Adam Izdebski’s research presented in this paper was partly funded by the National Science Centre, Poland, through the Centre’s as was the case with the nomadic pastoralists who moved in to postdoctoral fellowships scheme (DEC-2012/04/S/HS3/00226). replace the cultivators who had abandoned their lands. By the same token, however, neither do all elites fare better than all non- Compliance with Ethical Standards elites. The elites who lived in sixth-century Apamea and Berytus lost,whilevillagerswhomovedintoabandonedurbanhouses,or Conflict of Interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of the artisans of the silk industry in Constantinople, probably interest. gained. A major difference between elites and non-elites, how- Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative ever, is in the greater buffering capacity of the former. While the Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http:// elites of Apamea and perhaps Berytus could relocate elsewhere, creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, albeit with a cost to their well-being and personal finances, the distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appro- risk faced by non-elites such as those employed in Berytus’ silk priate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the industry was substantially higher. Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. Hum Ecol (2018) 46:291–303 301 Delehaye, H. (1923). Les Saints stylites, Société des bollandistes, References Bruxelles. Dewing, H. B. (1914a). The Buildings of Procopius, The Macmillan co., Adamson, G. C. D., Hannaford, M. 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Human Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 3, 2018
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