Function of money in medieval Serbia, part two

The Nemanjic’s dinar was in high demand on foreign markets, just like noble metals from Serbia. Goods and money travelled from Serbia by caravan to the East and by ship to the West. The use of Serbian dinars as a means of payment outside the Nemanjic Serbia is corroborated by medieval documents from Venice, Dubrovnik and Hungary, as well as by the many Serbian coins found in Bulgaria, Bosnia, Greece, Italy, Romania and France. Nemanjic dinars were being taken out of Serbia mostly by the merchants of Dubrovnik, who brought caravans of fabric, salt, spices, glassware, fine clothing and other valuable goods to Serbia. In return, they accepted only good dinars, so that they could get a proper equivalent for the merchandise they sold. By refusing to accept bad coins, the merchants effectively prevented the action of Gresham’s law, according to which good coins were hoarded and bad coins remained in circulation. Had they not, good money would have remained hoarded or been melted down and possibly turned into a greater amount of bad money. Chaos would have hit markets world-wide, because trading would have lost its foundation: a durable standard for measuring and comparing the value of various kinds of goods. Emperor Dusan understood quite well the importance of the principle of optional acceptance of money in circulation, since Article 118 of his Legal Code prohibited anybody from forcing merchants to accept money they did not want in return for their merchandise.
Besides rulers, the Orthodox Church also disposed of coins in the Nemanjic State. Churches and monasteries received donations in coins from rulers on the occasion of construction of new or restoration of old Church buildings. This practice was taken over from Byzantine emperors. The Nemanjic’s also regularly filled the church and monastery treasuries with donations in coins by granting annual subsidies for maintenance of monastery residents. Serbian lords had substantial monetary assets. During Emperor Dusan’s reign, the Serbian nobility was already so wealthy that it became commonplace for nobles economical than the accumulation of cattle or weighed silver.
Emperor Dusan counted on the fact that the nobles, court officials, artisans and merchants possessed assets in monetary form, as demonstrated by the fact that his legislators did not shun the possibility of seizing of such assets in certain conditions.
With the accumulation of monetary assets, conditions were created in Serbia for the lending and deposit coins. The Nemanjic’s accepted the view of the Byzantine emperors that the lending of coins at a given rate was an economic necessity. There is no reference in medieval Serbian documents to any general ban on the lending of money. According to a charter granted by Emperor Dusan to the Monastery of the Holly Archangels near Prizren in 1348-1353, only the clergy were not allowed to lend money. The lending of domestic silver coins against a mortgage on property is to be referred to from the beginning of the XIV century. With the strengthening of economic power and centralized government in the first half of the XIV century, the attitude towards mortgages was accepted without reserve, as a necessary insurance for the lenders. A reserve was later introduced, as mortgage was considered to be an act aimed against the borrowers’ interests.
Domestic lenders mostly extended loans to merchants, because the trading community suffered from a chronic shortage of money. Merchants often financed their transactions by setting up special trading companies. Some members of these companies acted exclusively as financiers, while others were responsible for the organization and conduct business. These companies were usually set up for each project or each trip. More permanent arrangements involving a yearly settlement were much rarer. The merchant companies created by domestic merchants and lenders operated exclusively between the Serbian towns on the Adriatic coast and inland markets. Trade between the Italian city states and the coastal markets of Nemanjic Serbia was controlled by foreigners, who also joined together in merchant companies.
Medieval Serbian documents show that the citizens of Dubrovnik gave valuables for safekeeping to some Serbs in Nemanjic Serbia and that Serbs deposited their money with the city of Dubrovnik and private lenders from Dubrovnik. There are no records of the rate of interests on private loans, but Dubrovnik city paid annual interest rate of five percent on deposits. In order to expand their lending and deposit business, Serbian rulers were prepared to accept foreign citizenship. For instance, King and subsequently Emperor Dusan became a citizen of Venice, regardless of the fact that the title of a Venetian citizen was very much inferior to his royal title. The acquisition of Venetian citizenship involved real benefits. Namely, foreigners were not allowed to engage in financial transaction in Venice.

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