What Types Of Jobs Were Held By Byzantine Citizens?

Consider this: Even before the Byzantine Empire was established, its western counterpart the Roman Empire already had achieved elaborate feats of engineering even by today’s standards. They had pipelines. They had sewers. They had running water. They even had contraptions built to heat the floor! Of course, only the rich had access to the best luxuries, but the point is that they were available. And with those elaborate feats of engineering came the requirement for specialized jobs and careers. 

Here are a few jobs that were around at some point in the history of the Byzantine Empire.

Many reflect the same jobs we might have today: merchants, farmers, doctors, architects, teachers, artists, poets, writers, politicians, accountants, etc. Other jobs were even more specialized.

These ancient societies required plumbers to maintain their pipes and prevent serious damage to city infrastructure — even though backups were inevitable and the plumbers had their work cut out for them. Sanitation standards took a serious nosedive after the fall of the Roman Empire, and even traditions like public bathing were suddenly frowned upon. This change in thinking occurred because of new religious standards, which required you to be earthly, pious, and abstain from materialism. Bathing was actually seen as a sign of great vanity!

The food service industry in Ancient Rome was booming, and it transferred over to the Byzantine way of life. Most citizens ate three square meals a day, including cheese, fish, meat, fruit, and some type of grain. This provided a great opportunity for food handlers to make jobs. Of course, a waiter pay infographic today might not look the same as it once did during the days of the Roman or Byzantine Empires. 

That’s because the dining experience — and the economics of food — in ancient times was much different than today. Rich citizens of these two great empires might stay home to hold elaborate meals in their own dining rooms, but for the poor it was more economical to go out to eat! Compare it to today’s popularity of fast-food for low-income families. 

Another great byproduct of the Roman Empire were its roads. Consider the effort these must have required: first, you needed to excavate enough rock to build a road across miles and miles of land. Second, you needed to clear that land. Third, you needed to transport the rock. And last but not least, you needed trained workers who were capable of building the roads. Sometimes the laborers were slaves.

Although wealthy aristocratic women were expected to manage the home’s affairs, they could not vote or hold office. Plebeian women were far more likely to work, although many were forced into prostitution because they weren’t paid very well. Some owned their own businesses. Others became acting. Still others would work alongside men by farming the land or finding a job in food service. 

Although it might sound surprising, the Roman concept of work wasn’t so different from what it is today. Both men and women worked a variety of jobs. Keep in mind that most women stayed at home here in the United States only a century ago!