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date: 27 July 2021

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The Farmer’s Law cannot be dated with certainty, nor is its exact authorship known. But internal evidence points to a date in the seventh or eighth century, probably right around 700. This was a period in which the Byzantine state had to scrape together the financial and manpower resources it needed to defend itself— especially Anatolia, its agricultural heartland in the center of Asia Minor—against the armies of the far larger and richer Arab caliphate to its southeast. Its strategy of defense, based on its inferiority, allowed Arab armies to enter Byzantine territory, hoping simply to harass them, prevent them taking any major cities (especially the capital at Constantinople), and wait for them to go home at the end of the campaigning season. This was, obviously, hard on the rural population of the area, and many regions contained abandoned fields and settlements that the government then attempted to repopulate with migrants from other areas. The organization of such new settlements was a large part of what the Farmer’s Law regulated.

Walter Ashburner, “The Farmer’s Law (continued),” Journal of Hellenistic Studies, 32 (1912): 68–95.

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