[Sca-cooks] Any more info on these Radanites?

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Sun Jun 3 17:50:23 PDT 2012

> Do you have any more information or references about them, that I  might 
> pass on in the Florilegium?
> Thanks,
>   Stefan

Fischel, Walter J., "The Jewish Merchants, Called Radanites,"  The Jewish 
Quarterly Review, Vol. 42, No. 3, January 1952, pp. 321-325.

Rabinowitz, Lewis, Jewish Merchant Adveturers, A Study of the Radan'ies; 
London, 1948.




The Radanites were a rather shadowy bunch who appear to have replaced Roman 
traders around the time the Western Empire vanished.  In replacing the 
Romans, they took over much of the spice trade and became the primary spice 
traders of the early Medieval Period.  There is some evidence that they were 
based in France, but I've also seen a case made for Balkan origin.  They may 
have been a clan or a company of merchant adventurers or it may be just a 
general name for individuals involved in what became a global trade network. 
What we know is they were Jewish and they were traders.

The primary reference of their existence is ibn Khordadbeh's "Kitab 
al-Masalik wal-Mamalik," from the late 9th Century.  Ibn Khordadbeh 
described four of the Radanite trade routes that began in the Rhone Valley 
and ended in China.  In the East, they were involved primarily with the 
Khazars and the Tang Dynasty in China.  They used letters of credit and 
likely represent one of the earliest international banking systems.  They 
may also have been the primary force in introducing papermaking and 
Hindu-Arabic numerals to the West.

The Radanite trade declined in the 10th Century beginning with the fall of 
the Tang Dynasty early in the century and the fall of the Khazar Khaganate 
to the Russians around mid-century.  Combined with the western migration of 
the Turkic tribes, these events disrupted trade from Central Asia to Eastern 
Europe.  For a time, they competed with the rising Italian city states, but 
the loss of their Chinese trade and the growing Islamic control of the spice 
trade crippled them.  The last reference to Radanite trade appears to be 
from the early 12th Century.


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