I am reading the fascinating THE ECONOMIC HISTORY OF BYZANTIUM, available here.

I gather that 1 modios of land was something less than 3000 square metres and for the best land was worth about 1 nomisma. (p. 821).

The price of bread is not known, but is estimated at 5-8 folles per Kg “second quality bread” (p. 829)

As far as I know, the nomisma is the 24 carat solidus, worth 420 folles! Can it really be that you got 3000 m2 of excellent land for 50-80 loafs of bread?! If we adopt Mr De Bernhardy’s estimate in the comments, it would mean the value of land compared to bread is 10 times lower than now in France.

Edit: If we assume an alternate modios mentioned in the comments, it’s 50-80 Kg of bread for 890m^2. This would mean, if we adopt Mr. De Bernardy’s estimate, that the value of land as compared to bread was 3 times lower than now.


In response to the clever comment about other meanings of „modios“, it seems certain from their tables (p. 818) that they mean a unit of area: enter image description here

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    FWIW the price of bread today in France is on the order of €3/kg unless you're actively eating cheaply (in which case you're paying about half of that) or very posh (in which case you might pay double or more). You can buy agricultural land for slightly under €7.9k/ha (=10k m2) on average from the looks of it. So to put your numbers in perspective, 3k m2 of agricultural land is currently worth about 800kg of bread. I haven't checked your own numbers, but the numbers in both cases aren't insane if that's what you're asking. – Denis de Bernardy Mar 1 at 20:48
  • I don't think it's that significant, to be honest. If anything I'm surprised it's only 10 if the numbers add up. Agricultural land has become worthless for all practical intents, and it's about to become even worse with urban agriculture and hydroponics. – Denis de Bernardy Mar 1 at 20:53
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    Your source also lists a modios at less than 1000 m2 (page 243) and I've usually seen it listed as around 890 m2 (like here: books.google.es/…). Nobody knows the size of a real modios. – Carlos Martin Mar 1 at 21:11
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    You can't mass produce agricultural land out of thin air, but you can mass produce grain and bread, so it stands to reason that the price of bread would drop faster than the price of land (which can be used for other purposes than grain to boot). Ergo it seems natural that, until the 20th century at least, land prices fell slower than bread prices, and thus the amount of bread needed per land unit ratio went up. – Denis de Bernardy Mar 1 at 21:41
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    Checking kyleharper.net/uncategorized/…, price of land was quite affordable in ancient times, maybe because the yield of land was low (4:1, one modius of land gave you 4 modii of grain), taxes were a serious toll and not many people had the saving to invest into tools, animal and workers necessary to work the fields. – Carlos Martin Mar 2 at 10:32

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