Anatolian Weights and Measures
Roman and Byzantine Steelyards and Scales
In the Roman and Byzantine periods we find the steelyard (statera) being used as well as the scales or balance (libra) that had been the only means of weighing in antiquity. The steelyard consists of a square-section arm fitted with a sliding weight, and a hook for hanging the object to be weighed. Two or three faces of the arm are graduated with notches at equal intervals enabling light, medium and heavy loads to be weighed.
A balance consists of a horizontal beam pivoted onto a vertical support, with pans attached by silk strings of equal length to the two ends of the beam. Scales of this kind were used to measure precious metals, coins, and other light but valuable substances.
Examples in museums and private collections enable us to track the modifications made to steelyards from the Roman and Byzantine periods until modern times (use of the steelyard continuing until about two decades ago). For example while Roman and Byzantine steelyards had three hooks, those used by by the Seljuks and Ottomans had only two. The traditional balance, on the other hand, has not changed at all over the centuries, and remains in use with the same form today.
Anatolian Weights and Measures in Islamic Period
During pre-Islamic times the Arabs, who were among those engaged in Mediterranean trade, probably used the same units of measurement as the Sassanians, Romans and Byzantines. After the advent of Islam, however, they introduced their own system.
Glass weights known as sanja dating from the early Islamic era were used both for commercial purposes and as standards for checking the weight of coins made of precious metals. Glass weights known as rıtl (a word derived from rotolo, an Italian unit of weight) were used during the Umayyad, Abbasids, Ayyubid and Fatimid periods. Although no complete example has survived, making it impossible to determine the weight precisely, existing fragments show that these were 110 mm in diameter. An Abbasid weight known as a double rıtl weighs 759.79 grams.
Glass weights were used for checking the weight of silver coins by the Romans and Byzantines, as well as the Arabs. Research has shown that Byzantine coin weights weighed the same as the Byzantine dinar or solidus, being equivalent to 68 grains (4.406 grams). The Arabic dirhem was equivalent to 66 grains or 4.276 grams. In time Islamic coin weights attained their classical forms. Some bore Arabic inscriptions such as Aslahü Allah, Ekremehü Allah or Emta' Allah Lehü, or quotations from the Koran. Early sanja bore a stamp only on one side, but from the Abbasid period onwards they began to be stamped on both sides; the declaration of God's unity on one side and the names of caliphs, governors, imams etc. on the other. Sanjas of different colours were obtained by the addition of different chemicals; copper and iron oxide for blue, sulphur and carbon for amber, and manganese for dark blue.
Seljuk And Beylik Period Weights And Measures
The pre-Ottoman Turkish system of measurement had its origins in Central Asia as a result of trade relations with Iran and China. The 11th century dictionary of Turkish dialects, Divanu Lugâti't-Türk, is an important source of information about units of weight and measurement, defining the artık as half a yük (load), the kırklım as a pile, and the sagu as a measure of cereals, for example.
Sources dating from the 14th century reveal that the pre-Ottoman Anatolian system of measurements was based on the lodra, an Iranian-Ilkhanid unit of weight, the kantar, okka and batman (menn); and that the main units of grain measurement were the kile and müdd.
The most important source of information about Seljuk period weights and measures are the deeds of pious endowments. From these we learn that the ukiyye, irdeb, müd and batman were the basis of the measuring system of this period that was largely adopted by the Turkish principalities and the Ottoman Empire.
The expansion of trade relations between the Menteşe and Aydınoğulları Turkish emirates in western Anatolian and the Byzantines, Venetians and Genoese, led to the introduction of Byzantine and Italian units of measurement, which began to be used in Anatolia in the 14th century. One example was the Italian rotolo, used in western Anatolia.