The birth of the Amalfi State is the major event of the separation of the two important territorial political entities that are the Byzantine Duchy of Naples and the Longobard Principality of Benevento.
The territory of the Amalfi State included the coast stretching from Cetara to Positano, the chain of Lattari Mountains with Scala, Tramonti and Agerola, the lands of Lettere, Pimonte and Gragnano, the island of Capri and the small archipelago of Sirenuse. Borders were guarded by castles and fortifications.
Amalfi developed a clever policy with both empires and other Italian states to safeguard its commercial interests. They defied even the Saracens who coveted their trade.
His role in medieval Mediterranean politics was often one of mediating between diametrically opposed civilizations: the Arab, Byzantine empires, and the Western Roman Empire.
In its beginnings, the Republic was administered by two prefects elected annually (from about 859). Their successors were judges, and finally Doges dukes in 958, in a regime that became a ducal monarchy. The election of these was formally subject to the approval of the emperors of the East, but in reality the city was managed in complete freedom, with its own laws, its magistrates and its own currency.
Since the VIIIth century, Amalfitans were present in the Eastern Mediterranean for commercial reasons, as well as in the main centers of the Byzantine East and Arab Africa, where they gave life to real colonies with houses, churches, monasteries and hospitals, which were administered under the laws of the mother country.
Defense requirements and maritime trade often drove Amalfi to ally with the Saracens and with Ludovico II against the Byzantines who wanted to restore the sovereignty of the Eastern Empire. The alliance with the Saracens was unstable and ephemeral. In 915, they were beaten during a violent battle, and finally expelled from the Amalfi territory. In 920, it was new Amalfitans who hunted the Saracens of Reggio Calabria.
Throughout the 10th and early 11th centuries, the Amalfi trade continued to expand, establishing solid economic prosperity by occupying the position of Pisa and Genoa in the Mediterranean.
It was in the course of the 13th century, particularly profitable for Amalfi society, that not only many public works and monuments (including the Cloister of Paradise and the Duomo Crypt) were made, but also important legal and economic innovations. and maritime.
Trade in medieval Amalfi was organized into a triangle that passed through Italy, North Arab Africa and the Byzantine Empire. The boats loaded woods around the Arab centers of the African coast, which they sold for gold.
In a second phase they joined the Syrian and Palestinian coasts, and Byzantium, where they acquired spices, precious stones, fabrics and luxury goods. in a third phase, they were reselling, in great part, to Italy, as far as Ravenna, whence, sailing on the Po, they even went as far as Pavia.
This triangular cycle of Amalfi trade greatly enriched the inhabitants of the boating republic, to such an extent that enemy powers coveted it and contemplated conquering it.
The wealth of Amalfi was such that William of Puglia, chronicler of the Norman era, wrote that no city was richer in gold, silver and wealth of any kind and that there met Arabs, Sicilians , Africans and even Indians.
In the tenth century it struck its own penny of gold, and a parcel of gold and silver, which were in circulation in the Byzantine Empire, in Africa and in the Lombard principalities. These currencies were close to those of the Arabs, indicating that trade relations were more developed with the Arabs than with the Byzantines.
In addition, the paper-making techniques that were used in Amalfi were learned from the Arab world (this tradition is still alive).
In the Middle Ages, Amalfi had a large and powerful fleet, both military and commercial.
The military fleet has had great victories, especially in the battles against the Arabs in “defending” Christianity, as in the famous Ostia episode of 849, when the Amalfi ships helped to save Rome from the onslaught of a powerful Muslim fleet.
Amalfi had an arsenal to build his warships. Remains of its walls still remain. This is the only known example of surviving remains of a medieval arsenal, at least in southern Italy. The remains show obvious signs of restoration in 1240 and 1272, a building that certainly existed in the eleventh century. The hulls of the fighting galleys were built there at 120 oars. The merchant ships, with low hulls, were built in the scarium, which is now under the sea, in front of the city, where recent discoveries have revealed wharves and berths of medieval times. The port structures were definitely submerged following an underwater landslide, possibly caused by the mighty storm of Libeccio, on the night of 24 to 25 November 1343. This event gave the coup de grace to the maritime trade already on the decline.
The commercial success of Amalfi is also explained by its maritime practices, which inherited a large part of the globe. Indeed, beyond the arsenal, was used the maritime code called Tabula de Amalpha, the Tables of Amalfi, as well as the traditional invention of the compass.
The Tabula Amalphitana is one of the oldest maritime codes, it was most used by the maritime nations of the time, regulating even the relations between the crew members of the commercial ships.
A version of this code is preserved in the Municipal Museum, elaborated between the 11th and 14th centuries and whose chapters contain surprising information on the development of the Amalfi boat company.
It is admitted that it was the Amalfitans who invented the compass as a means of magnetic marine orientation, called “dry”. They spread it throughout the Mediterranean in the first half of the thirteenth century. The mythical Amalfi inventor Flavio Gioia, in honor of whom there is a bronze monument made by the artist Alfonso Balzìco, located on the square in front of the sea, has never really existed. Its existence comes from an error of interpretation of Renaissance writers.