Most people do not realize how the financial systems outside of Christendom were untrustworthy in pre-modern times. The moral structures of the Church created a climate of trust and honesty that was unknown to other civilizations.
Historian Rodney Stark relates an astonishing example of the Turks after their defeat in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The victorious Christians were amazed to find enormous fortunes in gold coins in the holds of the ships of the Muslim admirals. Without a system of banking and any safe means of storage, it appears the admirals brought most of their fortunes with them. They also feared their fortunes might be confiscated by an angry Sultan should the outcome of the battle be negative.
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The fear also extended to the Ottoman commander Ali Pasha whose fortune was found in his captured flagship, the Sultana. It appears not even Ali Pasha’s high connections were considered enough to save him from the Sultan’s wrath. He was a member of the upper elite and married to the Sultan’s sister.
Dr. Stark asks: “If such a person could find no safe investments and dared not even leave his money at home, how could anyone else hope to do better?”