Struggle for Empire: Kingship and Conflict Under Louis the German, 817 – 876, by Eric J. Goldberg.
One key source of income for Louis the German was the collection of tribute – for example, collected from the Danes and various Slavic people. I find this of little noteworthy interest in and of itself; what is noteworthy is the amount – and what that amount represented:
…Louis could demand some 335 pounds of silver annually from the Slavs and the Danes….Of course, frequent rebellions made it likely that Louis often received only half the owed tribute in a given year. Nevertheless, the estimate suggests an annual income of some 170 pounds of silver.
Call it $55,000 at today’s price of silver (I am not going to get into pure silver per ounce, troy or otherwise, etc.).
To put the sum in perspective, this amount was enough wealth for the king to reward sixty-eight young noblemen with a complete set of military equipment – a horse, coat of armor, helmet, sword, shield, and spear – every year.
This is about $800 per young nobleman.
I can think of a dozen points that must be examined before I feel I fully understand the meaning of this calculation; I do not intend to examine any of these points. Instead, I offer two observations:
First, the total sum collected from the entirety of Louis’ non-Saxon tributes is $55,000 in today’s value of silver. That’s it.
Second, the fighting men of Louis’ time required only $800 worth of equipment to turn them into the most destructive fighting force of Europe at the time.
Times have certainly changed, on both points.