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Proud of that Christian and Roman heritage, convinced that their earthly empire so nearly resembled the heavenly pattern that it could never change, they called themselves Romaioi, or Romans. The term East Rome accurately described the political unit embracing the Eastern provinces of the old Roman Empire until 476, while there were yet two emperors.
The Roman formula of combating fortune with reason and therewith ensuring unity throughout the Mediterranean world worked surprisingly well in view of the pressures for disunity that time was to multiply.Conquest had brought regions of diverse background under Roman rule.The Eastern provinces were ancient and populous centres of that urban life that for millennia had defined the character of Mediterranean civilization.Thanks to the settlements that resulted from such policies, many a name, seemingly Greek, disguises another of different origin: Slavic, perhaps, or Turkish.Barbarian illiteracy, in consequence, obscures the early generations of more than one family destined to rise to prominence in the empire’s military or civil service.Deeply influenced by the soldier’s penchant for hierarchy, system, and order, a taste that they shared with many of their contemporaries as well as the emperors who preceded them, they were appalled by the lack of system and the disorder characteristic of the economy and the society in which they lived.
Both, in consequence, were eager to refine and regularize certain desperate expedients that had been adopted by their rough military predecessors to conduct the affairs of the Roman state.
To protect the frontier against them, warrior emperors devoted whatever energies they could spare from the constant struggle to reassert control over provinces where local regimes emerged.
In view of the ensuing warfare, the widespread incidence of disease, and the rapid turnover among the occupants of the imperial throne, it would be easy to assume that little was left of either the traditional fabric of Greco-Roman society or the bureaucratic structure designed to support it. Devastation was haphazard, and some regions suffered while others did not.
The circumstances of the last defense are suggestive too, for in 1453 the ancient, medieval, and modern worlds seemed briefly to meet.
The last Constantine fell in defense of the new Rome built by the first Constantine. Nor did hostility always characterize the relations between Byzantines and those whom they considered “barbarian.” Even though the Byzantine intellectual firmly believed that civilization ended with the boundaries of his world, he opened it to the barbarian, provided that the latter (with his kin) would accept and render loyalty to the emperor.
(ruled 284–305) and Constantine I (sole emperor 324–337), who together ended a century of anarchy and refounded the Roman state.