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The emperor alone could provide that protection, since, as the embodiment of all the virtues, he possessed in perfection those qualities displayed only imperfectly by his individual subjects.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.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.
Impelled by necessity or lured by profit, people moved from province to province.To strengthen those sinews of imperial civilization, the emperors hoped that a lively and spontaneous trade might develop between the several provinces.At the pinnacle of that world stood the emperor himself, the man of wisdom who would shelter the state from whatever mishaps fortune had darkly hidden.During those same centuries, nonetheless, there were changes so profound in their cumulative effect that after the 7th century state and society in the East differed markedly from their earlier forms.In an effort to recognize that distinction, historians traditionally have described the medieval empire as Byzantine.
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The Western provinces had only lately entered upon their own course of urban development under the not-always-tender ministrations of their Roman masters., and Christian baptisteries attest to the range of organized religions with which the official forms of the Roman state, including those of emperor worship, could not always peacefully coexist.