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That “something” might be defined as the Greco-Roman civic tradition in the widest sense of its institutional, intellectual, and emotional implications.Grateful for the conditions of peace that fostered it, men of wealth and culture dedicated their time and resources to glorifying that tradition through adornment of the cities that exemplified it and through education of the young who they hoped might perpetuate it.Each of the aspects of unity enumerated above had its other side. Paralleling and sometimes influencing Roman law were local customs and practices, understandably tenacious by reason of their antiquity.Pagan temples, Jewish synagogues, 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.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.
The city was, by virtue of its location, a natural transit point between Europe and Asia Minor (Anatolia).A source of strength in the early Middle Ages, Byzantium’s central geographical position served it ill after the 10th century.The conquests of that age presented new problems of organization and assimilation, and those the emperors had to confront at precisely the time when older questions of economic and social policy pressed for answers in a new and acute form. Bitter ethnic and religious hostility marked the history of the empire’s later centuries, weakening Byzantium in the face of new enemies descending upon it from east and west.The Eastern provinces were ancient and populous centres of that urban life that for millennia had defined the character of Mediterranean civilization.The Western provinces had only lately entered upon their own course of urban development under the not-always-tender ministrations of their Roman masters.