THE institutions of Imperial Rome had long thwarted the great law of man's existence which impels him to better his condition, when the accession of Leo the Isaurian to the throne of Constantinople suddenly opened a new era in the history of the Eastern Empire. Both the material and intellectual progress of society had been deliberately opposed by the imperial legislation. A spirit of conservatism persuaded the legislators of the Roman empire that its power could not decline, if each order and profession of its citizens was fixed irrevocably in the sphere of their own peculiar duties by hereditary succession. An attempt was really made to divide the population into castes. But the political laws which were adopted to maintain mankind in a state of stationary prosperity by these trammels, depopulated and impoverished the empire, and threatened to dissolve the very elements of society. The Western Empire, under their operation, fell a prey to small tribes of northern nations; the Eastern was so depopulated that it was placed on the eve of being repeopled by Sclavonian colonists, and conquered by Saracen invaders...
Using clear and eminently readable prose, Charles Oman describes the rise and fall of a great empire. He begins with the founding of Byzantium by Greek colonists, traces its rise to power and eventual elevation to peer of Rome (and re-christening as Constantinope "the City of Constantine"), and explains the underpinnings of the gradual decline and eventual conquest of the city by the Ottomans. Oman was an early apologist for the Byzantines, and sought to refute the reputation of degeneracy and weakness that had been given to that civilization by prior historians.
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