To Begin with a question of terminology. In previous chapters I have stressed the power, prosperity and stability of the Roman empire in 600. That empire was very different in a number of ways from the empire of the third century, let alone the first century Ad. Mention of the Roman empire can often conjure up images of marching legionaries, pagan temples and the Latin language. None of these characterised the empire in 600. The striking force of its army was now cavalry; it was Christian; and the dominant language was Greek. Yet it was still the same empire which had dominated the Near East continuously since the first century; indeed at the end of the sixth century it seemed more firmly entrenched than ever. The Chinese empire was a very different state in the tenth century than in the first century or the eighteenth. Even so there is an underlying continuity behind its cultural changes, and, despite fluctuations, its imperial ambitions were always focused on the same regions. As a result no one argues about calling this Far Eastern state in different periods, and under different dynasties, the Chinese empire. The same seems to apply to the Roman empire in 600. It had changed, but no more than one would expect in the history of a state over several centuries.
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