576-585: Conspicuous State, Byzantine Empire; Conspicuous Rival, Persia
IN THE DECADE from 576 to 585, the Byzantine Empire and Persia were engaged in continuous warfare. Although the Byzantines provoked the war, once they had defeated the Persians they were willing to settle for a negotiated peace. The Byzantine Emperor Tiberius, and Maurice, his successor, felt that peace with Persia would only be possible if both sides could gain it with honor; the death of Chosroes, the Persian king, however, put a stop to negotiations and the war dragged on well past the decade until Chosroes II again negotiated a settlement with the Empire, and in fact regained his throne with Byzantine help. Neither side could totally defeat the other without occupying the country; neither was willing nor able to do so, and peace could only exist through mutual recognition of each other's independence. Since this did not happen, war broke out again in the seventh century. Persia was finally destroyed by a new force, Islam.
With perhaps one exception, from 486 B.C. to A.D. 565 the Roman, now Byzantine, Empire dealt with no nation as an equal and recognized none as peer. To most Romans there was no middle course: peoples either entered Roman territory as allies or vassals or remained outside as enemies. Once Rome had annexed the ancient centers of Greek culture, the distinction between Roman and non-Roman became synonymous with the distinction between civilized and barbarian. The idea became so deep rooted, in part