Despite the pessimism of Lactantius, he wrote at a time when the Roman Empire, far from sinking under the weight of its problems, was reorganizing itself to deal successfully with these difficulties. The full story of this reorganization (that is, the history of the Christian Roman Empire) cannot be told here. In order to understand the world in which the monk Adso was writing some six centuries after Lactantius, however, it is important to recognize that although this reorganization was only temporarily successful in the West, it was crucial to the history of the Middle Ages and to the apocalyptic beliefs held throughout that period.
Constantine's shift of the capital to his new city on the border between Europe and Asia was an early but decisive moment in the orientalization of the later Roman Empire. By A.D. 950 this process, coupled with the massive displacement of peoples that accompanied the period of the invasions, had resulted in a world that, however much it lived under the shadow of Rome, was no longer Roman in the classical sense of the term. Three successor empires laid claims to the lands once united under Roman sway--the Eastern Empire of Byzantium,