"God-protected" Byzantine society had a strictly hierarchical structure and a centralized authority in accordance with absolutist concepts. The Emperor "by the grace of God" together with his family and court were at the tip of the social pinnacle.
The local aristocracy, state functionaries, senior military officers, and large landowners were all members of the upper class. The middle class comprised the urban population of merchants, industrialists, and owners of medium-sized landed properties, while the populace, that is, the lower class, was made up of wage-earners and paupers.
The clergy did not form a distinct class, despite the fact that they enjoyed special privileges; they were distributed throughout all the social levels. Slaves did exist, although the state preferred their redemption to their subjugation.
There was an extensive network of small and large towns linked by a road system which carried a multiplicity of products to and from much frequented seaports. It was the village, though, that provided the basis of the financial system of the Byzantine state, and served as the primary unit of production. Thus, the growth and development of the institution of land ownership, and the well-being of the farming community were inseparably bound up with the rise and fall of the empire.
The organized guilds of craftsmen and artisans in the towns produced goods destined for demanding purchasers. Daily life, profoundly influenced by the commandments of the Christian religion, revolved around the home, in which women devoted themselves to the upbringing of their children, and various public places, where men sought relaxation in their leisure hours.