The period from 610 to the end of the 9th century has for many years been described by Byzantinists as the 'Dark Ages' of Byzantium. This was due partly to the almost total absence of written sources, and partly to the impression (suggested by the paucity of the sources) that Byzantium was in crisis, decadent and about to collapse. The emergence of archaeological evidence and a deeper study of the few available sources has modified this picture: the period from the middle of the 6th century to the beginning of the 7th was indeed a time of breakdown in relation to the status quo that existed in Byzantium during the previous centuries (4th-6th). But this was also a period in which a new status quo began to take shape, although the full pattern would not be complete until the 9th and 10th centuries. The characteristics of this period do not necessarily speak for an era of decadence, but rather of a crisis that resulted in a different organization of space, raw materials, people and production within the Byzantine State. This was necessary if Byzantine citizens were to survive and meet new needs.

The 7th century undoubtedly suffered a severe economic crisis, and it was at this time that the ruralization of the economy took place as well as the simplification of production relationships and the transformation from a monetary economy into the bartering system. In the course of the 8th century the economy recovered somewhat, and previously flagging economic sectors developed anew and were reorganized (particularly the urban economy), the aim being largely to reverse the massive imperial loss of revenue. The 9th century was a century of relative peace and tranquility. The process of economic development was completed in the 10th century, when a monetary economy once more prevailed.