he economy of the late Byzantine state, although mainly rural, continued also to develop its urban aspect. The Byzantines were very actively involved in commercial activities, which contributed to the growth of the cities and to the development of the international market. In spite of the privileges and the efforts to provide protection for the Byzantine merchants, the role of the latter in commerce was never a primary one, since it was the Italians who dominated the commercial scene. Relations with the Italians were always determined by the political and economic circumstances that happened to prevail at a certain time. Industry should also be mentioned as a small but not negligible part of the urban economy.
The dominant position of the Italian merchants and the extent of their activities was definitely the main inhibiting factor in the development of Byzantine commerce. Byzantium, in its search for allies, had granted the Italians various privileges, which facilitated their enterprises. Venice had already managed to secure privileges since the middle Byzantine period and continued to maintain them, while Genoa was also able to achieve a position of considerable commercial importance in the Byzantine Empire. Competition was intense between the two Italian cities, the balance of power shifting many times from the one to the other in the course of the three centuries of this period.