Western Christendom after the Fall of Rome Download

Arthur Schopenhauer
E. Napp
“The middle ages
showed us the results
of thinking without
experimentation, our
present century shows
us what
without thinking leads
Within the new kingdoms of Western Europe, a
highly fragmented and decentralized society with
great local variation emerged
 Thousands of independent, self-sufficient, and
largely isolated landed estates or manors
 Powerful lords were in constant competition
 Lesser lords and knights swore allegiance to
greater lords thus becoming vassals
-Vassals received land and booty in return for
military service to their lords (Feudalism)
E. Napp
Roman slavery gave way to serfdom. Serfs were
not personal property and could not be arbitrarily
thrown off the land. They were allowed to live in
families but they were bound to masters’ estates
as peasant laborers.
E. Napp
Serfs owed various payments and services to
their lords
 In return, a serf family received a small farm and
as much protection as the lord could provide
 In the absence of a central Roman authority, the
only available security lay in these communities,
where the ties to kin, manor, and lord constituted
the primary human loyalties
 Feudalism in Western Europe was a world apart
from the stability of life in imperial Rome or its
continuation in Byzantium
 Also filling the vacuum left by the collapse of a
central government was the Roman Catholic
-Its hierarchical organization of popes, bishops,
and priests was modeled on the Roman Empire
E. Napp
The Roman Catholic Church began the process of
converting many of Europe’s “pagan” peoples,
sometimes peacefully and sometimes through
coercion. The Church provided unity and
stability during a time of political fragmentation.
E. Napp
December 25th was selected as the birthday of
Jesus, for it was associated with the winter
solstice, the coming of more light and the rebirth
of various deities
 By 1100, most of Europe had embraced
 The Roman Catholic Church provided a cultural
unity in a time of political fragmentation
 But there were controversies involving the
Church too
-The Investiture Controversy during the eleventh
and twelfth centuries developed as Church
officials, kings and emperors debated who had
the right to make Church appointments
E. Napp
Eventually, the Church won the right to appoint its
own officials while secular rulers retained an
informal and symbolic role in the process.
E. Napp
The pace of change in the West picked up
considerably in the several centuries after 1000
 For the preceding 300 years, Europe had been
subject to repeated invasions from every direction
-Muslim armies conquered Spain
-Magyar (Hungarian) invasions from the east
-Viking incursions from the north
-But by 1000, these invasions had been checked
and invaders absorbed into settled societies
 Greater security and stability accelerated the
tempo of change
 Also a generally warming trend after 750 reached
its peak in the eleventh and twelfth centuries,
enhancing agricultural production
E. Napp
Commonly called the High Middle Ages, a new
period of expansion and growth occurred.
E. Napp
Population increase led to deforestation and by
1300, the forest cover of Europe had been reduced
to about 20 percent of the land area
 The increased production associated with
agricultural expansion stimulated growth in
long-distance trade, much of which had dried up
in the aftermath of the Roman collapse
-One center of commercial activity lay in
Northern Europe from England to the Baltic
-Another trading network centered on the
northern Italian towns such as Florence, Genoa,
and Venice and their trading partners in the
Islamic and Byzantine worlds
 Urbanization was proceeding as towns and cities
attracted new groups of people
E. Napp
E. Napp
Merchants, bankers, artisans, and universitytrained professionals were attracted to cities and
towns and many groups organized themselves
into guilds or associations of people pursuing the
same line of work in order to regulate their
respective professions.
While women were initially active in a number of
urban professions, by the fifteenth century,
opportunities for women were declining
 Men increasingly took over these previously
women-dominated professions (due to
technological progress that replaced some hand
work) and trained their sons as apprentices
 But religious life provided opportunities for
-As in Buddhist lands, nunneries offered relative
freedom from male control
 A further sign of change lay in the growth of
territorial states with more effective institutions
of government commanding the loyalty of
E. Napp
E. Napp
Since the disintegration of the Roman Empire,
Europeans’ loyalties had focused on the family,
the manor, or the religious community, but
seldom on the state. But in the eleventh through
the thirteenth century, the nominal monarchs of
Europe gradually and painfully began to
consolidate their authority, and the outlines of
French, English, Spanish, and Scandinavian
states began to appear with distinct languages
and cultures.
Beginning in 1095, the Crusades or a series of
“holy wars” captured the imagination of the West
 Europeans believed that the Crusades were wars
undertaken at God’s command and authorized by
the pope as the Vicar of Christ on earth
 Crusaders were offered an indulgence, which
removed the penalties of any confessed sins as
well as various material benefits
 The most famous Crusades were those aimed at
wresting Jerusalem and the holy places of
Christendom from Islamic control
E. Napp
E. Napp
But by 1291, the Muslim forces had recaptured all
of the temporary Christian states established in
the eastern Mediterranean. The Crusades were
“successful failures” for the Europeans for they
never permanently controlled the “Holy Land”
but they received many new ideas from the
Islamic golden age.
The Crusades demonstrated a growing European
capacity for organization, finance, transportation,
and recruitment, made all the more impressive
by the absence of any centralized direction for the
 But also tremendous cruelty, as Crusaders
slaughtered Muslims and Jews
 Crusading was not limited to targets in the
Islamic Middle East
-Christians, both Spanish and foreign, waged war
for centuries to reclaim the Iberian Peninsula
from Muslim hands
-Scandinavian and German warriors took part in
wars to conquer, settle, and convert lands along
the Baltic Sea
E. Napp
E. Napp
Even the Byzantine Empire and Russia, both
Eastern Orthodox Christian lands, were also on
the receiving end of Western crusading, as were
Christian heretics and various enemies of the
pope in Europe itself. Crusading, in short, was a
pervasive feature of European expansion, which
persisted as Europeans began their oceanic
voyages in the fifteenth century and beyond.
E. Napp
Interaction with the Islamic world had long-term
-Spain, Sicily, and the Baltic region were brought
permanently into the world of Western
-A declining Byzantium was furthered weakened
by the Crusader sacking of Constantinople in
1204 and left even more vulnerable to Turkish
-In Europe, popes strengthened their positions, at
least for a time, in their continuing struggles
with secular authorities
-Tens of thousands of Europeans came into
personal contact with the Islamic world, from
which they picked up a taste for the many luxury
goods available there, stimulating a demand for
European goods
Europeans also learned techniques for producing
sugar on large plantations using slave labor, a
process that had incalculable consequences in
later centuries as Europeans transferred the
plantation system to the Americas.
E. Napp
Muslim scholarship, together with the Greek
learning it incorporated, also flowed into Europe,
largely through Spain and Sicily
 The cross-cultural contacts born of crusading
opened channels of trade, technology transfer,
and intellectual exchange
 But cross-cultural contacts also hardened
cultural barriers between peoples
-The rift between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman
Catholicism deepened further
-Christian anti-Semitism was both expressed and
exacerbated as Crusaders massacred Jews in a
number of European cities on their way to
E. Napp
European empire building, especially in the
Americas, continued the crusading spirit.
E. Napp
As the hybrid civilization of the West evolved, it
was clearly less developed in comparison to
Byzantium, China, India, and the Islamic world
 Its cities were smaller, its political authorities
weaker, its economy less commercialized, its
technology inferior to the more established
 But Europeans proved quite willing to engage
with and borrow from the more advanced
civilizations of the east
-When the road to China opened in the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Europeans,
including the merchant-traveler Marco Polo,
were more than willing to take the long journey
E. Napp
E. Napp
Technological borrowing was evident in agriculture
and war. Gunpowder was invented in China, but
Europeans were probably the first to use it in
cannons, in the early fourteenth century, and by
1500, they had the most advanced arsenals in the
In addition, a three-way struggle for power
among kings, warrior aristocrats, and church
leaders, all of them from the nobility, enabled
urban-based merchants in Europe to achieve an
unusual independence from political authority
 This paved the way to a more thorough
development of capitalism in later centuries
 A further feature of this emerging European
civilization was a distinctive intellectual tension
between the claims of human reason and those of
 Earlier cathedral schools became “zones of
intellectual autonomy”
 A new interest in rational thought
E. Napp
Slowly, the scientific study of nature, known as
“natural philosophy” began to separate itself
from theology.
E. Napp
A mounting enthusiasm for rational inquiry
stimulated European scholars to seek out original
Greek texts
 The integration of political and religious life in
the Islamic world, as in Byzantium, contrasted
with their separation in the West
 In the West, there was more space for the
independent pursuit of scientific subjects
 So, as change accelerated in the High Middle
Ages, so too did a new way of looking at the world
and this borrowing, adapting, and emphasis of
rational thought in Western Europe would have
profound repercussions for world history
E. Napp
E. Napp
What replaced the Roman order in Western
 In what ways was European civilization changing
after 1000?
 What was the impact of the Crusades in world
 In what ways did borrowing from abroad shape
European civilization after 1000?
E. Napp
Why was Europe unable to achieve the kind of
political unity that China experienced? What
impact did this have on the subsequent history of
 In what different ways did classical Greek
philosophy and science have an impact in the
West, in Byzantium, and in the Islamic world?
E. Napp