Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Christian Societies Emerge in Europe, 600-1200

I. The Byzantine Empire, 600-1200

A. An Empire Beleaguered--having a single ruler endowed with supreme legal and religious authority prevented the breakup of the Eastern Empire into petty principalities (as was the case with the Western Empire--the "fall" of Rome)--but a series of territorial losses sapped the strength of the empire.

1. Arab defeat of the Sasanid Empire

2. Arab victories also gain for them the former Byzantine controlled territories of Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia.

3. The threat of Islam--the rise of Islam in these territories meant the diminished influence of Christianity there; by the end of the 12th century, some two-thirds of the Christians in these former Byzantine territories had adopted the Muslim faith.

4. Christiam schism--at the same time that the Byzantine Empire was being threatened by Islam, worsening relations with the bishops of Rome and western princes limited the support for Byzantium when it was most needed; by 1054, religious differences between the eastern Christian churches and the Latin Church in the west had grown into a full schism that has only partly been mended.

B. Society and Urban Life

1. Plague of Justinian--although the eastern empire was more urbanized, both parts of the empire were devasted during the 6th century epidemic of bubonic plague, named for the emperor Justinian, who ruled Byzantium from 527 to 565. Narrative histories tell us little about its effects, but popular narratives of the lives of saints show a transition from stories about educated saints hailing from cities to stories about saints who originated as peasants

2. Urban elite population shrinks--as the urban elite population shrank, the importance of high-ranking aristocrats and rural landowners increased. Populations in cities shrank, and in many area barter replaced money transactions.

3. Rise of Rural Elites--as the number of urban elite shrank, the importance of high-ranking aristocrats at the imperial court and of rural landowners increased. Power centered in rural families began to rival the power of class-based officeholding. By the end of the 11th century, a family-based military aristocracy had emerged.

4. Restriction of economic freedom--Byzantine emperors continued the late Roman inclination to set prices, organize grain shipments to the capital, and monopolize trade in luxury goods. While this kept the masses out fo the streets and relatively well-fed, this was probably a factor in slowing technological development and economic innovation--and tended to restrict the growth of other urban areas in the Eastern Empire, as well.

B. Cultural achievements

1. Hagia Sophia cathedral--as well as a number of other places of worship

2. Byzantine religious art--an outgrowth of the religious archtecture

3. Cyrillic alphabet--used by Slavic Christians adhering to the Orthodox (Byzantine) rites in religious practice--and the basis for the persistance of Orthodox religious practice among the southern Slavic peoples (and Russians), while the Roman alphabet and religion prevails among the Poles, Czechs, and Croatians

II. Early Medieval Europe, 600-1000

A. The Time of Insecurity

1. Muslim Invasions--Arabs and Berbers crossed the Straits of Gibraltar in 711, and quickly overran the Visigoth kingdom in modern Spain. They pushed the Christian princes to the northern areas of the peninsula, then turned to invading France, reaching as far north as Tours (about 150 miles south of Paris) before being defeated and forced to withdraw to Iberia by Charles Martel (the grandfather of Charlemagne)

2. The Carolingian Empire--military effectiveness was the key element in the rise of the Carolingian family, first as the protectors of the Frankish kings, and then as kings themselves--and eventually as emperors. At the peak of Charlemagne's power, the Carolingian Empire encompassed all of Gaul and parts of Germany and Italy, with the pope ruling parts of the latter. When Louis the Pious, Charlemagne's son, died, the Treaty of Verdun split the empire into three parts: the French-speaking west (France); the middle (Burgandy), and the German-speaking in the east (Germany). The Carolingian economic system based upon landed wealth and a brief intellectual revival sponsored personally by Charlemagne provided a common heritage.

3. Viking Raids--Europe was threatened not only from invaders from the south, but from the north, as well. The Vikings were adventerous and skilled sailors, and their hit-and-run raids around northern Europe struck fear into the hearts of the people living in those areas. Their legacy can still be viewed in the person of the stereotypical Irish redhead; Celts were more darkly complected, but with the offspring of Viking invaders, there grew a large population of redheads.

C. A Self-Sufficient Economy

1. Germanic Customs--the Germanic peoples who came to power in the vaccuum of the fall of Rome had little use for the urban-based civilization of the Romans; the population of cities fell, and much of the infrastructure constructed by the Romans fell into disrepair. The German diet consisted largely of beer, lard or butter, bread made from barley, rye, or wheat, all supplemented by pork from swine heards that were free range fed on acorns, beechnuts, and whatever else they found in forests.

2. The Manorial System--fear of attack led many small farmers to give their land to large landowners in return for physical and political protection. The large landowners, in turn, supported a fighting force to protect the area they were accumulating this land in--and to keep the former small landowners in line. In this hierarchical society, the former small landowners found their status changed, as well.

a. Serfs--Serfs were agricultural workers who belonged to the manor, tilled its fields, and owed dues and other obligations. Serfs could not leave the manor where they were born (legally). Most peasants in England, France, and western Germany were unfree serfs in the 10th and 11th centuries. In Bordeaux, Saxony, and  few other regions, free peasantry survived based on the egalitarian social structure of the Germanic people during their period of migration. Outright slavery, on the other hand, diminished as more and more peasants became serfs in return for a lord's protection.

D. Early Medieval Society in the West

1. Feudalism--is the term used to describe the the relationship between nobles and "vassals"--or those person nobles gave land to in return for military service. By the 10th century, these vassals using owned horses from which they fought from, and provided their own armor. As they obtained technology like stirrups, their armor became more elaborate

2. Knights--By the 11th century, the knight had emerged as the central figure in medieval warfare. As a knight became more prosperous, he could afford a more elaborate outfit, which signaled his greater status

3. Fiefdoms--a grant of land in return for military service was often called a fief. Although at first these grants were taken back at the end of the fief's life, by the 10th century, these fiefdoms could be inherited as long as the military service continued to be provided. It evolved as a general practice for a king or major noble to make grants of land to his vassals (other members of the nobility), who in turn made grants to their vassals. The lord of the manor provided governance and justice locally; the royal government was quite distant to the average peasant.

4. Noblewomen--became enmeshed in this system as heiresses and as candidates for marriage. A man who married a widow or the daughter of a lord could gain control of the lord's property. Noble daughters and sons had little say in marriage matters; issues of land, power, and military service took precendence.

III. The Western Church

A. Politics and the Church

1. The papacy--in the west Roman nobles lost control of the papacy, and it became a more powerful international office after the tenth century. Councils of bishops usually convened not only to chose the next pope, but also to fix church doctrine. The lack of trained clergy, difficult transportation, political disorder, and the prevalence of non-standard practice often made the enforcement of approved practice difficult.

2. The Holy Roman Empire--as the French philosopher Voltaire pointed out, the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. It was a creation of the pope Charlemagne's father Pepin in an attempt to make Pepin an ally. Tension quickly grew between the pope and the various princes in Europe, particularly after Hildebrand as Pope Gregory decreed that all earthy princes were all subservient to him, since he was God's appointee on earth. This tension came to a head in the investure controversey, when Gregory excommunicated (denied the sacraments of the Church) the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV over Henry's refusal to follow Gregory's reforms. While Henry was penitent over this matter, when Gregory declared Henry deposed (removed as emperor) in 1078, Henry forced Gregory to flee from Rome, and Gregory died in exile in Salerno two year later. This dispute was not resolved until the Concordat of Worms, when Henry V renounced his right to choose bishops and abbots or bestow spiritual symbols upon them, while Pope Calixtus II agreed to permit the emperor to invest papally appointed bishops and abbots with any lay rights or obligations before their spiritual consecration.

3. Henry II of England and Thomas a Becket--Becket was Henry's closest friend and advisor, so when Henry convinced him to become a priest and had him appointed Archbishop of Canterbury (the most important bishop in England), Henry assumed he could therefore also control the Church in England. When Becket resisted, four of Henry's knights, knowing that Henry wished Becket dead, murdered him. The backlash from this underhanded deed undermined the authority the Henry had wielded.

B. Monasticism--became prominent in almost all medieval Christian lands, although its origins lie in the eastern lands of the Roman Empire.

1. Benedictine Rule--the most important form of monasticism in western Europe involved groups of monks or nuns living together in organized communities. The person most responsible for introducing this originally Egyptian practice in the Latin west was Benedict of Nursia in Italy. Benedict began his monastic career living as a hermit in a cave, but eventually organized several monastraries, each headed by an abbot. Benedictine Rule governed the behavior of monks, and envisioned a life of devotion and work, along with obigations of celibacy, poverty, and obedience to the abbot. Those who lived by monastic rules were classified as regular clergy, while those who lived in secular society were secular clergy.

2. Preservation of knowledge--since those living in monastaries were among the few people in European society during this time that could read and write, and because they were to devote themselves to work when not devoted to prayer, monastaries in western Europe were responsible for preserving much of the knowledge acculated by the Romans (Muslim societies and Byzantium preserved much of the Greek knowledge, plus their own discoveries).

3. Cluny--even with the Rule of Benedict, religious practices in monastaries were susceptible to corruption. The abbot at the Benedictine monastary in Cluny, France, led the first reform movement, and at the peak of Cluny's influence nearly 1,000 monastaries and priories (lower-level monastic houses) came under the rule of the abbot of Cluny.

IV. Western Europe Revives, 1000-1200

A. The New Millenium--when the next millenium passed, and Jesus did not reappear as was widely believed, Europeans seemed to gather the wherewithal to work to improve their society, since it seemed likely that they would be around a while longer.

B. The Role of Technology

1. Population growth--the population in western Europe doubled in the 200 years between 1000 and 1200

2. Horses and plows--Europeans switch over almost exclusively to the use of horses from oxen; horses can pull heavier loads, although they need more grain than oxen. Europeans also begin to use the horse collar, rather than previous kinds of harnesses, which shifted the burden back to the animals shoulders, rather than neck, and allowed them to pull things with choking themselves. A new kind of plow was also developed, which allowed ploughmen to furrow deeper, and to work in the heavier soils of western Europe.

C. Cities and the Rebirth of Trade

1. Independent Cities in Italy--Independent cities governed and defended by communes appeared first in Italy and in Flanders, and then spread elsewhere. Communes were groups of leading citizens who banded together to defend their city and to demand the right of self-government from their lay or religious lord. With this independence, they were able to attract workers from the surrounding countryside, who brought their skills to these cities, began manufacturing items--and provided merchants with the material to begin trading with.Venice, built on a series of swampy islands on the eastern side of the Italian peninsula, and Genoa on the western side, became two of the leading independent cities that sparked trade with Muslims in the Middle East, eventually trading with India and on the Silk Road.

2. Independent Cities in Flanders (modern Belgium)--cities like Bruges, Ghent, and Ypres rivaled Italian cities in wealth, by trading in fish caught in the North Sea, and by becoming an early textile manufacturing center.

V. The Crusades, 1095-1204

A. The Roots of the Crusades

1. The Truce of God--Christian societies in Europe were very violent, with knights looking to prove their worth, and war as a means of overcoming ones opponents. Church leaders attempted to change this atmosphere by decreeing certain times forbidden for carrying out war--Lent, Sundays, othe important holy days. While many knight welcomed a religiously approved alternative to fighting other Christians, the leaders of these societies were also looking for new lands to conquer and exploit. In addition, Italian merchants wanted to increase trade with the eastern Mediterranean, and eliminate the Muslim middlemen they were dealing with. But without the rivalry between the popes and kings discussed above, and without the desire of the Church to demonstrate political authority over western Christendom, the Crusades might never have happened.

2. Pilgrimages--were important in the religious life in Europe. The Muslim rulers benefited monetarily from these pilgrimages, and did their best to accommodate these pilgrims. Pilgrims were usually accompanied by knights during the long journey, who interacted with other knights and learned of efforts to overthrow Muslim rulers in other parts of Europe--particularly in the Iberian Peninsula. When security in the eastern Mediterranean began to break down after the Seljuk Turk victory and the spread of Turkish nomads throughout the region, tension rose.

3. Pope Urban II--despite theological differences between the Othodox and Roman Churches, the Byzantine emperor Alexius Conenus asked the pope and western European rulers to help him retake the Holy Land and end the Muslim threat. Urban responded, called upon western Christians to stop fighting each other, and to fight Muslims instead. While the First Crusade was fairly successful, capturing Jerusalem and establishing Christian communities in other locales in the region, Muslim retook Jerusalem in 1187; by the Fourth Crusade, the religious ardor that had animated the First Crusade had waned to the extent that the crusaders sacked Christian Constantinople before beginning, in order to pay for shipping the Crusaders across the Mediterranean

B. Impact of the Crusade--although at war with Muslims, western European crusaders were also impressed with the civilizations that Muslims created in the eastern Mediterranean, and sought to learn from them. The crusaders brought back to western Europe much of the knowledge preserved in the region, from Ancient Greece, from Arab scholars, translated it, and began to incorporate what they learned.

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