The world of ideas believed that the material world of the senses was like seeing shadows on the walls of a cave

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HIstory 2100 Medieval Europe

Jan 12, 2010

Greek Contributions to the arts - originated the basic ideas of comedy and tragedy

Greek Philosophy -

Plato (427-347)

the world of ideas - believed that the material world of the senses was like seeing shadows on the walls of a cave. we must be able to understand the world with our mind not just our senses. these ideas of the world don’t change and are constant. For Plato the Physical world isn’t the best place to find knowledge but rather the world of ideas is a place of true knowledge and is constant. This is a very rational world.

Mind/body dualism - Humans are an amalgamation of Minds and Bodies and the mind is the more important part b/c it will survive the death of the body and go to the world of ideas.

the Neoplatonists - “New Plato’s” arrive in the 3rd century CE and their works were the closest many people in the MA ever got to Plato.

Western Science, political ideology and philosophy, architecture, drama, and many other aspects of western european culture have their roots in the ancient Greek culture.

together Plato and Aristotle are important b/c they took a stance against the moral relativism of their day. They believed that it was possible to arrive at fundamental truths that would never change. Truth was certain and knowable and unchangeable.

many people in the Middle ages had a similar belief as Plato. they believed that there were two different worlds, the world of the body and the spiritual world that is immediately present to them and more important than the physical world.

Plato himself wasn’t very common or well known in the middle ages. people didn’t know Plato second hand through the Neoplatonists.

Aristotle - His approach to finding truth was much different than Plato’s. for him the physical world wasn’t a shadow of reality as it was for Plato but very real and a place were absolute truth could be found. Aristotle used Empirical evidence where Plato had used rational evidence.

Science - he is the father of western science astronomy, physics, biology. He designed the basic vocabulary of western science and the naming system in biology

Logic - he literally wrote the book about basic logic “something cannot be and not be at the same time”

Ethics - Aristotle believed that ethical virtue was a middle ground b/w two extremes. one of his most famous sayings is “Man is a political animal” for Aristotle it is a natural event for people to get together and form political units

Like Plato Aristotle was not directly known in the MA it wasn’t until the late 13th C that his ideas were “re-discovered”

Another important school of Philosophy originating out of Greece was Stoicism. Stoics believed that it was their duty to live in harmony with the universe and fulfill their role. they believed that emotions showed that you were not living in harmony with the universe. If you were a emperor be the best emperor you could be and if you were a slave be the best slave you could be, and accept what happens to you. They also believed that every human had a spark of the divine w/i them

Roman Achievements

Administration and Gov’t - had a massive yet efficient gov’t that could effectively rule a large empire

Law - Roman laws were the same for everyone all across the empire and it helped bind together the empire.

Latin Language - the language of the romans was fundamentally important for the empire and for the MA. the Latin language remained the language of the educated throughout the MA and even past the MA in western europe.

Architecture - also fundamentally important for medieval society. the romans developed on top of the ideas and designs of the Greeks. The Roman Arch made it possible to build bigger and more structurally sound buildings. Roman styles of building were used late into the MA

Idea of Empire - creating an idea of a politically united region that covered western Europe. the idea of an emperor with the right to rule europe goes back to the original Roman Empire.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Problems with the “decline and fall” metaphor - it gives is a sense that roman society was degenerate and collapsed from within which may or may not have been true. Also when people talk about the fall of the Roman empire they are talking about the Western Roman Empire b/c the Eastern Roman Empire doesn’t fall until 1453. Historians started calling the eastern roman empire the Byzantine Empire from about 500 BC on.

Rome fell b/c

Empire was over extended

unable to maintain its boarders against barbarian invaders

Theodocian Code - laws were passed that restricted people mobility both professionally and physically. if you were a bread maker or a farmer you had to remain bread maker or a farmer for the rest of your life and thats what your children must do to. they did this b/c there were not enough people making the basic goods to sustain the empire. The empire was also desperately short of money. It got so bad that taxes had to be payed in kind rather than in money.

poor leadership - the Romans were never that good at figuring out how to choose new leaders. this led to coups, assassinations, and Civil Wars. These political problems sapped the strength of the empire.

restrictive taxes that are incredibly high and there is to much corruption. So high are the taxes and so great the corruption that Romans themselves actually flee to the barbarians to get away from these things.

The moral destruction of Rome

there was a partial restoration of the Roman Empire in the 4th C. Two powerful and important emperors Diocletian and Constantine were the leaders of this restorations

Diocletian - he believed that the Roman Empire had simply become to large so he split the Empire into two halves - the Eastern and Western Roman Empires. That split would come to represent the division of Latin and Greek as common speech. He stabilizes the boarders of Rome

Constantine - reunited the Roman Empire but he also protected it as he was a great General. He rebuilds the City Byzantium and renames it Constantinople.

the works of Diocletian and Constantine allow the empire to survive another 100 years.

by 476 the Western Roman Empire is dead. Rome itself sacked multiple times and Barbarians stop even bothering to set themselves up as the Roman emperors anymore.

B/c of Greece and Rome’s great history many people in the MA sam themselves as dwarves compared to the ancients.

Jan 14, 2010


Christianity was different from the previous religions that existed in many ways

monotheistic vs polytheistic

there was no moral code with greco/roman gods

there was no salvation with greco/roman gods

many Romans wanted a personal relationship with gods in the late imperial roman period. this lead to the rise of mystery cults

mystery cults were secretive and only open to those invited by those already in the cult. the often spoke of salvation and saviour figures. Mystery cults are close to Christianity. Mystery cults tended to be polytheistic.

thus religion in the late roman empire was very diverse. there was also a religious philosophy that was changing in the upper classes, religious philosophers began to talk about god in the singular.

Jesus and the Early Church

Jesus was a jew and his teaching a preaching emerged out of the Jewish traditions. Jesus said that the Messiah was going to bring about the end of the world and a day of judgement in which the world have to answer for their sins.

Jesus was in opposition to many Roman ideas and beliefs. He was a monotheist and wouldn’t pay lip service to roman gods and said that they weren’t gods at all. he spread trouble saying that the world was soon coming to an end.

After Jesus' death the religion survived and slowly began to spread. gradually organization’s begin to emerge. eventually Christianity spread all over the roman empire.

with the growth of the church leaders are required for small services and to coordinate the activities of all the christian communities in a city. this leads to the positions of priest, Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal and finally the Pope as the penultimate leader.

the authority of the pope emerges very gradually and slowly and is originally the Bishop of Rome.

The Pope’s claim to the senior figure in the church is called the Petrine Doctrine - the idea that the Bishop of Rome is a senior authority figure over all the church because of Jesus’ telling the disciples that Peter is the head of the Church and on him he will build the Christian Church.

The Christian Apologists - the first group of people who attempt to explain the Christian faith and doctrine to non christians and tried to convert them

from the 2nd C on there was a dialogue b/w Christian revelation and classical philosophy. Christians wanted to reconcile their beliefs with the ideas of the classical greco/roman philosophies. the central philosophical question was how to reconcile the bible with Aristotle and Plato.

in the 4th and 5th C the Church Fathers emerge who helped establish the church and established its fundamentals doctrine and theology

St, Jerome 345-420CE - he compiled the official bible that would be used throughout the MA. it is known as the Vulgate Bible (old and new testament together) The Vulgate bible was written in Latin, previous editions were written in Greek so the Vulgate Bible translates the bible into the common language.

St. Augustine 354-430 - probably the most important Church Father in the western Church. He converted to Christianity late in life and he understood how greco/roman philosophers thought b/c he had read and knew the greco/roman philosophies. He develops some of the basic of the Church such as

Original Sin - the sin that we all have as part of our nature passed down to us fr/ Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden

Grace - since we are all sinners we all need God’s help to be saved.

Violence as an act of Love - the old testament was very militaristic and the new testament was pacifistic. He argues that violence for a Christian can be justified if it is an act of love.

The Conversion of Constantine

before the 3rd C CE Christianity had been a persecuted religion it was under Constantine that it stopped being persecuted and rose to become the official church of the Roman Empire

the Battle of Milvian Bridge 312 CE - the account of a battle that leads to Constantine’s conversion. on the eve of his large battle in the West he has a dream in which he sees the Chi Rho symbol and he has his troops put that symbol on their shields and defeats his enemy and goes on to become the emperor of Rome. This leads him to convert to Christianity

with Constantine’s conversion Christianity goes from a small persecuted sect to a legal religion

the Edict of Milan - Constantine and the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire decide that Christianity (and all other religions) would profit the Empire aka. Christianity is accepted. Persecution ended and Christianity joins the other religions of the Roman Empire. The Edict doesn’t make Christianity the sole religion of Rome it just makes it Legal.

now Christians are free to worship and evangelize of course it helps that the Emperor is a Christian which leads to a period of rapid spread of Christianity. Over the next 70 years Christianity grows and by 385 becomes the sole religion of the Roman Empire.

in 100 years from 300 to 400 Christianity goes from 10% and an illegal persecuted sect to the only religion of the empire.

The Relationship b/w the Church and State

with the emergence of the dominance of the Christian Church there starts to be struggles b/w the Church and the State. the Church is acquiring land and gathering taxes and growing in power

in the 4th and 5th C the Emperor still has far more power and is able to control Christianity. It is during this time the Council of Nicea is called in 325 CE

the Council is the supreme authority of the church at that time and they are called together to decide issues of theology and church doctrine. The Pope is given a place of honor but is only just equal to the other leading Bishops

Pope Gelasius I - he explains what he believes is the proper relationship b/w Pope and Emperor. He believes there are two powers in the world, Religion and Political, and that the Church and Religion is more important than political and secular power.

In the minds of the bishops religion is more important than the state because the sole will live on after a person dies.

the central political challenge of the MA is reconciling the power of the Church with that of the State.

Christianity wasn’t monolithic and unchanging. with the emergence of the Church’s power so grows the power of it’s office’s.

Christianity sowed the seeds of a more unified western Civilization. it is the Glue that holds together western civilization during the MA

Jan 19, 2010

The Barbarians - Were considered barbarians b/c they didn’t live in cities, they didn’t write down their histories, and they weren’t greco/roman

Germanic Society - it is germanic customs and cultures that go on to become the norm during the MA.

Interior tribes didn’t mint coins or even use money they traded in goods and services.

The idea of a Grand Jury to find evidence and a trial jury to decide guilt is a Germanic tradition.

In Germanic society chieftains were chosen by birth but war leaders were chosen by merit.

Germanic society was more loosely organized and citizens had more personal freedom than their roman counterparts.

Germanic kingship - had little actual control over german citizens. A german King rules only his tribe and when important choices had to be made for the tribe the King or priest spoke first only b/c of his power to persuade not b/c of his power to make the decision. Couldn’t simply pass a law (can’t write) as laws were the customs of the tribe.

Importance of personal bonds - personal relationships b/w individuals is the glue that held Germanic society together

-- Kinship - probably the most important bond in germanic society. people were identified by both their mother and their fathers side of the family. Kin is the social safety net- there are no police, EI, pension or anything like that so they are the first people you look to for support. Extended family members were even held responsible for your debts. Bonds of Blood

-- Lordship - this is a bond that emerges b/w the military leader and his followers. Important people were important b/c they had a group of warriors supporting them. Soldiers protects his leader in war and in peace and does what the leader asks of him. the leader ideally gives his soldiers victory and allows them to rise in society. it is this bond of lordship is the origin of Feudalism.

Personal freedom - the right to use and bear arms was one of the personal freedoms and in fact personal arms were the symbol of a free man. Romans had a professional army and only the soldiers of that army could use arms while germanic society is a warrior society were every free man carried his weapons with him.

Germanic society allowed blood feuds. Usually it was an obligation of the kin that could spiral out of control and last for generations so another system was created for vengeance.

this system was called the wergild. the payment of money in place of a blood feud.

people could be brought before a tribal council and charge them with an accusation of some wrong that they have done against you. it was up to the assembly of the tribe to decide what to do. the tribal council could force him to pay the wergild or swear an oath of innocence or make the accused go through an ordeal which was an appeal to divine judgement

there was a special belief that the local tribe could settle these issues on their own, mainly b/c there was no distant power to solve the problems.

Germanic languages - English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, German, and Dutch are all languages that can trace their roots back to the germanic languages

Germans believed that women could speak their minds politically. the running of the household and the fields was left to women as well.

slaves often didn’t live in the house of their owner but rather worked in their own home and had to pay in kind to their masters - give them grain, cattle, beer or whatever it is they produce. this system was a precursor to medieval serfdom.

it was Germanic culture that introduced pants into western civilization.

The Barbarian Invasions
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