The Middle Ages by HC120216122424


									The Middle Ages

   Steve Wood
       The “Middle” Ages

• To understand the Middle Ages, let’s
  start with the name itself.
• What exactly were these ages in the
  middle of?
       The “Middle” Ages

• The Middle Ages is a period of time
  lasting for roughly 1000 years, from
  approximately AD 500-1500.
• They were called “Middle Ages”
  because they were between the Classical
  world of ancient Greek and Roman
  civilization and the modern world
  beginning with the Renaissance.
         The “Dark” Ages

• Unfortunately, the name often gives rise
  to the belief that the Middle Ages are a
  cultural valley between the two peaks of
  Roman culture and the European
• That is why some refer to the Middle
  Ages, especially the first few centuries,
  as the Dark Ages.
         The “Dark” Ages

• The reality is that the Middle Ages was a
  time of great change in Western Europe.
• Some of those changes were positive,
  some negative, while most of them were
  painful and disruptive.
            Filling the Void

• The Roman Empire, which had dominated the
  region for several centuries, had begun to
• Because Nature abhors a vacuum, the void left
  by the Romans was eventually filled by a
  number of social, political, and religious
• It is these institutions – such as chivalry,
  feudalism, and the church -- that we most often
  think of when we think of the Middle Ages.
     Dating the Middle Ages

• Precise dates for the beginning and end
  of any historical period can be difficult;
  however, there are two dates that serve
  as convenient markers for the Middle
  Ages – A.D 476 and A.D. 1453.
• Both dates are associated with the fall of
  the Roman empire.
        The Roman Empire

• At the zenith of their power, the Romans
  ruled the world from Britain to the
  northern Africa, from Spain to the Holy
  Land and beyond.
          A Divided Empire

• The Roman Empire had been split in two since
  the late 200s (the reign of Diocletian).
  Subsequent emperors, especially Constantine,
  had tried to reunite the halves, although
  pressure from various groups of barbarians
  had shrunk the empire in the west.
• Finally, in 395, Theodosius formally split the
  empire in two parts – the western Roman
  empire centered on Rome and the eastern
  Byzantine empire centered on Constantinople.
      Foundations of Empire

• Humanitas (social heroism) – subordination of
  the individual to the social good
• Pietas (piety) – subordination of the human
  will to the divine
• Gravitas (self-restraint) – intellectual integrity
• Virtus (masculine virtue) – strength, courage,
  military prowess
                  Pax Romana

• The Romans pacified much of the world by
  ruling fairly, but also brutally.
• “The Pax Romana was not totally peaceful, but Rome
  itself was largely safe and orderly even though the
  question of succession rose again and again.
  Relatively speaking, Pax Romana was the most
  peaceful two centuries of human history. Human
  frailty brought this period to an end; it is still with us.”
  Harry Rosenberg, here.
                  A.D. 476

• In 476, the last emperor of the western Roman
  empire, a boy named Romulus Augustulus, is
  deposed by the barbarian king Odacer.
  Odacer then sent word to the eastern Roman
  Emperor Zeno that no replacement emperor
  was needed.
• This date is often used as the beginning of the
  Middle Ages as various forces struggled to fill
  the cultural, political, military, and social void
  left by the Romans.
         The Example of Law

• For example, the Roman concept of law, to
  which the English and American systems owe
  a great deal, had once help tie together an
  empire of disparate cultures.
• Roman law was founded on three principles:
   – Single sovereignty – law should come from a single
   – Universality – all citizens are under the same laws
   – Equity – circumstances should alter the individual
     application of laws
       The Example of Law

• This system was replaced by the
  Germanic trial by combat or the trial by
• Trial by combat meant that the two
  parties in a legal dispute fought, and the
  winner was the legal victor. In some
  cases, a representative of the king would
        The Example of Law

• Trial by ordeal involved various forms of
  physical torture. For example, someone
  accused of stealing would be forced to grasp a
  red-hot iron bar. Based on how the wound
  healed, the accused was declared innocent or
• Both of these trials were based on the belief
  that the gods would insure the just outcome.
           Filling the Void

• Three of the forces that eventually filled
  the void left by the Romans were:
  – Feudalism
  – Chivalry
  – Christianity
               from Britain

• “Feudalism in practice meant that the country was
  not governed by the king but by individual lords, or
  barons, who administered their own estates,
  dispensed their own justice, minted their own money,
  levied taxes and tolls, and demanded military service
  from vassals. Usually the lords could field greater
  armies than the king. In theory the king was the
  chief feudal lord, but in reality the individual lords
  were supreme in their own territory. Many kings
  were little more than figurehead rulers.”
             from Britain

• “Feudalism was built upon a relationship of
  obligation and mutual service between
  vassals and lords. A vassal held his land, or
  fief, as a grant from a lord. When a vassal
  died, his heir was required to publicly renew
  his oath of faithfulness (fealty) to his lord
  (suzerain). This public oath was called
             from Britain

• “The vassal was required to attend the lord at
  his court, help administer justice, and
  contribute money if needed. He must answer
  a summons to battle, bringing an agreed
  upon number of fighting men. As well, he
  must feed and house the lord and his
  company when they travelled across his
             from Britain

• “This last obligation could be an onerous
  one. William the Conqueror travelled with a
  very large household, and if they extended
  their stay it could nearly bankrupt the lord
  hosting them. In a few days of Christmas
  feasting one year William and his retinue
  consumed 6,000 chickens, 1,000 rabbits, 90
  boars, 50 peacocks, 200 geese, 10,000 eels,
  thousands of eggs and loaves of bread, and
  hundreds of casks of wine and cider.”
             from Britain

• “On the lord's side, he was obliged to protect
  the vassal, give military aid, and guard his
  children. If a daughter inherited, the lord
  arranged her marriage. If there were no heirs
  the lord disposed of the fief as he chose.”
     Important Feudal Terms

• Fief – or “feodum” – the land itself that was
  the basis for the feudal system
• Homage – the ceremony in which a vassal
  would swear an oath of fealty to his lord
• Fealty – the two-way obligation between lord
  and vassal
• Primogeniture – the inheritance of the fief and
  the attendant oaths by the eldest son
• Perfidy – oath-breaking

• The warrior codes of the tribes who
  replaced the Romans in western Europe
  eventually became the practice known as

• The term “chivalry” comes from the French
  “chevalier,” which meant “Horseman.”
• Thus, originally, “chivalry” referred to the
  military tactics of the mounted soldier or
• Along the way, though, a whole series of
  social and religious conventions were attached
  to the process.
               from Britain

• “After the lord on the social ladder came the knight.
  The path to knighthood began at the age of seven,
  when a vassal sent his son to the lord's house to
  become a page. For seven years a page was cared for
  by the women of the house, who instructed him in
  comportment, courtesy, cleanliness, and religion.At
  14 the page became a squire, a personal attendant to
  a knight. From the knight he learned riding and all
  the skills of war, as well as hunting, hawking, and
  other sports.”
             from Britain

• “When he was judged ready (generally
  between the ages of 18 and 21) the squire was
  knighted in a religious ceremony after
  spending the night guarding his armour
  before a church altar. He had to swear to the
  knightly code which asked him to ‘protect the
  weak, defenseless, and helpless, and fight for
  the general welfare of all.’”
      The Duties of a Knight
             from John of Salisbury

• “But what is the office of the duly
  ordained soldiery? To defend the
  Church, to assail infidelity, to venerate
  the priesthood, to protect the poor from
  injuries, to pacify the province, to pour
  out their blood for their brothers (as the
  formula of their oath instructs them),
  and, if need be, to lay down their lives.”

• The third force will helped fill the void
  left by the Roman Empire is Christianity,
  which also had a great impact on the
  other two forces.
• From its beginnings in Jerusalem,
  Christianity had begun to spread
  throughout the Roman Empire.
Christianity A.D. 185
   Christianity in the Roman
• AD 303 Emperor Diocletian tries to
  purge Christianity from the empire – the
  Great Persecution.
• AD 312 Emperor Constantine converts
  to Christianity.
    Christianity in the Roman
• AD 313 Emperor Constantine issues
  Edict of Milan, which declares
  toleration of all religions in the empire.
    Christianity in the Roman
• AD 361 Emperor Julian tries to abolish
  Christianity in the empire, but Christians
• AD 391 Emperor Theodosius makes
  Christianity the official religion of the empire,
  and all pagan religions are outlawed.
• AD 395 As the empire splits upon the death of
  Theodosius, so, in effect, does the church.
Christianity A.D. 600
          Filling the Void

• As Christianity spread through what had
  been the Roman empire and gained
  footholds with the various Germanic
  tribes in western Europe, it came to
  fulfill many important social functions,
  including education, historical record-
  keeping, and local political structure.
              A.D. 1453

• The date generally given as the end of
  the Middle Ages is 1453, which is the
  date of the fall of Constantinople and of
  the eastern Roman Empire.
• This fall is significant because many
  scholars and texts made their way from
  Constantinople to the west, thus helping
  to touch off the Renaissance.

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