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Middle Ages

Course Code
Andrew Mc Donald

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September 15
Periodization in History – “Inventing the Middle Ages”
Tripartite division of history
– Ancient
– Medieval
– Modern
*Leonardo Bruni (writer), Florence, d. 1444
*Adapted, developed and dominated (institutionalized) in western history from 17th
Dividing Lines in History
End of Roman empire = end of ancient world
End of Roman empire = beginning of middle ages
Where is the dividing line?
312? 378? 410? 455? 476? 511? 526? 565?
Significant in some way as it marks events and turning
points of the end of the Roman Empire and the beginning
of the middle ages
The artificial and porous nature of dividing lines in history
Imposed by later writers about the past and not by those in the
Inventing the Middle Ages in the Renaissance
Petrarc\h, 1304 – 74
Writers that were starting to say that they are living within a different
age than what has happened previously
‘dark ages’, ‘middle ages’
A stagnate place
‘Renaissance’ = Rebirth
Medium aevum = middle age = medieval
Middle ages = artificial, scholarly, construct
‘Middle Ages’
The six ages of Man
St. Augustine d. 430
“The middle ages is an unfortunate term. It was not invented until the age was long
past. The dwellers in the middle ages would not have recognized it. They did not
know that they were living in the middle; they thought, quite rightly, that they were
time’s last achievement.”
Morris Bishop, The Middle Ages (1968)
The Idea of the Middle Ages
– Renaissance
‘Gothic’ = barbaric
– Reformation
Catholic superstition and corruption
– Enlightenment
Age of Faith vs. Age of Reason

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– Romantics
Gothic revival >> ‘Light ages’
Modern academic use
Retains the term but ditches the negative connotations
The Problem of the ‘Decline and Fall’ of the Roman Empire
*what happened to the Roman Empire in the 5th century?
Empires and Revolutions
Roman empire = arguably the greatest empire the world has seen
‘Decline and Fall’ = arguably one of the most famous process impacting an
A series of revolutions
*Pax Romana – the Roman Peace
main focus: a Mediterranean civilization
while they did conquered several land, they were very tolerate with other
they were okay with assimilating to the cultures of the city that they
Crisis of the 3rd Century
Crisis of the frontiers
251 Emperor Decius slain by Goths
Dramatic neighbours of the Romans
An Emperor was actually killed against the Goths – the first time
in a long time that a Roman Emperor has been slain against a
foreign enemy
260 Emperor Valerian captured by Persians
271 Aurelian Wall – Rome
Rome wasn’t fortified until now where states start to build walls
around their city
‘The Imperial Merry Go Round’
238: seven emperors
218 – 268: 50 contenders
There would be emperors that would last a few days, weeks or
even years
This creates a sort of instability
The ‘age of the soldier emperors’
260s – 280s: ‘Breakaway Empires’
Problem Solving Emperors and the ‘New Empire’:
Diocletian (r. 284 – 305, d. 311)
The way that they dressed and the way that they worked made Rome
into a more of a Military state
Diocletian came from a poor background and assassinated a
contending governor to become empire
Locks down on Christianity – persecution of the Christians and their
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