Christian Europe Emerges, 300–1200
I0. The Byzantine Empire, 300–1200
A0. Church and State
10. While Roman rule and the traditions of Rome died in the west, they were
preserved in the Byzantine Empire and in its capital, Constantinople.
20. While the popes in Rome were independent of secular power, the Byzantine
emperor appointed the patriarch of Constantinople and intervened in doctrinal
disputes. Religious differences and doctrinal disputes permeated the Byzantine
Empire; nonetheless, polytheism was quickly eliminated.
30. While the unity of political and religious power prevented the Byzantine Empire
from breaking up, the Byzantines did face serious foreign threats. The Goths and
Huns on the northern frontier were not difficult to deal with, but on the east the
Sasanids harassed the Byzantine Empire for almost three hundred years.
40. Following the Sasanids, the Muslim Arabs took the wealthy provinces of Syria,
Egypt, and Tunisia from the Byzantine Empire and converted their people to
Islam. These losses permanently reduced the power of the Byzantine Empire. On
the religious and political fronts, the Byzantine Empire experienced declining
relations with the popes and princes of Western Europe and the formal schism
between the Latin and Orthodox Churches in 1054.
B0. Society and Urban Life
10. The Byzantine Empire experienced a decline of urbanism similar to that seen in
the west, but not as severe. One result was the loss of the middle class so that
Byzantine society was characterized by a tremendous gap between the wealth of
the aristocrats and the poverty of the peasants.
20. In the Byzantine period the family became more rigid; women were confined to
their houses and wore veils if they went out. However, Byzantine women ruled
alongside their husbands between 1028 and 1056, and women did not take refuge
30. The Byzantine emperors intervened in the economy by setting prices, controlling
provision of grain to the capital, and monopolizing trade on certain goods. As a
result, Constantinople was well supplied, but the cities and rural areas of the rest
of the empire lagged behind in terms of wealth and technology.
40. Gradually, Western Europeans began to view the Byzantine Empire as a
crumbling power. For their part, Byzantines thought that westerners were
C0. Cultural Achievements
10. Legal scholars put together a collection of Roman laws and edicts under the title
Body of Civil Law. This compilation became the basis of Western European civil
20. Byzantine architects developed the technique of making domed buildings. The
Italian Renaissance architects adopted the dome in the fifteenth and sixteenth
30. In the ninth century the Byzantine missionaries Cyril and Methodius preached to
the Slavs of Moravia and taught their followers to write in the Cyrillic script. II0. Early Medieval Europe, 300–1000
A0. From Roman Empire to Germanic Kingdoms
10. In the fifth century the Roman Empire broke down. Europe was politically
fragmented, with Germanic kings ruling a number of different kingdoms.
20. Western Europe continued to suffer invasions as Muslim Arabs and Berbers took
the Iberian Peninsula and pushed into France.
30. In the eighth century the Carolingians united various Frankish kingdoms into a
larger empire. At its height, under Charlemagne, the empire included Gaul and
parts of Germany and Italy. The empire was subdivided by Charlemagne's
grandsons and never united again.
40. Vikings attacked England, France, and Spain in the late eighth and ninth
centuries. Vikings also settled Iceland and Normandy, from which the Norman
William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066.
B0. A Self-Sufficient Economy
10. The fall of the Roman Empire was accompanied by an economic transformation
that included de-urbanization and a decline in trade. Without the domination of
Rome and its “Great Tradition,” regional elites became more self-sufficient and
local “small traditions” flourished.
20. The medieval diet in the north was based on beer, lard or butter, and bread. In the
south, the staples were wheat, wine, and olive oil.
30. Self-sufficient farming estates called manors were the primary centers of
agricultural production. Manors grew from the need for self-sufficiency and self-
40. The lord of a manor had almost unlimited power over his agricultural workers—
the serfs. The conditions of agricultural workers varied, as the tradition of a free
peasantry survived in some areas.
C0. Early Medieval Society in the West
10. During the early medieval period a class of nobles emerged and developed into
mounted knights. Landholding and military service became almost inseparable.
The complex network of relationships between landholding and the obligation to
provide military service to a lord is often referred to as “feudalism.”
20. The need for military security led to new military technology including the
stirrup, bigger horses, and the armor and weapons of the knight. This equipment
was expensive, and knights therefore needed land in order to support themselves.
30. Kings and nobles granted land (a fief) to a man in return for a promise to supply
military service. By the tenth century, these fiefs had become hereditary.
40. Kings were weak because they depended on their vassals—who might very well
hold fiefs from and be obliged to more than one lord. Vassals held most of a
king’s realm, and most of the vassals granted substantial parts of land to their
50. Kings and nobles had limited ability to administer and tax their realms. Their
power was further limited by their inability to tax the vast landholdings of the
Church. For most medieval people, the lord’s manor was the government.
60. Noble women were pawns in marriage politics. Women could own land,
however, and non-noble women worked alongside the men.
III0. The Western Church
A0. The Structure of Christian Faith
10. The Christian faith and the Catholic Church, headed by the Pope, were sources
of unity and order in the fragmented world of medieval Europe.
20. The church hierarchy tried to deal with challenges to unity by calling councils of
bishops to discuss and settle questions of doctrine. B0. Politics and the Church
10. The popes sought to combine their religious power with political power by
forging alliances with kings and finally by choosing (in 962) to crown a German
king as “Holy Roman Emperor.” The Holy Roman Empire was in fact no more
than a loose coalition of German princes.
20. Even within the Holy Roman Empire, secular rulers argued that they s