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Fall 2010

Course Code
Bernice Kaczynski

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History 2CC3 Notes: The Medieval World 400-1050
Fall 2010
Late Roman Empire
- Medieval period institutions of the late roman empire, Christianity, barbarians
- Height of the Roman Empire was the 2nd Century
- was very large part of the reasons that it fell; it got to large and diverse
- Reasons for fall:
- Time of imperial crisis. Serious change that indicates a new type of world
- Economic decline: deficiency with the method of production. They relied on slave labour and
were not able to adapt when technology was needed.
- Disease
- Difficulty defending the empire. The army would normally recruit from Italy; when soldiers
retired they were given a plot of land. No longer need for this kind of army. They began recruiting less
from Italy and more from different areas therefore there was not as much loyalty to Rome
- Internal trade decline: desire from east but not much coming into Rome. Led to a great
inflation debase coins so that they were worth less
- Crisis in agricultural life: use to be citizen farmers but that changed. Large estates bought
farms and citizen farmers moved into cities. Urban poor
- No way to orderly transfer power when an emperor died
- Medieval world origin is in the disruption of the 3rd Century and reconstruction of the 4th
- given reprieve under:
- Diocletian: Last great prosecutor of Christians.
- He put an end to the period of turmoil by controlling violence
- Notion of the empire changed: abandons first among equals. He claims he was chosen by
God which sets him apart he emphasized his superiority
- Found away to centralize the empire: he divided the empire into two parts: the east and the
west. He assumed control of the east
tetarchy: rule of four: 2 emperors; two sub-emperors; 4 prefects. The prefectures
answered to the Augustus
- Constantine: equal of apostles
- Civil war because the tetarchy fell apart
- converted to Christianity which led to the rise of Christianity. The end of prosecution
- established new imperial capital in Byzantium
Impact of Christianity
- Christian religion not widespread until 300s
- Natural interest of religion because of the time of instability people began seeking the supernatural
- Rome state religion designed to maintain political structure (cult of deified emperor)
- Emperor cult and civil cult very impersonal personal religion for personal solution began to interest
- “mystery religions” began to fill void
- Cult of mythras: popular in the army. Was an all male cult
- What all the cults had in common was that they emphasized an emotional experience. They offered:
- Communion with God in this life. You can individually connect
- promised eternal salvation. Promise of an after life
- Christianity developed in the context of these cults
- Why did it become a dominant religion?
- Religious emperors turned it from tolerant to prosecution: dangerous refused to worship the
emperor; opposed to violence; met in private
- From the point of view of pagans, Christians were atheist because they did not worship the emperor
- Constantine: Battle of Milivian Bridge: he won the battle and became the emperor of the west
- Why did Constantine convert?
- he was indifferent to religion. He only converted to bring stability to the empire. Unifying
- he underwent the real Christian experience: mythical experience as both began and Christian

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- underwent conversion but may not have been completely Christian
- What does his conversion mean for the development of Christianity?
- Edict of Malian 313: toleration of religion including Christianity: whatever gods there are may
they move towards us
- Christian clergy given some of the same perks as pagan priests
- Thedosius I made Christianity the official religion of the roman empire
- more and more people converted to Christianity once the emperor made it ok
- What does it mean for the Church?
- Special privileges
- support the building of churches
- 321: Sunday was made a holiday
- Constantine and his successors = champion of the church: emperor was the representation of God on
earth; expected the support of the church to maintain unification; equal of the apostles.
- Emperors became protectors of the faith
- important to determine limits of the church and state
Christianity and Classical culture
- Almost every aspect of Christianity was shaped by Greco Roman civilization
- Reaction, adaptation, modification
- Many leaders were recent converts to Christianity
- Spread of Christianity was opposed by intellectuals and most elites:
- Julian (361-363) defender of paganism. He was the nephew of Constantine; he grew up
Christian but converted to paganism
- The Apostate: one who turned away from religion
- One of the most educated emperors in centuries
- He tried to reverse the religious policies: re-instituted pagan ceremonies; try to enhance pagan
priests; tried to prove that the pagan gods do exist; he rebuilt temples; he tried to prohibit Christians
from teaching
- People were not interested in the intellectualized pagan cults
- After Julian the emperors were always Christian but there were still pagan elite were still in the
- Dilemma to Christian church: pagan culture was everywhere
- Initial response: hostility end of world was near and considered education useless
- tertullian: Aristotle. Plato: animals of self-glorification
- anti-intellectual
- Towards the end of the 2nd century intellectuals converted in adult life
- renounce knowledge or risk renouncing faith to embrace glory of classical literature
- St. Jerome: beat on himself because he thought was sinning because he was reading classical
Christians often came to terms with classical culture and adapted it to serve the purpose of Christianity
- Educated Romans didn’t like the Latin the gospels were written in
- St. Jerome: vulgate bible: wrote in common Latin instead of classical Latin
- St. Ambrose: his life illustrates blending old paganism and new Christianity
Christian Monasticism
- Monetary was one of the most important institutions of the Middle Ages
- Benedict Rule: constitutional building; institution perfectly adapted to the needs of medieval society. It
combined Christian and roman values
- They were centers of learning, meditation, hospitals, and hotels for travellers
- The church leaders took on social roles that we would see as roles usually preformed by the state
Concept of Monasticism
- Expression of asceticism discipline bodies can free their spirit to connect with God
- 1st forms: eastern Mediterranean in the Egyptian desert wanted to live like hermits to get away from
the city
- avoid indulgence: little food; slept little; avoided wearing soft clothing; bathing
- They believed that If you denied the material world you could peruse the spiritual world
- The fathers of the desert: competed with each other – spiritual athletes

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- St. Simeon the stylite (Standing on a pillar): stood on a pillar for 33 years that was 70 feet high.
They eventually had to build a railing around it
- St. Daniel the stylite: 33 years and 3 months
- debating what it means to be Christian church leaders began discouraging practices that mutilated
- These individuals were seen as very holy and they also preformed social functions
- The individual going off alone was difficult and dangerous therefore there was a large push for
communal monastic communities
- Antony and Peconious: founder of the communal: great representation of holiness
- The monastic communities experimented with how to lead Christian lives; discipline them and
transcend bodies
St. Benedict of Nursia
- lived in Italy and came from a wealthy family
- 528 moved to Monte Casino and founded a monetary
- Pope St. Gregory Biography of St. Benedict: concerned with missionary activity; how to make normal
people understand Christianity stories: important tool for missionaries because they could express
certain Christian values in a way that the average person could understand.
- Rule:
- lay out way of life
- inspired by principles of moderation and instability
- School for service to the lord
- No extreme mortification
- Nothing harsh or burdensome adaptable for local conditions
- Enhance the authority of the Abbot – elected by the community
- Stability – stay in monetary unless you have permission to leave
- Work in the fields (physical labour) servant of God
- succeeded in diverting religious enthusiasm to doing useful thing
- Monasteries became islands of stability for community transformed into social institutions: religion,
education, economy etc…
Germanic Migrations: Barbarian Invasions
- Most difficult to access because they were not a written society
- Invasions added a new mix to culture which accelerated the change in the West Empire
- “Barbarian” was first used by Greeks meaning people who could not speak Greek which was seen as
a sign of high culture
- Romans then picked up the term and used it to describe people living along the Rhine
- Tacitus: Roman Historian: Germania only written document about German tribes before invasions
- must be read carefully
- Germanic folk poetry like Beowulf
- Germanic law codes
- Archaeological Artefacts: one source confirms another
- There were lots of different tribes at different stages. They were not static
Social organization
- No notion of the state
- Tribes or folk: all descendent from the same ancestor
- The tribal king was the strongest and most brave in battle; led in war and made sacrifices
- Loyalty man to leader: cannot leave without king. Bond between warrior and his leader
- The king held all authority
- The better fighter you were the more loot you get; wealth was a direct indicator of who you were in
- No law code; was directed by custom
- All crimes were crimes against the person and their family the whole kin would avenge the wrong
doing: eye for an eye
- Sometimes you could appease families with money to avoid blood feuds
- Wergilds: tariffs of compensation: each person has specific monetary value to tribe; if paid = peace.
Different amount depending on the person
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