This chapter has been published in the book Medieval Europe 610-1300.
For information on ordering click here.
India had a favorable balance of trade with the Roman empire in the first century CE, but they had their own internal conflicts under the Satavahana kingdom. In the northwest Iranian kings known as the Pahlavas were driven out by Scythians led by Kanishka (r. 78-101), who supported Buddhism and founded the Shaka era. Buddhist philosophers such as Parshva and Ashvaghosha were favored at his court. The new greater vehicle of Buddhism called Mahayana emphasized the bodhisattva saint who helps others, and this doctrine was explained in the Surangama Sutra, which warned of allurements from sex and ego. Ashvaghosha wrote the earliest Sanskrit drama, and his poem Buddhacharita described the life and teachings of the Buddha. His Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana distinguished suchness (bhutatathata) from the cycle of birth and death (samsara). He taught compassion for all beings and thus criticized the prejudices and inequities of the caste system. Prajnaparamita was translated into Chinese in 179 CE and discussed perfect wisdom. The bodhisattvas renounced their heavenly reward in order to serve the whole world.
Nagarjuna in the 2nd century CE founded the Madhyamika (Middle Path) school of Mahayana Buddhism, and some of his followers split off into the Yogachara philosophy. Nagarjuna discussed ethics in his Suhrllekha, recommending the transcendental virtues of charity, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom, and he warned against being fettered by attachment to religious ceremonies, wrong views, and doubt. The Buddhist Text of the Excellent Golden Light advised kings to avoid fighting but to punish criminals. Buddhist Vasubandhu in the 4th century taught that only consciousness exists, and thus we create our own reality.
Buddhism took hold on the island of Sri Lanka, but there the Mahayana doctrine was suppressed in the 3rd century CE. The outstanding Tamil epic poem The Ankle Bracelet (Silappadikaram) was written about 200 CE by Prince Ilango Adigal. In this romantic story the faithful wife Kannaki proves that her executed husband did not steal the anklet, and the causes of the tragedy are explained as karmic effects from previous lives. This story inspires people to be more ethical and spiritual, and Kannaki came to be worshipped as a goddess of chastity in Sri Lanka and southern India. Sri Lanka remained Buddhist, and in the 5th century Buddhaghosha translated texts and explained the conduct, concentration, and wisdom of Buddhism in his Visuddhimagga.
The Jain philosopher Kunda Kunda of the Digambara sect also taught about karma and how one can be freed from it by meditating with pure thought, releasing desire and aversion. In The Perfect Law (Niyamsara), Kunda Kunda described the five vows of non-injury, truth, non-stealing, chastity, and non-possession.
Gupta empire replaced tribal customs with the caste system, ruled over vassals, and suffered invasions from the White Huns in the 5th century. Harsha-vardhana (r. 606-647) gained control over northern India and promoted Hindu culture. The Chalukyas had a wide empire, but Muslim Arabs encroached in the west. The Tamil classic, The Kural by Tiru Valluvar contains moral proverbs on the traditional Hindu goals of dharma (virtue or justice), artha (success or wealth), and kama (love or pleasure). The mystical Vedanta philosopher Shankara emphasized non-dualism and elucidated Hindu scriptures. In the Crest-Jewel of Wisdom Shankara explained spiritual psychology.
Indian drama was analyzed by Bharata in the Natya Shastra. Early plays by Bhasa introduced the court jester, and The Little Clay Cart portrays aristocrats and merchants, enabling audiences to see ethical consequences of various actions. Plays of the great Kalidasa contain mythic elements with heavenly nymphs. The title character in Shakuntala becomes the mother of India's founding emperor Bharata. Rakshasa's Ring by Vishakhadatta portrayed the political manipulations of prime minister Chanakya, also known as Kautilya, in the court of Chandragupta. The powerful ruler Harsha not only patronized the arts, but he also wrote plays himself. Bhavabhuti in the early 8th century was the court poet in Kanauj. His plays portray courtly love and romance. These plays from India show that in a period of many centuries when few plays have remained from any other culture, theater could still entertain and enlighten many people. Indian literature also described the consequences of actions by karma, and the Puranas, especially the popular Srimad Bhagavatam, portrayed the examples of the divine in human incarnations as Vishnu becomes Krishna.
Hindu religion regained strength during the two and a half centuries preceding the Muslim invasions that began about 1000. This era saw much fighting between Hindu kingdoms, and even some Jains as soldiers justified killing enemies. The Brahmin caste dominated religion, education, land ownership, and was favored by law. Most women worked in the home or in the fields. The erotic art found on temples indicates a less puritanical attitude toward sexuality among Hindus as Buddhism declined, and Tantra methods were developed.
Tibet was influenced by Buddhism from the 6th century and adopted it as the state religion in 791 though conflicts remained between Buddhists and the followers of the native Bon-po religion. The Tibetan Book of the Dead explained how to become liberated from reincarnation by being aware as one dies. Atisha (982-1054) came to Tibet from India in 1042 and reformed Tantric practices by introducing celibacy and a higher morality among the priests; he founded the yellow-hat Geluk-pa order. The Kagyu-pa school had a series of teachers that included Naropa (1016-1100), Marpa (1012-1096), Milarepa (1040-1123), Lharje (1077-1152), whose book listed yogic precepts, and Tusum Khyenpa (1110-1193), who founded the black-hat Karma-pa order in 1147.
In 1000 Muslims led by Ghazni ruler Mahmud invaded India and looted immense treasure. A Pala empire in Bengal dominated the east until the Muslims conquered them in the early 13th century. Ghuzz Turks under Muhammad Ghuri attacked the Gujurat kingdom in 1178 and overcame organized Hindu resistance by 1192. In 1221 Mongols led by Genghis Khan crossed the Indus into the Punjab. In the south the Cholas fought the Pandyas and the Chalukyas. Buddhism remained strong in Sri Lanka under king Vijayabahu (r. 1055-1110). Hemachandra (1088-1172) converted Gujurat's Chalukya king Kumarapala to Jainism, and Jain king Bijjala's minister, the Shaivite Basava (1106-1167), argued against violence and caste prejudice. Sri Lanka king Parakramabahu I (r. 1153-1186) used heavy taxation to rebuild Pulatthinagara and Anuradhapura that had been destroyed by the Cholas, and he developed trade with Burma. In the 13th century the Hoysalas fought the Pandyas for empire as Chola power decreased. The Sufi poet Amir Khusrau described how Islam used the sword to triumph over Hindu idolatry. By 1300 invading Mongols, now Muslims, had taken over Delhi and subjugated the Hindus under Islamic law.
The earlier Han dynasty came to an end in China as they had trouble producing an heir, and the revolutionary Confucian Wang Mang took power in 9 CE. His attempts to control the economy while hoarding gold failed; as millions died from famine and the turmoil, peasants joined with Han nobles in a wide-spread rebellion that overthrew and killed Wang Mang in 23 CE. The Eastern Han dynasty moved the capital to Luoyang and expanded to the south, overcoming numerous rebellions by the Yue people. The Han army reconquered central Asia by defeating the Xiongnu, and sons of barbarian leaders were educated in Chinese culture. The Chinese developed iron into steel, the shoulder collar for draft animals, the wheelbarrow, porcelain dishes, and paper. Population increased again, and 30,000 were studying in the imperial academy by 146. Eunuchs gained increasing power and wealth, which they passed on to adopted sons as corruption flourished at court. In 184 Daoist healers led rebellions in Sichuan and in the east as Zhang Jue promised equality and common ownership to 360,000 followers wearing yellow turbans.
After 220 China became divided into three kingdoms that invaded Korea, Vietnam, and the southwest. In the 4th century Buddhism spread rapidly in China. Later Qin ruler Yao Xing (r. 393-415) sustained 3,000 Buddhist monks as Kumarajiva in Chang'an directed translations of Buddhist scriptures. The Martial Emperor (Wu Di) of Liang patronized Buddhism in the first half of the 6th century. However, Confucians won a struggle with Buddhists and Daoists as the Northern Qi reunified north China in 577. Sui Wen Di (r. 581-604) reunited all of China and promoted reforms and Buddhism. The Sui conquered Chen and tried to impose morality. Sui Wen Di stored grain to prevent famines and had canals built with convict labor. Confucian schools were closed in 601. Wen's son Yang Di (r. 604-617) was even more extravagant in building but in 606 instituted the examination system based on Confucian classics. Yang Di's biggest mistake was launching a major war against Koguryo (Korea) in 612 with 1,132,800 men. People rebelled when he broke his promise to end the war, and the fleeing Sui emperor was assassinated in 618.
General Li Yuan founded the Tang dynasty (618-907) with the help of his son Li Shimin, who took over and reigned as Tang Tai Zong (r. 626-649). He expanded Confucian education and kept Buddhists out of politics. The Tang army subjugated the Eastern Turks in 630, and 100,000 defeated Turks were resettled in southern China. The Tang helped Silla dominate Koguryo and Paekche in Korea from 619 to 643, but then the Tang had to retreat from this imperialistic adventure. Tai Zong's son Gao Zong was dominated by the concubine he made Empress Wu. She promoted reforms according to her Daoist ideas, suspending most examinations for ten years. She tried to start a new dynasty, but the Tang dynasty was restored and flourished under Xuan Zong (r. 712-756). Building of Buddhist and Daoist temples was suspended, and 30,000 monks and nuns were returned to lay life, though the Pure Land practice of chanting and Chan concentration on meditation developed. New laws were promulgated in 715.
The Tang had conflicts with Tibet, and the central government declined, though De Zong (r. 779-805) managed to rebuild the palace army to 100,000 men commanded by eunuchs. In the 9th century China's total military increased to nearly a million men. Daoist Wu Zong (r. 840-846) confiscated the wealth of the tax-exempt monasteries, freeing their 150,000 slaves (dependents), and returning 260,000 monks and nuns to lay life. Yet the Buddhist monasteries had been providing many useful services to the poor, the sick, and the aged. Banditry and rebellion eventually brought the end of the Tang dynasty and a period of regional governments.
Another general Song Tai Zu founded the Song dynasty (960-1279) but put regional governments under civilian authority. Military expenses increased and by 1041 were 80% of government spending. Buddhism became corrupted by selling certification of monks. Paper money, iron production, and increased rice yields added to prosperity. However, the status of women declined as foot-binding became a vogue, and prostitution flourished in cities. Printing began using moveable type about 1030. The poet Wang Anshi became prime minister and reformed lending, taxes, government employment, and established public education and social welfare; but conservatives in the north managed to reverse his reforms by 1085. The multi-talented Su Shi criticized Wang Anshi for not being liberal enough and criticized the killing of female babies. The Jurchen helped the Song fight the Liao, but as the Jin they took over the northern capital in 1127. Gao Zong (r. 1127-1162) continued the Song dynasty in the south and paid the Jin tribute. In the 11th and 12th centuries the Neo-Confucians Zhou Dunyi, Zhang Zai, the brothers Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi, and Zhu Xi emphasized liberal education and humane government, developing the ethics that would guide Chinese culture for the next eight centuries.
Genghis Khan invaded the Xia and conquered most of Qin. After
Genghis Khan was killed in 1227, East Asia went to his son Ogodei
(r. 1229-1241). Song had a less
militarized culture, and the Mongol
invaders overcame them by 1279. The Mongol
empire used paper money and civil service examinations. Under
Kublai Khan they replaced the Song with the Yuan dynasty. Italian
traveler Marco Polo served Kublai Khan from 1275 to 1291 and wrote
about his court and his admiration for Christian ethics.
The cultures of southeast Asia were influenced by both China and India, blending them with their own indigenous traditions. Vietnam fought the Chinese and were often governed by them. Buddhism spread in Vietnam, and it became independent of China in 939. Cambodia struggled with the Vietnamese and built impressive temples in the Angkor era in the 9th and 10th centuries. Burma was more influenced by Hindu culture; like Sri Lanka, it adopted Theravada Buddhism. Javanese culture in Bali developed Hindu religion in the arts with puppet theater, gamelan music, and batik textiles. By 1300 the Mongol empire had extended its power into most of southeast Asia, bringing Islam.
The early Korean kingdoms of Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla were influenced by Chinese culture and received Buddhism in the 4th century. After fighting off a massive Chinese invasion, Koguryo built a wall from 631 to 647. When Koguryo and Paekche invaded Silla in 655, the latter formed an alliance with Tang China and was able to dominate the peninsula and even drive the Chinese out in 677. The Silla government instituted civil service examinations in 788. Rebellions began against the Silla in the late 9th century and by 935 Wang Kon founded the Koryo dynasty from which the name Korea comes. He promoted Buddhism, and the Koryo used Chinese administrative methods. A large Khitan army invaded Koryo in 993, and they fought them and the Liao until they built walls around the capital and in the north. Iron coins were used in the 11th century. Koryo defended itself from a Jurchen invasion in 1104; but the power of military families increased in the 12th century, and government slaves revolted in 1198. Mongol invasions of Koryo began in 1231, and they eventually took over the country, as Mongol princesses married Koryo royalty. A national university system was reorganized under King Chungnyol (r. 1275-1308).
The ancient culture of Japan practiced human sacrifice, but Korean and Chinese influence added subtlety to the native Shinto religion that worshipped the Emperor. Prince Shotoku (574-622) particularly applied more enlightened Buddhist and Confucian ethics to government. Fujiwara clan founder Nakatomi Kamatari implemented reforms in 646 by eliminating private ownership of land, which was distributed to cultivators equally; weapons were put in government storehouses. By 692 Japan had 545 Buddhist monasteries and shrines. Laws favored the Emperor and hereditary aristocrats, and the Tang-like reforms were promulgated in the Taiho code of 702. Females and slaves got only two-thirds as much land; but males had to provide labor or military service. Minister Oshikatsu retained popular support by reducing taxes and the farmers' government labor from sixty to thirty days. After Empress Koken (r. 749-758) let her lover, the Buddhist priest Dokyo, govern until her death in 770, the council refused to put a woman on the throne.
The Heian era (794-1192) gave Japan four centuries of relative peace. Saicho (Dengyo Daishi) founded Tendai Buddhism from the similar Chinese Tiantai, and Kukai (Kobo Daishi) founded the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism in 816. For three centuries Japan was dominated by the Emperor and the Fujiwara clan. Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book was written as a diary; but the great classic of this era is the long Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, who described the subtleties of Japanese aristocrats in a multi-generational story of the 10th century. Tendai Buddhism split in 933, and in the 12th century the powerful monasteries had their own armies. Yoritomi eventually won a civil war between clans and became shogun in 1192 to begin the militaristic feudal era. Yoritomi's son was forced to abdicate and was assassinated and replaced by the Hojo family of the Taira clan that held the chief political position until 1333; often a child was made shogun so that the Hojo regent held the power, though Yasutoki established a state council for advice in 1226. Feudal law was established in 1232 and tried to be impartial, allowing women to own land.
Following the Buddhist schools of China, Honen (1133-1212) founded the Jodo sect (Pure Land) and Eisai (1141-1215) the Rinzai Zen based on Chan. Nichiren (1222-1282), like the Pure Land of Honen and Shinran (1173-1262), emphasized chanting the nembutsu to Amida Buddha. Nichiren gained credibility when he correctly prophesied the Mongol invasions. The Japanese believed that divine winds (kamikaze) produced the storms that helped them defeat the Mongol, Chinese, and Korean armies that invaded Kyushu in 1274 and again in 1281.
Ethiopia was influenced by Christianity very early and was part of the Roman empire. In the 4th century the Axumites conquered Kush, and King Ezana made Christianity the state religion. In a 651 peace treaty the Nubians agreed to tolerate a Muslim mosque and provide 360 slaves annually to the Muslim imam. Nubians co-existed with the Muslims, but in the 12th and 13th centuries they came into conflict with Egypt. The Ethiopian empire helped spread education in its monasteries.
The Sahara desert was a natural barrier but could be crossed on camels for trade in salt, gold, and slaves. Gold attracted Muslims to Ghana. After a Juddala chief went on pilgrimage to Mecca in 1036, Sunni doctrine was brought to Juddala by ibn Yasin. In 1056 the Sudanese kingdom of Takrur converted to Islam and aided the Almoravids against the Juddala. Ghana's capital Kumbi fell to the Almoravids in 1076. Ghana declined, and Kumbi was sacked in 1203 by Soso chief Sumaguru Kante of the Kaniaga. Sumaguru also conquered the Mandinkas, but he was defeated and killed by Sundiata in 1235. During the reign (1255-1270) of Sundiata's son Wali the Mali kingdom included Songhai. The Mali kingdom also expanded under Sakura, who usurped power in 1285. Little is known about most of sub-Saharan Africa before 1300.
By the third century CE Mayan civilization had developed populated cities in Mexico and central America. Sporadic wars between different kingdoms were recorded until the ninth century. Captured rival leaders seem to have been sacrificed while other prisoners were enslaved. After 822 events were not recorded as power was apparently decentralized. Popol Vuh recounted the migration of the Quiché Maya to the north and their conquest of the Pokomam Maya in the east in the 13th century. According to this, an early race of people had no hearts and minds and was destroyed by a flood. The next race learned how to play ball and to clear the land for gardening. The current race was created from corn flour, but their omniscience was reduced. Gods soon only appeared in spirit form, and sacrifices were used to appease them. The Quichés were victorious in war and forced other tribes to pay tribute. Wars continued to occur, and the rulers were recorded.
Eight-Deer founded the Toltec empire in central Mexico in 1030, but he was defeated, captured and sacrificed in 1063. Topiltzin, son of a Chichimec leader, claimed to be the divine Quetzalcoatl and ruled at Tula 1153-1175. According to legend, Quetzalcoatl did not sacrifice men or animals, and he prohibited war and violence. Angry magicians caused Quetzalcoatl (Topiltzin) to flee Tula and set himself on fire, becoming the morning star (Venus). Thus Tula fell about 1175. Mexica groups and Chichimecs (Dog People) then ruled the region for the next two centuries. By the end of the 13th century the Aztecs had settled in Chapultepec. On the continent north of Mexico probably less than ten million people were spread out in villages, living tribally and close to nature, hunting, fishing, gathering food, and farming.
After winning the civil war against Antony and Cleopatra in 30 BC, Octavian Caesar gained Egypt as his private domain and soon consolidated his power as imperator over an empire of a hundred million people. He was given the name Augustus, and he managed to keep the peace and reduce the army. By 23 BC he was truly Emperor as he could convene the Senate, propose legislation, and oversee the judiciary while he personally controlled Egypt, Gaul, Spain, and Syria through his governors. He reinstituted election of city magistrates and tried to control bribery. Any rebellions were suppressed by force. Augustus was elected censor of morals, and Ovid's books were removed from libraries. Augustus sponsored public games and boasted that 3,500 African beasts had been slaughtered. He reduced the public dole in Rome to 200,000, and he attempted unsuccessfully to increase the population with social laws promoting marriage and family. Germans in the west managed to become independent of the empire. After his grandsons died, Augustus was succeeded by his adopted son Tiberius in 14 CE.
In a national epic Virgil's Aeneid portrayed early Rome as a heritage from ancient Trojan warriors. Their enmity with Carthage is derived from Aeneas betraying Queen Dido, and the afterlife is portrayed in a Platonic manner with rewards and punishments according to divine justice. Horace wrote poetic satires, odes, and epistles criticizing those who seek wealth and favoring ethical values of moderation. His letter on the art of poetry is a classic on esthetic taste that values moral sense. Propertius wrote poetry about his experience in love; but it was the poet Ovid, who really taught the art of love to the Romans. His advice is frank and detailed. He also wrote on the remedies for those who have suffered from love. In his poem Metamorphoses Ovid retold numerous myths and legends showing how life's changes teach us; but the obvious faults of the gods and goddesses would make Roman religion vulnerable to a more philosophical theology. For having offended the moralistic Augustus, Ovid had to spend his last years in bitter exile.
Tiberius (r. 14-37) maintained the Roman empire as Germanicus overcame the resistance in Germany. Tiberius then sent his rival Germanicus to Syria, where he was probably poisoned by Piso. Tiberius held on to his power with numerous treason trials and executions. For his last ten years he ruled from retirement at Capri, where he seems to have engaged in perversions with his successor Caligula.
King Herod ruled Judea from 37 BC to his death in 4 BC and used his friendship with Augustus to increase his power. He used taxes for extensive building but later lowered taxes to regain popularity with those who criticized him for supporting pagan religion. Herod was very suspicious of conspiracies and had several of his relatives executed. He was succeeded by his son Archelaus, who ruled for ten years during which the Roman army had to suppress Jewish rebellions. In 6 CE Augustus banished Archelaus and appointed a prefect to govern Judea.
Aside from the revolutionary zealots, there were three sects in Judaism in this era. The largest group was the liberal Pharisees, and their outstanding teachers were the tolerant Hillel and the strict Shammai. Hillel emphasized love, peace, and learning. The Sadducees were more conservative aristocrats and did not believe in immortality. The mystical Essenes definitely believed souls are eternal, and they shared their property in community so that none were rich or poor. Some of the Essene men lived in a community by the Dead Sea, where they left writings found in 1947 that describe their purification practices and spiritual rules for living in the community. Two years of training were required before one could become a regular member. They expected the Messiah to come and help the children of light defeat the children of darkness. This Essene community was destroyed by the Romans during the Jewish revolt in 68 CE.
Philo Judaeus of Alexandria also described the ethical lives of the Essene community as well as the Jewish therapeutae in Egypt. Philo wrote extensively about Jewish law, always emphasizing ethics and the virtues that bring freedom over slavery that comes from desires. Philo criticized Flaccus, the Roman governor of Egypt, and described his own attempted embassy to Emperor Caligula that was ignored.
In Judea John the Baptist taught repentance and baptized people as a single converting experience rather than as a regular ritual. Jesus was baptized by John and called twelve disciples. He also taught repentance and forgiveness of sins, and he astounded people by healing the sick, expelling demons, perceiving their thoughts, and performing other miracles. Jesus preached with authority the sovereignty of God and a spiritual ethics of love. He went beyond the justice of the law to mercy, patience, and even loving one's enemies. Jesus exhorted people to seek God and do what is right rather than worry about money and physical things. Jesus often taught in parables that used practical metaphors for spiritual teachings. The expansion of heaven is like a seed, but it must be nurtured to bear fruit; for many seeds die on the path or in the rocks or are strangled by the weeds of materialism. Jesus sent out his disciples to preach also and instructed them not to acquire money. Peter recognized the Christ in Jesus; but in the next moment Jesus said that Satan had taken hold of him because he could not accept that Jesus would be killed. Jesus taught them to forgive and to pray persistently. He criticized the scholars and Pharisees but was well received by the poor.
Jesus prophesied that he would be killed but would rise again on the third day. During the Passover festival he was welcomed into Jerusalem, where he taught in the temple after driving out those doing business. He cleverly answered treacherous questions, taught parables of the sovereignty of God, criticized the hypocrisy of some, and prophesied the difficult times ahead that in a war would destroy the temple, which did in fact occur in 70 CE. Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples and explained that his body and blood were being sacrificed for them. Their partaking of bread and wine in this way would become the central ritual of the new religion, giving believers a symbolic but tangible experience of their oneness with Christ and providing a more spiritual substitute for the old animal sacrifices. Jesus demonstrated his teachings of loving enemies by not resisting by any means of violence during his arrest, trial, and punishment. Luke makes clear that the main reason why he was crucified by the Romans was because he told people not to pay tax to Caesar, and others indicated that they feared he might lead a revolt as the king of the Jews. The amazing ability of Jesus to heal his body and return to it even after death astounded his followers and proved to them his divinity.
John added more spiritual concepts of the Christ as Logos or meaning of the universe and emphasized the teaching of loving one another. The book of Revelation is an angry prophecy directed against the persecuting Roman empire that would be overcome and transformed by the Christians in the coming centuries before a millennium of Christian culture. Another disciple, Thomas, carried the teachings of Jesus to Parthia and India. His collection of sayings by Jesus was found in Egypt and emphasizes knowing God. Thus these heterodox sects were called Gnostics. The Gospel of the Ebionites indicates that some of them were vegetarians.
After having seen the resurrected Jesus, the disciples met and elected Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot, who had committed suicide when he saw what happened to Jesus. Ten times the twelve disciples were present fifty days after the Passover when the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in many languages and understand the teachings. Peter was accepted as the leader, and he advised them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Three thousand people were baptized that day and joined the fellowship by sharing their possessions. Peter helped a lame beggar walk and began to preach, reprimanding those who had not believed Jesus. Peter was questioned by the Council but was released. However, the Council had Stephen stoned to death as the rabbi Saul approved. Saul then arrested many followers. Peter criticized Simon for offering money for the Holy Spirit, and this corruption came to be called simony. Saul was on his way to arrest followers in Damascus when he was struck down, heard a voice, and was blind for three days, during which time he accepted Jesus as Christ. Saul changed his name to Paul, and now he had to flee from the Jews. Peter had a vision he could eat all kinds of animals, and he also ate with the uncircumcised. James, the brother of Jesus, was another important leader, and a letter attributed to him emphasized the importance of works as well as faith.
Paul and Barnabas preached in Antioch, where the followers were first called Christians. Paul traveled, preached, and wrote letters to congregations of converts in major cities such as Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome, developing his theology of Christ as savior. When Paul returned to Jerusalem, he was beaten and arrested. Brought before the governor at Caesarea, Paul as a Roman citizen appealed to Caesar. Paul was taken to Rome, where he preached for two years while under house arrest. About 64 both Paul and Peter were executed by Roman authority. Paul preached that Christians should overcome temptations such as lust, anger, and greed. He recommended marriage but advised women to submit to their husbands.
Some Christians became martyrs when they refused to give up their new religion and worship the Roman gods and Emperor. Clement was the third bishop of Rome from 92 to 101, and he urged the Christians to follow what their majority commands. Emperors Trajan and Hadrian did not allow the hunting of Christians but accepted that they must be punished if they refused to deny their religion. Valentinus taught a Gnostic doctrine in Rome, and in 144 Marcion was excommunicated for having similar views. Gnostic works were excluded when the New Testament was codified by the end of the second century. The martyrdom of Polycarp at Smyrna about 155 so moved people by his faith that the proconsul suspended the persecution. A popular allegory called The Shepherd of Hermas was read aloud in many churches.
Justin Martyr was converted by witnessing the faith of martyrs and wrote a philosophical defense of Christianity for Emperor Antoninus Pius and the Roman Senate to make them aware of the evil done so that they would stop doing it. Justin argued that Christians should be judged for what they do, not merely for their name. In 165 Justin and other Christians were beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Tatian (110-172) studied with Justin Martyr at Rome and founded an ascetic sect emphasizing self-control called the Encratites; they refrained from marriage, eating meat, and drinking wine. The Athenian Athenagoras was another philosopher who was converted to Christianity, and he sent a defense of the new religion to the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus about 177.
The short reign (37-41) of Caligula quickly degenerated as his behavior became more uncontrolled and irrational until he was finally murdered. The bribed praetorian guard made Claudius Emperor, and he proved to be more than the dolt people thought he was. Claudius allowed the freed slaves Pallas and Callistus to acquire immense wealth as they administered the finances and judicial petitions. Claudius invaded Britain and established Roman government there, and he generally tolerated Jews in the empire. Claudius believed that Rome's empire fared better than Athens and Sparta had, because they extended citizenship on the frontiers. He restrained his Syrian governor from intervening in conflicts between the Armenians, Iberians, and Parthians. After his wife Messalina was executed for treason, Claudius married Agrippina; but she apparently poisoned him so that her son Nero could be Emperor.
Nero was only 16 when he began to rule in 54; but he was dominated by his mother Agrippina and was assisted by the philosopher Seneca, who became quite wealthy. Nero had the harbor restoration begun by Claudius completed. At first he banned capital punishment, but in 61 the execution of slaves was allowed. However, when his debauchery and extravagant gifts exhausted the treasury, like Caligula, Nero became a ruthless tyrant. The Roman army maintained imperial control from Britain to Syria. Nero had his mother Agrippina murdered in 59 and his wife Octavia three years later. Seneca no longer could restrain Nero and retired. Accused of wanting Rome destroyed so that he could rebuild it in his image, Nero blamed the catastrophic fire of 64 on the Christians, who called him the anti-Christ. A plot against him was squelched in 65, and Seneca was ordered to commit suicide that year. The megalomaniac Nero was finally murdered in 68 as he was being replaced by Governor Galba from Spain.
Seneca wrote eight gory tragedies based on Greek plays that show family members murdering each other for power and because of jealousy. Octavia dramatizes Seneca's attempt to stop Nero from murdering his wife; it was probably written by an imitator soon after Seneca's death. In his philosophical writings Seneca popularized Stoicism. He distinguished virtues from good fortune and believed the good never suffer evil but only misfortune. While in exile at Corsica in 41 Seneca wrote a letter of consolation to his mother Helvia, saying the wise are not elated by prosperity nor depressed by adversity. Most influential was his long essay On Anger, a temporary insanity. The remedy is reasoned judgment to prevent taking revenge. In addition to many letters in which he often discussed the moral life, Seneca wrote essays on providence, firmness, tranquility of mind, clemency, the happy life, and benefits. He always emphasized developing virtue and control over the passions. He admitted that his acquiring of great wealth was not of the best, but he believed riches teach moderation, liberality, diligence, orderliness, and grandeur.
In Judea conditions deteriorated as brigandage increased, and governor Florus took 17 talents from the Temple as taxes. In 65 Jews refused to pay taxes, and the Zealots took control of the fortress at Masada. The Jewish war against Rome began the next year in Jerusalem with a civil war as the Zealots took over the city. Vespasian refrained from attacking divided Jerusalem for two years, but by 70 amid famine Josephus recorded that a million Jews had died as the Romans captured Jerusalem. Masada held out for three more years, and then 960 people there committed suicide. As the Sanhedrin dissolved, the Sadducean party disappeared. In synagogues ordinances and their interpretations were studied as Midrash and Talmud.
The struggle for the imperial throne in 69 also caused a civil war. Otho became Emperor as Galba was beheaded, but he committed suicide three months later. Large numbers were killed, because quarter was refused. Vitellius exhausted the treasury and sympathy by his torturing and executions. During these civil wars many provincials were given citizenship. In the same year Vitellius was replaced by Vespasian, who ruled for ten years until 79. He increased taxes and consolidated the empire while granting Latin rights to Spain; his honest justice and reforms restored civility in the empire. Titus, son of Vespasian, was Emperor for two years but also died of illness and was succeeded by his brother Domitian, who crushed rebellions using military force. Domitian strictly enforced laws and increased military pay while reducing the number of troops. However, his extortions, confiscation of property, and many executions eventually led to his being murdered in 96.
The decline of literature is lamented in the anonymous treatise On the Sublime. Chaereas and Callirhoe is the earliest Hellenistic adventure novel and celebrated romantic love. In Seneca's Apocolocyntosis Augustus condemns Claudius to hell. The Satyricon by Petronius described the debauchery of Nero's Rome. Persius died young but left behind Satires exposing how unphilosophical most people are, and Martial used wit to make fun of Romans in his Epigrams. In Civil War Lucan wrote of Julius Caesar's "legality conferred on crime;" but it was unfinished, because he was forced by Nero to commit suicide at age 25. Statius in Thebaid described the fratricidal war between the sons of Oedipus in which even the gods are petty and promote war.
Quintilian's Education of an Orator systematically analyzes good education from the study of grammar to the subtleties of oratory. Quintilian emphasized the development of character and the importance of the teacher's example. The historian Tacitus also wrote a dialog on oratory in which he lamented that rhetoric had declined since the era of Cicero because of the authoritarian empire. Yet the emphasis on rhetoric reflected the importance of Roman law.
Apollonius was born in Tyana of Cappadocia about the same year as Jesus. He was educated by a Pythagorean and decided to abstain from meat, wine, and women. He spent five years in silence and was said to know all languages including those of animals. He held to his prayer to have little and want nothing. He traveled to Babylon and advised its king on his way to India, where he went to learn. Apollonius advised Vespasian to rule with generosity and self-restraint; he believed land was polluted by war, and he recommended appointing governors by merit. Apollonius went to Rome and was arrested by Domitian but was acquitted. He advised his disciples to be free of jealousy, spite, hatred, slander, and enmity.
Nerva was the first Emperor freely selected by the Senate, and he quickly reformed the abuses of Domitian and selected the capable Spaniard Trajan to succeed him. Trajan won two wars against Dacia and appropriated their considerable amounts of gold and silver. In the Senate the younger Pliny praised Trajan's lawfulness in contrast to Domitian. Trajan continued the child welfare program begun by Nerva. Trajan invaded Armenia, and about 116 many Jews were killed in rebellions.
Dio was born in Prusa of Bithynia and became known as Chrysostom (meaning "golden mouth") for his oratorical skill. Dio admired Diogenes and lived like a poor Cynic, traveling and doing manual labor. In his Discourses he argued against flattery and for truthfulness. He considered it a sign of fear to carry a weapon. He said slavery results from self-indulgence, greed, and ambition. He argued against war and urged cities to cooperate with each other in friendship, because enmity is very disadvantageous for all. He brought concessions from Emperor Trajan to Prusa and promoted civic improvements. He believed prostitution was shameful and should be illegal.
Plutarch wrote extensively, and 48 of his biographies of noble Greeks and Romans still exist. In his ethical essays he applied Plato's philosophy, emphasizing the importance of using reason to rule the more sensual emotions. He recommended studying poetry as a preparation for philosophy. Self-knowledge is the best defense against deceptive flattery. True friendship is virtuous, intimate, and useful. He blamed civil discord and despotism on luxury and extravagance. He believed the greedy and avaricious suffer from "mental poverty." Plutarch argued against the eating of meat.
Epictetus was born to a slave woman but was educated in Rome by the Stoic Musonius Rufus, because his master was Nero's secretary. Epictetus gained his freedom and taught philosophy. He left Rome when Domitian banned philosophers from Italy in 89. He taught in Epirus while living very simply. Epictetus was a Stoic and advised using the rational faculty for differentiating what is within our power from what is not. What can be controlled by will is what is within our power; all else is external. Epictetus encouraged people to be citizens of the world or cosmopolitan, because we are all part of one community and children of God. Only the educated are truly free. In addition to learning, study and practice are required to change bad habits. Only those who understand the good know how to love. All experience is a challenge to our goodwill, a test, and education. When something is taken away, remember that God gives all. Even when Epictetus was a slave, he believed he was free, because he controlled his own will.
Hadrian (r. 117-138) was governor of Syria at Antioch when Trajan adopted him as his heir. Hadrian abandoned the territories in Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria that Trajan had annexed. Hadrian forgave debts owed the imperial treasury for the past fifteen years, and he made Roman administration more professional. Salvius Julianus codified the laws now made by imperial edicts. Some rights of minors, women, and slaves were protected; but the law differentiated an upper class (honestiores) from the lower (humiliores). The wealthy tended to control regional governments, and hereditary aristocracy developed. Hadrian tightened military discipline and attended to problems personally by traveling, reducing rebellions. However, his prohibiting circumcision provoked a revolt led by the Messianic Simon Bar-Kochba in Judea, and Dio Cassius reported that 580,000 were killed by war and famine from 132 to 135. Hadrian chose the wealthy senator Aurelius Antoninus to succeed him and had him adopt young Marcus Aurelius.
Antoninus used his imperial army to crush rebellions in various places and had a wall built in Britain. He demanded only moderate tribute, and confiscations became rare. Corrupt administrators were prosecuted, and their children regained their estates if the money was returned to the provincials. Antoninus was praised for managing the empire well from Rome. Marcus Aurelius had been trained to be Emperor by Antoninus, who died in 161. Marcus shared his throne with Lucius Commodus, who went to Antioch to command a war against the Parthians. Marcus limited gladiatorial spectacles and ruled moderately, rewarding good and pardoning bad. Lucius died in 168, and Marcus used diplomacy to resolve wars with invading Germans while a plague devastated the empire. While fighting in the north Marcus was treated for illness with opium by the physician Galen. Marcus made his son Commodus co-Emperor in 177 and was succeeded by him three years later.
Marcus Aurelius wrote down thoughts to himself, beginning with the character traits he learned from others, and describing his ideas on living according to reason, Nature, and the will of heaven. He endeavored to serve justice and the common good. He suggested thinking of the universe as an organic whole with one soul. We are made to help each other, but each person's self has sovereign rights. In considering any action one should ask what the consequences may be.
Juvenal in his Sixteen Satires exposed the moral laxity of Rome, and lamented how much dishonesty had increased so as to become more common than honesty. The novels of the second century indicate the popularity of the Isis cult. Apuleius in The Golden Ass described how Lucius has to experience the animal nature when magic makes him into an ass; but after many experiences and a digression on Cupid and Psyche, he is restored by the goddess Isis and begins to purify himself for initiation and its mystical experience. Lucian became a lawyer but earned his living lecturing and wrote humorous stories, dialogs, and essays that parodied various philosophical schools, religious cults, and Roman myths, even how the unscrupulous could take advantage of Christians who shared their possessions.
Commodus ended the frontier wars of his father Marcus Aurelius; but he was extremely corrupt in his debauchery and had many people executed for their wealth. The physician Galen studied human anatomy and catalogued numerous drugs. Finally the tyrannical Commodus was murdered by his wife Marcia. Pertinax reversed the corruption and oppression but was murdered after 86 days by soldiers no longer allowed to plunder. The wealthy Julianus grabbed power but was executed by the Senate after 66 days as they declared the commander Septimius Severus Emperor. He invaded the Parthians in an expensive campaign and subjugated Byzantium. In a civil war he defeated the rebellion of Albinus. Severus paid soldiers well; but in the empire slaves were mistreated, and bandits thrived.
When Severus died in 211, he was succeeded by his son Caracalla, who murdered his brother Geta and 20,000 he suspected of supporting him. Caracalla doubled soldiers' pay but debased coins and doubled taxes. Citizenship was extended to all free men to gain tax. The adulterer Caracalla executed adulterers and pursued a treacherous foreign policy until he was assassinated and replaced by Praetorian Prefect Macrinus. He alienated the army and was killed in 218. Elagabalus became Emperor; but he was so degenerate that soldiers killed him four years later. The Roman Senate made Alexander Severus Emperor at age 13. Ulpian reformed Roman law but was killed by praetorians who resented their loss of privileges. Alexander ended the abuses of Elagabalus and applied the golden rule with religious tolerance. The Persian Sasanian dynasty tried to regain its empire. The army mutinied against the discipline of Alexander Severus and killed him in 235. In the next half century many Emperors struggled for power, subdued rebellions, and fought wars with invading Persians, Goths, and Germans, all of which caused famines, plagues, and disruption of agriculture and commerce.
The Patriarch Judah unified a compendium of oral traditions as the Mishnah. Irenaeus mediated the dispute over the mystical Montanists and refuted doctrines of the Gnostics. Tertullian wrote a defense of Christianity for the Roman rulers, arguing that killing innocent martyrs converts even more like himself, and he argued against killing in war and for patience. Clement of Alexandria wrote The Exhortation to Conversion. His Educator aimed at developing ethical habits, and in Miscellanies he applied philosophy to encourage Christians to gain knowledge. Origen succeeded his teacher Clement. His mother prevented him from becoming a martyr when his father was beheaded in 202. Origen castrated himself so as to instruct freely young female catechumens. He was tortured during the Decian persecution. In On Principles Origen implied that souls exist before birth, and their bodies reflect their previous experiences. He believed all souls, even fallen angels of devils, will be restored through Christ eventually. In a long work Origen answered the criticisms of Christianity by the Epicurean Celsus, arguing that Christianity makes its adherents act more ethically. Hippolytus criticized bishops of Rome and caused a schism. After the Decian persecution of Christians (249-251) penance was given to those who had accepted Roman rituals, and controversy split the church over the lapsed Christians.
The prophet Mani was born in Babylonia in 216 and taught a dualistic religion in Persia. He died in prison in 274 or 277, and his disciples spread his religion even though they were persecuted by Persian and Roman officials. Mani taught liberation from reincarnation through purification and recognized Zarathustra, Buddha, and Jesus as previous messengers of God. He wrote books, but most of them were eventually lost.
Plotinus (205-270) developed the philosophy of Neo-Platonism in his Enneads. He concentrated on the soul, purifying the lower self by practicing virtue and then using dialectic to transcend the emotions and approach God. His student Porphyry wrote biographies of Plotinus and Pythagoras, promoted the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, and tried to purify Roman religion.
The Greek novels Daphnis and Chloe by Longus, The Ethiopian Story by Heliodorus, the Alexander Romance, and The Story of Apollonius King of Tyre indicate that romance adventures were becoming popular, and they affirm the value of chastity before marriage.
Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius with more legions than ever suppressed rebellions in the empire. Diocletian implemented wage and price controls in 301. Galerius persuaded Diocletian to force Christians to sacrifice or be punished, and Diocletian retired in 305. The next year Constantine was acclaimed Emperor by his army in Britain, and for several years several rival Emperors struggled for power. While persecution continued in the East, in the West Christianity was more tolerated. In 312 Constantine had a vision to conquer by the cross, and the Senate declared him Augustus. The next year Constantine and Licinius agreed on religious tolerance throughout the empire; but after Licinius banned church councils and meetings, the army of Constantine defeated him. The era of persecuting Christians ended in 324, and Byzantium was rebuilt as Constantinople.
The power of the Emperor had increased, and Constantine instituted reforms; but wealthy landowners relied on slave labor, and many professions became hereditary. Constantine promoted Christians and prohibited sacrifices, but he did not compel people to be Christian. He called the Council of Nicaea in 325 to settle the Arian controversy. Constantine urged unity and banned heretics from meeting. He detested Jews and prohibited them from owning Christian slaves. Lactantius in his Divine Institutes urged practice of the Christian virtues, whether one was rich or poor. True wealth is doing good, while the selfish are poor. Lactantius noted that Emperors who persecuted Christians soon were killed, and he exulted in the triumph of Constantine as history justifying Christianity.
Constantine was succeeded by his three sons while other relatives were killed. Constantius ruled the East, fought Shapur II's Persian empire, and outlived his brothers. When he died in 361, the capable general Julian was promoted from Caesar to Emperor even though he was not a Christian. Julian tolerated all Christian worship including heretics but reinstituted pagan sacrifices and removed subsidies for Christians. Julian launched a large invasion of Persia and Assyria but died from a wound without an heir in 363. His successors were Christians but tolerated pagan religion. The brothers Valentinian and Valens co-ruled the empire; the latter was an Arian and persecuted dissent in the East, executing many suspected conspirators. Valens also defeated the rebellion of Procopius and spent three years fighting the Goths. Valentinian fought Germans and others, raising taxes to pay his troops. He died in 375 and was succeeded in the West by his 16-year-old son Gratian. Goths invaded the empire, and Valens was killed fighting them in 378.
Theodosius became Augustus, accepted the Nicene creed, and issued fifteen edicts against heretics. He allowed Goths to settle within the empire. The general Maximus was acclaimed Augustus by his army in Britain, and they overthrew Gratian. Theodosius used Goths, Huns, and Alans to defeat Maximus, and he let young Valentinian II rule the West. Theodosius made a treaty with Shapur III, giving most of Armenia to the Persians. After racing fans murdered a general in Thessalonica, Theodosius had 7,000 massacred in the circus. Theodosius declared pagan sacrifices and divination treason in 391. Temples were demolished, and the great library of Alexandria was destroyed. The ancient Olympic games were ended, but gladiator shows continued. Valentinian II was murdered in 392, and Theodosius died three years later, succeeded by his young sons Arcadius and Honorius.
Antony's living as an anchorite in the Egyptian desert for so many decades led to the development of the monastic tradition. He found value in virtue rather than in material possessions. He urged self-knowledge and preparation for God. Hilarion was influenced by Antony to become a hermit and in 329 founded a monastery in Palestine. Pachomius founded a cenobite (community) monastery in Egypt that by his death in 348 had thousands of monks.
Arius wrote about the oneness of God and that the Christ was created by God. This doctrine was condemned by bishops at a council in 321, and four years later the council at Nicaea decided that the Christ was of the same essence as God and declared Arius a heretic. The books of Arius were ordered burned, and twenty canons attempted to solve current controversies with church authority. Athanasius became bishop at Alexandria and was the foremost opponent of the Arian heresy. He was condemned and deposed by an Arian church council in 335. For many years Arianism prevailed in the East under Constantius, and Athanasius was banned five times.
Basil of Cappadocia founded a monastery and developed rules for cenobite monks living in community. He also wrote extensively on virtue and the value of self-control. Basil's friend Gregory of Nazianzus became a bishop and helped the doctrines of Athanasius become accepted as orthodox at the second ecumenical council at Constantinople in 381. Basil appointed his brother Gregory bishop of Nyssa, and in his Great Catechism, Gregory synthesized Jewish monotheism and Hellenic polytheism into the Christian trinity.
Martin was a soldier like his father; but after being baptized he told Emperor Julian he could not accept a bonus nor fight. Martin established the first monastery in Gaul, and he was elected bishop of Tours. Ambrose as praetorian prefect was settling a disturbance in Milan when he was spontaneously elected bishop in 374. Ambrose excommunicated Maximus for beheading Priscillian heretics, and he defended church authority against incursions by Emperors. In On the Duties of Ministers Ambrose argued that Christian ethics are superior to pagan ideas although he adopted the classical virtues. The poet Prudentius pioneered allegorical story-telling in his Psychomachia (Soul Battle) in which virtues overcome vices with the help of Christ. He also honored the sacrifices of Christians in his hymns Crowns of Martyrdom.
John Chrysostom was born in Antioch. In 373 he challenged a decree by Emperor Valens compelling monks to serve the state. He became the patriarch at Constantinople and was a very popular preacher, leaving behind homilies and other writings. He deposed six bishops for simony and tolerated Origenists despite the efforts of Epiphanius, who opposed heretics. Jerome completed his translation of the Bible into Latin in 406, and he wrote many biographies of literary men. His friend Paula established a monastery and convent in Bethlehem.
Augustine wrote his Confessions in 396. In this innovative book he prayed to God and confessed his shortcomings and experiences that led him from the religion of Mani to the Catholic faith. He had mistresses, praying for chastity, but not yet. After his mother Monica died, Augustine went back to Africa and became bishop of Hippo in 397. In On Free Choice of the Will he said people are responsible for their evil actions, and so God is justified in punishing them. He argued that judicial executions and soldiers killing enemies are not murder, but he believed that an unjust law is not valid. Augustine wrote On Christian Doctrine and other works that greatly influenced Christian theology. He opposed lying to entrap Priscillianist heretics. Augustine supported the persecution of the Donatist schismatics although he opposed capital punishment so as not to make them martyrs. After Alaric pillaged Rome, Augustine wrote the long City of God, contrasting the heavenly city with the earthly city of man. He criticized pagan Rome and compared it to the militaristic Assyrian empire. Those who were raped did not sin, because they did no wrong. Even a king can be a slave of sin. The virtuous living in the city of God obey the laws of the earthly city.
While the Eastern Roman empire co-existed with the Persian empire, the Goths led by Alaric invaded Greece. The poet Claudian criticized the praetorian prefect Rufinus and then the eunuch Eutropius, who became consul in the East, where Arcadius reigned. The general Stilicho fought against invaders, made a treaty with Alaric, and gained power in the West as consul, marrying his daughter Maria to Emperor Honorius. The Christian poet Prudentius persuaded Emperor Honorius to prohibit gladiatorial games, and the Colosseum was closed in 405. Honorius alienated pagans and Arians by excluding them from office. Alaric's Goths sacked Rome before he died in 410. Amid barbarian invasions several emperors competed for power in western Europe as Rome abandoned Britain to Saxon invasion.
Macrobius wrote that humans reincarnate until they achieve eternal happiness by virtue. John Cassian founded a nunnery and the monastery of St. Victor at Marseilles. He wrote about the eight principal faults of gluttony, fornication, covetousness, anger, dejection, laziness, ambition, and pride. In Conferences completed by 428 Cassian described the spiritual lessons he learned from various monks. Cassian opposed the Nestorian and Pelagian heresies.
The Vandals crossed from Spain to North Africa, while Saxons took over more of Britain. Huns, Burgundians, Visigoths, and Alans struggled in Gaul. In 450 Marcian succeeded Theodosius II as Emperor in the West and stopped paying tribute to the Huns and ended the selling of offices. In 451 Attila led his Huns along with Gepids, Ostrogoths, Scirians, Heruls, Thuringians, Alans, and others into Gaul. The next year Attila invaded Italy, but he retreated and died in 454. Vandals plundered Rome the next year. Emperor Leo ruled the East from 457 but was named the Butcher; he died in 474. The Scirian Odovacar deposed the last Western Emperor and was proclaimed King of Italy in 476.
At the request of Augustine in 418 Orosius wrote his History Against the Pagans to prove that Christians were not responsible for the fall of the Roman empire. However, Salvian in his On the Present Judgment criticized wealthy Roman Christians for not following the ethics of Jesus. Salvian noted that the sexual morality of the Goths and Vandals was better than that of the Romans and Spaniards. In To the Church Salvian warned about avarice. Vincent of Lerins wrote that Christians should accept the doctrines that are most universal, ancient, and agreed to by most. Leo was Bishop of Rome from 440 until his death in 461. He banished Manichaeans and Pelagians from Italy. Leo increased church hierarchy and his own position to the level of Pope. He persuaded Attila and the Vandals not to burn Rome. He declared usury incompatible with charity. After having been enslaved in Ireland, Patrick returned there as bishop in 432 and converted many. The Palestinian Talmud was written down in the late 4th century, and the longer Babylonian Talmud was compiled by Rabbana Ashi (352-427). Jews were discriminated against in both the Roman and the Persian empires.
The Eastern empire continued with the Isaurian Zeno as Emperor from 476 until he died in 491 and was replaced by Anastasius, while the Ostrogoth Theodoric defeated and replaced Odovacar as King of Italy. Invasions by Germans and Huns had depopulated the Balkans in the 5th century. Anastasius was a Monophysite and faced religious opposition; he died at 88 in 518. Cassiodorus served Theodoric as secretary. Symmachus and Boethius also helped Theodoric govern, but he had them both executed shortly before he died in 526. In The Consolation of Philosophy Boethius is treated in prison by Philosophy, who comes to him and answers his questions. She affirms the highest good, the intrinsic reward of virtue and punishment of wrong-doing, because the providence of God regulates all while still allowing humans free choices.
The Frank king Clovis (r. 481-511) prayed to Jesus Christ for victory, defeated his enemies, and became a Christian. He established a capital at Paris, united the Franks, and proclaimed Salic laws. The four sons of Clovis divided the Frank kingdom and fought each other. The wars went on for two generations until only Chlotar survived; but he died in 561.
Caesarius studied with Pomerius at Arles and was archbishop 502-542. As papal vicar Caesarius organized synods and settled controversies. Benedict was educated in Rome but became a hermit before founding monasteries. Benedict died in 547 but left behind the Rule that would become the standard for many monasteries. The Rule includes twelve steps of humility. Monks spent five hours praying, five or six hours working, and four hours reading. Obedience to the abbot is emphasized. In addition to his many writings Cassiodorus contributed to preserving classical culture by collecting books and having monks copy them.
Justinian gained power in 520 and became Emperor seven years later. He worked to expand the territory of the Roman empire and his control over the church. Empress Theodora had much power with her own intelligence service; she supported Monophysites and established a convent for converted prostitutes. The Persian Khusrau (r. 531-579) made peace with Justinian in 532. That year Belisarius had to use the army to suppress a revolt in Constantinople, killing 30,000. Justinian sent Belisarius to conquer the Vandals in North Africa, and Arians there were persecuted. After the Goth regent Amalasuntha was killed, Justinian ordered the imperial army to invade Italy, and Belisarius entered Rome in 536. A siege by the Goths destroyed aqueducts the next year. In 539 Ostrogoth king Witigis asked the Persian Khusrau to attack the Roman empire, and they did so, burning Antioch. Justinian offered northern Italy to the Goths, who wanted Belisarius to be Western Emperor; he refused the office but invaded the north.
Goths led by Totila fought the imperial army and Belisarius in Italy for a decade until Totila was finally defeated and killed by a large army, which included many Lombards, led by Narses in 552. The next year an even larger army led by Alamanni chiefs plundered Italy with Franks. In 554 Justinian applied the Imperial Code to Italy, restoring the aristocracy and the church, and Narses administered Italy as Patrician for thirteen years. Justinian made a new truce with Persia's Khusrau in 557, and five years later they agreed upon a fifty-year treaty. The immorality of Justinian's imperialistic wars was exposed in The Secret History by Procopius, and they did cause tremendous suffering. Procopius blamed Justinian for extraordinary corruption, religious hypocrisy, and the deaths of twenty million people. Taxes during the wars were high while soldiers went unpaid. Yet in his Buildings Procopius praised Emperor Justinian for his building programs, for expanding and saving the empire, and for his new laws. Justinian also tried to unify the church and made the canons of the four ecumenical councils valid imperial laws. Citizens that were not orthodox Christians could lose their civil rights and their possessions. Samaritans revolted in 529, and many thousands were killed. That year Justinian closed the schools in Athens. Thirty years later pagan books were publicly burned in Constantinople.
Codex Justinianus was published in ten books in 529, followed by fifty books of Pandects in 533. The Institutions contained the authoritative commentaries of Gaius, Papinian, Ulpian, Paulus, and Modestinus. The new laws established imperial edicts and thus favored monarchy. Everyone was either a citizen or a slave, though lower classes were punished more severely. Slavery was hereditary, but the number that could be freed was no longer limited.
The expanded empire of Justinian soon broke into pieces. While Constantinople was divided between Blues and Greens, Persians encroached from the east, Avars and Slavs invaded the Balkans from the north, and most of Italy was lost to the Lombards. The Visigoths ruled Spain while Christianity was developed there by Martin of Braga and Leander of Seville.
For half a century the sons and grandsons of Chlotar fought each other as Franks were divided. The queens Brunhild and Fredegund often intervened in these violent struggles. The Celtic monk Columban established numerous monasteries and nunneries that used strict discipline but tolerated pagan literature. Saxons, Angles, and Jutes invaded and settled in Britain. Saxon king Aethelbert married the daughter of Charibert, adopted her religion, and allowed Augustine to bring forty monks to Canterbury in 597. Aethelbert was the first Saxon to establish written laws in Britain, and he governed Kent until 616. Gregory became prefect of Rome in 572 but later converted his palace into a monastery and helped the poor. Gregory represented Pope Pelagius II at Constantinople, gaining aid against the Lombards, and in 590 he was the first monk to become Pope. Gregory confirmed Benedict's Rule and promoted convents. He protested imperial war taxes and tried to make peace with the Lombards. He consolidated the lands of the Papal States, and Emperor Phocas declared his successor head of the church. In his Pastoral Rules Pope Gregory recommended ministers practice a saintly ethics.
Muhammad was born at Mecca in 570 and was an orphan at six. At 25 he married the wealthy Khadija, and in 610 he began having revelations that became the Qur'an. He criticized the worship of idols and was persecuted in Mecca, but he gradually gained more followers called Muslims. Abu Bakr converted many and freed some slaves. The Hashim clan protected Muhammad and was boycotted for two years. After his wife Khadija and his uncle Abu Talib died, protection was weakened. Muhammad claimed that the angel Gabriel took him at night to meet Moses in Jerusalem. Muhammad converted men of Yathrib, and a revelation gave Muslims permission to fight wrong-doers. When attempts were made to murder or capture Muhammad in 622, he migrated to Medina, where he bought a house. Jews were accepted as equals, but they were expected to contribute to the war against wrong-doers. The former slave Bilal was the first to call Muslims to prayer. Muhammad said they should not worship him but only God. He approved the stoning of a couple guilty of adultery. Muhammad married 'A'isha when she was nine. Prayers were now made facing Mecca instead of Jerusalem.
Raids were made against Quraysh caravans, and the prophet was given one-fifth of the booty for his family's needs and to distribute to the poor. Muhammad promised that his warriors who died fighting would enter Paradise. He declared that a Muslim could not be the wife of a pagan. Twice Muhammad converted men intending to assassinate him. He was considered the first prophet allowed to take prisoners and spoils. After a Muslim woman was insulted by a Jew, killing resulted; then Muhammad ordered Muslims to kill Jews. Muhammad's daughter Fatimah married his adopted son 'Ali, and Muhammad began marrying widows. Muhammad said his followers could use deception during war. In a large battle against the Quraysh, Muhammad was wounded. After the defeat a revelation prevented Muhammad from mutilating thirty prisoners. The prophet had limited Muslims to four wives but made an exception for himself. After the Muslim army cut down their palm trees, the Bani Nadir Jews joined the Quraysh against Muhammad. An army three times the size of the Muslims' besieged them at Medina. Muhammad used intrigue to get the Qurayza to leave but then marched against them. After a siege Qurayza men were executed as the women and children were enslaved. Muhammad selected the beautiful Rayhanah as his slave.
Muhammad wanted to make an unarmed pilgrimage to Mecca in 628 and agreed on a truce that helped the Muslim community double in two years. The prophet's message that Persian shah Khusrau had died converted Yemen's Persian viceroy Badhan when he learned it was true. During the truce Muhammad's army attacked the Khaybar Jews; those surrendering had to give up half their crops. After Muslim envoys were killed, Muhammad sent an army to attack Syria. Most Meccans converted when a Muslim army of 10,000 conquered the sacred city, destroying pagan idols. Soon an army of 30,000 was expanding the emerging Islamic state and collecting taxes. Muhammad prohibited usury and monopolies. He permitted slavery but ordered they should receive food and clothing equal to the owner's. He opposed artistic representations of humans and animals. Muhammad's last pilgrimage to Mecca was the first from which pagans were excluded. The prophet died in 632 and was succeeded by his closest friend Abu Bakr.
Muslims believe that Muhammad received the Qur'an from God, though often the angel Gabriel speaks. Muhammad is the messenger warning all to worship the one God and nothing else. Charity and good deeds are encouraged, and those doing evil or disbelieving are often threatened with punishment in the fire of hell. The prophet advised respect for Jews and Christians and referred to stories from the Old and New Testaments, summarizing many of their teachings. Believers are reminded to pray five times a day, give charity, fast during the month of Ramadan, and not eat animals that died naturally nor pork. Believers are urged to fight wrong-doers and unbelievers.
Abu Bakr appointed Khalid to lead the army, and he defeated another prophet named Musaylima, who had raised a large army too. Muslim armies invaded Syria, and those who did not accept Islam or agree to pay higher taxes were killed. Khalid invaded Iraq and threatened the Persians with the same three choices. The Byzantine army was defeated in Palestine, and after a siege Damascus surrendered. In 634 Abu Bakr was succeeded by the ascetic 'Umar. He had mosques and prisons built, expelling Jews from Arabia to Syria. Non-Muslims in conquered lands were not allowed to carry arms, and Muslims were forbidden to cultivate the land there. Muslims defeated the Persian army in 637. That year 'Umar himself traveled to claim Jerusalem. Antioch paid 300,000 gold coins in 638, and the Persian empire was defeated in 641. Egypt was invaded, and Alexandria surrendered after a long siege in 642. Egyptian grain alleviated famine in Arabia. In 644 'Umar was assassinated by a Persian slave while praying. 'Uthman was elected Caliph, because 'Ali would not agree to follow the precedents of the Caliphs. 'Uthman appointed many of his Umayyad relatives, and their misrule was resented. Muslims invaded North Africa, and their newly organized navy conquered Cyprus.
After 'Uthman lost the prophet's ring in 650, resentment grew because of decreasing spoils from conquest. Though 'Ali tried to protect him, 'Uthman was murdered in 656; 'Ali became Caliph. A civil war was fought in Basra. 'A'isha retired to Medina, and 'Ali moved the capital to Kufa in Iraq. The Ummayad Mu'awiya ruled Syria and Palestine. A compromise was opposed by the Kharijis, who tried to assassinate both leaders in 661. 'Ali was killed; but Mu'awiya was only wounded and persuaded 'Ali's successor to retire on a pension. 'Ali's son Husain and his supporters were massacred in 680, and Mu'awiya was succeeded by his son Yazid. In 683 Medina was destroyed and Mecca was attacked in another civil war. Mukhtar took up the 'Ali cause called Shi'ah and gave non-Arab Muslims equality, but he was defeated in 687.
Eventually Caliph 'Abd al-Malik unified the Islamic empire, making Arabic the official language. While the imperial army of al-Hajjaj subdued the east as far as India, 'Abd al-Malik's son al-Walid (r. 705-715) organized public charity in Syria and promoted building. The Muslim conquest of Spain took only two years and was completed in 713. The saintly Caliph 'Umar II (r. 717-720) reduced taxes, stopped wars of conquest, and tolerated Jews and Christians, though his reforms did not last. The Muslim invasion of Gaul was defeated by the Frank army of Charles Martel in 732. Caliph Hisham (r. 724-743) was unpopular for raising taxes. The 'Abbasids rose to power in Khurasan and moved west, replacing the Umayyads with their dynasty in 750.
At a banquet in 750 the 'Abbasids slaughtered eighty Umayyad leaders, but Rahman ibn Mu'awiya escaped to Spain and became an independent governor there in 756. Al-Mansur (r. 754-775) used force and spies to consolidate his empire and built a new capital at Baghdad. Harun al-Rashid (r. 786-809) ruled at the height of 'Abbasid wealth and power in Baghdad. He sponsored academies and translations from Greek and Sanskrit. As the basis of Islamic law al-Shafi'i added consensus and analogy to the Qur'an and the traditions of the prophet. After Harun's death the empire was divided between his two sons until al-Ma'mun (r. 813-833) gained control. He promoted education and a less fundamentalist theology. Numerous conflicts between Sunnis and Shi'ites as well as struggles for power over the next century eventually resulted in the Turk Buyids taking control of the Baghdad government in 945. Muslims dominated Spain, and Cordoba became the greatest intellectual center in Europe with a university and 400,000 books. North Africa was governed by the independent Idrisid dynasty in Morocco from 788 to 974. Shi'a Fatimids took over Egypt in 968 and then Syria for about a century. The Persian Samanids were ruling most of the east by the end of the 9th century.
Better paid Turkish cavalry defeated the Buyids' Daulamite infantry, though 'Adud al-Daula promoted civilization from Baghdad until he died in 983. The Ghaznavid empire was founded in 977, and Mahmud (r. 998-1030) ended Samanid rule in Iran and invaded India, while Caliph al-Qadir (991-1031) codified Sunni doctrine in Baghdad. In 1040 the Seljuq Turks defeated the Ghaznavids, whose kingdom shrunk to Afghanistan. Al-Qadir's son al-Qa'im survived the Shi'a Buyids but gave way to the Sunni Seljuqs, crowning Tughril-Beg in Baghdad in 1056. The Seljuqs decisively defeated the Byzantine army at Manzikert in 1071. Alp-Arslan had an army of 200,000 Turks, but he was assassinated by a prisoner and was succeeded by his son Malik-Shah (r. 1072-1092). Both these Seljuqs were aided by the capable vizier Nizam al-Mulk, who wrote Rules for Kings. Nizam and Malik-Shah were both murdered by the sect of Assassins in 1092. Nizam's book suggested that the best government was by one wise king, who would put in offices those with education and merit. Justice is most important and should be carefully monitored. He criticized the pre-Muslim Sasanians and also Shi'a heretics.
Ferdowsi's Shah-nameh is an epic poem meaning The Book of Kings based on chronicles; it focuses on the heroic deeds of Rostam and the struggles of Persian kingship after the Greek wars until the fall of the Sasanians to the Muslims. The horror of the violence is captured as fathers cause the death of their own sons. Only the wiser kings that practice justice bring peace.
Sufism arose in the 8th century; the woman Rabi'a remained celibate and sought God neither out of fear of punishment nor for hope of reward. Muhasibi emphasized self-discipline and moral psychology; he taught Junayd (d. 910), who developed Sufism as a theology. Al-Hallaj (858-922) drew attention by announcing that he is the truth; he sought martyrdom and was eventually executed. The Samanids in Khurasan and Transoxiana were more tolerant of the Sufi mystics. Abu Nasr as-Sarraj (d. 988) of Tus in Khurasan described seven stations of the Sufi way as repentance, watchfulness, renunciation, poverty, patience, trust, and acceptance. 'Abdullah Ansari (1006-1088) taught Sufis in Herat, analyzing a hundred spiritual stations.
was a physician, emphasized science, and adapted Platonic philosophy.
was a Sufi and applied Plato's political philosophy to Islamic
culture. Saadia ben Joseph (882-942) founded scientific Judaism
and systematized the Talmud. The Sora school of Talmud
was closed in the middle of the 10th century, but the school at
Pumbeditha lasted until 1040. Miskawayh
(c. 936-1030) applied the ethics of Aristotle, criticized anti-social
asceticism, and wrote a history of the world. Avicenna
(980-1037) served the Samanids and fled from the Ghaznavids; he
wrote the most influential medical Canon. Avicenna
was strongly influenced by Aristotle but wrote his own Islamic
philosophy. Ibn Hazm
(994-1064) was vizier at Valencia and Cordoba. He wrote about
romantic love in The Ring of the Dove and defended the
rights of women and slaves. He compiled an encyclopedic study
of comparative religion, and his ethical ideas were well expressed
in A Philosophy of Character and Conduct. Also in Spain
the Jews ibn Gabirol
and Bahya wrote valuable books on ethics. Islamic urban culture
is depicted in the Arabian tales of the 1001
Nights, and the astronomer and mathematician 'Umar Khayyam
left behind Epicurean quatrains in his Ruba'iyat.
The Byzantine empire was diminished as the Slavs and Avars migrated from the north and the Persians took over most of the Near East, including Egypt by 619. Emperor Heraclius organized the military to fight back, regaining Asia Minor and Armenia and getting Syria, Palestine, and Egypt by a treaty with Persia in 629. However, the Byzantines soon lost most of this to Muslim conquests by the time Heraclius died in 641. The theologian Maximus had his tongue cut out and hand cut off for disagreeing with the Emperor on the will of Christ. Maximus left behind writings on how to practice Christian love. In their struggles for power Byzantine emperors mutilated their own families; but Greek fire helped defend Constantinople from the Muslims. Emperor Leo III (r. 717-741) gained control and fought off annual Musliim attacks. He oversaw a reform of Byzantine law and issued an edict against images in 726. John of Damascus defended icons and was the first to apply Aristotle's philosophy to Christian theology. Leo's son Constantine V (r. 741-775) had to defeat a revolt of those opposing iconoclasm. Byzantine wars made the Bulgarians enemies, and Constantine V oppressed monks. Bulgarians led by Krum fought the Byzantine empire. Battles over icons went on until 843.
Religious persecution against Manichaean dualists resulted in imperial soldiers killing 100,000 Paulicians. After the secular Photius was confirmed as Constantinople Patriarch in 861, a split developed between Roman Catholic church under the Pope and the Eastern Orthodox. One practical difference was the Byzantines allowed their clergy to marry. Emperor Basil I (r. 867-886) banished Photius and tried to reconcile with Rome as the independent Bulgarian church recognized the supremacy of the Constantinople patriarch. Photius was recalled in 877 but was deposed by Emperor Leo VI (r. 886-912). Leo oversaw the complete revision of Byzantine laws that included canon law. The Emperor took over previous powers of the Senate and could only be checked by the Patriarch and church council. Guilds developed, and aristocrats held feudal power over serfs. Bulgaria under Symeon (r. 893-927) defeated the Byzantines in 896 and invaded Greece. After many battles Symeon's son Peter (r. 927-969) made a peace treaty with the Byzantines.
After being co-emperor for thirty years and writing books, Constantine VII (r. 945-959) used diplomacy and restored land to the peasants. Nicephorus Phocas (r. 963-969) used the military to take power, but the Constantinople patriarch Polyeuctes refused to justify soldiers for killing in wars. John Tzimisces (r. 969-976) conquered Bulgaria and annexed it to the Byzantine empire. Basil II (r. 976-1025) was not able to consolidate his power until 989. He invaded Macedonia and defended Syria while restoring land to the poor. In conquering the Balkans Basil had 14,000 captives blinded. Basil expanded the Byzantine empire to its greatest extent and by this plundering managed to lower taxes and leave a substantial treasury.
Several were blinded as men struggled to be Byzantine
Emperor. Wars, famine, and plague depleted the treasury, while
aristocrats gained power and wealth as feudalism developed. Constantinople
patriarch Michael Cerularius reasserted the authority of the Eastern
Orthodox church but caused a permanent schism from the Roman Catholic
church in 1054. Constantine X (r. 1059-1067) tried to bring justice;
but he continued to farm out taxes and sold the highest offices
while a weakened military allowed the empire to deteriorate. Michael
Psellus tried to develop the university, wrote about the times,
chose emperors, and was even prime minister. After the Byzantines
suffered a devastating defeat by the Muslims in 1071, they began
appealing to the Christian west for help. General Alexius Comnenus
(r. 1081-1118) won a power struggle and became Emperor. He made
a commercial and military alliance with Venice that secured the
Adriatic. In literature the epic Barlaam
and Ioasaph utilized part of the Buddha's life in a story
that promotes Christian doctrines. The popular Digenis
Akritas depicts a heroic warrior fighting for the Christians
against the Muslims on the border between their empires.
Isidore of Seville presided over church councils in 619 and 633, and he fostered education with his Etymologies, which was widely read in the middle ages. Visigothic kings ruled Spain until Muslims invaded in 711 and quickly took over most of the peninsula. Franks struggled with divided kingdoms, but a coalition behind Charles Martel in 732 defeated the Muslim invasion. His sons Carloman and Pippin convened church councils that promoted ethical reforms. In Italy Lombard kings from Adaloald (r. 615-624) on were Christian, and Liutprand (r. 712-744) consolidated the Lombard kingdom. In 754 Pippin was anointed by the Pope and attacked the Lombards, and Charlemagne overcame them in 774. Charlemagne also spent 32 years fighting and converting the pagan Saxons. While the Byzantines were ruled by the woman Irene, Charlemagne was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III in 800. Franks conquered Barcelona the next year. In 810 Charlemagne made peace treaties with Byzantine emperor Nicephorus I, Cordoba emir al-Hakim, and Dane king Hemming. Charlemagne gave much charity to help the poor and promoted education through his advisor Alcuin, who objected to bishops being used in war and priests in secular work.
Charlemagne's son Louis (r. 814-840) the Pious let his sons rule parts of the Frank empire. In 839 the empire was divided, giving Charles the west, Lothar the east, and Bavaria to Louis the German. Lothar tried to claim the empire; but his forces were defeated by Charles and Louis, though the treaty of Verdun in 843 gave Lothar Italy and a narrow strip to Frisia that would become Switzerland, Belgium, and Netherlands, separating France from Germany. Viking raids began in 844. Lothar's middle kingdom was divided for his three sons when he died in 855. Pope Nicholas (858-867) claimed hierarchical authority based on the forged "donation of Constantine." Charles the Bald expanded the Frank kingdom and was crowned Emperor in 875; but it was Louis the German's son Charles the Fat who was crowned Emperor in 881. He abdicated six years later as the empire broke into regions governed by feudal nobles and bishops.
Anglo-Saxons struggled for power in Britain. Warrior king Penda ruled Mercia (633-655), defeating and killing both Edwin (r. 616-633) and Oswald (r. 634-642) of Northumbria. Wessex king Cynegils (r. 611-642) became a Christian in 635. Bishops met at Hertford in 672 and accepted Roman canon laws. Picts attacked Northumbria from the north. Mercia king Aethelbald (r. 716-757) subjected all the provinces south of the Humber by 730 and called himself King of Britannia; but he was murdered, and his successor Offa (r. 757-796) fought his neighbors. Viking raids began in 789. Offa made a commercial treaty with Charlemagne in 796. Wessex king Ecgberht (r. 802-839) conquered Cornwall in 809 and Mercia in 829. Danes began raiding in 835, and a large Danish army invaded East Anglia in 865. Young Alfred became king in 871 and defeated the Danes seven years later. The English continued to fight the Danes for several years as Danelaw governed in the east. Welsh bishop Asser wrote a biography of Alfred in 893. Alfred promoted literacy and translation of books into English. Alfred unified much of England by revising the laws of Ine of Wessex, Offa of Mercia, and Aethelberht of Kent.
The Old English epic Beowulf
depicted warriors in Scandinavia, warning that punishment will
follow wrong-doing after death if not in life. Irish myths and
sagas of this era are also violent and depict cattle raids. Only
Druids can calm down Cu Chulaind. Ireland had been Christian since
Patrick's mission in the 5th century, but local kings struggled
for power; even monasteries fought each other between 760 and
824. Viking raids began in 795, and the Norse ruled Dublin from
851 until 902. John Scotus
Erigena came from Ireland to the court of Charles the Bald
about 845. He translated Christian works from Greek into Latin
and synthesized Greek philosophy with Christian theology in his
On the Division of Nature. His mystical panentheist theology
was cited by Cathar heretics, and the book was burned in 1210.
John Scotus showed how vices can be transformed into virtues by
Adventurous Vikings raided from ships, and before 900 Norway's king Harald Fairhair claimed Shetland and the Orkney islands. Rolf (Rollo) settled in Normandy, was recognized as duke by Frank king Charles the Simple in 911, and was baptized. Swedes invaded Denmark about 900 and ruled it until 936. Haakon was brought up by England's king Athelstan as a Christian and forced Erik Bloodaxe out of Norway. Haakon was called the Good and formulated laws. Haakon urged his subjects to practice Christianity; but he was resisted and was killed during a Danish invasion about 961. Dane king Harald Bluetooth became a Christian but was overthrown by his son Svein Forkbeard. Svein attacked Norway and the Swedes occupying Denmark. Norway's Olaf Tryggvason joined Svein Forkbeard in an attack on London in 994. Olaf accepted silver and became a Christian. Olaf was elected king of Norway and spread Christianity by force, but he died in a sea battle against Denmark and Sweden in 1000.
Iceland had law for four regions by 965 and became Christian in the year 1000. Greenland had been named by Erik the Red, and about 1000 Erik's son Leif explored Vinland (North America). Svein Forkbeard continued to attack England and collected large amounts of silver. Danish king Knut ruled England from 1019 to 1035 and attacked Norway in 1028. Norway's king Magnus was called the Good for establishing the most progressive laws in Europe. Magnus also ruled Denmark before he died in 1047. Viking violence declined in the late 11th century as the royal armies enforced law, and fewer captives reduced slavery. The story of Denmark's king Knut IV (r. 1074-1086) is told in the Knytlinga Saga. About 1075 Adam of Bremen described the customs of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. The three social classes were the aristocrats, free peasant farmers and warriors, and the thralls or serfs. Killing a thrall was not a major crime. Wise counsel was given in the "Sayings of the High One" (Havamal).
Edward (r 899-924) fought the Danes and expanded his English kingdom to the Humber River. Athelstan (r. 924-939) invaded Scotland. Edmund (r. 939-946) revised the laws so that a murderer's kinsmen would not be killed. King Edgar (r. 957-975) kept the peace and built more than forty monasteries. In 990 England began paying large amounts of silver to placate Viking raiders, but the fighting continued. In 1016 the Dane Knut became king of all England. After Knut died in 1035, there was a struggle because his son Hordaknut was in Denmark. In 1042 Danish rule in England ended as Edward was elected king.
The Frank empire had disintegrated into feudal government by local nobles, whose power and land was hereditary. The church also held much land, but many bishops were part of the feudal system. In 910 the monastery at Cluny was founded, and it promoted many reforms such as celibacy for clergy while rejecting simony and secular control. Frank king Lothair (r. 954-986) survived an invasion by German emperor Otto II in 978. Hugh Capet became king in 987, and the Peace of God was declared by a church council two years later. Hugh's son Robert II (r. 996-1031) ruled France and invaded Burgundy, finally conquering it in 1015. Robert made peace with Germany's Heinrich II, and in 1027 the Truce of God was proclaimed, restricting the days on which military attacks were allowed. Robert's son Henri I (r. 1031-1060) refused to obey the Truce of God, and his brother, Burgundy duke Robert I (r. 1032-1076), even pillaged his own vassals and the Church. Philip I became king of France at the age of eight in 1060, and he was excommunicated in 1094 for bigamy. In the 11th century Christians in northern Spain won many victories against the Muslims; but they also fought each other, as in the war of the three Sanchos in 1067. Leon's Alfonso VI (r. 1065-1109) took over Castile in 1072. He gave Jews civil equality with Christians. After Christians took over Toledo in 1085, Almoravids from North Africa occupied eastern Spain.
Germans also developed feudal relationships to protect themselves from incursions by the Magyars. The Saxon Heinrich (r. 919-936) ruled Germany, defeated the Magyars, and was succeeded by his son Otto. As king Otto was served by vassals in Lotharingia, Franconia, Swabia, and Bavaria. Otto nominated bishops and had to put down revolts in Bavaria, Franconia, and Lotharingia. Magyars were defeated again and gradually became Hungarian Christians. Otto's army fought several civil wars, conquered Bohemia, and defeated Obodrites and Wends. Otto was crowned Emperor at Rome in 962 and spent the next decade in Italy. His son Otto II (r. 973-983) was Emperor of Germany and Italy, and his reign was preoccupied with wars. Otto III was only three years old, but his mother and grandmother as regents prevented civil war. By the time Duke Mieszko died in 992 Poland had expanded and gained religious independence from Germany by submitting to the Pope. Geza (r. 970-997) was succeeded as king of Hungary by his son Stephen (r. 997-1038), who promoted Christianity. Duke Heinrich of Bavaria refrained from rebelling against Otto III, who died in 1002. Literature began to emerge; but the strife in poems reflected the feudal rivalries and violence. The nun Hrotsvitha wrote moral Christian plays based on Roman models, but they were not performed.
In 882 Oleg united Russian tribes in Kiev, and his son Igor (r. 913-945) attacked Constantinople in 941; Igor's ruling widow Olga became a Christian in 957. Svjatoslav (r. 962-972) allied with the Byzantines for an attack on the Bulgarian kingdom in 968. Vladimir won a succession struggle about 980 and ruled until 1015. Vladimir married a Byzantine princess and became a Christian in 988 as thousands were baptized. Yaroslav (r. 1019-1054) won a civil war and gained some peace for Russia after defeating the Pechenegs in 1037. His many sons struggled with divided rule until his grandson Vladimir Monomakh got the princes to agree on unity in 1097.
In the 10th century most of the Popes were pawns in the Italian politics of kings of Italy, German emperors, and others who were able to grab power temporarily. Berengar as king of Italy (r. 898-924) had King Louis of Provence blinded. Intriguing Marozia had her power taken by her son Alberic II, who governed Rome from 932 to 954. The three German Ottos used imperial troops to control much of Italy. Heinrich II was made king of the Lombards in 1004 and was crowned Emperor ten years later. Traveling Normans came to help fight Saracens in Apulia and Sicily. German king Conrad decreed feudal law at Pavia in 1037, defining the rights and obligations of vassals. Venice developed its commerce and built a powerful navy, serving as bridge and arbiter between the Byzantine and Western empires. Three families ruled Venice until Domenico Flabanico (r. 1032-1043) gave power to the assembly.
German king Heinrich II (r. 1002-1024) invaded Bohemia and Burgundy, and he extended more secular power to bishops. The army of Conrad II (r. 1024-1039) ravaged Italy. Heinrich III (r. 1039-1056) invaded Bohemia and Hungary, and he helped Casimir (r. 1039-1058) restore Poland. Agnes ruled Germany as regent for her six-year-old son Heinrich IV. As archbishops were taking control, Heinrich IV was declared of age in 1065. He found himself at war with the Saxons and was excommunicated in 1076 by Pope Gregory VII over his privilege of investiture. Faced with losing his kingdom, Heinrich repented; but Swabia was devastated by civil war. Heinrich IV invaded Italy in 1081 and was crowned Emperor by alternative Pope Clement III. By 1088 peace had been achieved, and German bishops accepted Pope Urban II while disregarding Heinrich's excommunication. In 1095 Heinrich IV protected the rights of Jews with a decree.
In Italy the ascetic monk Peter Damian systematized self-flagellation and led the movement for the Cluny reforms to eliminate concubinage, simony, and the use of arms by clerics. In 1059 a Lateran council of 113 bishops established the electoral power of the cardinal bishops, but none from Germany had attended. When Pope Alexander II was elected in 1061, Heinrich IV as Patrician invested Pope Honorius II. Normans drove the Byzantines out of Italy in 1071 by defeating their fleet. Alexander's advisor Hildebrand became Pope Gregory VII in 1073. He enforced clerical celibacy by deposing priests, though a Paris synod rejected his decrees. Gregory VII asserted his papal authority over bishops and even emperors, declaring that no one could retract his sentences nor judge him and that the Church had never erred. In 1076 Heinrich IV got a council at Worms to depose Gregory for treason and witchcraft. The Pope then excommunicated and deposed Heinrich, and Germans induced him to humble himself in penitence. Eventually a civil war broke out between rival Popes and rival German kings. Gregory was reconciled with the Norman Guiscard, whose forces drove Heinrich IV out of Rome in 1084; but both Gregory and Guiscard died the next year. Pope Urban II allied himself with the Welfs of Bavaria, and a long struggle began between the papal Guelfs and the imperialist Ghibellines.
England's king Edward (r. 1042-1066) the Confessor had been raised by Norman clergy in monasteries and encouraged Norman influence. Harold helped defeat Welsh incursions and became king of England in 1066. That year Norway's king Harald with 300 ships invaded Yorkshire, but Harold's English army defeated them at Stamford Bridge. Three days later William's Normans invaded England in about 500 ships. King Harold led his army of about 7,000; but at Hastings they were defeated, and he was killed. William was anointed King of England by the Archbishop of York. William imposed heavy taxes and crushed any resistance as women fled into monasteries to avoid being raped. Danes and Norwegians invaded to support English resistance; but in 1070 they made a treaty with William and left. Scots raided, but two years later King Malcolm III became William's vassal. Most English institutions continued as the Norman warriors dominated the landed aristocracy. A decree prohibited peasants from hunting in the royal forest. The famous Domesday Survey assessed estates, and landowners had to swear fealty to the king. In 1087 William died in France and passed the throne of England to his son William Rufus. He suppressed a rebellion and increased taxes. He resolved a conflict with his brother, Duke Robert of Normandy, and they defeated and divided the Normandy lands of their younger brother Henri in 1091. William II also fought battles against the Scots and Welsh, and he put down a Northumbrian tax revolt.
In 1095 Pope Urban II answered a call for help from the Byzantines by proclaiming a crusade to take Jerusalem back from the Muslims and offering absolution of sins. As the crusaders passed through Hungary led by Walter Sans-Avoir and Peter the Hermit, increasing difficulties caused violence and many deaths. In Germany crusaders robbed and killed Jews. Crusaders stopped at Constantinople, and then about 17,000 were killed in an ambush by Turks near Nicaea; Emperor Alexius sent warships to rescue besieged survivors. Hugh of Vermandois, Raymond of Toulouse, and most crusader leaders swore allegiance to Alexius. Modern scholars estimate the total number of crusaders at about 7,000 knights and 60,000 infantry. Baldwin invaded Armenia and became count of Edessa. Most crusaders besieged Antioch and suffered starvation; when the city was taken in 1098, all its Turks were massacred. As the crusaders left the Norman Bohemond behind to rule Antioch, the Egyptian Fatimids invaded Palestine and took over Jerusalem; they offered Christian pilgrims access to holy places, but the crusaders rejected this. In 1099 1300 knights and 12,000 crusading soldiers attacked Jerusalem, and nearly 40,000 people were massacred, including women and children. Godfrey of Lorraine was elected and called himself Defender of the Holy Sepulcher; he distributed estates to knights, and Italian ships began trading.
Godfrey died in 1100, and Baldwin became king of Jerusalem. Bohemond's army was annihilated, and he was captured. More crusaders came, and under Raymond of Toulouse they tried to free Bohemond; but most of their large army of perhaps 100,000 were killed by the Danishmends and Kilij Arslan's Seljuks. Two other crusading armies were also slaughtered by a large Turkish army. Edessa count Baldwin II and Patriarch Bernard paid 100,000 bezants to get Bohemond released. He and King Baldwin fought each other, and crusaders fought Byzantines. Bohemond went to Apulia and France to raise 34,000 crusaders against the Byzantines but was defeated by their navy at Dyrrhachium in 1107. Persian sultan Berkyaruk launched a counter crusade in 1110, and the Muslim army recaptured Edessa but could not take Antioch. John Comnenus (r. 1118-1143) succeeded his father Alexius as Emperor in Constantinople and went on fighting the Turks in Asia Minor. As crusaders and Muslims continued to fight, a new order of Templars was authorized by Pope Honorius II in 1128 to add to the previously ordained military order known as the Hospitallers of St. John.
After a struggle for power among the Muslims, Zengi emerged to conquer Christian cities, killing and enslaving Franks when Edessa was taken in 1144. Zengi was murdered two years later, but his son Nur-ad-Din ruled Aleppo and won many victories. John's son Manuel (r. 1143-1180) used the Byzantine army to keep Raymond of Antioch out of Cilicia. After Joscelin regained Edessa, Nur-ad-Din's forces again slaughtered and enslaved Franks in retaking it. This stimulated the second crusade that was proclaimed by Pope Eugenius in 1145. France's Louis VII took up the cause and sent Bernard of Clairvaux out preaching. Again Jews were massacred in Germany, though Bernard went there to try to redirect the energy to converting Slavs. Emperor Conrad led a large army through Hungary, but most of them were slaughtered by Seljuk Turks. Roger's Normans plundered Greek cities. Louis foolishly attacked Damascus, which had been the Franks' ally, but Conrad persuaded him to withdraw. As he returned to Europe, Louis in Sicilian ships was attacked by Byzantines and blamed Manuel; but Conrad would not support a crusade against his friend Manuel. Nur-ad-Din's forces defeated and killed Raymond of Antioch in 1149. Nur-ad-Din was known for dispensing justice at Aleppo and Damascus, and he founded colleges, convents, and a hospital. When Emperor Manuel and Jerusalem king Baldwin III made an alliance, Nur-ad-Din returned 6,000 captives.
Jerusalem king Amalric (r. 1163-1174) invaded Egypt twice; but in 1169 Nur-ad-Din's friend Saladin gained control of Egypt and made trade agreements with Pisans, Genoese, and Venetians. King Amalric made a treaty with the Byzantine emperor in 1170; but the next year Manuel ordered Venetians arrested. In 1176 Manuel fled from Turks and suffered a disastrous loss of territory in Asia Minor as the Byzantine empire deteriorated under rule by a military class. In 1182 the army revolted against the Latin empress Maria and slaughtered Italian merchants.
Raid of a Muslim caravan by Reginald stimulated Egyptian sultan Saladin to capture 1500 pilgrims. Saladin took Aleppo in 1183 and resided at Damascus, but he used diplomacy to make agreements with Bohemond III of Antioch, the Seljuk sultan, and the Byzantines. Reginald raided another caravan, and in 1187 Saladin defeated the Frank army and then captured many cities in Palestine including Jerusalem. This news caused European Christians to stop their wars and launch the third crusade led by Germany's Friedrich, England's Richard, and France's Philip. Friedrich died near Seleucia. Richard stopped in Sicily to protect his sister Joan's dowry and then took Cyprus by force from Isaac Comnenus. In 1191 Richard and Philip relieved the 100,000 crusaders trapped by Saladin's army while besieging Acre. A dispute caused Philip to go home. Richard sold Cyprus and the next year made a truce with Saladin, agreeing to let Christians and Muslims have access to holy places. While returning Richard was captured in Austria and was not ransomed until 1194. Saladin had died in 1193, and his sons struggled for power.
Pope Innocent III urged a fourth crusade that was aimed at Cairo. Venetians offered transportation for money; when the payment was short, they got the crusaders to help them retake Zara from the Hungarians in 1202. Exiled Alexius sent word he would pay Venice for putting him on the Byzantine throne. The crusaders conquered Constantinople in 1203. The Latins were resented, and the next year the Franks and Venetians plundered the city and elected Count Baldwin IX of Flanders and Hainault Latin emperor. The Byzantine empire was divided up. Eventually crusaders invaded Egypt in 1218. Friedrich II finally went on crusade in 1229 and made a peace treaty, giving Muslims access to Jerusalem; but civil war broke out in Palestine and Cyprus. Egyptian ruler Aiyub hired a Khorezmian army of 10,000 and sacked Jerusalem in 1244. The Khorezmians turned against Aiyub and besieged him at Damascus; but they were defeated by the Egyptians. France's Louis IX supported and led a crusade that captured Damietta in Egypt in 1249. After famine and disease, the crusading army was captured, and Louis was ransomed for the enormous amount of 800,000 bezants.
In 1256 Mongols invaded
Turkestan and Persia, and two years later they sacked Baghdad,
massacring nearly a million people. Damascus fell in 1260. Most
of the Mongol army departed,
and the remainder was defeated by the Egyptians. Mamluk sultan
Baybars raided Palestine and made truces with Jaffa, Beirut, Tyre,
Hospitallers, Templars, and Tripoli; but his army destroyed Antioch
in 1268. Another crusade led by Louis IX was diverted by his brother
Charles of Anjou to Tunis, where Louis died of disease in 1270.
Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Paleologus (r. 1258-1282) had regained
Constantinople in 1261, ending the eastern Latin empire; but his
effort to reunify the church under the Pope in 1274 failed. With
such a long history of so many disasters, public opinion eventually
turned against the crusades despite the religious appeals. Mamluk
sultan Kalavun (r. 1279-1290) stopped two invading Mongol
armies with his own large Egyptian
army in 1281, and two years later Franks made a truce with him.
The Mamluk army wiped out the remaining crusader cities of Tyre,
Sidon, Beirut, and Haifa, and the Templars and Hospitallers fled
to Cyprus in 1291. Christians became a persecuted minority everywhere
in the Middle East except in Cilician Armenia. Two centuries of
religious wars had made the Muslims much less tolerant of the
hostile Christians. Such militaristic imperialism hypocritically
justified by religion was never successfully revived; the crusades
Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) taught jurisprudence and philosophy at the Nizamiya academy. He practiced Sufi exercises, and his books on philosophy and religion made Sufi mysticism acceptable to more people. He taught that a moral life is the basis for mystical intuition. He valued the use of reason with Shari'a (Islamic law) and adapted Aristotle's ethics of the mean between extreme vices. Al-Ghazali believed that love is the highest virtue and recommended the golden rule.
Ibn Tufayl wrote the philosophical romance Hayy the Son of Yaqzan that describes a spiritual life on an isolated island. Averroes (1126-1198) was a judge and a physician in Seville and Cordoba but is best known for his extensive commentaries on Aristotle. Averroes believed in the consensus of Islamic law but argued that the elite could benefit from philosophy. Nasir ad-Din Tusi (1201-1274) was a prominent Shi'i jurist. He wrote a comprehensive Islamic ethics in 1235. He adapted the psychology and virtues of the Greeks. His stages of ethical development indicate a spiritual progression and deep mysticism.
Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) was born at Cordoba into a Jewish family that fled religious persecution to Africa and Palestine before settling in Egypt. He worked as a physician and even treated Saladin. Maimonides wrote the Code of Laws (Mishna Torah) and a digest of the Palestinian Talmud. He is most famous for applying rational philosophy to Judaism in his Guide for the Perplexed. In this work he advised against starting with metaphysics, because it is too difficult; moral conduct is needed to moderate the passions of youth. He emphasized the value of prophecy. In ethics Maimonides recommended reducing desires and developing the intellectual faculties. Evils are only the relative opposites of true values such as life, health, wealth, and knowledge. God's creation is perfectly good, but the corporeal element contains the possibility of evil. In ignorance humans may harm themselves and others. He found that the most important precepts relate to learning and prayer. The son and grandson of Maimonides also wrote on ethics and were influenced by Sufism.
The Sufi Gilani (1077-1166) gave sermons on practical morality at Baghdad and distributed money he received to the poor. The mystical Persian philosopher Suhrawardi (1153-1191) was called the Master of Illumination. Orthodox jurists, who disliked his theosophical views, got Sultan Saladin to order him executed. 'Arabi (1165-1240) emphasized the imagination and the perpetual transformation that leads to union with the real. The first great Sufi poetry was written in The Enclosed Garden of Truth by Sana'i of Ghazna. He recommended selflessness and becoming a friend of poverty in order to find the knowledge of God. Sana'i interpreted the symbols in dreams. 'Attar traveled widely, wrote biographies of Sufi saints, and completed his allegorical Conference of the Birds in 1188. The Hoopoe teaches the other birds how they can find the true king by withdrawing from attachment to the world. They travel through the seven valleys of the quest, love, understanding, independence, unity, astonishment, and finally nothingness. In the Book of God (Ilahi-nama) 'Attar conveyed his mystical teachings in various stories that a caliph tells his six sons, who seek worldly pleasures and power.
Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273) was influenced by 'Attar and succeeded his own father as a religious teacher at the Seljuk capital of Iconium in 1231. Rumi invented the circling movements of the whirling dervishes and wrote mystical love poetry. He wrote six books of tales in his Masnavi, and his talks were written down in the Discourses. Rumi urged his readers to be free and love God in all. He considered God the first cause of everything. He found the divine in the inner voice. Rumi believed love makes all things better. He described the lust for wealth as a chain of fears and anxieties. To the mystic "There is no God but God" really means "There is nothing but God." In the Discourses Rumi suggested that one should serve God above the prince. He recommended mingling with friends, who have turned away from the world and toward God.
The Persian Sa'di
was educated at the Nizamiya college in Baghdad, and he published
his Rose Garden
in 1258, the year Baghdad was conquered by the Mongols. In stories,
poetry, and moral maxims Sa'di commented on his times. He warned
tyrants and noted that people with a clear conscience have nothing
to fear. He satirized religious hypocrisy and wrote that the true
qualities of a dervish are praying, gratitude, service, obedience,
alms-giving, contentment, professing the unity of God, trust,
submission, and patience. In his Orchard
ten chapters as doors of edification. His practical ethics emphasized
justice. He advised a ruler that conciliating an enemy is better
than conflict; but if he seeks malice, one may confront him, because
kindness to malice is an error. Instead of going to a prince,
by putting aside desire one is a prince oneself. The soul must
conquer the lower self.
Germany's Heinrich IV was overthrown by his son, who became Heinrich V shortly before his father died in 1106. Heinrich V gained a rich dowry by marrying England's Norman princess Matilda, enabling him to invade Italy and become Emperor. His disrespect for Pope Paschal, taxes, mistreatment of nobles, and failed military campaigns in Poland and Hungary alienated many, and a revolt in Germany defeated his imperial army in 1115. Heinrich V went to Italy again to claim lands of the late Countess Matilda of Tuscany and replaced the Pope. In 1122 the Diet at Worms finally settled the investiture controversy with a compromise. Heinrich's attempted invasion of France with England in 1124 failed, and he died the next year. The Hohenstaufens made Conrad king in 1127 to challenge Lothar II, and civil war dragged on until 1135. Lothar died two years later returning from an attack on the Normans in Italy. Conrad became king, and civil wars erupted again. These with famines, epidemics, and a second crusade led to anti-Jewish pogroms in 1146. Conrad survived the crusade, made a treaty with Welf VI, and died in 1152.
Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa (r. 1152-1190) tried to bring justice through law by prohibiting private feuds. Bishop Otto of Freising wrote a history of Friedrich's early reign, and in his Two Cities he noted that the contemporary church was a mixture of good and evil, not as good as the early church but more fortunate in its power. Friedrich intervened in the election of bishops to appoint capable administrators for his empire. He proclaimed strict enforcement of feudal law in Germany and Italy, and he endowed universities to train lawyers. Heinrich the Lion ruled northeast Germany and helped the Danes conquer the Wends beyond the Elbe.
As Italian cities developed more independence with communes, the Normans under Roger II expanded their Sicilian empire in Greece and Africa. In 1154 Pope Adrian IV banished the radical Arnold of Brescia from Rome. Germany's new king Friedrich Barbarossa invaded Italy the next year, and as Emperor he conquered Milan in 1158, promising feudal rights; but he had Milan destroyed in 1162 for resisting taxes. Friedrich invaded Italy again in 1167, and even Venice joined the Greater Lombard League; but the Lombards did not defeat the German imperial army until 1176, forcing Friedrich at Venice to make a treaty with Pope Alexander III. Alexander presided over the Third Lateran Council that tried to reform abuses and prevent anti-popes in 1179. When Friedrich died on crusade in 1190, his son Heinrich VI already had much experience governing. Heinrich renewed a treaty with Pisa in 1191, and he used the ransom he got for releasing England's Richard to finance his campaign to conquer Sicily in 1194; but his harsh rule caused rebellions, and Heinrich VI died in 1197.
France's Louis VI (r. 1108-1137) suppressed a commune at Laon in 1113, but others sprang up. He used a large army to fend off Germany and England in 1124. Flanders count Charles (r. 1119-1127) protected the weak and farmers, and he outlawed bearing arms in markets or towns; but he was murdered in a feud. Louis VII (r. 1137-1180) gained Aquitane by marrying Eleanor but lost it after annulment. When Louis went on crusade in 1147, Abbot Suger governed a more peaceful France. Suger promoted building majestic cathedrals, arguing they helped people understand the beauty of God. In 1163 Flanders count Philip of Alsace declared all in towns free, and this principle became part of urban constitutions. Philip II (r. 1180-1223) seized the wealth of Jews and canceled Christian debts to them. In 1183 a revolution for equality in Puy-en-Velay was destroyed by nobles and clergy using mercenaries.
When Castilian nobility refused to accept an Aragonese ruler, Queen Urraca (r. 1109-1126) separated from her husband Alfonso I (1104-1134) of Aragon. 'Ali ibn Yusuf (r. 1106-1143) expanded his father's Almoravid empire. Castile's Alfonso VII (r. 1126-1157) invaded Aragon and conquered Zaragoza but lost it in 1140. In Morocco ibn Tumart was influenced by the philosopher al-Ghazzali and founded a unity sect; the Christians called them Almohads. Alfonso VII reconquered Muslim Cordoba in 1144; but two years later the Almohads invaded Spain, overthrew the Almoravids in Andalusia, and regained Cordoba in 1149. Portugal's Afonso Henriques (r. 1128-1185) got help from crusaders in taking Santarém and Lisbon from the Muslims in 1147. While Castile suffered civil war, Muslims advanced. Orders of knights were founded, and the shrine at Santiago was protected. The Almohad caliph Ya'qub (r. 1184-1199) defeated the army of Castille's Alfonso VIII (r. 1158-1214) at Alarcos in 1196.
Denmark fought with the Wends and Abodrites, and King Valdemar (r. 1157-1182) converted the Wends to Christianity by force of arms. Norway's king Magnus III (r. 1093-1103) was disliked for the heavy taxes used to pay for his wars. After 1130 Norway suffered frequent civil wars over the throne. English cardinal Nicholas Breakspear visited Norway as papal legate in 1152, established an archbishopric at Nidaros (Trondheim), and instituted reforms. After a civil war King Sverrir (r. 1184-1202) quelled rebellions, repudiated the religious reforms, and was excommunicated. Sweden also suffered civil wars as the church developed. Svealand king Erik Jedvardsson promulgated strict laws, and his son Knut became king of Sweden (r. 1167-1196), organized the church, and fortified Stockholm. Iceland initiated tithing to support the church in 1097 and revised its democratic laws in 1118. Guilds developed in Scandinavia as in Europe and were important economic and social institutions. Clerical celibacy was resisted in the 12th century, especially by the Scandinavians.
Hungary was ruled by King Coloman (r. 1095-1116) and his relatives, some of whom were blinded. Bela III (r. 1173-1196) married Margaret of France, and Magyar students attended the university in Paris. The Premyslid dynasty dominated Bohemia, and Duke Vladislav I became a German elector. Duke Vladislav II (r. 1140-1173) supported Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa's campaign against Milan in 1158 and was crowned king; but after he abdicated, civil wars divided Bohemia. Poland's Boleslav III (r. 1102-1138) did homage to the German Emperor; but his sons fought civil wars. Vladimir Monomakh became prince of Kiev in 1113 and made war against his neighbors; he reduced interest rates and expelled Jews. Many struggled for power until Vsévolod III (r. 1176-1212) became Russia's Grand Prince. The anonymous Lay of Igor's Campaign blamed Igor's defeat by the Kumans in 1185 on the Russian princes' quarrels.
Anselm was the abbot of the Bec monastery and wrote to increase faith in God with philosophical arguments that God is the greatest being. King William Rufus appointed Anselm archbishop of Canterbury, and they struggled for authority. William II ruled England and Normandy with a strong hand but was killed and was succeeded by his brother Henry I (r. 1100-1135). In 1106 he defeated Robert Curthose in Normandy and continued to suppress civil wars there. David (r. 1124-1153) brought the feudal system to Scotland by allocating land. Henry's nephew Stephen (r. 1135-1154) claimed the throne and stopped David's invasion of Cumberland and Northumberland; civil war against Henry's daughter Matilda raged for nine years. Henry of Anjou gained much of France by marrying Eleanor of Aquitane and succeeded Stephen as king.
Henry II (r. 1154-1189) ruled Normandy, Anjou, and Aquitane as well as England. He destroyed unlicensed castles and kept the peace by enforcing law, making Thomas Becket his chancellor. France's Louis VII kept Henry from taking Toulouse. When Henry II appointed his friend Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket directed his energy to protecting the privileges of the church. Henry wanted the clergy to be subject to the authority of secular law courts. Becket disagreed and fled to France. In 1165 Henry II invaded Wales and had hostages mutilated. Henry's invasion of Auvergne led to conflict with France. Henry II married his daughters to Heinrich of Saxony, Alfonso VIII of Castile, and William II of Sicily. Pope Alexander tried to reconcile Henry II and Becket, but the latter upon his return was murdered in Canterbury cathedral. Henry invaded Ireland in 1171 before making reparations for the murder. Two years later Prince Henry and his brothers Geoffrey and Richard rebelled and were supported by Louis VII, Count Philip of Flanders, King William of Scotland, and four English earls. Henry II was scourged at Canterbury for the murder of Becket, already declared a saint. William was defeated; England submitted; and Louis made peace. Henry forgave his sons and made sure they each had land. Richard destroyed unlicensed castles, and John was made feudal lord of Ireland. The powerful Henry II mediated truces in Europe. Yet Richard and France's young king Philip II defeated Henry II, who then died.
Richard (r. 1189-1199)
sold offices to finance his crusade and left his brother John
and Ely bishop Longchamp to govern; but Rouen archbishop Walter
of Coutances was authorized to replace Longchamp. London became
a self-governing commune. When Richard
returned in 1194, he had to defeat a rebellion that had made John
king. Then Richard
successfully fought Philip for Normandy and Aquitane. The author
Gerald tried to make the Welsh church independent of Canterbury
but did not succeed.
When Richard was killed, John (r. 1199-1216) became king of England. He continued the war against Philip II and eventually lost Normandy. John built up the English navy by requiring military service. Stephen Langton remained in exile for six years, because John refused to accept him as Archbishop of Canterbury while seizing its revenues. York archbishop Geoffrey opposed the King's tax and also fled England. King John was excommunicated in 1209. Meanwhile John was using church revenues to finance his military campaigns in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Faced with invasion by France, John reinstated the exiled clergy and compensated the church. In 1213 English and Flemish knights destroyed France's navy. Barons refused to support John's invasion of Aquitane, and in 1215 they demanded a charter of rights as Archbishop Stephen Langton mediated a truce. The Magna Carta became famous as a breakthrough in human rights. The church was guaranteed free elections; feudal abuses were reformed; widows were protected; war taxes could not be imposed without consent; a permanent court was established for lawsuits; no one could be put on trial without witnesses; and the right of trial by a jury of peers was guaranteed.
Pope Innocent III tried to annul the charter with excommunications; but Archbishop Langton rejected that. This conflict led to the barons fighting John's royal army until he died in 1216. The elderly William Marshal became regent and worked to resolve the civil war until he died in 1219. Archbishop Langton helped unify the church and conciliate the political conflicts until young Henry III came of age. England's Henry III (r. 1227-1272) married the sister of Louis IX's wife, and so relations with France were fairly peaceful. Enforcement of the Great Charter's liberties by threat of excommunication also added to law and order. Henry's armies invaded Wales in 1241 and 1245. Henry III took nearly half the assets of Jews in taxes. Bishop Grosseteste complained to Pope Innocent IV in 1250 that so much English wealth was going for papal privileges, and he criticized the use of clerics for secular administration. Llywelyn II led a Welsh revolt against the English. Henry de Bracton wrote an important treatise developing common law in 1259. In the treaty of Paris that year Henry gave up his claim to much in France, retaining only Gascony. England dominated Ireland, which held its first parliament in 1264.
Concerned about debt to the Pope and money wasted on a crusade and Sicily, magnates had met in a parliament in 1258 to demand reform. An Oxford group planned regular meetings for parliament; knights were elected in shires to attend. Simon de Montfort led a revolt and forced King Henry to accept the Oxford Provisions in 1263. The next year Henry and his son Edward became hostages. However, Simon was defeated and killed in 1265; but common law was revised, and an assembly enacted the statute of Marlborough in 1267, marking an end to feudal law. Parliament approved a 5% tax to replenish the treasury in 1270. Westminster statutes of 1275 and 1285 improved common law. Edward I (r. 1272-1307) expelled all Jews from England in 1290, the same year he banned private warfare. Burning coal made London the first city known to suffer air pollution. War broke out between England and France in 1293. By the time a truce led to arbitration in 1298 Edward had spent 750,000 pounds on this war and in fighting rebellious Scots led by William Wallace.
Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) used a struggle for power in Germany to regain papal privileges. Italian cities in the Tuscan League were often ruled by foreign podestas elected annually. After Friedrich II promised not to interfere in ecclesiastical affairs, the fourth Lateran Council of 1215 confirmed him as Emperor. Innocent urged yet another crusade, and the council confirmed the Inquisition against the Cathar heretics. Gratian's codification of church election laws was accepted. Clerics were given a dress code, and Jews were forbidden to hold civil offices. Italian cities were dividing between Guelfs supporting the Pope and Ghibellines favoring the Emperor. The Teutonic Order was formed to conquer Prussia. Friedrich II founded a university at Naples in 1224 for the study of law. Many Italian cities and communes joined the Lombard League. Returning from the crusade, Friedrich invaded the Papal States; Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) reacted by sending an army to attack the Sicilian kingdom. In 1231 Friedrich tried to replace feudal customs by imposing imperial laws that attempted to prevent crime by protecting the weak from the strong. Widows and orphans were subsidized. Fairs were established, and customs were reduced to promote trade. Friedrich's imperial army, using 10,000 Saracens, defeated the Lombard League at Cortenuova in 1237. Friedrich taxed papal territories, and his war against Gregory IX was resumed by Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254). The imperial treasure was captured in 1248, but the war did not end until Friedrich died in 1250.
After 1256 German electors were bribed to choose two different foreigners as king; thus princes maintained their independence. The Rhenish League organized to alleviate the heavy tolls imposed on merchants by the nobles. Jews in Germany were persecuted as prelates meeting at Vienna in 1267 confirmed the canonical laws of Pope Innocent III. Christians were forbidden to associate with Jews, who were required to wear distinctive clothes. Training for German soldiers began at 14 and lasted seven years. Their castles dominated the countryside. Improved agriculture helped by Cistercian monks tripled the German population from 1100 to 1300. Guilds flourished in urbanized industries and provided social as well as economic benefits. Coined money increased, and loans were made by Jews or Lombards.
After Emperor Friedrich II died in 1250, Florence became democratic but fought with their Ghibelline enemies. German power declined in Italy, but the papacy became more corrupt. Charles of Anjou with a French army took over Rome and was aided by Florentine Guelphs. The last Hohenstaufen Emperor Conradin was publicly beheaded in 1268. Pope Gregory X (1271-1276) tried to mediate the Guelf-Ghibelline conflict and put resisting Florence under interdict. Genoa's navy defeated Charles in 1273, but his power revived when a Frenchman became Pope Martin IV in 1281. However, during vespers in 1282 Aragon's Pedro III invaded and took over Sicily. Two years later Genoa destroyed the Pisan fleet. The growing power of the guilds was seen when they elected six priors to govern Florence.
Philip II Augustus (r. 1180-1223) greatly expanded the kingdom of France and made it a centralized state. The University of Paris was completely organized by 1215. Louis VIII (r. 1223-1226) stopped the Jews from collecting debts. The religious Blanche ruled for her son Louis IX until 1234. He prohibited vassals from being judged in ecclesiastical courts for civil questions, and in 1246 a league of barons limited ecclesiastical courts even more. Copies of the Talmud were burned in Paris. Louis IX made truces with England's Henry III and spent much treasure on the crusade he led. Louis IX instituted government reforms in 1254. Louis expelled Jews, excepting skilled artisans. He prohibited private warfare and banned carrying weapons in 1258. He then abolished judicial duels and forbade tournaments and festivals. Labor disputes under Countess Margaret of Flanders (1244-1278) caused some skilled workers to emigrate to England and Italy. France's Philip III (r. 1270-1285) died trying to invade Aragon and was succeeded by his son Philip IV the Fair (r. 1285-1314). He seemed to win a clash with Pope Boniface VIII over taxing clergy. Boniface tried to mediate a truce in his war with the Flemings, but the French army took over Flanders in 1300.
The kingdoms Aragon, Castile, and Navarre defeated the Almohads at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 and plundered the region. Aragon's Jaime I (r. 1213-1276) won a long civil war and many victories against the Muslims. Universities were founded at Palencia and Salamanca. Castile's Fernando (r. 1217-1252) forced 300,000 Muslims to leave Seville in 1248. Granada paid tribute and was the only remaining Muslim kingdom in Spain. Alfonso X (r. 1252-1284) of Castile was called the Learned for promoting education and law, but he had to quell Muslim revolts, withdraw his laws, and face civil war between his sons. Communes gave charters, and brotherhoods protected people from soldiers. Jews were tolerated in Spain and often were intermediaries between Christians and Muslims. The Jewish Kabbalist Moses de Leon wrote the mystical Book of Splendor (Zohar) about 1280. Portugal's Afonso III (r. 1248-1279) allowed the first commoners into the Cortes at Leiria in 1254, and in 1261 he had to agree not to tax the people without their consent. King Dinis (r. 1279-1325) of Portugal promoted a university, literature, fairs, minted money, agriculture, and the planting of pine forests to stop soil erosion.
Denmark's Valdemar II (r. 1202-1241) expanded the kingdom and developed a law code. In 1282 a hof became the highest court in Denmark and demanded that Valdemar's laws be followed. Civil wars plagued Norway until 1260 when the assembly established hereditary monarchy in the law of succession. Magnus VI (r. 1263-1280) instituted national law for Norway in 1274; the king was sole legislator, but the assemblies were the courts. Norway's Erik II (r. 1280-1299) went to war against German merchants of the Hanse cities and against Denmark in 1289. Birger Magnusson helped Sweden expand its territory and develop humane laws; his son Valdemar became king in 1250 and was overthrown by his brother Magnus in 1275. Swedish law established hereditary nobility in 1280. Iceland had democratic government until it lost its independence to Norway in 1264, though its church became independent in 1297.
Abuses by Hungarian king Andrew II (r. 1205-1235) led in 1221 to the national charter of rights called the Golden Bull. In 1239 the Mongol invasion pushed 40,000 Kumans into the Hungary of Bela IV (r. 1235-1270), who found it useful to protect Jews and cede territory to Austria. A Kuman princess became regent for her son Ladislas IV (r. 1272-1290), who was obliged to fight the Kumans and then was assassinated by one. Many Germans immigrated into Bohemia during the reign of Wenceslas (r. 1230-1253) with their sense of law. Bohemia's Ottokar II (r. 1253-1278) resisted imperial rule and invaded Austria but lost the territory he had gained. Young Wenceslas II (r. 1278-1305) conquered Poland and became its king also in 1300. Poland had suffered from German aggression, Lithuanians, and raids from Mongols in 1241 and 1259. German immigrants brought Magdeburg law, and Jews were given a charter in 1264 by Boleslav V (r. 1243-1279); but five years later Jews were forbidden to hold public office and were required to wear a round red badge. Lithuania became a nation, suffered civil war, and invaded Livonia in the 1270s. Mongols destroyed Kiev in 1240 and dominated much of Russia for two centuries. Alexander helped Novgorod defeat invading Swedes in 1240, and two years later they turned away Teutonic knights. Alexander accepted Mongol sovereignty and became Grand Prince of Russia in 1252.
Christians in western Europe developed their ethical theories during the crusades era. Abelard taught theology at Paris and married his student Heloise but was castrated by her uncle. She became a nun; his ethics emphasized intention, self-knowledge, and traditional virtues. Abelard was prosecuted for heresy in 1140 by the Cistercian monk Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard was the chief advisor to Pope Eugenius and wrote him five letters on what he should consider, examining himself and serving others. Abbot Aelred of Rievaulx is best known for his book Spiritual Friendship, which is based on moral goodness and tests loyalty, right intention, discretion, and patience. John of Salisbury wrote Policraticus on politics and was Becket's secretary at Canterbury. John believed that usurping tyrants should be killed, and he criticized the venality of courtiers. He warned against luxury and ambition. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a visionary nun who prophesied that the temporal powers would be punished for their greed. She emphasized feminine virtues and suggested that not eating mammals helped prevent lust. Hildegard composed music, chants, and an operatic morality play. She wrote on healing using the theory of the four humors, and she catalogued herbs.
Peter Valdes gave away his wealth to live in poverty according to the Gospels. His followers were called Waldensians and were excommunicated in 1182. The Cathars, like the Manichaeans, attempted to purify themselves from evil; they considered the papacy and priesthood corrupt. They were declared heretics, and some were burned as early as 1167. Their initiated perfecti renounced sexual intercourse, violence, and animal food in order to be liberated from reincarnation. Persecution of Cathars accelerated after the third Lateran council of 1179. Yet 600 Cathar perfecti met at Mirepoix in 1206. Two years later Pope Innocent III proclaimed the Albigensian crusade against heretics in that region and offered indulgence for military service. Thousands were slaughtered at Béziers; Narbonne submitted, and Carcassonne was attacked the next year. Hundreds were burned for heresy in 1210. The war became the north against the south as the army of Pedro II's Aragon supported Toulouse. Louis VIII died leading this crusade in 1226. Many Cathars emigrated to Lombardy while others held out at Montségur. In 1233 Pope Gregory IX authorized the Dominican Order to launch the Inquisition against heretics, who were denied their rights and had their property confiscated. After some inquisitors were murdered, Montségur was besieged in 1243 and surrendered ten months later. In 1252 Pope Innocent IV authorized the Inquisition to use torture for gaining information.
Dominic was from Castile but gained attention preaching against Albigensian heretics. His preaching converted Waldensians, and their order of Poor Catholics was approved by the Pope in 1208. Dominic's order of poor preachers was confirmed in Rome in 1217, and they were called friars (brothers). By the time Dominic died in 1221 the friaries had spread to Poland, Scandinavia, Palestine, Spain, Provence, France, Lombardy, and England.
Francis of Assisi wanted to be a knight and fought in two wars; but in 1205 a vision guided him to serve God instead. As a pilgrim to Rome he mingled with beggars and lepers, and he was inspired to repair a broken-down church in Assisi. When his wealthy father complained, Francis gave up all his possessions. His first disciples joined his begging life to help the poor in 1208, and Francis wrote a Rule the next year for the Friars Minor. Clare organized an order for poor sisters. In 1219 Francis went on the crusade to Egypt, preached against killing, and tried to convert the Sultan. In Palestine he got an eye infection. The Rule of Francis required brothers to avoid temporal affairs and accept no money. The ascetic way of Francis was hard on his body, which he called Brother Ass, and he suffered many infirmities. Francis died in 1226, warning his disciples of coming tribulations. The spirituals objected to minister general Elias living in luxury like a prince, and he was deposed in 1239. Clare's Rule for the Poor Ladies was also approved by the Pope before she died in 1253.
Bonaventure was minister general of the Franciscan order from 1257 until his death in 1274, and he wrote the official biography Francis. Bonaventure's ethics are based on natural law, which he believed derived from eternal law. Justice is the law of social order. Innocence is not harming others, and beneficence is doing good to others. The duty of rulers and subjects is to work for the common good. Charity above all fosters order and virtue. Bonaventure believed in hierarchical order and saw prelates instructing and correcting people. He believed in equal rights for women, though he granted the husband authority similar to that of the prince. Children when they are grown up no longer have to obey their parents. He observed that elected rulers are better than hereditary ones. Excess riches should be distributed to the poor.
The rational development of systematic theology was pioneered by Albertus Magnus, who taught Thomas Aquinas. Both were Dominicans, and Thomas taught at the University of Paris and in Italy. Thomas answered the challenges to Christianity in his Summa contra Gentiles. He argued that evil is not intentional and only a privation. Ultimately happiness is found in contemplating God. Divine law directs humans with reason. In On Kingship Aquinas considered this the best form of government, but its abusive form (tyranny) is the worst. He believed that humans are free, because they are intelligent; but irrational actions are neither human nor free. Virtues are good habits, and vices are bad habits; they become second nature. Virtues enhance freedom by using abilities in the best way. Thomas Aquinas became most influential with his Summary of Theology (Summa Theologica), which applies Aristotelian philosophy to Christian doctrines. Thomas listed the seven deadly sins as pride, envy, anger, avarice, sadness, gluttony, and lust. The intellectual virtue of prudence is responsible for regulating the passions. Conscience guides us to what is right. Only just laws are binding on the conscience. Although he did not believe in forced conversions to Christianity, he did justify the persecutions and torturing used by Dominicans in the Inquisition. Aquinas justified war under a sovereign prince but not private warfare.
Robert Grosseteste developed the theory for the modern experimental method of science. He taught Roger Bacon, who knew how to make gun powder as early as 1242. Bacon taught at Oxford and did scientific research. He was allowed to write but not to publish but was later imprisoned in a dark cell for fourteen years. In his Great Work (Opus majus) Roger Bacon explained that human ignorance fails to find the truth because of following unworthy authorities, customs and habits, popular prejudices, and displaying the appearance of wisdom. He emphasized studying languages and wrote grammars of Hebrew and Greek. Like Grosseteste, he considered mathematics the key to science. He also developed Grosseteste's theory of light and refraction, preparing the way for telescopes and microscopes. Bacon considered moral philosophy most important, because it teaches us the laws and obligations of life. From Socrates and Plato he got the idea that everyone has a guardian angel. His seven mortal sins substitute luxury and sloth for the sadness and lust of Aquinas.
Ramon Llull was
married and had children but while composing a love song for a
lady, he had a vision of Jesus on the cross. He provided for his
family and gave the rest away, devoting himself to converting
Muslims with his writings. He learned Arabic from a Saracen slave
and wrote the Book of Contemplation in that language. Llull
risked his life in Africa trying to convert Muslims. He wrote
many books, writing in Catalan for lay people and in Latin for
Christian clerics. In a dialog between a Gentile, a Jew, a Christian,
and a Muslim, Llull outlined his principles of goodness, greatness,
eternity, power, wisdom, love, and perfection. His seven deadly
sins are gluttony, lust, avarice, laziness, pride, envy, and anger.
His many books on various arts analyze life into philosophical
categories. His novel Felix, or the Book of Wonders was
intended to reform a corrupt society by telling numerous stories
with moral points, including in the Beasts part stories of Reynard
European literature emerged out of its dark ages in the 12th century. French literature came alive with the epic Song of Roland, which was written early during the crusades, probably as propaganda for them and the Spanish reconquista effort. The current hero of the latter was also immortalized in the epic Poem of the Cid. Other epics were also written about Charlemagne and Guillaume, who fought Saracens as well. Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote in Latin his History of the Kings of Britain in 1136 and was the first to develop the legends of King Arthur. His literary efforts gave the British a national tradition even if it was mostly legendary. Welsh tales were eventually collected in the Mabinogion, and they included magical fantasies.
The troubadours sang bawdy songs before audiences, but their poems and songs developed into the tradition of courtly love. Commentaries (razos) and political poems (sirventes) often criticized current customs. Some romances were based on classical models. The court chaplain Andreas Capellanus in his book On Love (De Amore) wrote about the theory of romantic love. He described how heterosexual love can be won by beauty, honest character, wisdom and eloquent speech, wealth, and granting what the other wants. In dialogs men of different classes try to persuade women to love them. In the third book, however, Andreas strongly argued that sensual love is far inferior to the love of God. Marie de France wrote romantic stories in French verse called Lais, which contain moral lessons. The fabliaux tales were often more sexual, scatological, and violent; the most popular of these were of Reynard the fox and other animals struggling to survive.
Between 1170 and 1190 Chrétien de Troyes wrote five Arthurian romances in French with rhymed octosyllabic couplets. Erec and Enide explores the tension between the deep feelings of love in marriage and a knight's duties of chivalry. In Cliges a Byzantine prince is educated at the court of Arthur, falls in love, and is able to take the woman away from the Duke of Saxony. In The Knight of the Cart Lancelot falls in love with Queen Guinevere. The Knight with the Lion is about Yvain of Arthur's court. He falls in love with the widow Laudine, but he is so preoccupied with chivalrous heroics that he forgets to come back to her as he promised. Chrétien left The Story of the Grail about Perceval unfinished. Perceval is also distracted from his spiritual aspiration by chivalrous combats. This knight's quest for the grail was continued by several other poets.
The anonymous German epic Nibelungenlied tells the violent story of Siegfried and how his widow Kriemhild got revenge for his murder. Wolfram von Eschenbach was a knight and wrote the long poem Parzival about his quest for the grail. Parzival is so eager to fight that he jousts with Gawan and battles his own brother Feirefiz before he learns who they are. Parzival learns the chivalry of a knight and becomes the grail king. In his epic poem Willehalm Wolfram celebrated the warfare of chivalry by retelling the story of Charlemagne's cousin Guillaume, who was defeated by the Muslims at Alischanz but then organized a campaign that was victorious. The satire Meier Helmbrecht by Wernher der Gartenaere shows how the crimes of errant knights were starting to be punished by the force of law.
Several versions of the romance of Tristan and Isolde survived, but none of them is complete. The longest and most profound is the poem Tristan in German by Gottfried von Strassburg. In this story the power of passionate love is symbolized as a drug that causes Tristan and Isolde to fall in desperate love even though she marries King Mark. The long French prose Lancelot is an analogous story of the illicit love for a queen. Lancelot's story is continued in the religious allegory The Quest of the Holy Grail that tells of his son Galahad, whose purity is contrasted to the sin of his father. Other knights are also too sinful, but Galahad is joined on his quest by Bors and Perceval. In The Death of Arthur Lancelot resumes his love affair with Queen Guinevere, eventually causing a civil war in Arthur's kingdom. Arthur is betrayed by his own son Mordred, and they kill each other. The noble ideals of Camelot could not withstand the vices and violence of the knights.
Snorri Sturluson (1178-1241) was born in Iceland and was its lawspeaker for twelve years. He became the richest man in Iceland but made enemies and was eventually murdered. Snorri wrote about Norse myths in the Prose Edda and Norwegian legends and history in his Heimskringla. The pagan myths claim to be from Asia and are rather violent with gods in conflict and sometimes betraying each other. Snorri Sturluson also wrote Egil's Saga about his poetic ancestor Egil Skallagrimsson. The Icelandic sagas are essentially historical novels about Norse families in the 10th and 11th centuries. Egil kills many men but manages to claim much property. The anonymous Laxdaela Saga portrays a family feud and shows women exerting much influence. The Eyrbyggja Saga depicts the struggle between the Viking feuds and the development of law and democracy in Iceland as Christianity gradually replaced blood feuds. Njal's Saga is about a skillful lawyer who tries to reduce violence with lawsuits and compensation for murders; he accepts Christianity but ends up being burned in his home.
Roman de la Rose is an allegorical poem of romantic love begun by Guillaume de Lorris and greatly extended by Jean de Meun. The art of love is described using personifications of abstract terms. Jean de Meun portrays Reason and criticizes the mendicant friars by presenting them as False Seeming. The Duenna says that jealousy is foolish, because it causes one to lose what one is trying to keep. Nature explains many complex questions about human experience. Finally Venus directs the assault on the castle of Jealousy. Fair Welcome is rescued, and the dreamer wins the Rose. By synthesizing erotic paganism with the spiritual charity of Christianity Western civilization has become a romantic culture.
Theater was reborn in the West in the 12th century as an outgrowth of religious liturgies. Biblical plays and lives of saints were presented on holy days. Comedy burst forth in plays about Saint Nicholas. The Parisian trouvere Rutebeuf wrote an early play about a man who makes a bargain with the devil for a worldly position. Secular plays were pioneered by Adam de la Halle. Lives of Christian saints replete with miracles became especially popular in the 13th century. The most influential collection of saints' lives was The Golden Legend by the Dominican Jacobus de Voragine, who compiled and organized many lives of the saints around the church calendar.
The development of Mahayana Buddhism in India from the first century spread its excellent ethics. This Buddhism would move east into China and north into Tibet; but after a few centuries Hinduism regained its prevalence over most of India, imposing its caste system but still enlightening with its ancient spiritual philosophy. The rich culture of India also allowed theater to flourish with its dramatic lessons for human experience. In the middle ages devotion became the most popular expression of Hindu religion. Theravada Buddhism survived mostly on the island of Sri Lanka, and Jainism with its nonviolent ethics could still be found in India. Yet as with the rest of the world, in India kingdoms still struggled for power using violent methods. Such conflicts became worse with the conquests of the Muslims after 1000.
After the turmoil of Wang Mang's revolution, the Eastern Han dynasty stabilized China and increased Confucian education until government corruption under eunuchs at court led to revolts and the division of China into three kingdoms in 220. By the 4th century Buddhism was spreading rapidly in China, and Wu Di of Liang patronized it in the 6th century. The Northern Qi used Confucianism to reunify north China in 577; but when Sui Wen Di (r. 581-604) reunited all of China, he promoted reforms and Buddhism. Yet his son Yang Di in 606 instituted the examination system based on Confucian classics. Though rulers changed and vied for power, the Chinese tended to tolerate the co-existence of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. The mistake of invading Korea with a million men caused the Sui dynasty to be short-lived. The Tang dynasty (618-907) was probably the most sophisticated culture in the world at that time, though they dominated Korea, subjugated the Eastern Turks, and had conflicts with Tibet. The Song dynasty (960-1279) spent heavily on the military at first but experimented with the social reforms of Wang Anshi and established its dominant ethical philosophy in the Neo-Confucian renaissance. Mongols conquered China in the 13th century but were more influenced by the Chinese than vice versa.
Southeast Asia was influenced by both China and India, and in the 13th century invading Mongols brought Islam, especially to Indonesia. The Korean kingdoms of Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla were influenced by Chinese culture and accepted Buddhism in the 4th century. When Koguryo and Paekche invaded Silla in 655, the latter allied itself with Tang China and became dominant even after they drove the Chinese out in 677. The Koryo dynasty was founded in 935 and promoted Buddhism but used Chinese administrative methods. Confucian ethics strongly influenced Korea, and they used the civil service examinations too. Mongol invasions were absorbed by intermarriage. Japan held onto to its indigenous religion that worshipped its emperor but readily took to Buddhism. Japanese culture greatly advanced after the positive influence of Prince Shotoku (574-622). Buddhism flourished during the peace of Japan's Heian era (794-1192), though by the 12th century powerful monasteries had their own armies and sometimes fought each other. A militaristic feudal era was inaugurated when Yoritomi won a civil war between clans and became shogun in 1192. Mahayana Buddhist schools developed from their Chinese roots, and the Mongol's attempted attack on Japan failed.
Judgments about the ethical culture in Africa south of the Sahara are difficult to make because little is known. The same problem exists with most of the American natives. The Mayans rose and fell in central America with numerous wars and some human sacrifices. The Toltecs rose to power briefly but gave way to Mexica groups and Chichimecs.
The Roman republic was dead before Octavian gained control over the entire empire in 30 BC to become the first Emperor. His reasonable policies and long life consolidated the empire in the Pax Romana. The literature of Virgil and Horace reflected the morals of Roman culture as did the advice of Ovid on love even though he was censored by Augustus. His successor Tiberius (r. 14-37) held on to power with treason trials and executions, but the Augustan administration and Roman law were by then well entrenched. King Herod ruled Judea until 4 BC, but soon Jewish rebellions led to Roman prefects being appointed. The liberal Pharisees absorbed the humane teachings of Hillel and the strict rules of Shammai; the conservative Sadducees held the Temple; and the mystical Essenes experimented with communal living. Philo Judaeus of Alexandria applied philosophical reason in developing his ethics.
John the Baptist awakened Jews by preaching repentance and baptizing them in the Jordan River. Jesus taught and healed for three years before he was arrested by Jews and crucified by the Roman government. The quality and sensitivity of his ethical teachings and the depth of his parables are probably still unsurpassed. Accounts of his miracles and spiritual teachings of love and forgiveness spread after his followers believed in his rising from the dead. His apostles shared their possessions and preached. Saul was transformed from persecuting them to become Paul, the preacher of the religion based on Christ as savior. His travels and letters encouraged many of the new congregations called churches. He and the disciples' leader Peter were executed in Rome in 64, but the Gospels were written and circulated along with Paul's letters and other writings. When the Romans punished Christians for refusing to give up their beliefs, the martyrdoms won over more people to the new faith. Christianity became distinguished from Judaism but recognized its relationship by rejecting Gnostics and calling its canon of scriptures the New Testament.
The Roman empire continued even though some of its rulers were degenerate tyrants. Caligula ruled for only four years before he was murdered. Claudius (r. 41-54) allowed his advisors to become very wealthy but was wise enough to extend Roman citizenship on the frontiers. He was murdered so that the immature Nero could rule. The Stoic philosopher Seneca advised him and gained wealth; but as Nero's desires got out of control, Seneca retired and was forced to commit suicide. Seneca contributed thoughtful letters and essays on ethics and adapted Greek tragedies. Nero was murdered, and the civil wars of four emperors were ended quickly by the able Vespasian, who patiently put down the Jewish revolution in Palestine. His son Domitian (r. 81-96) maintained the empire by suppressing rebellions with military force, paying a professional army. Literature satirized the debauchery of the times, but Quintilian contributed to the preparation needed to sustain Roman law with his Education of an Orator. Apollonius of Tyana demonstrated mystical abilities and taught a Pythagorean spirituality.
A series of intelligent emperors stabilized the Roman empire after Nerva was elected by the Senate in 96. Trajan continued Nerva's child welfare program and expanded the empire; but Hadrian (r. 117-138) abandoned Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria that Trajan had Trajan. He forgave past taxes, and Roman law differentiated an upper class (honestiores) from the lower (humiliores). The wealthy dominated, and hereditary aristocracy developed. Dio Chrysostom was a great orator who taught the ascetic ethics of the Greek Cynics. Plutarch wrote biographies of noble Greeks and Romans and numerous essays adapting Platonic philosophy to many issues. Epictetus was born a slave but gained his freedom and became an outstanding Stoic philosopher, teaching how the will can control what is in our power. Emperor Antoninus was succeeded by the philosopher Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180), who used both the military and diplomacy to sustain an empire crumbling around the edges. He wrote down his thoughts to pass on his Stoic wisdom. Juvenal satirized the moral laxity of Rome and lamented how much dishonesty had increased, and Apuleius in his novel The Golden Ass portrayed the spiritual development implied in the Isis cult.
The decline of the Roman empire is apparent in the corrupt reign (180-192) of Commodus and by the quick murder of his reforming successor Pertinax by soldiers. Septimius Severus survived by paying soldiers well; but slaves were mistreated, and bandits flourished. Emperors Caracalla and Elagabalus were tyrannical and inept, and both were murdered. Young Alexander Severus showed religious tolerance; but he was killed when the army mutinied in 235. In the next fifty years numerous emperors struggled for power, suppressed rebellions, and fought wars with invading Persians, Goths, and Germans as these wars, famines, and plagues disrupted agriculture and commerce. Extensive writings by Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen defended Christianity and taught its ethics. Most churches forgave the lapsed Christians of the Decian persecution (249-251). In Persia the prophet Mani taught a new religion that attempted to separate spiritual good from the evil world. The Neo-Platonist Plotinus (205-270) concentrated on the soul, purifying the lower self by virtue and transcending the emotions to approach God. Greek novels diverted the literate with romantic adventures while affirming chastity before marriage.
Emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius used legions to suppress rebellions, and Galerius instigated a serious persecution of Christians that was named after Diocletian, who retired in 305. In the West Constantine became Emperor by having his soldiers fight using Christian symbols. In 324 Roman persecution of Christians ended as he became sole Emperor and began building Constantinople. Lactantius argued that history justified Christianity as tyrannical emperors were killed, and Constantine triumphed. Constantine summoned the Council of Nicaea and tried to eliminate heresy; but the conflict between the theology of Arius and the trinity defended by Athanasius persisted. When Constantine's son Constantius died in 361, the pagan Julian was Emperor for two years; but he died trying to conquer Persia and Armenia. Co-emperor Valens was an Arian, persecuted dissent in the East, and fought invading Goths, while his brother Valentinian fought Germans in the West. Emperor Theodosius allowed the Goths to settle in the empire and issued edicts against heretics.
Antony founded the anchorite tradition by living alone in the Egyptian desert. Pachomius founded a cenobite (community) monastery in Egypt which by 348 had thousands of monks. Basil of Cappadocia developed rules for monks living in community and wrote on virtue. Martin refused to fight for Julian and established the first monastery in Gaul. Ambrose was elected bishop of Milan and defended church authority. Prudentius wrote Christian poetry. John Chrysostom preached at Constantinople, and Jerome completed his Latin translation of the Bible in 406. In one century the mostly pagan Roman empire had been transformed into a mostly Christian culture.
Augustine described the inner struggle of becoming a Christian in his Confessions, and he became bishop of Hippo in 397. His writing justified executions of criminals and killing in a just war, but he considered an unjust law invalid. He persecuted heretics but opposed making them martyrs by killing them. After Rome was pillaged by Alaric's Goths in 410, Augustine wrote The City of God to contrast the heavenly city of the virtuous with others living in the earthly city. Augustine got Orosius to write his History Against the Pagans to prove that Christians were not responsible for the fall of the Roman empire. However, Salvian criticized avaricious Roman Christians. John Cassian wrote of monastic lessons, and the Talmud was compiled, though Jews were persecuted. Leo raised his position from bishop of Rome to Pope and banished Manichaeans and Pelagians from Italy. He persuaded Attila and the Vandals not to burn Rome, but Odovacar deposed the last Western Emperor and became king of Italy in 476.
The Eastern empire went on under the Isaurian Zeno and then Anastasius. The Ostrogoth Theodoric replaced Odovacar, and he executed Boethius, who in prison wrote the brilliant Consolation of Philosophy. Frank king Clovis (r. 481-511) became a Christian and proclaimed Salic laws, but his sons fought for power. Benedict wrote the Rule for monasteries that become a standard for centuries. Justinian (r. 527-565) made peace with Persian emperor Khusrau (r. 531-579) and expanded the Roman empire by using military power, as Belisarius and Narses reconquered most of Italy from the Goths; but this devastated the land and wasted many resources. The historian Procopius recorded both the evils and the accomplishments of Justinian's policies. Those who were not orthodox Christians could lose their rights and possessions. Justinian had skilled lawyers codify his edicts as a new set of laws. After Justinian died, his empire crumbled from division within and invasions from the Persians, the Avars and Slavs; the Lombards took over Italy, and Visigoths ruled Spain. Queens Brunhild and Fredegund vied for power as Franks fought civil wars. Britain was invaded by Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. Pope Gregory sent a mission to Canterbury and gained control of the Papal States.
Muhammad had his first revelation at age forty. He and his few followers were persecuted in Mecca, and in 622 they migrated to Medina. Islamic violence began during the life of its prophet. Muslims increased as they began raiding and fighting battles with their adversaries. Muhammad revealed that a Muslim could have four wives, and he married several widows. After being wounded in a battle against the Quraysh, Muhammad's army eventually defeated them and conquered Mecca, destroying its idols. In his last annual pilgrimage to Mecca the prophet excluded pagans. Muslims believe the Qur'an comes from God; often the angel Gabriel speaks, and Muhammad recited the messages. Charity and good deeds are encouraged; but wrongdoers and disbelievers are warned of punishment after death. Only the one God is to be worshipped, and a Muslim should pray five times a day. After Muhammad died in 632, Muslim armies invaded Syria. Within ten years they had also conquered Persia, Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt, forcing everyone to join Islam or pay higher taxes. Civil war ended the caliphate of Muhammad's adopted son 'Ali in 661, and the Umayyad dynasty continued to rule the empire until they were overthrown in 750.
The 'Abbasid dynasty ruled for nearly two centuries and reached its height of wealth in the Baghdad of Harun al-Rashid (r. 786-809), who sponsored academies and literature. Muslims dominated Spain after the invasion of 711, and Cordoba became an intellectual center in Europe with its greatest library. The Ghaznavids conquered Iran and part of India, but they were defeated in 1040 by the Seljuq Turks, who also defeated the Byzantine army at Manzikert in 1071. Vizier Nizam al-Mulk wrote his political advice in Rules for Kings, and Ferdowsi's epic poem Shah-nameh portrayed the warrior culture of Persia before the Muslims. The mystical Sufis appeared in the 8th century, and in the following centuries many fine teachers spread Sufi doctrines of love, simplicity, and faith. While western Europe was in its dark ages, Islamic philosophers, such as al-Razi (865-925), al-Farabi (870-950), Miskawayh (c. 936-1030), Avicenna (980-1037), and ibn Hazm (994-1064), popularized the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, applying them to Islamic theology to develop coherent philosophies.
Though it was still called the Roman empire, even before the empire was revived by Heraclius (r. 610-641), it was really more Byzantine. They frequently had to fight Muslim invaders; but unlike the Persian empire that was completely defeated, they survived. A controversy over whether images should be worshipped as icons caused conflict from the time of Emperor Leo III (r. 717-741) until 843. John of Damascus defended icons and applied Aristotle's philosophy to Christian theology. Bulgarians fought to have an independent empire and church. The Eastern Orthodox church gradually drew away from the Roman Catholic authority of the Pope, and the inability to resolve their conflicts kept them apart. Byzantine laws were completely revised under Emperor Leo VI (r. 886-912). The Emperor gained power along with an aristocracy of feudal lords over serfs, and guilds developed. The scholarly Constantine VII (r. 945-959) restored land to the peasants. Bulgaria was conquered and annexed to the Byzantine empire by John Tzimisces (r. 969-976). Basil II (r. 976-1025) invaded Macedonia and conquered the Balkans; but after him the Byzantine empire shrunk and suffered a major defeat by Muslim Turks in 1071. Alexius Comnenus (r. 1081-1118) became Emperor and appealed to the West for help.
Writings by Isidore of Seville provided some learning during Europe's darker ages. Charlemagne used military force to create a large Frank empire, and he encouraged education with the writings of his advisor Alcuin. In the 9th century many battles caused the Frank empire to be divided into France, Germany, and other smaller kingdoms. The Catholic church under the Pope in Rome exerted authority through its hierarchy, but its monasteries kept learning alive in Latin. The Anglo-Saxon struggle for power in Britain gradually developed laws, some of which came from the Danish conquest in the eastern part of the island. King Alfred (r. 871-899) united much of England under his rule and encouraged literacy in English as well as Latin. The violent stories of the Old English epic Beowulf and of the Irish myths and sagas were the beginnings of a native literature. Two centuries passed between Isidore and John Scotus Erigena, who wrote the philosophical On the Division of Nature.
Viking raiding turned to conquest in 911 when Rolf's Normans settled in what came to be called Normandy. Haakon benefited Norway by formulating laws and urging his subjects to practice Christianity until he was killed during a Danish invasion about 961. Olaf Tryggvason spread Christianity in Norway by force at the end of the millennium, and it was adopted by Iceland, which already had democratic government. Scandinavia had laws to differentiate its three social classes. England developed its laws under kings Edmund (r. 939-946) and Edgar (r. 957-975) but had to fight off Danish invaders. As the Frank empire disintegrated in the 10th century, local nobles ruled according to the feudal hierarchy. The monastery at Cluny promoted reforms and exerted spiritual discipline. Church councils tried to limit the fighting of knights by proclaiming the Peace of God in 989 and the Truce of God in 1027. In the late 11th century Christian warriors in Spain fought Muslims.
Germans also used feudal
loyalties to thwart Magyar invasions and fight each other for
power. The Saxon Heinrich (r. 919-936) defeated the Magyars. His
son Otto I (r. 936-973)
was king of Germany and ruled Italy also as Emperor as did Otto II and Otto
III. More Hungarians converted as Stephen (r. 997-1038) promoted
accepted Christianity when Vladimir converted in 988. Political
intrigues in Rome corrupted most of the Popes in the 10th century.
Under German kings Heinrich
II (r. 1002-1024), Conrad II (r. 1024-1039), and Heinrich III
(r. 1039-1056) bishops gained more secular power, and Germans
troops invaded Bohemia, Burgundy, and Hungary. Heinrich IV quarreled
with Pope Gregory VII over investiture, faced civil war, and invaded
Italy in 1081. The conflict
between Germans imperialism
and Papal authority would divide Italy for generations. After
being ruled by Dane king Knut, England
gained calm under Edward (r. 1042-1066) the Confessor; but then
they were conquered by William's Normans,
who became the governing aristocrats along with surviving barons.
The crusades began dramatically in 1095 with an appeal by Pope Urban II, and Byzantine emperor Alexius managed to get most of its leaders to swear loyalty to him. This colossal but misguided adventure resulted in extensive violence for nearly two centuries. Thousands were massacred when Jerusalem was taken in 1099 as the Franks and their Christian allies founded a kingdom in Palestine. Muslims reacted by launching a counter-crusade in 1110 and recaptured Edessa. Byzantine John Comnenus (r. 1118-1143) fought the Turks in Asia Minor to maintain his empire. After Nur-ad-Din's forces recaptured Edessa a second time, Pope Eugenius proclaimed the second crusade in 1145. Once again Jews were slaughtered in Germany during preparations, and violence increased in the East. Crusader attempts to invade Egypt resulted in the rise of Saladin, whose forces captured many cities in Palestine. In the third crusade led by kings, Richard won little back in 1191. One of the effects of the crusades was to remove many warriors from Europe, which often enjoyed more peace as a result. The fourth crusade went awry with the Venice navy and conquered Constantinople in 1203, breaking up the Byzantine empire. Crusades against Egypt in 1218 and 1249 were miserable disasters. Attempts to make invading Mongols allies against the Muslims failed as most Mongols joined Islam. Public sentiment in Europe turned against the devastating crusades, and the last of the crusaders were pushed out of Palestine in 1291.
Islamic culture had probably its richest period in the 12th and 13th centuries. Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) applied Sufi mysticism to Islamic law and Aristotle's ethics to develop a cogent philosophy. Averroes (1126-1198) commented on Aristotle and sought Islamic consensus. Nasir ad-Din Tusi (1201-1274) was a Shi'a jurist but wrote a comprehensive Islamic ethics. Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) was called Judaism's greatest philosopher since Moses himself, and his Guide for the Perplexed provided Judaism with a sophisticated philosophy. Sufi literature reached its height as the poetic styles of Sana'i were used proficiently by 'Attar and Rumi (1207-1273) to express their deep mystical ideas. The Persian Sa'di made broader social comments as well as insightful moral maxims.
Civil wars disturbed powerful Germany in the first half of the 12th century. However, Friedrich I (r. 1152-1190) used law to prevent feuds in Germany and imposed new laws on Italy with his imperial army, battling the Lombard League. His son Heinrich VI made peace with the Lombards but extended German imperial rule all the way to Sicily in 1194. Cities gained some independence by forming communes. Flanders count Charles (r. 1119-1127) made good reforms but was murdered. The authority of the church in France was demonstrated by the awe-inspiring cathedrals people built, and they were imitated throughout Europe. Philip II (r. 1180-1223) seized the wealth of Jews, and a revolution for equality in Puy-en-Velay, like the radical policies of Arnold of Brescia, was put down by prelates as well as nobles using mercenaries. Nobles in Spain struggled for power and sometimes fought Muslims. Scandinavians suffered civil wars, spread Christianity on its frontiers by force, and refused to accept clerical celibacy. Conflicts also plagued eastern Europe and Russia. Urbanization increased guilds throughout Europe. England had strong kings who enforced law but suffered a civil war during the reign of Stephen (r. 1135-1154). Henry II (r. 1154-1189) was a powerful monarch and mediated some truces in Europe. His imposition of civil law on clergy was resisted by Becket, but the trend toward increasing governmental authority was clear.
European progress accelerated in the 13th century as national laws replaced feudalism. England's King John had to agree to the basic legal rights of the Great Charter in 1215, and during the fairly peaceful reign of Henry III (r. 1227-1272) elected parliament was instituted. Edward I (r. 1272-1307) had to get their approval for the taxes to pay for his expensive war with France and to suppress the Scotch rebellion. In 1231 Friedrich II replaced feudal practices with imperial laws in Italy. The weak were protected, and commerce prospered with fairs and free trade. In the second half of the 13th century German princes elected foreigners as Emperor, giving more regional independence. Italian cities gained strength with communes, podestas, and guilds, but they often fought each other. Shipping made Venice, Genoa, and Pisa wealthy and powerful. Philip II Augustus (r. 1180-1223) expanded and centralized France. The religious Louis IX led crusades but also instituted reforms at home to reduce private violence. Textile laborers organized in Flanders, and some emigrated. In Spain Christians reconquered all the Muslim kingdoms except Granada, which paid tribute. They also established universities. Scandinavians gradually learned how to reduce civil wars by developing laws, and German influence through immigration promoted law also in eastern Europe.
The intellectual development of Europe was reborn in the 12th century as the advanced Arabic writings helped them rediscover the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. Abelard taught theology at Paris and by telling of his own difficult experiences encouraged self-knowledge. Abbot Aelred of Rievaulx described the spiritual friendship that many monks and nuns knew. John of Salisbury criticized political corruption. Hildegard of Bingen showed how a woman could excel as a visionary mystic, musician, dramatist, and healer. The horrible blight on the reputation of Christianity caused by the foreign crusades was matched by vicious persecution of the Cathars as heretics in the Albigensian crusade. The burning of pacifist initiates and the institution of the Inquisition to eliminate heretics showed the moral corruption, insecure folly, and ignorant intolerance of the church authorities. Dominic's preaching order of brothers enabled them to be more active in interacting with society than reclusive monks. Francis of Assisi and his order of poor brothers concentrated even more on helping the poor in pure ways. Bonaventure developed a comprehensive theology that included a fine ethics for the Franciscans, while his contemporary Thomas Aquinas synthesized Aristotelian philosophy into systematic theology. Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon pioneered the scientific research that would give Europe the leading edge.
Epics like the French Song of Roland were the most significant early literature in the vernacular languages. Stories of Charlemagne and Guillaume fighting the Saracens and the poem of El Cid were probably used as propaganda to inspire crusaders. Songs by wandering troubadours expressed the feelings of romantic love that usually went beyond marriage. French Lais by Marie de France turned these stories into moral lessons. The cruder popular imagination could learn from the fabliaux and the many tales about Reynard the fox. The ideals of chivalry were expressed in the Arthurian romances pioneered by Geoffrey of Monmouth in Latin but developed with subtle sophistication in the French poetry of Chrétien de Troyes and the German poetry of Wolfram von Eschenbach. Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan and the long Lancelot cycle in French prose portrayed the difficulties and consequences of romantic passion when it was with a queen. Efforts to purify the behavior of knights with Christian values in a quest for the holy grail seemed to show that most knights were not ready to be saints. The Norse sagas portrayed their Viking culture and showed the development of their legal procedures and transformation by Christianity. Jean de Meun's extended Romance of the Rose synthesized philosophy with romantic pursuit. The Bible and lives of the saints provided the material the church would accept as its liturgy spawned the rebirth of western theater.
The age of belief from the Pax Romana of Emperor Augustus to the crowned heads of Europe in 1300 was primarily governed by monarchs. China was ruled by a single Emperor most of the time, but in India regional kings were usually sovereign. Often these kings and emperors succeeded by heredity, and this was rarely the best selection process for finding good rulers. However, violent struggles for power often resulted in even more tyrannical leaders claiming power. Elections for sovereigns in this era were rarely held. Emperors usually relied on their armed forces to consolidate their power and enforce their will on the people. This meant that often the most ruthless leaders rose to power; several Roman emperors bribed their way to power by promising largesse to the praetorian guard. Some good leaders were selected by their predecessors for their ability as with the line of Roman emperors from Nerva to Marcus Aurelius. Yet ironically the last of these, considered by many the wisest, chose his own degenerate son Commodus to succeed him, beginning the sharp decline of the empire. As Europe progressed from feudal loyalties to royal law during the crusades era, several nations suffered civil wars until they established laws of succession. England pioneered the consent of representative government by proclaiming the great charter and then instituting parliament.
This study of the ethics of civilization tends to show two quite disparate trends. The actual practice of men (and to a limited extent women) in the ways they achieve and enforce power, collect taxes for doing so, and make laws tends to be a rather brutal process of the strongest and wealthy taking advantage of the weak and poor. This is perhaps the most significant ethics of humanity that affects the most people and leaves much to be desired. Thus most of the writing so far in this series is the history of these power relationships. In stark contrast to this arrogance, greed, and violence are the ethical theories of the great philosophers and religious leaders which usually recommend the golden rule of loving others as oneself, practicing justice, honesty, and mercy. Some of these saints and prophets are able to live according to these lofty teachings, but often the authorities of the organized religions succumb to the same temptations as the political leaders. This period is referred to as an age of belief because of the importance of religion from the time of Jesus until the renaissance began exerting secular power over the religious authorities.
In Asia Buddhism spread from India to China, Korea, and Japan, providing an organized doctrine and community that tended to practice their ethics fairly well. Only in feudal Japan and to some extent in Ireland did monasteries become involved in organized warfare. China had religious conflicts, but these were usually political conflicts that affected the religious communities, not the reverse. Confucianism was a scholarly philosophy that contributed much to political practice especially in educating civil servants in ethics by its examination system. In India Hinduism's selection by heredity strongly affected the priesthood as well as the government, and the caste system tended to perpetuate its racist roots over the darker servants and peasants.
Perhaps more than anyone, Jesus demonstrated the truth of his teachings in his own self-sacrificing actions and refusal to use any form of violence even in resistance to his persecution. The early Christians also gained tremendous moral power over people's minds by their nonviolent willingness to be martyrs when facing brutal Roman power. However, after Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman empire, this all changed. Almost immediately Christians came into conflict over the theological issue of the trinity. Christian sovereigns and prelates often discriminated against Jews and heretics. In the early centuries church authorities, such as bishops, were usually elected, and this produced fairly good leaders; but as kings gained more power they increasingly appointed or controlled the bishops or fought with popes who did not submit. Because of the hold religion had over people's lives, popes and bishops had great political as well as moral authority.
Muhammad began with some excellent teachings that were a tremendous advance in his culture; but as the leader of a movement that fought back with force against persecution and adopted the Bedouin tradition of raiding, his own example set the pattern for an aggressive religion that quickly expanded its power of government as well as religion over a large area. The monarchical Persian empire was completely taken over by Islam. Because the Muslims held to the belief that anyone who renounces their religion deserves death, there was no real tolerance for an honest competition of ideas, though Muslims usually did tolerate Jews and Christians and often co-existed with them. Nonetheless the determination of Muslims to adhere to their religion brought them into a major conflict with Christians, who also were assertive in converting others to their faith. The Muslim empire had been fairly stable for centuries when the Christians suddenly launched their aggressive crusades to win back the "holy land." To me this shows that barbarian Europe had severely corrupted the Christian religion since, when the crusades began in 1095, Muslim culture was much more advanced in its philosophy, medicine, and culture. Let us hope that Christians have learned the lessons of the failed crusades and will realize that such use of force is absolutely in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus. Similarly in Islam the mystical Sufis have provided a much deeper and more sensitive spiritual philosophy and thus a corrective of traditional Islam.
The general trends of the age of belief seem to me to be toward the development of universal law fairly enforced for everyone. The monastic communities of Christians and Buddhists I believe provided some of the best examples of ethical living and contributed greatly to education and transmission of culture. The bodhisattva doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism, which began in the first century, provided a saving model similar to Christianity and a rationale for Buddhists to help others. Dominic and Francis of Assisi led the way for dedicated Christians to emerge from monasteries and the rituals of priests in churches to interact more with people to help them. Sadly the Dominicans and even some Franciscans were enlisted by the Inquisition to persecute heretics. It was Dominicans and Franciscans who together got the scientific Franciscan Roger Bacon condemned to prison. Thus we see how quickly a brotherhood founded by the saint Francis could descend.
In the final analysis every person and even every action has to be evaluated as an individual occurrence based on the consequences. That is why I have attempted to present this history in detailed events. Though philosophy and religious doctrine are contrasted to these human behaviors, the literature tends to reflect a combination of both. In this religious age there were only a few examples of theater, and good literature was much more sparse than it had been before, though it was definitely reviving in the 12th century. By 1300 humanity had developed an urban civilization in increasing economic prosperity that was quickly becoming more aware of its cultural diversity and was approaching a more rapid scientific and technological development. Yet the difficult lessons of how to distribute and control power for the good of all were still by violent suffering and would continue to be so for several centuries.
This chapter has been published in the book Medieval Europe 610-1300.
For information on ordering click here.