Oliver J. (Oliver Joseph) Thatcher.

A short history of mediæval Europe online

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Copyright 1897, nv




This " Short History of Mediaeval Europe " is an
abridgment of a larger work, "Europe in the Middle
Age," prepared by Dr. Ferdinand Schwill and myself, and
is intended for use as a text-book in High and Prepara-
tory Schools, as well as for the general reader who wishes,
in a summary way, to acquaint himself with the progress
of events and the course of development in Europe during
the Middle Age (350-1500).

The teacher and the reader who wish to pursue the sub-
ject further are referred to the more comprehensive work
named above, as well as to the following works :

Au.\MS : Civilization duriny; tiic Middle Ages, especially in Relation

to Modern Civilization, 1S94.
Emekton : An Introduction to the Study of the Middle Ages, iSgi.
Emerton : Medi;€val Europe, 1894.
Bryce : The Holy Roman Empire.
SOHM : Outlines of Church History. NNilh a Preface by Professor

H. M. Gwatkin, M.A.

I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to my jMipils,
Mr. James W. Linn, for substantial aid in tlie publication
of the book, and INliss Lina Moxley, for the preparation of
the index.

O. J. T.



Introduction i

I. Europe, its Peoples, and the Chris-
tian Church 6

11. The Migrations of the Nations . . 22

III. The Reaction of the Empire Against

the Germans 43

IV. The Franks (481-S14) 52

V. The Dismemberment of the Empire . 68

VI. Political History of France (887-

1108) 75

VII. Germany and its Relation to Italy

(887-1056) 82

VIII. England and the Norsemen (802-1070) 95

IX. The Normans in Italy no

X. Feudalism 114

XI. The Growth of the Papacy . . . 127

XII. The Struggle Between the Papacy

and the Empire (1056-1254) . . . 139

XIII. Monasticism 176

XIV, Mohammed, Mohammedanism, and the

Crusades 185

vi Contents


XV. The Development of the Cities, more

Especially in France 212

XVI. Italy to the Invasion of Charles

VIII. (1494) 223

XVII, France (i 108-1494); England (1070-

1485) .229

XVIII. The Lesser Countries of Europe to

1500 253

XIX. Germany (i 254-1493) 261

XX. The Papacy (i 250-1450) 269

XXI. The Italian Renaissance 274


Europe, 350 a.d.. Showing the Roman Em-
pire AND Barbarian's 8

The Germanic Kingdoms Established on Ro-
man Soil 24

Kingdom of the Merovingians, Showing

Their Conquests 60

The Empire of Karl the Great, Showing

THE Division of 843 70

The Empire in the Time of Otto the Great 90

England, 878 100

The Crusades 200

France, 1185 240

1 "range, 1360 246

Europe about 1500 , , , . . 266







The whole course of history is very conveniently divided
into three periods — the Ancient, the Mediaeval, and the
Modern. Generally, fixed dates have been assigned for
the beginning and end of each of these. They have then
been further divided and subdivided, and each division has
received a particular name. While this has been more or
less convenient and justifiable, the divisions have often
been treated so mechanically as to make a totally wrong
impression, especially on the minds of students who are just
beginning the study ; for if there is anything that is firmly
held by all good historians to-day, it is the continuity of
history. There are no real breaks in its course. Every The continuity
age is a preparation for, and an introduction to, the next. ° '^ °^^'
One period grows into another so gradually and naturally
that the people who live in the time of transition are often
utterly unconscious of the fact that a new period is begin-
ning. Certain events may well be said to be epoch-making,
but in spite of that their full effect is not felt at once.
They slowly modify the existing order of things, and the
old is gradually displaced by the new. The world is never
actually revolutionized in a day.

It is not wrong to separate history into such periods, for

A S/iort History of McdicBval Europe

But divisions
are convenient

Limits of the

Europe 350
A.n. , com-
pared with Ilu-
fope 1500 A.D.

different interests prevail at different times, and, therefore,
one period may have a very different character from that
of another. But in making all such divisions two things
should be carefully guarded against : fixed boundaries should
not be assigned to them, and they should not be treated as if
their predominant interest were their only interest. No one
interest can absorb the whole life of a period. For several
centuries the life of p]urope has been too complex to admit
of its being adequately treated from only one point of view.

The terms " Mediaeval " and " Middle Age " have been
used because of their convenience. That which brought
about the great change in Europe was the invasions of the
Barbarians, and these began on a grand scale in the fourth
century. The end of the period is not perhaps so easily
determined, but the period from 1450 to 1550 is marked
by such movements as the great religious revolution, which
involved all western Europe and was productive of many
changes, the growth of absolutism in Europe, the changes in
the practical government of many of the countries, the birth
of political science, the multiplication of international re-
lations, and the extension of industry and commerce, so
that we may safely say that the Middle Age should end
somewhere about that time. At any rate, a convenient
place may there be found where one may stop and mark
the failing of old, and the appearance of new, tendencies
and characteristics.

A comparison of the map of Europe in the fourth century
of our era with that of the same country in the sixteenth
century will give the best idea of the changes that took
place there during the Middle Age. Such a comparison
would suggest that all these changes could be grouped under
four heads, namely, those in the political system, in lan-
guage, in religion, and in civilization.

The first map would show but two grand political divis-


ions, the Roman Empire and the Barbarians. On the
second, the Barbarians have ahnost disappeared, and the Evident
Empire, while it has a nominal existence, is not at all Hons^s"<^ge£rt-"
what it was. In its stead and in the place of the Barba- ^'^ thereby,
rians, there are many separate and independent states and
different nations. One asks instinctively. What has be-
come of the Empire ? Where are the Barbarians ? How
did these new states arise ? What is the origin of these new

The linguistic changes suggested by the maps are quite
as striking. Latin and Greek were the only languages in
existence in Europe in the earlier time. The rude dialects
of the Barbarians were not regarded as languages, and were
unfit for literary purposes. In the sixteenth century Greek
was spoken in a limited territory, and Tatin had become
the language of the educated only, while the barbarian
tongues had been developed into literary languages.

Religiously, the changes are sweeping. At the beginning
of the fourth century Europe was still prevailingly heathen.
Christianity was widely .spread, but its adherents were
largely in the minority. In the sixteenth century, how-
ever, heathenism was nominally, at least, almost destroyed
in Europe. In its stead we have Christianity in two great
types, the Roman Catholic and the Greek, while a third
new type, to be known as Protestantism, is about to be
produced. Besides Christianity we find a part of Europe
under the domination of Mohammedanism. How were
the Barbarians of Euroi)e Christianized? we ask. How
were the different types of Christianity produced ? What
separated the Greek from the Latin Church ? WHiat was the
origin of Mohammedanism ? What are its tenets and char-
acter? How did it spread, and what has been its history?
What influence has it had on Europe ? And what have been
the relations between Christianity and Mohammedanism ?

A SJiort History of Mediceval Europe

General men-
tion of impor-
tant topics.


Nations and

The changes in civiHzation are also radical. Territorially
there has been great progress. Civilization has passed far
beyond the Rhine and the Danube, and there are already
indications that its centre is soon to be changed from the
south to the north. Italy, Spain, and southern France
were still in advance in the sixteenth century ; but England,
northern France, and Germany were showing the charac-
teristics which should eventually enable them to assume the
leadership in art, science, literature, manufactures, and in
nearly all that goes to make up the highest and best civil-
ization. They were to furnish the ideas that shall rule the
world. Here, too, questions arise. What did the rest of
Europe receive from Greece and Rome? How was this
inheritance transmitted ? How has it been increased and
modified ? How were the Barbarians influenced by the art,
literature, architecture, law, customs, modes of thought,
and life of the Greeks and Romans ? What new ideas and
fresh impulses have been given by the various barbarian
peoples that have successively been brought in as factors in
the progress and development of Europe ?

The Middle Age is the birth-period of the modern states
of Europe. We shall study the successive periods of decay
and revival in the Empire; its ineffectual efforts to carry
on the work of Roine in destroying the sense of difference
in race, and to make all Europe one people ; and its bitter
struggle with its new rival, the Papacy, which ended prac-
tically in the destruction of both. We shall follow the
Barbarians in their migrations and invasions, and watcn
them as they form new states and slowly learn of Rome the
elements of civilization. We shall see them come to na-
tional self-consciousness, exhibiting all the signs of a proud
sense of nationality, gradually but stubbornly resisting in-
terference of both Emperor and Pope in their affairs, and,
finally, throwing off all allegiance to both, becoming fully

Introduction 5

independent and acknowledging their responsibility to no
power outside of themselves. Along with this national
differentiation goes the development of the barbarian dia-
lects into vigorous languages, each characteristic of the
people to which it belongs.

We shall study the spread of Christianity, its ideals and
institutions, Monasticism and the Papacy. The monks of
the west played a most important part in Christianizing
and civilizing the peoples of Europe, and the Bishops of
Rome came to look upon themselves as the successors, not
only of Peter, but also of the Caesars, claiming all power,
both spiritual and temporal. The Church is, therefore, a The Church.
' prominent factor in the history of the Middle Age.

Mohammedanism Avas for some time a formidable opponent
ofChristianityevenin Europe. It set for itself the task of con-
quering the world. It made many determined efforts to es- Mohamme-
tablish itself firmly in Europe. The Eastern Question was an
old one, even in the Middle Age, and the invasions of the
Mohammedans into Europe and the counter-invasions of the
Christians (the Crusades) are all so many episodes in its history.

By invading and settling in theEmpire the Barbarians came

under the schooling of the Romans. They destroyed much,

but they also learned much. The elements of the Greeco-Ro- Progress in
■^ , . , J.J civilization,

man civilization were preserved \ its art, laws, and ideas were

slowly modified and adopted by the invading peoples. We
shall see how this rich legacy was preserved and gradually
made the property of all the peoples of Europe, and we shall
study the progress which they have made in civilization.

These are some of the problems with which the history
of the Middle Age is concerned ; they will be treated in
their appropriate places. We shall first take a kind of in-
ventory of their factors, and these are Europe (the land
itself in its physical and climatic features), its peoples, and
the Christian Church.




'J'lie influence
of mountain

1'he general contour of Europe has greatly influenced its
history. It is, therefore, necessary to study its mountain sys-
tems, its plains, its coast and river systems, and its climate.

On the east, and coinciding in general with the boun-
dary between Asia and Europe, are the Ural Mountains.
Tiiey, with the Caucasus Range between the Black and
Caspian Seas, form a barrier to easy communication be-
tween the east and the west, and so have forced travel and
commerce, as well as invading peoples and armies, to fol-
low certain well-defined routes. The Alps and the Pyre-
nees have served much the same purpose in the south. They
have prevented the fusion of the peoples to the north with
those to the south, and have made futile all the many at-
tempts to bring and keep them under one government.
They have played important parts in the differentiation,
spread, and development of the various nations about them.
Their passes being few and difficult, they have hindered
intercourse and have prevented interference, and so each
people has been left more exclusively to itself to work out
its own character and destiny.

Even in the small physical divisions of Europe, moun-
tains have done much to isolate and divide those whom
everything else has sought to fuse and unite. They have
helped perpetuate tribal and racial differences in Scandi-
navia, in Germany, in Austria, and especially in the Balkan
Peninsula, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. There can be no


Europe and Ihc Christian Church 7

doubt that the mountains of these countries still make the
problems of their respective governments more difficult.
They have been constant and efficient barriers to the for-
mation of extensive states and governments in western

On the other hand, the great central plains offer every The plains of
opportunity for homogeneous development and for the for-
mation of governments with extensive sway. Being adapted
to the occupation of grazing, agriculture, and similar pur-
suits, they determined the earliest occupations of the peo-
ple. So long as the number of inhabitants was small,
their great extent favored the continued separation of the
nomadic tribes that wandered over them ; and with in-
creasing population the peoples were more easily brought
together and subjected to the influence of the same ideas,
whether political, social, or religious.

Turning to the study of its coast we note that Europe it-
self is almost a peninsula, and is besides deeply indented

bv arms of the sea, so that it has a large extent of coast line. Coast line and

■^ ' , . , inland seas.

Its two great inland seas offer, because of their calmness,

excellent opportunities for the growth of commerce. It is
not accidental that European commerce developed first,
and had its chief seats, around the Mediterranean and the

As if to facilitate communication, Europe is traversed
from north to south by many rivers, which in the Middle Rivers.
Age were the highways of travel and traffic. By a short
portage the Rhine and the rivers of France are connected
Avith each other and with the Rhone and its tributaries ;
the Rhine, the Main, the Elbe, and the Oder, with the
Danube ; the Vistula, the Niemen, and the Duna, with the
Dniester, the Dnieper, the Don, and the Volga. In this
way nature has done much to promote intercourse in Eu-
rope. A radically different arrangement of the rivers of


A Short History of McdicBval Europe

2. THE


Its extent.

The change
from a Repub-
lic to an Em-

Europe would have affected its history m a couresponding
way. Especially the districts about the mouths of the riv-
ers were Hkely to be hastened in their development because
of their greater opportunities for commerce and the advan-
tages to be derived therefrom. The national existence of
Portugal, Holland, and Belgium is due in some measure to
the fact that they lie about the mouths of great rivers.

The climate of a country influences its people in many
ways. Long and cold winters make the conditions of life
in the north much more difficult than in the south, where
nature does almost everything unaided. In this way the
habits of the people, their dress, social life, and architect-
ure, public as well as private, are greatly influenced by the
wadely varying climatic conditions that prevail in the vari-
ous parts of Europe.

In the third century the Roman Empire extended from
the Atlantic in the west to the Euphrates in the east ; from
the Sahara in the south to the Danube, Main, and Rhine
in the north. Britain also (the modern England) had been
added to this territory. Since the beginning of the Chris-
tian Era, the boundaries of the Empire had not been greatly
enlarged. The task of defending the frontiers rapidly be-
coming more difficult left successive Emperors little time
to think of foreign conquests.

In the year 27 B.C. Octavius usurped the power by con-
centrating in himself the most important offices, which, up
to this time, had been elective. He did not change their
character, for the officers of the Republic, although elected,
exercised absolute power, delegated to them by the state,
during their term of office. According to Roman concep-
tions the power of the state was absolute ; the highest ideal
of the people was obedience, not liberty. This power the
Emperor seized and vested in himself, though, in theory,
it was regarded as simply delegated to him. He had it all —


t East 20° from Greenwich. 30'



350 A. D.




Europe and the Christian Church 9

military, judicial, legislative, executive, financial, and re-
ligious. The Senate's actual powers were gone. Though
many forms of the Republic were still observed the Em-
peror was supreme. He was the state. Disobedience to
his will was an offence against the majesty of the Roman
people, and consequently punished with death. He was
the head of the state religion with the title of Pontifex
Maximus. He took on a sacred character, being wor-
shipped while living and receiving the honors of apotheosis
at his death. Temples and altars were erected to him, sac-
rifices offered in his name, and a rich ritual developed. An
offence against his person was sacrilege, and hence a capi-
tal crime.

This change in the government was in many respects
beneficial. The last years of the Republic had been filled
with wars and seditions. The Emperor restored peace and
order. He policed the Elmpire and made it safe. He put
down brigandage and piracy. He compelled those who
were over the provinces, to rule justly, and the cities re-
ceived many favors at his hands. As legislators the earlier Tiie influence
Emperors made excellent use of their powers, introducing Enlpcrors on
a humane spirit into their laws. Up to this time the law lt;s'slation.
had taken only men into account. Women, children, and
slaves were almost witliout its protection. The Emperors
forbade abortions and the exposure of children, gave wives
and mothers more protection against the cruelty and ca-
price of their husbands, and mitigated in many ways tlie
hard conditions of slaves. Illegitimate children and those
of criminals were no longer compelled to share the heavy
penalties visited upon their parents. The Emperors made
less use of torture iji the examination of witnesses, recog-
nized the right of the accused to trial, and declared that it
was worse to punish an innocent person than to let a guilty
one escape.

lO A Short History of Mediceval Europe



simplicity of
the early Em-

The policy of Rome had been to Romanize her subjects.
She endeavored to lift them all up to her level by giving
them her civilization. This work the Emperors prosecuted
with great zeal and success. In the year 215 a.d. Cara-
calla issued an edict making all the free inhabitants of the
Empire citizens of Rome.

The Republic had made shipwreck of its religious faith.
Its last days had been godless and atheistic. The Empe-
rors led and promoted an earnest revival in religion and
morals, which in the course of the next three centuries
became general among all classes. Under its influence,
monotheistic ideas and conceptions became common, being
supported also by the philosophy of the times. Such ideas
as the unity of the human race and the brotherhood of
man were not unknown, for philosophers, such as Seneca
and Epictetus, taught them. It was a period, therefore, in
which civilization made great progress and the conception
of humanity grew broader and higher.

The Emperor was surrounded by a crowd of people who
assisted him in the work of governing, but he was at first
without a "court." His life was comparatively simple
and free. During the first three centuries little change
was made in the administration of the government. The
cities were left undisturbed in the exercise of their liberties
and local self-government. The provinces were ruled by
officers of the Emperor. They represented him, and in his
name commanded the troops, collected taxes, and adminis-
tered justice. Many provinces had an annual assembly, or
parliament, which, however, was in the hands of the Em-
peror and served him as a part of the machinery for admin-
istering the affairs of government.

A fatal mistake was made in that no law of succession
was established. Theoretically the people of Rome were
supposed to have the right to elect the Emperor, but prac-

Europe and the Christian Church ii

tically the army disposed of the imperial crown. Any one
might aspire to be Emperor. For some time there was lit-
tle trouble about the succession, but in the third century
bloody contentions for the possession of the crown arose.
From i8o to 284 a.d. there were over thirty actual Em-
perors, and more than that number of would-be usurpers.
By acclamation the soldiers made their favorite general
Emperor, or sold the crown to the highest bidder,
cletian (284-305) endeavored to put an end to this by in- '''^*^°'''"-
creasing the number of Emperors and surrounding each one
with a court. According to his scheme there were to be An imperial
two Emperors, one in the east and the other in the west, lii'hed.'^^'^^"
Each of these was to have an assistant called a C?esar. The
term of office was fixed at twenty years. At the end of this
period the Emperors were to resign, and the Ccesars were
to take their places as Emperors, and appoint other Cgesars
as their assistants. To render the persons of the Emperors
still safer, each was to have a court modelled after those of
the east.

For the support of these courts large sums of money were
necessary. Diocletian, therefore, reformed and extended
the system of taxation and reduced the government to a Ruinous tax-
bureaucratic form. In this process he destroyed local lib- ''^"'^""
erty and self-government, and so oppressed the people with
taxes that the inevitable result was universal bankruptcy.

The reforms of Diocletian did away with the last traces
of republican rule. The old titles of the various offices
which Augustus had vested in himself as Emperor were now Diocletian the
omitted. The Senate had no power at all. The Emperor [a^cr'^Emp'ire!''
was "Lord and God." Not only he, but his house, his
bedchamber, and his treasury were regarded as sacred. His
word was law. He was the living law on earth. He was
the highest judge, and might, if he wished, call before him
all cases. He was the source of law, judicial authority,

12 A Short History of Medicsval Europe

and justice. The finances of the Empire were wholly in
his hands. He assessed all taxes and tolls.
The Court. The old praetorian guard was replaced by a guard of the

palace and a body-guard. The Emperor had a council
composed of some of his principal officers, which served
him in all the work of governing. For the private and the
public service of the Emperor there was a vast crowd of
employees with the most various titles, arranged in groups,

Online LibraryOliver J. (Oliver Joseph) ThatcherA short history of mediæval Europe → online text (page 1 of 25)