Wilfrid Richmond.

The Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 online

. (page 159 of 185)
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Roman empire which embraced all Christians had
never been lost. After 476, when Romulus Au-
gustulus was deposed by Odoacer, the people in
the West, Germans and Romans alike, had re-
garded the emperor at Constantinople as the
head of the Christian world. Even barbarians
like Clovis (q.v.) had been proud to secure
recognition and obtain a title from the emperor.
The popes had looked to the emperors for
support. In the last years of the 8th century,
the East was ruled over by Irene (q.v.), who
was both despised because she was a woman
and for her crimes and heresy, so that it seemed
to many that the imperial office was vacant.
Consequently, Charles was crowned emperor
and was considered the successor of Augustus,
Trajan, and Constantine (qq.v.). Under his
strong rule, the Western world was governed
firmly, and the western nations were held
together.

Disintegration of the Empire. — After
Charles's death, his son was unequal to the
task of ruling the empire. Under the combined
effects of civil strife and constant invasions by
the Northmen, the Mohammedans, and the Slavs
(qq.v.), the central power was weakened, and
the last Carol ingian rulers were unable to pro-
tect their subjects. The whole frontier was ex-
posed to attacks and the raids of the enemy
even extended far into the interior. In each
district the strongest man came to be regarded
as the natural leader and protector. Sometimes
it was a royal official, holding a fortification;
sometimes it was an abbot or a bishop ; at other
times, a bold adventurer, who usurped authority.
In the absence of a strong central government,
each leader had to police his land and admin-
ister justice. Naturally, he demanded to be paid
for his services, and exacted tribute from all
under his control.

Because of the lack of money, the Carolin-
gians (see Carlovingians) had always fur-
nished to their counts and other official estates
from which they obtained their living. Under
the weak kings, the temporary grants of both
land and office became hereditary, with or with-
out the rulers' consent. The rulers, however,
soon recognized the necessity of allowing this,
and sought merely the recognition of their own
overlordship and ultimate ownership of the
lands. Consequently, they granted the benefices
to the heirs and conferred, in addition, the im-
munity, or right of independent jurisdiction.
Thus almost all land and power came to be
held feudally. See Feudalism.

Feudal Anarchy. — There was constant war-
fare as each strong lord sought to obtain greater
power or a more independent position. On the
other hand, each king or suzerain tried to in-
crease his own feudal holdings bv conquest or
marriage. Every vassal was anxious to avoid



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HISTORY, MEDIEVAL



all the feudal services that he could, and, at the
same time, to exact as much as possible from
the people subject to him. Commerce was
burdened with excessive tolls in each fief and
exposed to the depredations of the robber barons.
Little attention was paid to maintaining roads
and bridges, consequently travel was difficult
as well as dangerous. As a whole, the feudal
regime tended to isolate each fief and to reduce
the peasantry to misery. It is significant that
the term a Dark Ages, w formerly applied to the
whole of the Middle Ages, is often used now
for the 9th and ioth centuries.

The Church. — The great cohesive and edu-
cating force was the Church. Soon after they
entered the Roman Empire, each tribe of Ger-
mans had been converted to Christianity. In
every barbarian kingdom the bishops were im-
portant officials. They often obtained great
wealth, and ruled over vast estates. On their
possessions, the serfs were treated somewhat
better than on the lay fiefs. Monasteries had
been founded throughout Western Europe, and
often these served both as schools and as model
farms. Boniface did much to bring the tribes
of Germany into direct connection with Rome,
and he held frequent church councils at which
the clergy and nobles of a whole district came
together. These councils were very important
for their effect in unifying the Church and
making its work more effective.

From this time the Church gained steadily
in power and influence. Charles the Great did
much to increase its wealth by enforcing the
payment of tithes. He insisted that the clergy
should be better educated themselves and should
do more for the education of the people. In
the 9th century the growing power of the papacy
and the weakness of the kings enabled the popes
to bring the bishops more directly under their
own control. Thus the clergy of Western Chrisr
tendom were brought into intimate association
with Rome. Latin was the common language of
all churchmen. Their feeling of membership in
the Church was frequently stronger than any
local attachment Consequently the more able
men were equally at home in every country and
the Church had a greater unity than any lay
power. This all-pervasive Church was the great
unifying element amid the divisions of the
feudal period.

Investiture Struggle. — After periods of weak-
ness in the first half of the ioth and again in
the first half of the nth century, the Church at
Rome was purified and strengthened by the
support of the German emperors. About the
middle of the nth century, the strong person-
alities of Pope Leo IX. (q.v.) and of Hildebrand
(later Gregory VII.) (q.v.) led to a great re-
form movement, and also to an effort to make
the pope's power more effective. One feature
of this movement was an attempt to secure entire
control of appointment to church offices. This
brought the papacy into conflict with the kings
who considered that they had a right to nom-
inate the bishops in their own kingdoms. The
struggle was most acute between the German
emperors and the popes, and resulted in the
long investiture conflict, which was ended in
1 122 by a compromise. See Investiture.

Roman Empire of the German Nation. —
But the investiture struggle was only a single
phase in the relations between the empire and



the papacy (q.v.). In order to understand this
it is necessary to study the fortunes of the em-
pire after Charles the Great. Under his suc-
cessors, the emperors had gradually lost their
power, so that by the end of the 9th century,
the title of emperor had become almost a mean-
ingless designation, either conferred by a pope
on anyone of whom he wished to make use, or
else usurped by any ruler who chanced to be
temporarily the strongest personality in Italian
affairs. This continued to be the fate of the
imperial title until Otto the Great (q.v.) was
summoned to Italy, because of the discord reign-
ing among the various Italian nobles. In 963
he was crowned emperor, and became the ruler
of both Germany and Italy. Under his son
and grandson, Otto II. and Otto III., a the
Roman Empire of the German nation* was a
very effective power in controlling both the im-
perial lands and the papal policy. After the
death of Otto III. in 1002, the German rulers
paid little attention to Italian affairs until 1046,
when Henry III. was summoned to Rome be-
cause of the contest which was being waged
between three rivals for the papal office. For
10 years he wielded a power similar to that of
the Ottos. But at his death, as the heir was a
young child, the reformed and strengthened
papacy was able to assert its independence.
When Henry reached manhood and desired to
regain his father's power, the contest began and
took the shape of the already mentioned investi-
ture struggle. After the Concordat of Worms
(q.v.) there was a truce which was broken by
the accession of Frederick Barbarossa (q.v.),
who was determined to be emperor in fact as
well as in name.

Empire and Papacy. — On the other hand,
the papacy was strong and was determined to
assert its paramount authority. There ensued
a struggle of one hundred years between the
Hohenstaufen emperors and the popes. In spite
of the ability of the rulers and the brilliancy
of their reigns, the popes triumphed, largely by
means of the assistance of the Lombard cities,
which had grown rich and powerful and claimed
to be independent of the imperial control. The
death of Frederick II. in 1250 really marks the
end of the mediaeval empire, as a strong inter-
national power, although it continued, under a
changed form, to be a factor in European poli-
tics for centuries longer, and came to a close
only in the 19th century.

The Crusades. — The increasing power of the
popes was also marked by their desire to ex-
tend their authority over the Eastern Church
as well as the Western. This was in part the
cause of the crusades, which were the most
important manifestation of the strength and
influence of the Church. The spirit of asceti-
cism (q.v.) had long been inculcated as the
most distinguishing mark of Christianity. The
consciousness of their own sins and the teach-
ings of the Church led many to do penance.
One of the favorite forms, especially for heinous
crimes, was a pilgrimage to some hallowed
spot. The most difficult pilgrimage and the
one to which greatest sanctity attached was the
journey to Jerusalem. In the irth century, one
hundred and sixteen separate pilgrimages to
Jerusalem are recorded, and, in some of these
expeditions, hundreds and even thousands took
Dart. Thus attention was directed to the Holy



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HISTORY, MEDIAEVAL



Land. Moreover, in spite of the disorders of
the feudal regime, the population was increasing,
especially in France. The people were hard-
pressed to get food, and were anxious for a
change of any kind. Consequently, when the
Emperor Alexius appealed for aid and Pope
Urban II. preached the crusade at Clermont
thousands took the cross. The movement spread
rapidly and affected every country in Europe.
Although Jerusalem was in the possession of
the Christians for little more than a century, the
crusades to the Holy Land, which continued for
200 years, produced great results. In order to
understand these, it is necessary now to take
up the Byzantine and Muslim civilizations. See
Crusades.

Byzantine Civilization. — Until a half-century
ago, the Byzantine history was misunderstood.
It was looked upon as the long death struggle
of a society in which all progress had ceased,
and despotism, tempered by assassination,
crushed out all vitality. Gibbon styled the his-
tory "a tedious and uniform tale of weakness
and misery* It is known now that this was
unjust. The most striking fact about the By-
zantine Empire is its "constant vitality and
power of recuperation* It was threatened by
invaders, but it repelled them all. At times it
lost some of its most fertile provinces, but at
other periods it would rise triumphantly and
recover its lost possessions. Throughout the
period between 700 and 1 100, Constantinople was
the bulwark of Europe, against which the waves
of invasions rolled in vain. In addition to being
a bulwark, Constantinople was, throughout the
Middle Ages, the great storehouse of the Greek
and Roman civilizations, where it was preserved
until the European nations were sufficiently ad-
vanced to profit by it. Constantinople (q.v.)
was also the most important commercial centre
of the Middle Ages. The city was marvelously
wealthy and excited the admiration of every
traveler. Most of the crusaders passed through
Constantinople and the Greek lands on their
way to Jerusalem; by them the influence of its
civilization was widely spread throughout the
West. See Byzantine Empire.

Muslim Civilization. — No less important was
the influence of the Mohammedans. After the
death of the prophet in 632, his followers had
conquered with wonderful rapidity the greater
part of the civilized world. From Persia and
India they held all Asia to the Hellespont.
Egypt and the whole north coast of Africa,
Spain, and about one third of Gaul, were under
their sway within a century. Their advance
in civilization was equally rapid. The Arabs
had wonderful acquisitive ability and were taking
almost the first step in their education. In each
country they learned the arts and sciences
known by the inhabitants, and the> carried this
knowledge wherever they ruled. The Greek
philosophy, which they acquired from the peo-
ples in the lands formerly under Greek sway,
the mathematical knowledge of India, the irri-
gation practised in Egypt, are illustrations of
their acquisitions, which enabled them in the
10th and nth centuries, to develop a civiliza-
tion far in advance of any other, with the ex-
ception of the Byzantine. From Bagdad to
Spain this culture was spread throughout the
Mussulman world. In Syria, the crusaders were
in contact with this civilization for two cen-



turies. By their agency and by the association
of Christians and Mussulmans in Spain, Sicily,
and other points, much of the Muslim learning
was conveyed to the Christians of Western Eu-
rope.

Changes in the 12th and 13th Centuries.
Enrichment of Europe. — In addition to this
fructifying intercourse with other civilizations,
many elements in their own contributed to cause
a rapid advance in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Among these may be noted the increase in popu-
lation, the cultivation of waste lands, the revival
of commerce, the general progress along educa-
tional lines, and the rise of strong kingdoms.
But as it is impossible to isolate each factor
and to determine the part which it played, the
results will be considered as a whole and the
changes which took place in Western Europe
after 1100 will be described.

The hundreds of thousands of crusaders had
to procure large sums of money for their equip-
ment and journey. Consequently the precious
metals which had been hoarded came into cir-
culation as money. Instruments of credit were
devised and the money circulated rapidly. Con-
tact with other civilizations gave birth to new
tastes and these were gratified by means of a
greatly increased commerce which extended to
all parts of Europe and even to the extreme
East. The merchants became numerous and
prospered. Cities increased rapidly in popula-
tion, and new ones were founded. The Italian
cities, because of their position, prospered the
most of all. The merchants became an im-
portant class because of their wealth, and by the
end of the 13th century became a political fac-
tor which was recognized by their inclusion in
the new parliamentary bodies.

Intellectual Advance. — The investiture strug-
gle had caused scholars to study history in order
to find precedents in support of the imperial
or the papal claims. The contact with other
peoples broadened the intellectual horizon of the
Western people. The new points of view with
which they became acquainted led them to ques-
tion the traditions which had ruled their lives.
The new books, especially the works of Aris-
totle (q.v.), which fell into their hands, were
studied eagerly. The new wealth gave leisure.
Students flocked to the centres where teachers
were to be found, and gradually universities
arose. Roman law was fostered by the em-
perors; canon law, by the Church. Scientific
knowledge, especially in medicine, was acquired
from the Greek and the Arabic works. Gothic
cathedrals of exquisite beauty were built in west-
ern Europe. The deeds of the crusaders fur-
nished new material to literature. The old tales
were re-worked and given a literary form.

Growth of Monastic Orders. Temporal
Power of the Popes. — No less marked were the
changes in the Church. At the close of the nth
century a great wave of asceticism spread over
western Europe. The idea of sacrifice caused
thousands to enter monasteries, and many new
orders of monks were founded. These orders
vied with one another in austerity and asceti-
cism. Their reputation for sanctity and their
services to the community brought to them great
donations from the pious. Their knowledge
enabled them to increase their wealth. But this
wealth led many to enter the monasteries from
unworthy motives, and thus caused a gradual



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HISTORY, MEDIEVAL



decline in their lofty morals. The wealth of the
Church, as a whole, caused many, both monks
and laymen, to attack it as having departed from
its Christian ideals. Heretics became numerous
and had to be repressed by persecutions and
the inquisition. In the 13th century the men-
dicant orders became prominent, partly as a
protest against the wealth of the Church, and
partly as an agency to combat heresy. The ideal
of service to others for which they stood be-
came dominant in monasticism, and later orders
were founded, almost universally, for some spe-
cial service. See Monachism; Orders, Re-
ligious.

The papacy, engaged in a struggle with the
monarchs, felt the need of temporal power and
strove for it. Innocent III. had monarchs as
his vassals, and wielded a temporal authority
greater than that of any previous pope. After
the popes had triumphed over the Hohen-
staufens they seemed to have achieved success.
Their struggle with the French king, at the be-
ginning of the 14th century, however, led to
defeat and to the ^Babylonian captivity* at
Avignon. Then ensued the schism and the con-
ciliar period when many felt that the general
councils and not the popes should be supreme.
Finally the papacy emerged triumphant, but
with a changed ideal, laying less stress upon
temporal power (q.v.) than upon control over
the conscience of the individual.

Chivalry. Decadence of the Knights. — In the
12th century, the clergy and the knights formed
the aristocracy. The latter, too, had their pe-
riod of great splendor. The ideals of chivalry,
which became prominent in the 12th century,
were inculcated by the Church, and the knights
were often likened to the clergy as a class
specially set apart by their religious vows.
These ideals were also inculcated by the new
literature, which glorified not only bravery and
loyalty, but also generosity and luxury. The
latter led to the ruin of many of the knights.
Their income, arising from feudal dues, was rel-
atively fixed. As their tastes expanded and
they expended more upon luxuries, they fell into
debt. The rate of interest was ruinous and
they were unable to pay. Consequently many
were compelled to alienate their fiefs, the mon-
archs and other lords of large fiefs absorbed the
lesser fiefs, and there was a tendency for the
knights to become retainers of the more wealthy.
Their consequence as a class declined in com-
parison with the growing importance of the
merchants. The development of strong infantry
forces finally deprived them of their pre-emi-
nence in military matters. See Chivalry.

Rise of the Nations. — The contact with other
peoples led to the rise of a national conscious-
ness. In the earlier days, when each feudal
castle or village was practically isolated and
often at strife with its neighbors, there had been
littTe feeling of common interests. Association
with foreigners ( brought a sense of national
feeling in opposition to the foreigners. This is
very marked in the armies of the second and
third crusades. This movement was coincident
with, and one cause of, the growth of the
strong monarchies. The merchant class was
also an important element in the development
of the kind's powers. Commerce was heavily
burdened with feudal tolls and exposed to depre-
dations by the knights. The merchants sought



privileges and protection from the kings. In
return they furnished them money, which aided
them in extending their power at the expense of
that of their nobles. The kings came to depend
largely upon the cities for support in all strug-
gles with the nobles. By their wealth the citi-
zens were able to rival the nobles in luxury and
ostentation. The sons of the merchants fre-
quented the universities and developed into offi-
cials of the kings. More and more the kings
came to depend upon the third estate and toi
withdraw power from the nobles. '

The French Monarchy. — The development of
the monarchical power took different forms in
the several countries, but took place about the
same time in the leading nations. In France,
the Capetian kings (see Capet) had at first little
power. They had only a small territory directly
under their control, and consequently only a
small income. But by fortunate marriages and
by confiscations they enlarged their feudal do-
mains. Several of the kings had long reigns
and the evils of a minority or a change of dy-
nasty were avoided. Gradually all the fiefs were
brought under the control of the king, and
feudal usages were made the basis for the asser-
tion of a really monarchical power. Under
Saint Louis (1226-1270) and his successors
France was centralized and the kings became
supreme. The prosperity of France was
checked for a time by the Hundred Years' war
(1328-1461). This was due in part to a failure
of male heirs in the direct line, which enabled,
the English kings to make a claim to the throne,
on the ground that they were the most direct
heirs. But France finally emerged triumphant
and England lost all her territory in France.
The kings, supported by the third estate, became
practically absolute.

The English Monarchy. — In England the
Norman Conquest (q.v.) made William supreme
lord. Following the Norman feudal usages, he
insisted upon an oath from each one of his sub-
jects, and did not allow the intervention of the
feudal nobles. In spite of the civil wars of
the 12th century, Henry II. was able to retain
the supreme control. The tyranny and incom-
petence of John led to a revolt on the part of
the barons and the extortion from him of the
Great Charter. (See England — Civil His-
tory.) The efforts of the kings to evade the
provisions of the charter caused the union of
the nobles and third estate, the distinctive fea-
ture of the English constitution as contrasted
with that of France or of Germany. The loss
of its continental possessions really strength-
ened England and enabled it to develop a strong
government in its own island.

The German Monarchy. — Germany was a
kingdom made up of great duchies. The king
was strong only when he had all these duchies
under his immediate control. The imperial title)
which he held was usually a source of weakness^
because of the necessity of maintaining his au-
thority outside of Germany. Those kings who
neglected the imperial interests in Italy and
Burgundy were strongest at home. Frederick
Barbarossa, Henry VI., and Frederick II.
(qq.v.), who attempted to build up strong em-
pires, were compelled, as the price of support
from their German subjects, to make constant
concessions. Thus they bartered away most of
their German lands and royal rights. The towns



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and cities, in particular, acquired privileges and
practical independence in payment for their
support in men and money. On the extinction
of the Hohenstaufen house, Germany was di-
vided up into many separate entities, varying in
size from a duchy to a village or to a knight's
fee, all claiming independence of all control
except the imperial. The weak emperors of the
14th and 15th centuries were unable to maintain
any effective control or order. Each emperor
was intent only upon retaining his position and
securing such property for his family as he
could. Consequently Germany became a prey
to internal dissension and division.

The Other Monarchies. — The other countries
were more backward. In Spain, the Christian
kings were engaged in conquering Muslim terri-
tory or else in warring with one another. These
movements were going on for several centuries,
and culminated just at the close of the Middle
Ages. In 1492, the Moors were conquered in
Granada, their last stronghold. The two most
powerful kingdoms, Castile and Leon, had al-
ready been united, and 20 years later the Span-
ish portion of Navarre was added. In Scan-
dinavia powerful monarchies were growing up.
In the eastern portions of Europe new Christian
kingdoms had arisen, especially Russia and
Hungary, which were destined to play an im-
portant role in the later centuries.

The Period of the Renaissance: Discover-
ies. — The last period of the Middle Ages is
often spoken of as the Age of the Renaissance
(q.v.). The name is to a certain extent a mis-
nomer. But it is sanctioned by general usage,
and there are certain factors that may be
brought together, which serve to mark the transi-
tion from the mediaeval to the modern world.

The travel and commerce of the 12th and



Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondThe Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 → online text (page 159 of 185)