Timeline Revision Sean Hill
2 The medieval time period encompassed many more events than most people realize. The advent of world travel, the spread of monotheistic religions, the emergence of nationalism and other events that took place at this time reshaped the world. Relations between empires had a great affect on this reshaping. Thus, to survey some of the most important medieval events, I will use the avenue of interaction between empires by means of religion and trade. I. Fall of the Western Roman Empire (395476) Although this is the most obvious choice for the first major event in the medieval time period, I would argue that it is significant not for the reason that might first come to mind. Many might say that the close of Rome’s world dominance is significant in a chronological aspect. In other words, in order for the medieval period to start, the Classical period must end, and the fact that it initiates the Middle Ages is what makes this event significant. That the fall of Rome had to occur in order for the European Middle Ages to commence is an undeniable logical fact, but I would place the real reason for its significance in another fact; namely, the enormous influence Rome had over Europe for centuries to come. The fact that the Roman Empire was being besieged from all sides indicates its status as the pinnacle of what every other civilization was striving for at the time. Doubtless, the goal of achieving world power played a crucial role in the psyches of those who set out to capture the greatest city in the world. Throughout the Middle Ages, rulers pined for the power previously exhibited by Rome, as seen in efforts by rulers to have themselves declared Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope. Therefore, Rome’s fall was the culmination of barbaric Europeans striving to attain its power and
3 inevitably, Rome’s influence permeated throughout Europe. II. Christian Conquest (5th6th Centuries) Following in the footsteps of one of Rome’s most famous emperors, Constantine, one of the biggest proponents of Christian conquest was the Frankish emperor, Clovis. He was the first Christian Emperor of Western Europe. In Gregory of Tours’ Life of Clovis, he is quoted as saying what seemed to be his slogan for ruling his empire: “with God’s help, let us invade them.” In the Byzantine Empire, the Emperor Justinian had two main objectives for his reign: 1) restoration of imperial reign and 2) restoration and imposition of Christian Orthodoxy. He viewed his two main opponents for accomplishing the second goal as being paganism and heresy. Christian expansion worked to standardize the ethical fabric of the Christian kingdoms in Europe. III. Moslem Conquest (632661) After the death of Mohammad, Islam expanded rapidly under its first four Caliphs. Weak from constant warring with one another, the Persian and Byzantine Empires were disadvantaged and taken by surprise by Moslem attack. This conquest was important in the development of the medieval world because it thoroughly changed the landscape of the northern hemisphere. Trade routes between the East and Europe were cut off, but new ones were opened with the Middle East. There was an increased exchange of ideas and culture as a result. Eastern, European and MiddleEastern societies all benefited from each other because of this exchange. IV. The Rise of Monasteries
4 (6th & 7th Centuries) Acting as the center of most medieval villages, monasteries played multiple roles in the medieval world. Monasteries served as the architectural and physical core of religion, permeating the medieval landscape. Contrary to stereotypical belief, monasteries were not just places for prayer and meditation. One of their functions, which proved to be crucial, was the preservation of knowledge. As mentioned by Brummett, men such as Boethius and Cassiodorus devoted their careers to preserving Classical literature. The scriptoria of monasteries throughout Europe proved to be literature’s best chance of holding out until the printing press arrived. Monasteries also pervaded the Eatern landscape, with Buddhist monks translating and copying documents as well. Without monasteries, we would surely have a much smaller library from antiquity than we do today.
V. Mongolian Empire (12061368) It would be next to impossible to create an outline of the medieval world without
including the Mongols. Much of their success can be attributed to good military organization, strong loyalty by its warriors and citizens, and their excellent use of powerful horses. The largest empire in history, their main accomplishment was connecting the East and the West through homogeneous rulership. Affects of this uniformity were enormous. The exchange of ideas throughout the world was at its highest point ever. Traders and travelers were able to go from Europe to China safely under one empire. VI. Silk Route
5 (13th Century) The vastness of the Mongolian Empire played a huge role in the stabilization and supremacy of the silk route. The silk route was the epitome of the rise of trade that resulted from the connection of East and West. Since almost the entire route was under the rulership of the Mongolian Empire, people did not have to worry about having any trouble with each individual government through which they passed. For this reason, I have focused on the 13th century as the heyday of the silk route, even though it was a strong trade route from the 6th to 14th centuries. The silk route was one of the first major steps in making the known world much smaller. Another results was the expanded use of Chinese inventions. VII. Chinese Inventions (7th Century) There are four main inventions attributed to the Chinese that changed the world at the time. These inventions were the compass, gunpowder, papermaking and the printing press. Although the dates for famous Chinese inventions stretched for roughly as long of a time as the silk road, I have focused on the 7th century because that was when they made the first type of printing press. It was a woodblock press and was eventually replaced by a superior, European version. Thus, the Chinese did invent the printing press first, but they subsequently adopted the modified version from Europe. The printing press had an enormous impact not only in the East, but in Europe as well. Scribes and monks were no longer required to painstakingly copy texts by hand and books eventually became a commodity available to people of all social classes.
6 VIII. Rise of Seljuk Turks in The Holy Land/The Crusades (10951204) Probably the most popular aspect of the Middle Ages today, the crusades served many purposes both on and off the field of battle. When the Seljuk Turks took over Jerusalem, they began persecuting Christian pilgrims who had been peacefully trekking to the Holy Land for centuries. These persecutions were the spark that started the fire of the crusades. During this time, trade with the Mediterranean world was strengthened and exchange of thoughts and customs between different civilizations recommenced. These exchanges were not always amiable, as in the situation in the Holy Land. The Crusades served as sort of a turning point in reuniting Europe and preparing it for the Renaissance.
IX. Development of States (10001348) Related to the Crusades was the development of national identity, which began to become popular around 1000. As Feudalism, the decentralization of government, began to decline, monarchs started seeking more power. The significance of nationalism lies in the fact that it began the system of government that pervades most of the world to this very day. In Europe, this resulted in the emergence of countries such as France, England and Germany. In India, the Rajput Empire’s success was a result of the fanaticism and loyal devotion of its citizens. Three times, Rajput women committed suicide so that Rajput warriors could fight to the death, defending the honor of their empire. In Eastern countries such as China, Korea, India and Japan, the Mongolian Empire ended the rule of local governments by the late middle ages. The Mongolian Empire in itself is an example of the development of state since it owed much of its success to the loyalty of its subjects
7 and their fervor for the empire.