Life in Western Europe during the 9th through 10th century invasions

Life in Western Europe during the 9th through 10th century invasions

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Life in Europe was strenuously difficult during the 9th-10th century because of the invasions from the Muslims, Magyars and Vikings. People were afraid to travel, commerce was almost non-existent and fine arts declined dramatically. The Kings were unable to protect their subjects from the invaders, which was clear when kings had to bribe them to not invade their kingdoms. The subjects knew this fact, so they turned to the nobles for protection against the invaders. In response to these circumstances, two systems called Feudalism and Manorialism were created to deal with the invaders.

Manorialism was when a lord would let the common people, called surfs, live on their land for protection from the invaders. In exchange for protection, the surfs cared for the land and paid a fee. Feudalism was when the lords would hire vassals, soldiers or knights to protect their land while they were away fighting the invaders. Peasants in this system were the only productive force that the lords had, so most of the economic pressure in Europe was put on the peasants. The lords and vassals did not have it easier either, since they had to battle the invaders to protect the surfs that were providing the limited economic productions. Things did eventually improve, as the invaders were finally defeated. When the invaders were defeated, the lords improved the Feudalism and Manorialism systems that were haphazardly emplaced which would become Europe’s governing system for centuries onwards.

During the 9th-10th century, living conditions in Western Europe were difficult because of the invasions. People were scared, food was scarce and people had to sacrifice freedom for protection just to survive. While the Feudalism and Manorialism systems were not perfect, it supported Europe while the lords were off fighting the invaders. If it were not for the Feudalism and Manorialism systems, Europe might have succumbed to domination by the Vikings, Muslims or Magyars.

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Little Flowers and Heaven

Little Flowers and Heaven

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I believe the book, “Little Flowers”, provided the common man with confidence about avoiding Hell, but not Purgatory. As long as one truly believed in the Trinity and followed the spiritual ways of God, then one should have been able to escape the clutches of Hell. Unfortunately, the book did not provide the common man with confidence that he would escape the clutches of Purgatory. In the book, Purgatory is a realm that spirits head to if they need spiritual cleansing before heading into heaven. If one’s spirit went to Purgatory, that person would endure many horrors but would eventually be released into Heaven after their cleansing. However, even some of the most holy Friars were not able to escape Purgatory, albeit their time in Purgatory was brief. In the end, I believe the book provided enough reassurance to the common man that although he may not be able to escape the clutches of Purgatory, if he was a devout Christian then he would eventually find his way into heaven.

The Fourth Crusade

The Fourth Crusade

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The Fourth Crusade was sponsored by Pope Innocent III in 1201-1204 AD and it’s mission was to recapture Jerusalem from the hands of the Muslims. Innocent recruited Westerners because it was easier for Innocent to convince Westerners to Crusade instead of the Easterners. Before the Crusaders could start their voyage to Jerusalem, they had to pay the Venetians for building them a fleet of ships that would carry them to Jerusalem. However, the Crusaders did not have enough money to pay the Venetians for the fleet, so they made a deal. The Crusaders would give the Venetians half of all the loot that they would receive from taking Jerusalem and the Venetians would let the Crusaders have the fleet. The Venetians agreed, but they travelled with the Crusaders to make sure that they did not forsake their deal. All was going according to plan, until the Crusaders were forced to stop at Constantinople to restock their provisions.

In Constantinople, the Crusaders met Alexium, who was next in line to the throne of the Byzantine Empire. Alexium was in a complicated situation with his brother, who illegitimately stole the throne from Alexium, so he was desperate to obtain the throne. Alexium promised to pay off the debt that the Crusaders had with the Venetians and promised more money if they could obtain the throne for him. The Crusaders agreed and they ascended Alexium to the throne of Emperor in 1203 AD by threatening Constantinople that they would take it by force if they did not allow Alexium to have the thrown. With Alexium as Emperor he paid off the Crusader’s debt and provided them with provisions, but he was having a difficult time paying the Crusaders the extra money that he promised. To pay the Crusaders the money that he still owed them, Alexium excavated graves to steal the jewelry from within and took numerous Church possessions that were valuable. The inhabitants of Constantinople were appalled at Alexium’s actions and eventually killed him in 1204 AD.

The Crusaders were outside of Constantinople when Alexium was killed. They were shocked that the people of Constantinople had killed their rightful successor. In response to their friend being murdered, they ransacked Constantinople, committed mass genocide and burned many homes to the ground. After conquering Constantinople, the Crusaders transformed the capital of the Byzantine Empire into the Latin Empire. The conquest of the Holy Land was forgotten by the Crusaders because they were excommunicated by Pope Innocent for the raid of Constantinople, thus making the Crusade invalid. The Crusaders also many valuables from the raid that they could not carry to the Holy Land, so all thing considering they went back to the West.

Eastern and Western Europe had their differences and usually kept to themselves, but when the Westerner Crusaders ransacked Constantinople and turned it into the Latin Empire, their relationship turned form salvageable to hostile. This attack solidified the East’s and West’s split and one can still see the damage caused by the attack in modern times by looking at the relationship between the Eastern and Western European Churches. The conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders went down in history as the most notorious act of all the Crusades.

Thomas Aquinas’ proof of the existence of God

Thomas Aquinas’ proof of the existence of God

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Thomas Aquinas was a Scholastic Philosopher in the Medieval Ages who wanted to prove that Aristotelianism and Church logic were similar. To prove this, he devised a thesis called the Summa Contra Gentiles were he attempted to prove the existence of God by only using reason and no Bible sources. The Summa Contra Gentiles talked about the Quinque Viae (Five Ways) that he could prove God’s existence. I will only be looking at the First Way in which he proves that God does exist by using Aristotelian/Scholastic logic.

The First Way that Thomas proves the existence of God is using the Aristotelian concept of Potentiality and Actuality. Potentiality is an object’s “potential” to do something while Actuality is when an object is able to “actualize” it’s “potential”. Thomas goes on to say that something else has to actualize an object’s potential because it cannot actualize its own potential. An example that Thomas used to explain the concept is if there was a rock on the ground, it has the “potential” to move. The rock is unable to “actualize” that “potential” itself, but if a person holding a stick were to move the rock then the stick “actualized” the rock’s “potential” to move. The rock could not actualize it’s own potential to move; it was the stick that “actualized” the rock’s “potential”. However, if an object’s potential cannot be actualized by itself and something else must actualize it’s potential, then what actualized the stick’s potential to move so it could move the rock?

Thomas then introduced the concept of the “essential order series” to explain the stick’s phenomenon. The essential order series focuses on the objects involved in producing a series of orders that consist of Potency and Act (or Potentiality and Actuality). An essential order series must have a beginning; something that starts the series of Potency and Act. There has to be a “last member” in the essential order series that is causing the series of orders to happen. Going back to the stick/rock example; the rock’s potential to move was actualized by the stick moving, but the Potency and Act concept states that an object’s potential cannot be actualized by itself because something else has to actualize the object’s potential. The essential order series also states that the series of Potency and Act must have a beginning; something that starts the entire series. If this is the case, can the essential order series end?

According to the laws of Potency and Act there can be no end because something’s potential always has to be actualized by another object because the object itself cannot actualize it’s own potential. However, the essential order series must have a “last member”; something that starts the series of Potency and Act. The only way that this series could have a “last member” is if the thing in question was Pure Act and no potential. This thing must be something that is unchanging; something that is unable to move from Potency to Actuality because it is Pure Act. Thomas then concluded that the thing that is Pure Act and no potential has to be God. This is the argument that Thomas used to prove the existence of God by only using logic and no Bible sources.

Misconceptions about the Crusade

Misconceptions about the Crusade

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In modern times, there are people that have come to believe some misconceptions about the Crusades during the Medieval period. Most of the misconceptions revolve around a few notions, such as the Christians crusaded against the Muslims unprovoked or that the Christians crusaded for the sole reason of obtaining a fortune. These misconceptions are not without merit, as the Crusaders did questionable acts during the Crusades that are looked down upon today. However, these misconceptions can be realized if one were to look at the events preceding and during the Crusade.

Some people believe that the Crusaders attacked the Muslims unprovoked or because they were Muslims, but if one were to look at the events preceding the Crusade then one would see that the Muslims were at fault. The Crusades did not start until the 12th century, but the Muslims started invading Europe as early as the 9th century. The Muslims had taken over 2/3rds of the Christian world by the 12th century; some of the countries that the Muslims invaded include: Italy, Austria, Spain, France, Portugal, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Poland, Ukraine, Russia and more. The Muslims had conquered most of the Christian World, but the Catholic Church did not respond to the invasions until the 12th century by sending out Crusades. By looking at the Muslims’ actions before the Crusades, one can see that the Crusaders did not attack the Muslims unprovoked.

Another misconception that people hold about the Crusades is that the Crusades were created because the Catholic Church saw a chance to obtain a fortune by stealing people’s possessions in the name of God. While it is true that the Crusaders did take people’s possessions every now and then, the sole purpose of the Crusade was not taking possessions. The Crusades were a response to the Muslims invading Europe and modern research has concluded that most of the Crusaders were relatively wealthy people that owned sizable amounts of land before they joined the Crusades. Most of the Crusaders went bankrupt, sold their land or mortgaged their land because Crusades would last for years. If a Crusader was not consistently making money to keep their land functional, the only option was to sell/mortgage their land. Crusaders seldom made little to no money on Crusades, so if a man joined the Crusades to become wealthy then he would only end up poorer in the end.

There are more misconceptions about the Crusades, but these are the major misconceptions that people believe today. The Crusades were created in the 12th century to combat the deadly forces of the Muslim invasions that threatened to swallow the Christian World whole. The Crusades were not created to kill Muslims because Christians wanted to; they were created to protect the population of Europe. While it is true that the Crusaders took people’s possessions from time to time, it was not the main goal of the Crusades. The main reason they took people’s possessions was to supply the Crusades with provisions that it usually lacked. This does not excuse the Crusaders’ actions, but the point is that taking people’s stuff was not the main objective of the Crusade. Thanks to the Crusades and other European Kingdoms, they managed to halt the Muslim invasions and Europe was finally free from the Muslim threat.

The 12th century Renaissance

The 12th century Renaissance

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The 12th century Renaissance was the period of intellectual revival that consisted of mostly philosophy, science, literature, history and law. At the beginning of the Renaissance, literature took the forefront of people’s interest. There was a major revival in Roman texts, stories and poems. Cicero, Virgil and Ovid were the most popular authors with Cicero being considered the most eloquent writer. However, the interest in literature was short lived as philosophy, science, history and law took people’s interest.

Most of the ancient texts containing philosophy and science were in Greek, so most of people’s extra time went into translating the ancient texts into Latin. People began to rapidly take interest in history and most of the historical texts from this Renaissance came from intensive studies into ancient historical texts. The benefit of the revival of history was that historians were not bias towards certain events in history, unlike Roman or Greek historians. Roman law was becoming the authoritative doctrine for everyone in Europe, as it was more concise with its rules than the rules made by the Feudal Lords. The first Universities in Europe were developed around this period and they stimulated the intellectual minds of some of the greatest Scholastic Philosophers in Western tradition. In the Universities, students would study the seven liberal arts: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music theory, grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

The 12th century Renaissance was an important period for the development of Western culture. The Renaissance brought us the University system and the seven liberal arts that are studied in modern Universities and Elementary schools. Law was a fickle thing with the Feudal systems in Europe, so people started to examine Roman law closer than before and decided that Roman law was more beneficial than the Feudal laws and regulations. History was revived and was given a non-bias review for everyone to study the actual events in history. The Renaissance of the 12th century was truly a time of intellectual revival in a land that was deprived of intellect for many centuries.

The High Middle Age Universities

The High Middle Age Universities

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The Universities of the High Middle Ages were the first Universities in Europe. Historians are not completely sure of the University’s origins, but the consensus is that they came from the Catholic Cathedrals. The Catholic Cathedrals provided education for people willing to learn, but the Universities were on a different level of intellect from that of the Cathedrals. The High Middle Age Universities would later influence the structure of Universities in the Western World.

For a University to be founded, it had to obtain the Pope’s or German Emperor’s permission. This is because the Pope and the German Emperors were considered to be Holy figures in Europe and if someone obtained permission from either of them then it would be God’s will that the University would be founded. The Popes were the main protectors of the Universities, as the Kings and even the Emperors would attempt to control the Universities, so they could spread their propaganda. The Popes protected the Universities’ rights by creating numerous Papal documents that forbid the Kings and Emperors from interfering in the Universities’ right to study in peace. If someone were to compare the modern Universities to that of the High Middle Age Universities, that person would see that the antique Universities had a completely different foundation.

The Universities of the High Middle Ages had a different format than the modern Universities. Teachers would choose material that they thought would benefit the students in their studies instead of the Universities choosing a specific curriculum for everyone to follow. While there was no fixed program for studying, the general format for what students had to study was the seven liberal arts: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music theory, grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The Universities were structured towards using rhetoric and logic to debate or discuss subjects because if a student could explain a concept aloud then the student truly understood the material. The highest degree that one could receive from the High Middle Age Universities was a Master’s degree, but in modern Universities one could study more to earn a PhD. If anyone received a Master’s degree in the High Middle Ages, they were allowed to teach at any University because the Master’s degree symbolized the education that the person received and would bestow upon the students.

The Universities of the High Middle Ages were important to the development of some of the most extraordinary minds in Western tradition. They developed the format for modern Universities and set the standards for how to teach students in the Western World. They stimulated numerous minds in Europe during a period that was deprived of intellect for many centuries because of the Muslim/Viking invasions. The High Middle Age Universities are truly one of the greatest things to have come out of the Middle Ages.

 

The Life and Work of Thomas Aquinas

The Life and Work of Thomas Aquinas

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Thomas Aquinas is considered by many historians, philosophers, theologians and Church officials to be one of the greatest Scholastic Philosopher in Western tradition. From a young age, Thomas’ potential was evident by his thirst for knowledge for everything that could be conceived by the human mind. He studied at the University of Naples at the age of fourteen and joined the Dominicans at the age of nineteen. While he was with the Dominicans, they sent Thomas away to Cologne to study under the esteemed teacher Albert the Great. From that point on, he went to teach at the Universities of Cologne, Paris, Bologna, Rome and Naple while assisting three Pope during his life time. Pope Clement IV recognized Thomas’ achievements and ambitions, so he offered Thomas the position of Archbishop of Naple. When Clement offered the position, he soon realized that Thomas would rather continue his intellectual studies than take the position of Archbishop, so the offer was dropped.

Thomas was an extraordinary Scholastic Theologian and had done many intellectual works in his life time, such as the; Summa Theologica, Summa Contra Gentiles, Commentaries on the Works of Aristotle, Two Precepts of Charity, Angelic Salutation and Exegetical works on Gospels: Paul, Isaiah, Job, and Song of Songs. His most important works are the Commentaries on the Works of Aristotle and the Summa Contra Gentiles. In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Thomas discussed the Five Ways that he could prove the existence of God by using reason alone and no Bible sources. Thomas’ Commentaries on the Works of Aristotle are important because Aristotle was not well accepted in the Church because Aristotle’s logical conclusions were believed to have opposed the Church’s doctrine. Thomas, being a Scholastic Philosopher and lover of Aristotle’s works, wanted to clear Aristotle’s name in the Church by proving that Aristotle and human reasoning are compatible with the Catholic Church’s logic. During Thomas’ life time, his works amassed over 8.5 million words and 48,000 references to other source materials. This means that Thomas would have had to have read over 48,000 documents to make the references.

Thomas was a truly dedicated man to the art of intellectual study for the sake of having knowledge. He amassed numerous works on multiple subjects, but his most renowned works were on clearing Aristotle’s name in the Church and proving the existence of God by using reason alone. He taught at many universities and was even offered the esteemed and influential position of Archbishop. Thomas was truly one of the greatest Scholastic Philosopher in Western tradition.

The importance of the doctrine of Hell to Christian martyrs

The importance of the doctrine of Hell to Christian martyrs

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During the reign of the Roman Empire, Christians were being executed because of their monotheistic beliefs and refusal to worship the Roman Emperors as gods. Christians were usually executed in public to deter people from becoming Christians. During the execution, Christians were given a final chance to live, but they had to renounce their faith and offer worship to the Emperor. There were Christians that renounced their faith in fear of death, but there were Christians that held on to their faith and became martyrs. One of the main factors that kept faithful Christians from renouncing their faith was the doctrine of Hell.

Under God’s laws, if a Christian were to denounce their faith in any situation, their soul would be sent to Hell when the person ceased to exist. The unfaithful Christians would be sent to Hell because God’s Kingdom is only meant for those who kept their faith, even in the threat of execution. The souls of Christians that were executed because they refused to renounce their faith are in the Kingdom of God, and the souls of those who renounced their faith are in Hell. While this is reason enough to not renounce one’s faith, the martyred Christians also had a righteous ulterior motive.

The other reason why the doctrine of Hell kept the martyred Christians from renouncing their faith is that the martyred Christians did not want other people to end up in Hell. The martyred Christians were fearful that Christianity would be forsaken if they did not die for the cause. If people only saw Christians renouncing their faith at the threat of death, people would not take Christianity seriously and it would eventually be forgotten. If the religion was forgotten, everyone’s soul would be subjected to Hell because people would no longer be practicing God’s beliefs and people would be sinning all the time. The truly faithful wanted to prevent this, so they allowed themselves to be executed in hopes that Christianity could be kept alive and save more souls from eternal damnation. Their plan worked, as people started to convert to Christianity faster than the Roman Government could kill Christians. By the end of the persecutions, Christianity was stronger than ever and it eventually became the dominant religion across the Roman Empire.

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