The Middle Ages Essay

This essay has a total of 2182 words and 14 pages.

The Middle Ages

The middle ages


The Roman Empire geographically established the original concept of a European boundary.
With all of it's great achievements likee

civil law, politics and literature, the collective willpower of the Roman Empire would
eventually degrade over time and give way to new ideas andd

influences. The empire of Rome did not fall- it fizzled. The Western Roman Empire gave
way to the Middle Ages around 476, when the Barbarian,,

Odoacer, overthrew the emperor Romulus Augustulus. Other historians give the year 410,
when Alaric, king of the Visigoths, sacked Rome. Still,,

others say about 500 or even later. In any event this early medieval period is often
referred to as the Dark Ages because of the apparent collapse off

Greco Roman culture. During this time their was no effective government and no sense of
state, just small autonomous tribes and peasantt

communities. Local life was isolated, fragmented, dreary, illiterate and superstitious..
For various reasons, Germanic people to the North had long desired to expand into Roman
territories perhaps because of pressures from

overpopulation, wars, or food shortages. These Barbarians were semi-nomadic tribes led
by warrior chiefs. They advanced forcefully against the

Empire in the fourth century as the strength and determination of the Roman Empire was
being degraded by political decay, civil war, economic

problems and social decadence. Various Barbarians such as the Ostrogoth, Vandals,
Lombards, Franks, Angles, Saxons and other tribes overcame a

disintegrating Roman Empire. The advanced systems of Roman law, culture and government
gave way to crude forms of Barbarians. These invaders

lacked the ability to continue the achievements in art, literature, and engineering.
However, these invaders also brought with them new ideas and

traditions that changed Roman culture to a more diverse and defused culture which altered
the course and development for later Europe. The

Germanic people brought with them their customs and traditions, but the idea that most
influenced later Europe was the belief in the rights of the

individual. To the Romans the state was more important than the individual. It is from
this merging of cultures that the idea of personal rights, the

concept of government by the people, and crude but representative law courts emerged.
These ideas paved the way for the acceptance of new ideas.

This individual thinking allowed for the broad acceptance of Christianity, the most
important ingredient that went into the making of Europe. The

cultural legacy of Greece and Rome, combined with the new ideas and traditions of the
Germanic people was glued together with Christianity.

As Germanic minorities mingled with what was left of the Roman population, they created
new hybrid societies that would differ in ways that would

have great consequences for centuries. How did these various Germanic people assimilate
and what kind of governmental and social structures

developed in these early Middle Ages that would later influence the making of Europe? The
answers are numerous and complex, but here are a few

underlying basic reasons: Germanic tribes were originally ruled by individuals who were
chosen because of their dominance and success in battle.

Germanic warriors were modified by their increased exposure to Roman civilization.
Barbarian war bands acquired the concept of stratified ranks from

the Roman armies they encountered which assisted in the evolution of a class structure.
As the most elite acquired land and wealth, social inequalities

emerged that would define nobles from peasants in later Europe. German tribes developed
regulations or laws that applied to the Romans as well as

their own people. For example, the Franks developed the "Wergeld Value System" where a
certain value was placed on every person. Fines were

charged for a violation on that person and varied depending on their status. These
Barbarian law codes would later evolve into the "Feudal System" in

the tenth century.
Medieval government was a disorganized affair that grew out of Germanic tribal ties of
kinship and personal loyalty. Their greatest gains in this

transitional period were made for them by their kings. Most kings tried to rule according
to Roman law. But, gradually, by a painful process of political

pioneering, the kings learned to rule in their own names without the benefit of imperial
restrictions. By the end of the sixth century, this Germanic style

had totally replaced the Roman administrative system.
Barbarian assimalation first began with slow and peaceful migration. Merchant and slave
trade relations were established earley in the second and

third centuries but the main export of the Germanic tribes was not slaves it was "free
warriors". Germanic soldiers enlisted in droves and by the end of

the fourth century the Roman army was predomenantly barbarian. Many barbarian soldiers
rose to high military and aristocratic positions. In order to

maintain it's borders Rome admitted certain selected tribes into the empire as foederati,
who swor loyalty to the emporor, agreeing to guard their stretch

of border. One of these"foederati groups later became the Carolingians. Most of Europe
was occupied by Barbarians by the fifth century and by the

sixth century the "Barbarian Takeover" was complete. They divided Western Europe into
six major Germanic tribes. In terms of modern regions the

Visigoths occupied Spain; the Vandals, Africa; the Ostrogoths, Italy; the Saxons,
England; the Franks, France. Of all these Barbarians the Franks

had the most lasting impact on Europe. Their first great leader was Clovis, who in
481-511 established in Gaul the kingdom that was to become

France. He was a key figure in the early spreading of Christianity. Christianity was the
most important factor in the solidification of Europe because it

spiritually united the various sects. It was a spiritual union that did not possess
territorial boundaries. It existed wherever a single believer professed

the faith. Clovis was baptized in 496. He provided a royal example that started a steady
conversion of the whole Frankish people and speeded their

ethnic fusion with the Roman citizenry of Gaul.
The bloodiest Roman persecution of Christians occurred in 303 ordered by Diocletian.[1]
Ten years later Constantine's legalization of

Christianity in February 313 initiated the evolution of the Roman Empire into a Christian
state and also prepared the way for the growth of Byzantine

and Western medieval culture. After Christianity became legal it was associated with the
state; no longer a suffering minority, it had fewer martyrs.

Monks became the new martyrs. Christians believed that monks, like the martyrs before
them, could speak directly to God. To avoid the decadence of

urban life Christians began to experiment with Monasticism in the fourth, fifth and sixth
centuries but not until 529, when Saint Benedict wrote a

document called The Rule of the Master, were there any guidelines for monastic life.
Benedict's "Rule" allowed for the admission of people with a

variety of backgrounds and cultures. Benedictine monasticism suited the social conditions
of medieval life and also provided social services such as
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