Before we can talk about humanities, we must first define the word “Humanities”. Humanities are the investigation of human beings and their culture and their self-expression. We are going to discuss how humanities reflect changing concepts of nature and human beings in different historical periods. Human beings in today’s society are not aware of the history of people. In just about every area that we participate in on a daily basis, the humanities of our ancestors contributed to that area.
The reason we study the different parts of the humanities is to get a better understanding of where human beings have been and where we need to go. The more we study the further we can go and improve the future based off the past. Christianity greatly influenced the Early Middle Ages. This epoch existed between 500-1000 C.E. There was little stability during this time. Western Europe was under attack from Germanic tribes and Eastern Europe was battling against the Arabs.
Fiero (2002) states, “the Germanic tribal people and practices blended with those of classical Rome and Western Christianity to forge the basic economic, social and cultural patterns of medieval life” (p.69). According to the website German Culture, in the Merovingian Dynasty (482-751 C.E.) under the rule of Clovis, “the Franks reluctantly began to adopt Christianity following the baptism of Clovis, an event that inaugurated the alliance between the Frankish kingdom and the Roman Catholic Church” (Medieval Germany -, n.d.). Christianity would reach an all time high during the reign of Charlemagne. After being crowned emperor of the Romans in 800 by Pope Leo III, Charlemagne brought education and enlightenment to his people (Fiero, 2002, p.74-75).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art website outlines Charlemagne’s accomplishmentsHe founds schools, brings the scholar Alcuin of York to his court, and encourages artists to reinvigorate Greco-Roman traditions. He commissions lavish manuscript books, copies of sacred and classical tests, and sets a fashion emulated by his heirs. Some Carolingian books have gem-encrusted covers, purple-dyed pages, text written in gold and silver inks, and miniature illustrations executed in a lively, confident style. Court workshops also produced bronze figures, ivory carvings and treasure objects that incorporate precious metals, gemstones and antique cameos. (Central Europe, 2000-2005)
After Charlemagne’s death, Western Europe again was torn in many different directions. Fiero (2002) states, “Charlemagne’s three grandsons divided the Empire among themselves, separating French form German-speaking territories” (p. 76). A new social class was defined during this time. Similar to the Roman social structure of plebian, patricians, and military men, the feudal system divided the classes again. According to Fiero (2002), “feudalism involved the exchange of land for military service.
In return for the grant of land, a vassal owed his lord a certain number of fighting days (usually forty) per year” (p.76). During the holy wars, these men fought with honor and courage. The knights lived by the code of chivalry. Fiero (2002) defines chivalry as “courageous in battle, loyal to his lord and fellow warriors, and reverent toward women” (p. 77). While most of the population consisted of serfs, these knights and ladies were the echelon of the feudal society. Art and literature during this time were heavy with Christian influence. An artist monk created the Lindisfarne gospels in Northumbria in the early eighth century (Lindisfarne Gospels, n.d.).
Another wonderful example of Christian art during this time is the Book of Kells. Snell (n.d.) points out, “The Book of Kells is a stunningly beautiful manuscript containing the Four Gospels. The Book of Kells was probably produced in a monastery on the Isle of Iona, Scotland, to honor Saint Columba in the early 8th century” (Snell, n.d.). The Metropolitan Museum of Art displays other artistic finds such as the Plaque with Saint John the Evangelist and Three Holy Women at the Holy Sepulcher.
Fiero (2002) states Germanic traditions, including those of personal valor and heroism associated with a warring culture, are reflected in the epic poems of the Early Middle Ages. The three most famous of these, Beowulf, The Song of the Nibelungen, and the Song of Roland, were transmitted orally for hundreds of years before they were written down sometime between the tenth and thirteenth centuries. (p.71)
Although this age had a brief renaissance, the Early Middle Ages was a shadow of the great Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was not only rich in architecture, art and literature but it held a sense of accomplishment. The Early Middle Ages epitomizes the struggle of human beings to love and create a better world for them.
The High Middle Ages falls between the Early Middle Ages also known as the Dark Ages and Late Middle Ages occurring during the range of the 10th, 11th, 12th and the 13th centuries (1000 C.E. to 1300 C.E.). During this time there had been many improvements made in agriculture. Some of the improvements made were the invention of the iron horseshoes, windmills, and 3-field system. The 3-field system was a system where they would plant crops in two fields while letting the third field recovers from over planting. This allowed for stronger healthier crops and larger yields at harvest time.
During the time of the High Middle Ages, we also discover the growth of towns, trades, and manufacturing starting to increase with the help of the resumption of long-distance trade. The guilds were controlling manufacturing industries setting up standards and protecting the members. The growth of towns came from the trade of local perishable items over short distances.
During the High Middle Ages, there was a growing demand for education because the need for educated people was needed in the bureaucracy of the time. After 1000 C.E. the development of universities began to appear and they taught the seven liberal arts which were from the classical Greco-Roman system. These seven liberal arts are grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.
The High Middle Ages also saw the growth of the church in the 11th century. The church wanted to strengthen the bureaucracy of the papacy by eliminating wrong doings among the clergy. The 12th century saw the horrors of the Inquisition. Bishops, under the order of popes held trials for Catholics who abandoned their faith. The accused were not permitted legal council and were tortured into name accomplices. The fate of the accused was a horrible punishment or sometimes-even death.
One of the common deaths of the heretics was being burned alive. Since the church was not allowed to cause bodily damage, the guilty were turned over to secular authorities. By the 13th century the papacy had established itself dominate over the lower churches. There was a staff of better-educated clerics who were now more capable of running the dioceses. During this time of the High Middle Ages, we also read of the Holy Crusades, which exited from 1095 C.E. to 1291 C.E. There were eight crusades sent to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims.
Unlike the Greeks who were polytheism, the High Middle Ages were monotheism. The period of the High Middle Ages was strong with the Christianity influence. Much like the Greeks the High Middle Ages had its share of battles in the Eastern Empire. The Greeks had battled the Persians and the High Middle Ages fought the Muslims during the crusades. Another similarity we found between the Greeks and the Romans was the Greeks were copied in their styles by the Romans the same as the High Middle Ages were copied by the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
The Late Middle Ages is the period in the13th, 14th and 15th centuries (1300-1500 CE). The Late Middle Ages were preceded by the High Middle Ages, and followed by the Modern Era. This period was a period of many events and humanistic escapades. This time was marked by the economic stability and prosperity that had been slowly building for the last three centuries was reversed by a series of manmade and natural disasters. The culture of this period seemed, to many, to be on the verge of total collapse. Yet, political and intellectual developments occurred within this period, which helped lead directly to the Renaissance,There was the hundred-year war (1337-1453), which was fought between England and France over the French throne and was massively destructive, largely due to the introduction of gunpowder and heavy artillery.
There was also the papal “Schism-Division or separation; specifically (Eccl.), permanent division or separation in the Christian church; breach of unity among people of the same religious faith; the offense of seeking to produce division in a church without justifiable cause.”(Brainy Dictionary 2005) The intrigue and quarreling over the papacy culminated in 1409 with the election of three competing popes. This development did nothing to raise up the respectability of the church, which by this time had become very heavily involved in secular politics. The manipulation of the church by the French king in particular who moved the papacy into French territory during the Babylonian Captivity of (1309-1377) helped led directly to the papal instability and decline in political autonomy of the Church.
The Black Death swept across Europe from 1347-50, brought by ship to Messina in Sicily from the eastern part of the Black Sea. Plagues had occurred before, but Europe’s population was already weakened by malnutrition. The plague returned at long intervals for the next century, and historians estimate that Europe’s population declined by 2/3 from 1300-1450. There was the fall of the Byzantine Empire In 1453, the Islamic Turks finally took Constantinople, which not only made a mockery of the Crusades’ efforts 200 years earlier, but put the Turks in a position to threaten the West much more directly, as they began assaulting the southwestern borders of Western Christendom.
The culture of this period seemed, to many, to be on the verge of total collapse. Yet political and intellectual developments occurred within this period which helped lead directly to one of the most culturally phenomenon’s known as the Renaissance. The Renaissance hit Italy first, and spread to rest of Europe by the 1500s. It was a period in which inherited ideas about God, humanity and society were questioned, and the intellectual heritage of the classical Greece and Roman era was re-integrated into the Western mentality.
Printing and critical historical scholarship both appeared in the West, the new nation-states grew in power at the expense of the church, and vernacular literary movements in various countries began to challenge the dominance of church Latin. It is said that behind every cloud there is a silver lining and if the Late Middle Ages where clouded by many historical mishaps then the Renaissance period that followed certainly became the silver lining.
As we can see the Early, High and Late Middle Ages were significant to one another. There were many ideas put into work by the people of the different Ages. We also have the understanding that Christianity was the beginning to everything and the downfall to some. The people of each Age had specific issues to be dealt with for survival. The plague seemed to offer the biggest problem for the people of the Late Middle Ages. There were also many developments in every cultural aspect as well as political arena. All of these developments were the push to get into the Renaissance period. The history of mankind is studied for many reasons. The primary reason is to keep mankind from repeating what his ancestors have already done. Gloria K. Fiero has done a great job at portraying the great history of the world and all the events that took place.
- Central Europe (including Germany), 500-1000 A.D. (2000-2005). Retrieved July 30, 2005, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/06/euwc/ht06euwc.htm
- Duffy, S.L. (n.d.), Europe 1000-1300: the high middle ages. Retrieved July 27, 2005, from http://www.loyno.edu/seduffy/highmiddleOT.html
- Fiero, G. K. (2002). The Humanistic Tradition (Fourth ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Lindisfarne Gospels. (n.d.). Retrieved July 28, 2005, from British Library: Online Gallery European Manuscripts Web site: http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/themes/euromanuscripts/linisfarne.html
- Medieval Germany – The Merovingian Dynasty, ca. 500-751. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2005, from German Culture Web site: http://www.germanculture.com.ua/library/history/bl_medieval.htm
- Snell, M. (n.d.). The Book of Kells: Splendid Medieval Manuscript. Retrieved July 28, 2005, from http://historymedren.about.com/od/bookofkell1/p/book_of_kells.htm
- The Brainy Dictionary (2005). Definition of Schism. Retrieved July 27, 2005 fromhttp://www.brainydictionary.com/words/sc/schism216161.html