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Christian Societies Emerge in Europe Essay

Christian Societies Emerge in Europe, 600-1200
1. What new political systems emerged in Europe after the fall of Rome? How consistent were these systems, and what major variations were there?

Byzantine had a continuation of Roman Imperial rule and tradition where it was completely gone in the kingdoms succeeding Rome in the West. Byzantine still used the imperial law intact while the west used provincial form of Roman law. Byzantine combined imperial rule with the political oversight of the Christian Church which led to Christian monarchs, a ruler with supreme religious and political authority. This prevented the empire to divide into principalities like in the East. Imperial authority and urbanization of the Byzantine protected them from population loss and economic reverse of the Western Empire besides from the Bubonic plague. decline. In western Europe, the imperial legal framework of the Roman Empire disappeared and saw to the rise of kings, nobles and chieftains in regions. Family based traditions of the Germanic people persisted and supplied laws of the Roman emperors. A local lord had a castle where peasants could take refuge in times of fear and security. Manorial systems developed which are self-sufficient farming estates consisted of outbuildings, castle, peasant village and surrounding land. Feudalism is the more political term where kings and lords give land to vassals in return for sworn military support. Fear allowed for farmers to give up their land in return for protection. Poorly organized govt. and isolation made them rely on own resources.

The lords provided governance and justice while royal govt. involvement is limited. Jurisdiction fell under the clergy of the church, monasteries or nunneries which owned agricultural land. During the revival of Western Europe, 1000-1200, independent cities formed and were governed by communes or groups of leading citizens. Instead of farming these cities turned to manufacturing and trade. Laws made serfs free once they left the countryside for the city. Venice became dominant sea power and competed with Pisa and Genoa for domination of trade with Muslim ports in Africa and Med. Cites in Flanders rivaled Italian cities in prosperity trade and industry (dominated fish and wool trades) Abundant coinage of silver and gold coming from Muslim and Byzantine lands, promoted economic activity

2. How and why did Christianity spread throughout Europe up to 1200 CE?

It spread through the Roman Empire which ruled parts of the Europe west of the Rhine and south of the Danube. First when Christianity was not very widely practiced and it was illegal, it spread along urban networks and lower classes. Then emperors started to convert starting with the Byzantine emperors established Christianity as their official religion. Then Christianity started to gain support and patronage. There were a few missionaries sent out of the Roman Empire such as St. Patrick who spread the religion to Ireland. Trade and Christian slaves also spread Christianity more easily to a broad range of places. After the division of the Roman Empire, two –thirds of Christians adopted Muslim faith in Byzantine territories around southern Med.

The church and the jurisdiction of the pope remained a huge influence and role model in society. Kings who succeeded Western Europe generally were Christian so they can win the favor of their subjects. There were more missionaries spreading the teachings of Christianity. Monasteries and covenants planted Christianity in new lands. The Poles and other Slavic people in the North accepted the Christianity of Rome, taught by German priests and missionaries, and diffusion from Constantinople. In Kiev Russia, Vladimir married a bride from the Byzantine imperial family and converted to Orthodox Christianity and opened his lands to Orthodox clerics and missionaries… Generally speaking, Christianity spread because of cultural diffusion, missionaries, political contacts such as marriage alliances, and Christian conquests.

3. How does the economic, social, and political structure of Europe compare with the previous era under the Roman Empire?

Economically, Byzantine government remained the same in terms of set prices, organized grain shipments to the capital and monopolies on trade goods and luxuries. This may have slowed economic developments. The focus was mainly on Constantinople’s rich, trade, glittering court and cathedrals leaving the poor and the travelers behind which affected other Byzantine cities negatively. There was no moral code to follow so there were many crimes. In Western Europe, Germanic political order cared less about the urban based civilization of Rome. It lost pop. in most regions and some cities became villages. Roman Roads, abandoned villas and public buildings started deteriorating as wealth, maintenance, and workers decreased. Paying with coins was replaced with the bartering system. Trade declined so they had to rely on local sources. Roman centralization used its wealth and production on the capital, which spread Rome’s cultural traits throughout the provinces.

But Germanic territorial lords persisted on their own cultural traditions so literacy and other aspects of Rome declined. The status of women changed. During the Roman Empire, the family was centered on the legally all-powerful father while woman enjoyed freedom in public. Later, after the 7th century, women lived in confinement and hid their faces under veil. They only socialized with males in their family. On the other hand, from 1028-1056, women ruled along their husbands. Some also played prominent roles based on status such as the daughter of Emperor Comnenus by expressing her ideas and point of view. In Western Europe, the Germanic tradition was splitting property among sons. The Manorial system allowed for Nobles and their family to completely rule over the serfs of agricultural workers who worked the land in return for protection and could not leave the manor where they were born into. This limited the freedom and potential achievement for most people except for the nobles. Knights, the primary figure of medieval warfare, regularly answered to calls for military service and there was a growing number of warriors and horsemen which gradually led to an increased status of a mounted warrior, becoming a landowner.

Land was the basis of wealth so the more land, the more support for the knight there is. Fiefs or grants of land could be inheritable as long as military service was provided. Noblewomen played key parts in the Feudal system. A man who married the daughter or widow of a lord with no sons could gain control of their property. Marriage alliances affect the kingdom on a whole. Noblewomen had sufficient roles in society such as directing public works. Noble daughters AND sons had little say in marriage matters but issues of land, power, and military service took more importance. Noblewomen could inherit land even when the husband was away at war. Regular women worked with the men, performing agricultural tasks such as raking, stacking hay, shearing sheep, and picking vegetables. They also were skilled artisans so they could weave and sew. Some women lived my monastic rules by seclusion in convent but very small percentage.

Convents provided refuge for widows and for other women in need of protection and spirituality. Byzantine still maintained Roman Imperial rule and traditions. Imperial authority and urbanization of the Byzantine protected them from population loss and economic reverse of the Western Empire. The Bubonic Plague and other epidemics, excluded from this condition, caused decline of pop., elite, and wealth and shifting views of saints. Power in the imperial court was organized by family based aristocracy rather than earlier class based office holdings by 11th century. Territorial losses of prosperous Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia by the Sassanids and invasions of Slavic and Turkish people in the Byzantine Empire led to military weakness and decline.

In western Europe, the imperial legal framework of the Roman Empire disappeared and saw to the rise of kings, nobles and chieftains. Family based traditions of the Germanic people persisted and supplied laws of the Roman emperors. Society focused on rural villages and estates (manors) rather than cities. The Church also played a huge part in the political structure in both Byzantine and especially the West where not only did it offer religious guidance, but political jurisdiction as well according to church or clergy property. Three traditions constantly competed with each other; Feudal law from Germanic custom gave supreme power to the king, canon law is the single hierarchical legal institution with jurisdiction over Western Christians, and Monasticism which is living in a religious and secular community following pre-Christian practices such as celibacy, chastity, obedience and poverty.

4. Describe the process by which Christianity diverged into two branches: Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. There were disagreements between the popes and princes of Western Europe that gradually worsened. The patriarchs of Constantinople challenged the jurisdictions of the popes of Rome and some practices of the Latin Church. This formed a schism or split between the Latin Church and Orthodox Church. Christian populations followed the religious guidance of the pope of Constantinople and the pope of the Western Church had similar authority. Missionaries in the East spread Christianity among the Slavs so in the west, they spread Christianity into the British Isles and German lands. In the West, the papacy is the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church of which the pope is the head.

Roman nobles lost control of it though eventually and became an international office where councils of bishops set canons or rules to regulate the priest and people not part of clergy. It was hard to unite the church when there were disagreements between regions over church regulations, shortages of trained clergy, political disorder, insecurity, some polytheism, and selling appointments. Because of political fragmentation, the pope needed allies, especially the support of the king. Both considered themselves as absolute authority. In 969, the Holy Roman Empire established loose confederation of German states and principalities. The first emperor had secular political authority over general Christian interests but the law of the church controlled jurisdiction overall church and clergy property while bishops holding land as vassals owed their service to kings and princes. This led to the investiture controversy or medieval struggle between the church and the lay lords to control church appointments and popes vs. emperors and kings.

5. What role did technology and improvements in agriculture play in the development of the European economy? Agricultural Europe produced horses for a specific type of warfare in the Roman legion where larger and heavier horses were needed. Farmers practiced shifting cultivation in Kievan Russia where they would burn a section of forest for fertility instead of manorial agriculture system. Between 1000-1200 western Europe transformed from subsistence farming where only basic needs were met for food, shelter and clothing to growing population and agricultural production. The food surplus made the return of a money-based economy and supported larger numbers of workers and traders. Population growth was started by new technologies and the appearance of the self-governing cities of Italy and Flanders devoted to seaborne trade.

There were also improvements in central administration, greater control over vassals, and stronger kingdoms. A new plow appeared which cut deep into the soil to turn over land and made it easier to farm heavy soil but took more energy and animals. The horse collar was a harnessing method used to hitch horse to plows and carts more efficiently as they were faster and stronger than oxen. Some areas favored oxen and contributed to the pop. growth as well.

6. How did Kievan Russia develop both in conjuncture with Western Europe and Byzantium yet develop distinct characteristics? The environment is quite different because of the fact that there is frozen tundra in the north, cold forest zone, then a more temperate forest, mixed forests and steppe grasslands. There is a different culture of the Slavic people who spoke distinct languages. Kievan Russia developed Orthodox Christianity officially like in Byzantine which extended northward which provided a barrier against Latin Christianity.

Even though orthodox Christianity was the official religionthere was still distinct cultural traditions such as polytheist designs and beliefs, rejections of Christian burial practices, and traditional Slavic marriage practicing casual and polygamous relations. Besides this, Kievan developed distinct ones as well. Its political power came from trade rather than from landholding like the manorial system of western Europe. Farmers practiced shifting cultivation in Kievan Russia where they would burn a section of forest for fertility. Poor land and short growing season in the very north made food scarce so the focus was more on horse breeding than agriculture.


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