Middle Ages

Terminology and periodisation
– The Middle Ages is one of the three major periods in European history: Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Modern Period.
– The term ‘medieval’ derives from the Latin term ‘medium aevum’ meaning ‘middle age.’
– Historian Leonardo Bruni first used tripartite periodisation in his ‘History of the Florentine People’ in 1442.
– Medieval writers divided history into periods such as the Six Ages or the Four Empires.
– Petrarch stated that the age of darkness began when emperors of non-Italian origin assumed power in the Roman Empire.

Later Roman Empire
– The Roman Empire experienced a slow decline in its control over outlying territories during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.
– The Crisis of the Third Century was characterized by runaway inflation, external pressure on the frontiers, and outbreaks of plague.
– Military expenses increased, leading to a larger army and the replacement of legions with smaller units.
– The need for revenue resulted in increased taxes and a decline in the landowning class.
– Emperor Diocletian split the empire into eastern and western halves and implemented governmental reforms, but the problems persisted.

Fall of the Western Roman Empire
– The Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD.
– The fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD marked the end of the Middle Ages.
– The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: antiquity, medieval, and modern.
– The medieval period is subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.
– The accuracy of the term ‘Dark Ages’ to describe the medieval period has been challenged.

Societal Changes in the Middle Ages
– The Early Middle Ages saw population decline, counterurbanisation, and the collapse of centralized authority.
– The Migration Period led to the rise of new kingdoms in Western Europe.
– The Arab conquests brought caliphal rule to the Middle East and North Africa.
– Christianity expanded across Europe, and Roman institutions influenced most kingdoms in the West.
– The Carolingian Empire emerged in the 8th and 9th centuries but faced invasions from the Vikings, Magyars, and Muslims.

High Middle Ages
– The High Middle Ages saw a significant increase in Europe’s population due to technological and agricultural innovations.
– Manorialism and feudalism organized society during this period.
– The Catholic and Orthodox churches formally divided in the East-West Schism of 1054.
– The Crusades aimed to regain control of the Holy Land and expanded Latin Christendom.
– Intellectual life was marked by scholasticism, the founding of universities, and significant cultural achievements.

Roman Society in the 4th Century
– Widening gulf between rich and poor
– Decline in vitality of smaller towns
– Christianization of the empire
– Conversion of Constantine the Great
– Christianity emerges as dominant religion

Debates about Christian Theology
– Intensification of debates about Christian theology
– Persecution of those with condemned views
– Survival of heretic views through proselytizing campaigns and local support
– Judaism remains a tolerated religion with limited rights
– Early Christians adopt visual arts and develop their own symbolism

Changes in Christian Worship
– Basilicas adapted for Christian worship under Constantine the Great
– Illuminated manuscripts and spread of silent reading in the 5th century
– Civil war and invasions disrupt the empire
– Goths settle in Roman territory and later raid and plunder
– Visigoths, Alans, Vandals, and Suevi invade Western Roman Empire

Hunnic Invasions and Tribal Movements
– Attila the Hun leads invasions into the Balkans, Gaul, and Italy
– Eastern Roman elites combine armed forces with gifts and grants to tribal leaders
– Western aristocrats fail to support the army and refuse to pay tribute
– Invasions lead to the division of the western section of the empire
– Emperors of the 5th century controlled by military strongmen

Fall of the Western Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire
– Deposition of the last emperor of the west in 476 marks the end of the Western Roman Empire
– Eastern Roman Empire, known as the Byzantine Empire, maintains claim over lost western territories
– Fusion of Roman culture with customs of invading tribes in post-Roman kingdoms
– Similarities in material artifacts left by Romans and invaders
– New political entities rely less on taxes and more on granting land or rents

Byzantine survival
– Eastern Roman Empire remained intact during this period
– Experienced an economic revival until the early 7th century
– Closer relations between the political state and Christian Church
– Codification of Roman law, including the Codex Theodosianus and Corpus Juris Civilis
– Emperor Justinian faced the Nika riots, conquered North Africa, and seized parts of Spain

Western society
– Roman elite families died out or became more involved with the Church
– Latin scholarship and education declined, with music and art becoming important for religious instruction
– Aristocratic culture focused on feasts and family ties, leading to the prevalence of feuds
– Women’s roles mainly as wives and mothers, with some influence as queen mothers or abbesses
– Women’s influence on politics was fragile, and they usually died at a younger age than men

Landholding and peasant life
– Landholding patterns varied, with fragmented holdings or large contiguous blocks of land
– Peasant societies had different levels of autonomy or were dominated by aristocratic landholders
– Settlements ranged from large groups to small families or isolated farms
– Distinction between free and unfree peasants, but social mobility was possible through military service
– Demand for slaves was met through warring and raids, targeting prisoners of war and captivesSources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_Ages