Essay on Dark Ages
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History of the Dark Ages Essay
There are so many books, written about this epoch, so many scientists, who still argue about different events, individuals and just simple facts, whether they took place then or not. This age in the history is called Medieval, Middle, but the best description is Dark, because sometimes it seems that this part of our civilization’s development is the one people are not very proud of. But it doesn’t concern industry or technology.
This age was also chivalric, knightly, and just different. It was the time of great poets and writers like Giovanni Boccaccio, Geoffrey Chaucer and John Lydgate, philosophers like Roger Bacon, theologians like Thomas Aquinas, scientists like Nicolaus Copernicus, and other researchers who made a foundation for the breakthroughs in different fields of science later.
According to Flavio Biondo, the Italian Renaissance humanist historian, the whole European history can be divided into three “ages”: the Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the modern period.
It seems that time did not run then as fast as now, but the history chain is like a spiral. Everything repeats but not exactly the same way, it’s like a circle but some changes make it a spiral. That is why a close attention should be paid not only to events but also the circumstances, under which they happened. Also we should hold focus on cultural, intellectual and religious aspects. Moreover, the social and political influences are to be taken into account that makes many shady parts of the Middle Ages clear.
We all got used to a thought that Medieval Ages was the time of faith, which was spread by the Western Church. Sometimes, the faith became fanatic and blind, which caused many deaths of simple people, who only tried to live according to the rules of the society. Now we will try to understand what caused what and what the outcome and consequences were.
So, the Dark Ages. It is hard to believe that the Medieval Ages lasted for around a millennium. That is pretty impressive and shocking for the modern fast moving world. The scientists still argue about the exact dates but commonly the approximate time frame is from the Roman Empire, greatest empire of the ancient times, collapse to the rise of humanism in the Italian Renaissance.
The historians divided the Middle Ages into three intervals. Among them is an early period, which is sometimes called the Dark Ages. The point of such name is that everything was underdeveloped then. After it goes middle period, which gave to the world vassals and castles, warfare and economics’ resurrection. The last one is Late Middle Ages. It is known for different breakthroughs in science and also Black Death. It was a bubonic plague, which killed the third part of then Europe. It kicked off the population for a century. The disease spread fast in large cities, as people lived close together and sanitary was an unknown notion for the doctors. Epidemics taught people a lot. It is well-known saying that disasters and mischief give a very important lesson to learn, so the next time many things would be possible to avoid.
The English language actually takes its beginning in the Middle Ages but that English differed dramatically from the one we know and speak now. If there was no William the Conqueror, words, like skirt, flouder, or rig would not be borrowed from Scandinavian languages. He was the one who won the Battle of Hastings.
Also The Middle Ages gave the world feudal system. It was also introduced by William the Conqueror. If we imagine that time, it was one of the best ways to keep everybody in the country obeying the king. William divided the land between the noblemen who bravely fought for him in the battles. It was the way to ease tax collecting and gathering the army, when such necessity appeared.
If we talk about architecture, we cannot but mention gothic style, which sometimes horrifies and impresses to the depth of our hearts by the looks of the castles or churches. The tower of London in England, Notre Dame de Paris in France, Salisbury Cathedral, Chartres Cathedral, Palais des Papes. All of them strike us with mighty and greatness of those times.
We can try to imagine what was happening in times of the Middle Ages. Europe is not as populated as it is today. People do not have electricity, television, or cars. They do not travel a lot, actually they do not travel at all, but only if they are the merchants or some kind of that time ambassadors. The church rules the nations and the governments. The Pope becomes a holy cow of the entire western world. Everybody blindly obeys him. All the kings thoroughly follow any command from Rome because nobody wants to be a castaway or left without support in the world, where the destiny of the country is decided not by economic rates or the governments’ social policies but by the outcome of war with the neighbors or other invaders.
There was one king, Henry VIII, who disobeyed the Pope. We know the consequence of his act against the Catholic Church. It was the beginning of the end, called Reformation. He simply divorced Catherine of Aragon, who was a protégé of Roman Catholic Church in England, without permission of Rome. It meant that England was left alone but at the same time income from the contributions remained in the country. The budget grew and the King was the head of the new Anglican Church.
It is sad to admit that any sharp change in the Medieval Ages was aspersed by the blood of innocent. Thousands of peasants just died because of the authority change, persecutions, and groundless accusations. Inquisition was one of the worst displays. It included witch hunting that, unfortunately, gave a term, which was later used to describe persecutions of different kinds in many countries of the world. It is one more confirmation of the name Dark Ages.
Everybody at school heard about crusades, but at early age nobody accepts it seriously. Definitely, there were people who were fighting Muslims for a very long period of time. And again we come back to the Church. Everything was inspired, allowed or forbidden by the Church during the Middle Ages. The crusades took place in history because the western people, it would be more accurate to say the western Church, did not want to see a single Muslim in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was and remains today to be a historical place, which is situated on a “crossroad” of the trade ways between East and West. Also then it was a very strategic city. The claimed and official reason for the crusades was that the Muslims stayed in a holy land, which was unacceptable for the Christians. There were a dozen of crusades, which followed one another up until the seventeenth century.
Education meant a lot in the medieval society. But it was an advantage of the rich. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, there were very few people, who were educated and those were mostly the clergymen. It is very interesting that Latin then was like English now. All the merchants, who were trading on the international level, knew the language. Many English people, who did not the language of their partners, could speak Latin. And vice versa. Latin then was more than alive, if we say that it is dead now.
If we talk about labor of children, there were no rules, which would restrict working hours. The children from the poor families had to start working, when they turned five or six years old and continued working until the pass away time. There was no chance to change their social status.
Was there any connection between children and the crusades? There was a strong one. There two know crusades, where overall quantity of the children was twenty thousands. The kinds were taken from Western Europe to the Middle East. The result of such act was zero. Most part of the children died on their way there: some because of diseases, some of the hunger. The rest just settled in the passed countries or were sold into slavery.
Before crusades, all Europe used Roman numbers. There was nothing that could mark zero, and it made simple mathematic actions more difficult. But during the crusades, the soldiers saw how Arabs easily used the numbers. That is how it happened that the Arabic system was introduced in Europe. Also such things as rice, coffee, sherbet, dates, apricots, lemons, mirrors, carpets, cotton cloth for clothing and sugar were introduced.
Simple people were under complete influence of the Church. If they agreed to participate in a crusade, they were given an indulgence, which was sin forgiveness. Unfortunately, the clergymen abused their power, making people be scared all the time to lose forgiveness.
Sometimes it seems that the human life was of no value in the Medieval times. The target, incentive, aim or goal was everything. A saying “the end justifies the means” could become a motto of the Dark Ages.
The Middle Ages are also known for some attempts to establish the relationship based on the agreement signing. One of the brightest examples was Magna Carta. It was a breakthrough for the thirteen century. The point of such a document was to establish the regulated relationships between the feudals and the King of England. John I was not a successful warrior, as he was defeated in many war craft campaigns. At the same time he demanded tax increasing, which could not be accepted by the nation of England.
As we know from history, any tax increase was accompanied by disagreement or even rebels. Moreover, John I angered Roman Catholic Church. As a response, they told him that England could be separated from the Church, which could become a strong punch in the King’s face. It would be even worse than anything, which the nobles could make up for the peasants. The fear to lose salvation was the strongest fear of the simple people. The barons gradually made John I sign Magna Carta.
Except the facts, there were and remain to exist many myths about the Middle Ages. One of them says that the Medieval people believed that the Earth was flat. This idea was spread in the nineteenth century and has been “bothering” people’s mind since then. One of the scientists is writing that there was hardly a single scientist in the Medieval times, who did not know that the Earth was spherical.
There are also many legends about the Church and Christianity. One of them is about the autopsy and dissention forbidding. Actually, the doctors trained on the executed criminals. Medical experiments of that time were held on those, who were sentenced to death. Another myth claims that the Middle Ages destroyed ancient development. The saddest part in all these is that the people still believe that.
We cannot omit great discoveries of the Middle Ages. Among them is the discovering the sea way to India by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who brought silk, gold and different spices to Europe. But one of the best discoveries of the Middle Ages was a Christopher Columbus voyage to India, which appeared to be a voyage to America.
We cannot deny the fact that the Middle Ages were filled useful inventions like gunpowder, which were invented by Chinese for fireworks, or printing press.
It was just a great epoch in the world history that brought us to the point, where we are now. It is something we should all know and take a lesson from.