Humanism: Bridging the Gap Between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance

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Humanism: Bridging the Gap between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance

Nicholas DiOrio

History 101B
TA: Abby Cliff
November 16, 2012
It is commonly known in the world of history that the Middle Ages were a time of very slow, almost nonexistent growth, while the Renaissance is known for its divinity and rapid spread of the arts, literatures, and culture, as well as many other aspects of life during this time period. Voltaire even believed the Renaissance to be one of the four golden ages of European culture. The Renaissance did not simply emerge sporadically out of the Middle Ages, but rather, took its roots from a new way of thinking called humanism. Humanism has affected the emergence and growth of the Renaissance in many areas. In this paper you will read about some very influential figures if humanism an their beliefs, as well as how, amongst others, limitations on women, education, and politics all have effected and helped humanism bridge the gap between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance.

The Middle Ages is a time period that is commonly referred to as the “Dark Ages.” There was relatively little growth in many aspects of life. It was in a stagnant state where intellectuals seemed to be few and far apart. The term “Dark Ages” was actually coined by Francesco Petrarch, a man that is considered to be the father of humanism. When he first used the term the Dark Ages, he was referring to a period of time between the early Renaissance and the Ancient Roman world. Petrarch stated that, “once the darkness has been broken, our descendants will perhaps be able to return to the pure, pristine radiance.” The descendants are referring to the Ancient Romans and the darkness is the equivalent of the Dark Ages. This statement shows the early beginnings of humanistic thoughts and the belief that society will once again strive and grow if it reverted back to the way of life portrayed in Ancient Rome.

The humanistic era is hard to put a date on. No one is positively sure of when humanistic ideas began to emerge, but it occurred sometime before the Renaissance and bridged the gap from the Dark Ages. Italy became the birthplace of humanism and eventually the Renaissance for a multiple of different reasons. For one, it was much more urban than the rest of Europe and considerably more secular and worldly. Member of the church did not possess the power to control, amongst other thing, the government, hospitals, and education systems. Even boards were set up in order to control keep control over the churches of Italy. Lewis W. Spitz states that, “it was as though centuries of compressed action had been released in a few decades. “ Spitz is saying that for centuries during the Dark Ages, there was not much advancement in culture, but when the idea of humanism emerged, the rate at which culture and society as a whole grew was extraordinary. The term “humanism” was first used in 1808 by a German philosopher by the name of F.I. Niethammer. He used it to describe a philosophy of education that favored classical studies. Although the term humanism was not coined for hundreds of years after its time period, the definition that Niethammer gives is fairly accurate. During the humanistic era, people were in search of rebirthing the culture of Ancient Rome. Among the most important of people that have this belief is Francesco Petrarch.

Francesco Petrarch, the father of humanism, lived from 1304-1274. His main concern in life was to reconstruct the republic government of Rome. He believed that this would be the only way for society to advance and move on, away from the Dark Ages. Petrarch states in a letter, “O inglorious age! Hat scorns antiquity, its mother, to whom it owes every noble art—that dares to declare itself bot only equal but superior to the glorious past.” Petrarch is talking about the Dark Ages and how it gives the world of the ancients a bad name yet that era still tries to rival that of Ancient Rome, an idea that Petrarch...
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