The name King Arthur appears throughout a countless amount of literature, stories, cinema, and legend. King Arthur has always been a long-standing icon of heroism, and heroism is a theme mankind takes pleasure in romanticizing. Arthurian Romance is the classic example of good versus evil, knights in shining armor, forbidden love, and sorcery; the basic elements of a romanticized tale. And in a dark time where religion clashed, empires fought in epic battles, and the people of Britain suffered from poverty and disease, Arthurian legend was needed to lift the spirits of the hopeless. Arthurian Romance is an accurate portrayal of the time period better known as the Medieval Ages because it takes the woes and misfortunate events of that time and twists them into a heroic soap opera full of love, tragedy, and triumph. The Medieval Ages began around 476 AD, when the Roman emperor of the West abdicated. The period ends in the late fifteenth century with the discovery of the New World. During this period, different nations conquered and collapsed, society changed, and religion was further divided. During the Middle Ages, the Holy Roman Empire had begun an effort to occupy Britain. They wanted to drive out the Anglo-Saxons and convert the Pagans to Catholicism. A long lasting relic of Roman involvement in Britain is Hadrian’s Wall, which was a heavily fortified wall running west to east and was probably used to keep barbarian tribes out and regulate trade and passage into Romano-Britain territory. Along with military involvement, Rome also spread Catholicism to a Pagan Britain. Catholicism involves a hierarchy of religious leaders, with the Pope at the top. There are also bishops, priests, monks, and nuns who are apart of the clergy. Other than the clergy, Medieval society was composed of nobles, knights and serfs. Nobles commonly owned fiefs, an estate of land, and the serfs who worked there. Knights were employed to guard the fief and fight wars with other nobles. This was called Feudalism. When nobles declared a war on each other, many different warfare tactics were used to take down castles. Siege warfare was common, in which scaling ladders, battering rams, siege towers and catapults were utilized in order to enter a fortress. Infantry included archers and cavalry, and there was a broad assortment of weapons used; daggers, long swords, crossbows, throwing axes, clubs, maces, halberds, lances, and many more. While knights commonly fought for a noble or king, a group of fearsome knights known as the Templar Knights fought in the crusades for religious conquest. The Templar Knights are associated with King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail, and some of the knights of the round table are portrayed wearing a large red cross on their breastplate (which is the symbol of the Templar Knights). Knights were also involved with jousting. Jousting was a martial game between two knights mounted on horses and using lances. This was often part of a chivalrous tournament or used as a military tactic of heavily armed cavalry. Knights and nobles also were encompassed in courtly love, a conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration. Courtly love often did not take place between a husband and wife. Instead, a man would shower another woman in gifts and symbols of his love to her and they would keep their affair secret. A famous example of courtly love is the affair between Lancelot du Lac and Queen Guinevere.
The Middle Ages had many lows. Many people associate these times with the Black Plague or the Bubonic Plague. When the Mongols from the east attacked Europe, they brought with them a terrible disease that wiped out about 138 million people. Also during the Middle Ages, there was decrease in scholarly thinking and the quality of art. Religion is blamed for stunting the growth of new ideas and inventions. In fact, religion is the overlying cause for many of the events of the Medieval Ages. The greatest dispute over...
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