Medieval Age

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Middle Ages, the period in European history from the collapse of Roman civilization in the 5th century ce to the period of the Renaissance (variously interpreted as beginning in the 13th, 14th, or 15th century, depending on the region of Europe and on other factors). The term and its conventional meaning were introduced by Italian humanists with invidious intent; the humanists were engaged in a revival of Classical learning and culture, and the notion of a thousand-year period of darkness and ignorance separating them from the ancient Greek and Roman world served to highlight the humanists’ own work and ideals. In a sense, the humanists invented the Middle Ages in order to distinguish themselves from it. The Middle Ages nonetheless provided the foundation for the transformations of the humanists’ own Renaissance. The sack of Rome by Alaric the Visigoth in 410 ce had enormous impact on the political structure and social climate of the Western world, for the Roman Empire had provided the basis of social cohesion for most of Europe. Although the Germanic tribes that forcibly migrated into southern and western Europe in the 5th century were ultimately converted to Christianity, they retained many of their customs and ways of life; the changes in forms of social organization they introduced rendered centralized government and cultural unity impossible. Many of the improvements in the quality of life introduced during the Roman Empire, such as a relatively efficient agriculture, extensive road networks, water-supply systems, and shipping routes, decayed substantially, as did artistic and scholarly endeavours. This decline persisted throughout the period of time sometimes called the Dark Ages (also called Late Antiquity or the Early Middle Ages), from the fall of Rome to about the year 1000, with a brief hiatus during the flowering of the Carolingian court established by Charlemagne. Apart from that interlude, no large kingdom or other political structure arose in...
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