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The Middle Ages

The Middle Ages

Johannes Fried
Translated by Peter Lewis
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Harvard University Press,
Pages: 590
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  • Book Info
    The Middle Ages
    Book Description:

    Johannes Fried gives us a Middle Ages full of people encountering the unfamiliar, grappling with new ideas, redefining power, and interacting with different societies—an era characterized by continuities and discontinuities, the vibrant expansion of knowledge, and an understanding of the growing complexity of the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-73568-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1 Boethius and the Rise of Europe
    (pp. 1-22)

    Boethius, the most learned man of his time, met his death in the hangman’s noose. He came from one of the most noble senatorial families of Rome and was a patrician, a consul, and a minister at the court of the Ostrogoth King Theodoric in Ravenna. Nevertheless, he fell victim to this same barbarian ruler; neither Theodoric himself nor his realm was to survive for long following the demise of his minister. Contemporary commentators believed that this tyrant had descended to the bowels of Mount Etna, into Hell itself, whence he would occasionally return as a wild horseman and a...

  5. 2 Gregory the Great and the New Power of the Franks
    (pp. 23-43)

    Pope gregory the Great (r. 590–604) must be counted among the most outstanding successors of Saint Peter. As a former Roman prefect and hence the city’s highest-ranking civilian official, and subsequently permanent papal nuncio to the Byzantine court in Constantinople, Gregory, who came from the most distinguished Roman aristocratic family of the period, was the last pontiff to display the full panoply of ancient learning. After him, vulgarization and barbarity were the order of the day—comparable intellectual heights were only attained again several centuries later, without the immediate help of Antiquity. Repeatedly, Gregory’s extensive theological works, comprising biblical...

  6. 3 Charlemagne and the First Renewal of the Roman Empire
    (pp. 44-81)

    The first years of Charlemagne’s reign were overshadowed by conflicts with his brother, which were only prevented from culminating in all-out war by the untimely death of Carloman. And yet the surviving brother then proceeded to play the familiar, deadly power game that Charlemagne’s predecessors had played so skillfully in similar circumstances. Filled with dark forebodings as to what would happen to her and her sons, Carloman’s widow fled to the court of the Lombard king Desiderius at Pavia—all in vain, as it turned out, since she and her sons, Charlemagne’s nephews, disappeared without trace from history when the...

  7. 4 Consolidation of the Kingdoms
    (pp. 82-117)

    School and its curriculum, which took the same form in all the educational landscapes that were shaped by the Latin language, laid the foundations for the intellectual unification of Europe. Everywhere one went, be it among the Anglo-Saxons or in France, and including Catalonia, Italy, or even at the seat of the papacy in Rome, schools always followed the same basic pattern. The only places where special forms of education arose were Spain and Ireland, as a result of their particular historical trajectory—in the former case, the conquest ofAl-Andalusby the Arabs in the early eighth century, and...

  8. 5 The End of Days Draws Menacingly Close
    (pp. 118-143)

    The world was superannuated, well over 5,000 years old; it was rushing toward its demise, an event that many people thought would occur exactly 6,000 years after its creation. This deadline had been conveyed to Jews and Christians alike by Talmudic scholars. Admittedly, it was seen as presumptuous to calculate the precise time when the world would end; knowledge of when this would take place was the preserve of the Lord, and not even the angels were party to the secret. Even so, some scholars were unable to contain their curiosity and continually tried to start their calculations afresh on...

  9. 6 “The True Emperor Is the Pope”
    (pp. 144-166)

    Christ was the body and the pope the head of the universal church. Mysticism was made real, with all that that implied; it was as old as the church and yet still managed to appear revolutionary each time it was realized afresh. Now, in the late eleventh century, thanks to Gregory VII’s efforts, the universal church assumed the form that it would basically retain for the whole of the ensuing millennium. The church’s agenda emerges clearly from the twenty-seven guiding principles enunciated in Gregory VII’sDictatus Papaeof 1075—a mysterious document, since it was addressed to no one yet...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. 7 The Long Century of Papal Schisms
    (pp. 167-237)

    The effect of the papal schisms, which from 1061 onward continued to rock the church for a whole century and more, until 1177–1180, extended much farther than merely reorganizing the college of cardinals or the influence it exerted on the politics of the Roman curia. This century witnessed not only the rebirth of the church; the whole of society also entered a state of flux, as Europe quite literally went out into the streets, not just to become itinerant preachers, on pilgrimage or on Crusade, but also as a result of people fleeing their native countries, clearing land for...

  12. 8 The Vicar of God
    (pp. 238-269)

    Just as the founder of the universe established two great lights in the firmament of heaven, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night, so too He set two great dignities in the firmament of the universal church . . . , the greater one to rule the day, that is, souls, and the lesser to rule the night, that is, bodies. These dignities are the papal authority and the royal power. Now just as the moon derives its light from the sun and is indeed lesser than it in quantity and quality,...

  13. 9 The Triumph of Jurisprudence
    (pp. 270-327)

    The ringing of alarm bells ushered in the new century. Religious movements registered it like a seismograph. Kingdoms and cities throughout the length and breadth of Europe were seized by unrest and upheaval. Dispute over the succession was raging in Germany; the Angevin Empire was disintegrating; and crusading had deviated from its original purpose, with its fury directed against Byzantium rather than the enemies of the Faith—Constantinople was conquered by the Latins and the Byzantine Empire collapsed. It was never to recover from this blow. Furthermore, never again was a king or prince to rule in isolation from others:...

  14. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  15. 10 The Light of Reason
    (pp. 328-373)

    Can we speak of reason in the Middle Ages? Or even Enlightenment? Who would have thought such a thing at all credible following the banning of the early obsessive adherents of rationalism? And yet there is no gainsaying the fact! The era of Charlemagne heralded the dawning of a new age of reason; indeed, the king and emperor himself advocated it. Numeracy was also at a premium at this time, as an essential skill for creating the calendar. Hardly any other period was as steeped in reason as the Middle Ages, especially its supposedly “enlightened” tenth century. Young people flocked...

  16. 11 The Monarchy
    (pp. 374-448)

    In summarizing subsequent intellectual developments and illustrating the trend followed by wider European history, the preceding chapter jumped far ahead in time. We should now return to the point where we left our general historical account, namely the thirteenth century. At that time, the decline of the Hohenstaufen dynasty and the ensuing “interregnum” in the empire that governed Central Europe left a power vacuum in whose wake the political balance of power shifted completely. It became the norm in the Holy Roman Empire for several kings to wear the crown simultaneously, some of whom had never even set foot in...

  17. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  18. 12 Waiting for Judgment Day and the Renaissance
    (pp. 449-504)

    Up on high, enthroned in the firmament and seated upon a rainbow spanning Heaven and Earth, sits the Lord, who has come to judge the world at the End of Days. His fellow judges are the saints, while at his side Mary the Mother of God kneels in intercession; above them angels hover, some displaying the instruments of Christ’s Passion while others blow the trumpets of Judgment Day. Down on Earth, mighty and all powerful, stands the Angel Saint Michael, the weigher of souls. Clad in shining gold armor, he performs his duty, separating those who are blessed from those...

  19. EPILOGUE: The Dark Middle Ages?
    (pp. 505-526)

    The view that the Middle Ages was an era hopelessly ensnared in a kind of self-inflicted intellectual immaturity seems very wide of the mark. The “Soldier King” Frederick William I of Prussia, the father of Frederick the Great, demanded that his son be given a thorough historical education, but strictly forbade him to study either the ancient world or the Middle Ages.¹ On reflection, Frederick William concluded that antiquity might just about be acceptable, but this staunchly Protestant monarch regarded the Middle Ages as spent, effete, and simply too Catholic. Others, like Immanuel Kant, the great thinker and author of...

  20. Abbreviations
    (pp. 529-529)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 530-557)
  22. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 558-568)
  23. Index
    (pp. 569-580)