Since the beginning of time, human beings have come across lightning, floods and the inevitable, death. Ancient humans, being as primitive as they were, could not come with rational explanations for these events. They created religion to explain the unexplainable. It started out with gods for lighting, then transitioned to more moral gods, like Zeus and Hera, then almost lastly, but not completely, transitioned to monotheism, the belief in one god. This monotheistic approach to religion became very popular amongst people, yet there always those who oppose. This quickly created turmoil in Early Western/Eastern Europe and parts of the Middle East, like Israel and Palestine and created political, military consequences amongst neighboring kingdoms and tribes
During the Middle Ages, there was a lot of political tension between Europeans and those who live in now present-day Middle East. All throughout history, people have fought one another for many reason, most of which are based on religion, political view, and cultural views as well. But it all comes down to two most important thing during this time period; power and wealth. Many kingdoms would disagree with each other on a political level, riot and revolts would erupt, yet depending on said ruler, they would insist if the people were insulting and revolting against him, that they would as be revolting against their god.
During the Islamic Renaissance, the Abassid’s were not doing well politically, but were doing great culturally. They did adopt a Persian style of ruling, State over Church, this only lasted until the end of the Abassid Caliphate. In the Byzantine Empire, the people there were far more advanced than that of Latin West. The Byzantines had a huge impact on world history; they prevented they Muslim Arabs from advancing farther into Eastern Europe, another achievement of theirs was the codification of the laws of ancient Rome, thus becoming the Corpus Juris Civilis, which preserved Roman law’s principles of reason and justice, and they also preserved the philosophy, science, mathematics, and literature of ancient Greece.
In the Early Middle Ages, feudalism developed creating a very obvious social class system. At the top were Kings, Popes, Lords, and clergy members, in the middle were merchants, knights, and artisans, and at the bottom were serfs and peasants. This created political and economic problems, but by having this class system, it shows how one could not be where they are without the other. “Neither the lords who warred nor the clergy who prayed performed economically productive work. Their ways of life were made possible by the toil of serfs.” (Perry, 140) With the Lords supplying knights, this mean that the Church had an army and could use it at its disposal, for political and economical reasons they would attack others, but like I had said earlier the main reason was for power and wealth, by them attacking others their Kingdom this would increase their political power, by giving the land they’ve conquered to other kings, yet by this time the Church was mostly in control and the Kingdom would expand politically, but it was more of a spiritual power than a political power. This led to many different wars and revolts all throughout Europe and even in Middle East.
Religion has been around since the first humans, it was created to explain the unexplainable, but it’s not like our ancestors knew that what they had just created would cause an almost everlasting, tremendous amount of suffering, turmoil, and war for everyone to come. Christianity had something to offer that no other religion could compete with, an intensely personal relationship with God, an intimate connection with a higher world and membership in a community of the faithful who cared for one another. Christianity became a prominent and popular religion towards the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century. Kings and Popes started using religion as a way to easily manipulate the common folk. They made people pay taxes to church and the state, they told people that if they didn’t do penance that they wouldn’t be allowed into the Kingdom of God. The Peace of God was enacted between 990-1050, prohibiting violence, yet the Church couldn’t stop it, so the Truce of God was created and didn’t allow violence of any kind to happen between Thursday to Sunday.
During the Middle Ages, the Church became so powerful that many people were at the mercy of the church. They were capable of manipulating people into doing anything for the church and into giving all their money to the church. By doing this, the church became so powerful, that at one time it was more powerful than the Kings. Gregory VII who reigned from 1073-1085, installed the ideal of papal supremacy, which in simpler terms meant that everyone else was his “subjects” The Church could interfere with the State, but the State could not interfere with the Church. Gregory was known to excommunicate and dispose of Kings as he did with Henry IV. In the Early and High Middle Ages, feudalism developed and this created a very more present social order, the Kings and clergy were on top, knights, merchants and artisans were in the middle and peasants were at the bottom. The Lords would have property that they would give the kinghts in return for their loyalty and for them to basically fighter their country. This help create an “army” for the Church, when they were being attacked the knights would go off and fight. This eventually led the Church to believe in, just war.
Which meant that as along as they were attacked first, a defensive war and if God directed to go to war, which was easily distorted. The Church also advertised that taking a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Jerusalem would save from their sins, Penitential War pilgrimages. They believed that doing penance, making the pilgrimage to the Holy Land and just war was the way into Heaven. In Islamic society, a jihad is a holy war, which they have declared on Christians and vice versa. Constant warfare reeked Europe and the Middle East because of religious reasons, and as it goes to show, still happen to this date. Religious and political views will be the main reason as to why people will go to war.
During the Middle Ages, the military that different Kingdoms had were either weak or they were strong, there wasn’t too much in-between. Right before the Middle Ages, an emperor by the name of Charlemagne had an impressive army of 8000 men. In total his army fought 54 times and on occasion on multiple different fronts. The Viking Invasions of the 9th Century were brutal and bloody, they usually targeted weak and divided kingdoms, and monasteries.
As mentioned earlier, feudalism was an indicatory was for the Church to begin assembling an “army.” Feudal lords only thought that one thing gave meaning to their life; being a warrior. Warfare gave meaning to his life. In the eyes of the Church, the knights could be used as assistants to the clergy enforcing God’s will, a knight was expected to honor the laws of the church and to wield his sword in the service of God. Other Kingdoms, also had a similar dynamic with the militia fighting for they Kingdom and for they god or gods. Religion has an interesting way of twisting and manipulating people into doing what certain higher-status individuals say that they need to do for the Kingdom and what they should do in order to get into Heaven or where their “paradise” may be, like for one is willing to die for your King/Emperor and your religion, but to people it was so much more than that, it was all they knew and all that they held dear.
During the Middle Ages, it was easy to manipulate someone into doing something you wanted to them to, all you had to do was use the excuse, religion, and people would do it. This made it easy for Kings and Emperors to exercise their power and their wealth and for them to attempt to conquer a new land and spread their political, religious, cultural and militia ideals, each King and Emperor wanted their culture and ideas to spread and go farther than next, but it seems a huge chunk of the population in Europe chose to follow Christianity and other in the Middle East chose to follow their traditional Jewish or Muslim ways.
- Perry, Marvin. Western Civilization: A Brief History, Vol I. Boston: Cengage, 2015.
- Dragoni, Mark. Lecture, 10/31/2018.
- Dragoni, Mark. Lecture, 11/14/2018.
- Dragoni, Mark, The Crusades, 11/19/2018.
- Dragoni, Mark, Charlemagne and The Franks, 11/5/2018.