AN03d_European Middle Ages: The Medieval Period- An Overview of The Early Middle Ages (Ch.13)
Timeline: 5th – 8th C
FQ: In what ways was the European Dark Age truly ‘Dark’?
The Early Middle Ages marks a period of time immediately following the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West. The absence of a central authority and all the societal structure it provided plunges Europe into a tumultuous period.
I. The Medieval Period
Europe’s medieval period can be divided into three smaller periods. Each period or “phase” had its own distinct characteristics that differentiated it from the others. One common characteristic that linked all the phases were unsettling events causing turmoil and then the subsequent quest for stability.
II. ‘The Dark Ages’ (Early Middle Ages/ Early Medieval Period, ~5th – 9th C.)
The absence of a central authority changes urban lifestyle.
A. City/ Town Infrastructure Collapse
1. Roads & aqueducts in disrepair
2. Sanitation suffers
3. Economic Activity Collapses
a. Lack of Security (ex. law enforcement & fire)
b. Unenforced Standards
B. Population Plummets
1. 2nd Century Rome => ~1,000,000 inhabitants
2. 6th C. Rome => ~30,000 inhabitants.
The countryside becomes the destination of many seeking sustenance and security.
C. Institutions Weakened or Disappear (Judicial, Religious, Education)
1. Local loyalties based on kinship replaces loyalty to a central authority.
2. Laws are not codified, but influenced greatly by custom & tradition.
3. Houses of worship experience shrinking congregations. Negative impact on ability to offer services and maintain the facility.
4. Learning becomes decentralized and provincial (based on local history & customs)
D. Christianity flourishes as it spreads among the Germanic tribes
1. Clovis, the Frank, converts to Christianity.
2. Spread of Monasteries and increase in the popularity of Monastic life. St. Benedict and the Benedictine Rules
3. Increasing secular power of the Church Gregory I and the concept of ‘Christendom’ ()
E. The Rise of the Franks
1. The Franks unite many of the Germanic Tribes. When Clovis converts he also “encourages” the Franks to do so.
2. The Franks and Papacy join in an alliance. Pepin the Short is anointed
King by the Pope. The Franks vow to subdue non-Christian tribes (eg. Lombards).
3. Charlemagne continues unifying leadership of his father (Pepin the Short). Despite his illiteracy, he paves the way for a rebirth in learning.
F. Collapse Of The Frankish Kingdom
1. Rivalry among the sons and grandchildren of Charlemagne fractures the kingdom.
2. Treaty of Verdun ends the warfare; the kingdom is permanently divided.
3. Viking Invasions. “Save us, Oh God, from the fury of the Northmen”
4. Creation of Viking Kingdoms (eg. Normandy).