Share
Explore BrainMass

Early middle ages

Provide a brief summary of the important developments in the humanities that characterized the early middle ages. Select specific works to illustrate your view of the changes that have occurred, and present an explanation of how and why the concepts evolved in the way they did.
There is no word count.

Solution Preview

Remember - we here at Brain Mass cannot write the paper for you.
We can, however, give you lots of ideas and sources to get you going.
This is one of my areas of expertise, so I can guide you though this very complex and misunderstood time.

What we're talking about in the Early Middle Ages (c. 400-1150) are these very general developments:

1. The fall of the Roman empire in the West
2. The development of the Roman empire in the East (Byzantium)
3. The continued invasions and migrations of the Germanic tribes from the North
4. The development of Christianity (both eastern and western) as both a doctrinal and monastic system.
5. The development of the local (rather than regional) economy based on subsistence.
6. The development of a new Germano-Roman identity throughout the west.
7. The rise of the papacy as a political power.
8. The reworking of older Roman models in politics, history and literature.
9. A contraction in economic life (e.g. the lack of available money. Most trade was in kind.)
10. The attempt to "reconstitute" Rome, first in Francia under Charlemagne, and second, in Germany, under Otto I, II and III. These did not last.
11. The development of a highly stratified class system based on the retainers to the monarch, who, in return for service, was given land worked by serfs.
12. The slow decay of literacy in the west (except in Ireland and Byzantium)

What does any of this have to do with the humanities?
Here are a few ideas:

1. Patristics. This means the writings of the church fathers of both east and west. We include here people like St. Basil, Origen, St. Augustine and St. Gregory of Nyssa. What they did was attempt to systematize Catholic doctrine within a Greek, philosophical context. This is huge - probably the single most important development in the humanities in this era.

2. Plato and neo-Platonism. This was the dominant philosophical approach in this era. Nearly all church fathers used some variant of Platonism in understanding creation, grace and the activity of God on earth. St. Dionysus the Aeropagite "On the Divine Names" and "Celestial Hierarchies" are very important here. This became the 'official' philosophy of both east and west in this period, and dictated how people saw the world, the church, and its relationship to both God and people. During times of strife, it stressed unity and hierarchy over freedom.

3. Monasticism. This might be called 'applied Christianity'. In both the east and the west, monasteries were the sole source of education and the Greco-Roman classics. They developed the long abandoned parts of Europe and ...

$2.19