to the Middle Ages Eras
History is the record
of past events and times. The three general historic
eras include ancient history, the Middle Ages and modern
history. What distinguishes the eras? What are the characteristics
of each? Let’s take a look.
Ancient history is the study of cultural and political
events from the beginning of human history until the
Early Middle Ages. Ancient history begins with the earliest
writings — the Sumerian cuneiforms — from
5,000 to 5,500 years ago.
This, according to historians, is
the beginning of recorded history.
This does not mean that “nothing” happened
prior to 3000 B.C., the era called Pre-History. This
era is written about by anthropologists, who are scientists
who study the origin, behavior and development of humans.
Because there are no written records, they accomplish
their research through the study of bones and artifacts
left by early people.
The ancient period saw the rise of
many civilizations whose influence is still perceptible
today. The beginnings of nations, empires, most religions
practiced today, organized agriculture, trade and organized
warfare are but a few of these influences.
To give you a frame of reference,
here are some events that occurred in the ancient world:
The pyramids were built in Egypt to honor the citizens’
dead pharaohs (leaders).
Jesus Christ was born and the Christian religion
was founded. The books of the Bible were written.
The Tao Te Ching was written in China. It described
the promoted the importance of a “modest,
Socrates and Plato, great Greek philosophers, wrote
about how “all people should be accountable
for their actions.”
Islam became the religion of many. The Arabic word
“Islam” means “submission in peace.”
In practice, it is understood to mean submission
in peace to the will of God Almighty (Allah).
The Roman Empire spread throughout Europe. The
strategy that led to the formation of this empire
was to conquer other lands and create colonies there.
This expansion brought much wealth to the Roman
state and positioned Rome as the “Imperial
City.” Rome became a very cosmopolitan capital
city. High living and wealth measured a person’s
importance and success. The Roman Empire had an
autocratic form of government; in other words, the
emperor had unlimited power.
Although the ending date of ancient
history is largely arbitrary, most Western scholars
use the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 as the traditional
ending. This is when a German named Odoacer removed
the last ruling emperor from Rome. There are many different
theories as to why the Roman Empire collapsed. Declining
morals, public corruption, unemployment, inflation,
urban decay and increased military spending are a few
of the theories cited.
The Middle Ages
— The Medieval Years
The Middle Ages, or medieval time, is generally believed
to have started with the fall of the Roman Empire in
476 and to have lasted about 1,000 years until about
1450. The beginning of the Middle Ages is called the
Dark Ages because the great civilizations of Rome and
Greece had been conquered.
Life was very hard in the Middle Ages.
Very few people could read or write. Their lack of knowledge
often led to superstitious beliefs. The people thought
that fate ruled their existence; therefore, there was
little hope for the improvement of their condition.
During the years of the Roman Empire, the poor people
were protected by the soldiers of the emperor. When
the empire fell, there were no laws to protect them,
so they turned to the lords to keep the peace and to
act on their behalf. This willingness to be ruled by
the lords led to the beginnings of feudalism. Some peasants
were free, but most became serfs to a lord. This meant
they were bound to the lord’s land and paid very
high rent to the lord.
The only hope that most people had
was their belief that the next life in heaven would
be better than life on earth. The Crusades were launched
to bring Jerusalem under Christian control because the
Muslims had denied pilgrims access to the city. The
experiences of the traveling crusaders opened up new
worlds and new ideas to the medieval people.
Prior to the Middle Ages, many groups
of people led invasions in European lands. They included
the Huns from Central Asia, the barbarian tribes from
Scotland and the Germanic tribes, which included the
Vandals, Lombards, Goths and Franks. During the Middle
Ages, there were barbarian invasions, which included
the Viking raids and the raids of the Mongols, who controlled
most of Russia and eastern Europe.
Almost half of the people in western
Europe died from the bubonic plague. This disease, which
killed 35 million Asians, was brought to Europe by ships
coming back from China. Rats traveled on the ships.
Fleas living on the blood of these infected rats transferred
the disease to people. Lymph nodes swelled and burst
and the skin turned a dark gray color. Medicinal care
and cleanliness were lacking. Superstition ruled.
It should be noted that other parts
of the world were thriving in this era. North Africa,
the Middle East, China, India and other parts of the
world were experiencing great changes.
The Renaissance began in about 1450.
Renaissance is a French word that means “rebirth.”
This rebirth began when European scholars became more
aware of and interested in the world around them. The
art became more true to life. People began to learn
about new lands, customs and beliefs.
“About 1450, European scholars became more interested
in studying the world around them. Their art became
more true to life. They began to explore new lands.
The new age in Europe was eventually called “the
Renaissance.” Renaissance is a French word that
means ‘rebirth.’ Historians consider the
Renaissance to be the beginning of modern history.”
So much has happened in the world
since 1450. One example is the invention of the printing
press — a huge step for it provided education
to the masses. We can look at religious reform from
dependence upon Catholicism to the rise of Protestantism
and also religion in the “Age of Reason.”
We can look at politics throughout the world. The American
and French revolutions made drastic changes in the way
the world was viewed. The scientific revolution, the
Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution all changed
the world. The 19th century brought about the concepts
of nationalism, the Civil War in America, the feminism
movement, the growth of socialism and Marxism and the
works of Darwin, Freud and Einstein. Two world wars
occurred, as well as many other conflicts throughout
the world. Today we’re seeing the great impact
How was that? Two paragraphs to summarize
about 550 years of history! The whole story will have
to be told at a different time and in a different place.
In this study, we’re going to spend time learning
about the Middle Ages — what happened and how
people were affected. Enjoy the trip.