carolingian renaissance

There’s no such thing as the Dark Ages, but OK

As a very serious adult, with a respectable career and life, and a healthy ability to let petty shit slide, I spent much too much time last week arguing with strangers on the internet who believe in the myth of the Dark Ages.

The arguments in question focused on a massively inaccurate meme, which some observers of the group pointed out was originally supposed to be about knowledge loss after the burning of the Library of Alexandria, but which some very cool EDGE LORD had changed to be about ‘The Christian Dark Ages’. Please feast your eyes on it in all it’s massive wrongness:

This is, pretty obviously, a bunch of honkey bullshit and also massively incorrect, as many important scholars have noted. As a result, I spent hours of my life – which I will never get back -  pointing out repeatedly that the ‘graph’ in question has nothing to do with reality, and arguing with non-experts about the medieval period.

For the most part – these people were well-meaning. Many pointed out that this was a very Euro-centric world view, and that Asia, Africa, and the Arab world were all making huge advancements in scientific and medical theory at this time. That is absolutely true. White people have never been the entire world. The Chinese had a massively advanced scientific culture by this time, for example, and had been holding it down with hermetically sealed research laboratories since the third century BCE. The Arab world, meanwhile was compiling treatises on eye surgery. Scientific advancement was something that was happening in this period. Europe is not the centre of the world.

Having said that, while it is important to acknowledge that the-rest-of-the-world was making huge strides in scientific advancement during this time, and that Europe and white people are not the entire world, nor responsible for all of human advancement, there was no such thing as the Dark Ages in Europe either.

While everything about the idea of the Dark Ages is incorrect, lets start off with the way the term was meant to be used. The totally ignorant graph above, unsurprisingly, is completely fucking off. Hilariously, the idea of the ‘Dark Ages’ actually originated in the medieval period itself. Petrarch – the poet laureate of fourteenth-century Rome - was actually the originator of the idea that there was a period of stagnation that Europe was moving out of. Petrarch had a political axe to grind. He considered that any point at which Rome – where he lived and worked and had considerable sway – did not completely dominate the world was a BAD TIME. This is not an unbiased assessment of world history.

The actual phrase ‘Dark Ages’ itself derives from the Latin saeculum obscurum, which Caesar Baronius – a cardinal and Church historian - came up with around 1602. He applied the term exclusively to the tenth and eleventh centuries.  However, and very significantly in his use of the term, Baronius was not decrying a state of scientific malaise, or a particularly turbulent political period – he’s talking about a lack of sources surviving from that time.  Indeed, Baronius sees the cut off point for the dark ages to be the Gregorian reforms of 1046, following which we see a massive increase in surviving documentation. Witness an actual useful chart:

When we move into a period where there are more texts to be considered, Baronius argues, Europe moved out of the period of darkness and into a ‘new age’.*

Now this is some real talk. As you can tell from that graph, during the Carolingian Renaissance of the ninth century, we see a flurry of Latin writers emerge, and a lot of text copying. This drops off again until what we term the Twelfth-Century Renaissance – home to this blog’s favourite philosopher/proto-Kanye –  Abelard. (Shout out to my boy.) However, when people use the term ‘Dark Ages’ now, they usually use it to talk about the entire millennium of the Medieval period, and they aren’t talking about source survival.  They aren’t thinking ‘dark’ as in ‘occluded’, they are thinking ‘dark’ as in pejorative.

We can thank the Enlightenment historiography for the expansion of the idea that the medieval period was a bad dark time. Kant and Voltaire in particular liked to see themselves as a part of an ‘Age of Reason’ as opposed to what they saw as the ‘Age of Faith’ of the medieval period. To their way of thinking, any time that the Church was in power was a time of regressive thinking. The Middle Ages, then, was a dark time because it was so dominated by religion. 

The first push back against the term dark ages began with the Romantics. After the, um, unpleasantness of the Reign of Terror, and the major cultural and environmental upheavals of the Industrial Revolution it became fashionable to look at the medieval period as a time of spiritual focus, and environmental purity. Obviously this is a super-biased way of looking at the period – just like it was biased for Enlightenment thinkers to take one look at the primacy of the Church and declare an entire millennium to be bad. I mean, really what the Romantics were doing was just casting shade on the Enlightenment historiography because they felt like it inevitably led to the guillotine. But what can you do?

By the twentieth century historians had moved on from the idea pretty much completely. If you take the time to actually, you know, study the medieval period, it becomes very apparent very quickly that there was a tremendous amount of intensive thought happening. This is the era of Thomas Aquinas – a bad ass philosopher who will think you under the fucking table. Of Hildegard of Bingen – who basically founded scientific natural history in the German speaking lands. Hell, like we talked about last week Rogerius and Giles of Corbeil were throwing it down for major medical advancement. There was a lot going on. On the real, without the contributions of medieval thinkers you would not get Galileo, Newton, or the Scientific Revolution. The medieval period was not a period of stagnation, it was a time of progress.

But it’s not just that the idea of a ‘Dark Ages’ makes no sense when you look at what incredible advancement was happening at the time, it also makes no sense because it implies that stuff was going really well under the Romans. We estimate that somewhere between thirty to forty percent of the population of Italian Rome were slaves. The Romans had total bans on human dissection, meaning that there was no real way for medicine to progress any further than it had by the time of collapse – a problem that medieval people didn’t have. I mean even if you just want to make it about religion - the Roman Empire was Christian at the time of its collapse and had its heads of state worshipped as LITERAL GODS during the pagan era. Somehow every edgy motherfucker with a fedora is totally cool with this and thinks it is super reasonable though. Because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The Romans were not a bunch of really awesome people living a life of idealised rationality any more than medieval people were all ignorant savages living in fear of God.

Is there a time that historians use the term ‘Dark Ages’? Yeah, we do use it to talk about source survival rates. It’s not a term we use as a value judgment, however. We just mean that we don’t have a lot of evidence to go off of. By the same token – if we somehow move on to another electronic format without converting the way things are stored now, we could be moving into a theoretical Digital Dark Age, where historians in the future won’t be able to study what we are writing now. (And that would be a tragedy, because legit, I would kill to be a historian working on Donald Trump’s tweets in the year 2717.)

We’re now moving away from using the term Dark Ages at all, however, because of the frequency with which it is misinterpreted. I mean, if every basic motherfucker out there who never bothered to read God’s Philosophers (hat tip to James Hamman – this book is amazing) will insist on willfully misinterpreting us, we just ain’t gonna give them the ammo.

What it comes down to is that the medieval period was as vibrant as any other period of history. If you’re going to player hate, go ahead, but please don’t act like you know anything about either medieval or ancient history when you do. There is no period of rational supermen followed by ignorant monsters. There are just people doing their best in the circumstances.

* Caesar Baronius, Annales Ecclesiastici Vol. X. (Rome, 1602), p. 647. “Novum incohatur saeculum quod, sua asperitate ac boni sterilitate ferreum, malique exudantis deformitate plumbeum, atque inopia scriptorum, appellari consuevit obscurum.”

huetre  asked:

Could you please explain why thinking that about medieval Europe is inaccurate?

It is an age-old fallacy that between the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Renaissance, European history stood still for a thousand years.

In fact, the period known as the European Middle Ages is a very turbulent, complex and most of all, huge subject. There were periods of great cultural blossoming, like the Carolingian renaissance in the 8th and 9th century, or the height of Gothic art in the 12th century. There are countless beautiful medieval works of art left to us, like the Book of Kells, Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, and Byzantine icon painting. There is literature like the Icelandic sagas, the Canterbury Tales, and the poetry of Dante and Petrarca. There were technological advances that greatly increased agricultural production, like the three-field rotation system, the windmill and better ploughs.

Of course, there were also periods of deep misery and death, like the 14th century famines caused by the onset of the Little Ice Age, or the wave of bubonic plague that killed about a quarter of the European population around 1350. We’re talking about a thousand years, after all. There were ups and downs.

Trash-talking the medieval period was started by fans of the Renaissance. The “Dark Ages” were invented by people who felt that anything which did not emulate classical culture was barbarous. This way of thinking about the Middle Ages has proved very tenacious. And now, when people (on Tumblr) want to sing the praises of Asian, African or American cultures from the same period, they often feel the need to invoke that “Dark Ages” myth for contrast.

Personally, I feel like you can love both the Great Mosque of Djenné and the Notre Dame. Both Tang and Old English poetry. Of course, we in the West come from a point where we saw anything that was not similar to our culture as inferior. We’re not completely rid of that mindset yet, but I hope we can move past it someday. Doing it at the expense of dismissing a thousand years of fascinating European history and culture would be a great shame, though.

This semester, I will start specialisation programs in East Asian and Middle Eastern history (had there been a program for African history, I might’ve taken that too). Mainstream history teaching in the West is still very Eurocentric, and I want to gain a more complete understanding of world history. Still, medieval European cultural history will always be one of my favourite subjects.

The idea of the ‘Dark Ages’ is one of the most annoying goddamn myths out there. This idea that for a thousand years Europe just sank into a period of witch-burning, ignorance, and superstition. Whatta load of total bullshit, not the least reason that calling a historical period of a thousand years ‘The Dark Ages’ totally ignores the outside world. India, The Byzantine Empire, The Islamic Caliphates, The Chinese Empire, these places were all powerful and thriving centers of civilization during the ‘dark’ ages. 

But secondly the idea of Europe just shutting off the lights of learning and knowledge is total horseshit. Look up the Flying Buttress or Gothic Architecture which are both frigging marvels of engineering and both appeared during the 12th century. Ever heard of the Carolingian Renaissance? What about the Renaissance of the 12th Century? Europe had a mini-industrial revolution then as water mills began dotting the map for use in everything from grinding food to advancing metallurgy. Far from the stereotyped heavy-handed autocracy crushing all questioning of the natural world, the Church of the time was the center of education and learning and fostered all the greatest minds in Natural Philosophy of the day, driven by a Medieval belief that to understand Gods creation was to understand God. Witch-burning? That was illegal across Europe and anyone who killed a ‘witch’ was likely to get executed for superstitious murder.

World History: Carolingian Minuscule

Carolingian or Caroline minuscule is a script which developed as a calligraphic standard in Europe so that the Latin alphabet could be easily recognized by the literate class from one region to another. It was developed for the first time, in about 780, by the Benedictine monks of Corbie Abbey. It was used in the Holy Roman Empire between approximately 800 and 1200. Codices, pagan and Christian texts, and educational material were written in Carolingian minuscule throughout the Carolingian Renaissance. The script developed into blackletter and became obsolete, though its revival in the Italian Renaissance forms the basis of more recent scripts. [x]

pathofsteel  asked:

Ok, so one word that caught my attention from your last response was "warriors". You're saying that Christians in the past were warriors, right? As far as I know, ancient Europeans put a lot of emphasis on war, strength and bravery. I've also seen some information online claiming that Christianity is basically a Middle Eastern religion which retains a lot of pagan rituals and concepts. Do you believe ancient European beliefs shaped Christianity in any way or do they have nothing in common?


Yes, the Christians of the past were more in touch with a warrior spirit; the zenith of this being the Crusades. Though it wasn’t purely attached to physical combat. The ideal also existed in spiritual warfare, especially in the monastic orders. In fact, during the Crusades, these two planes - physical and spiritual - were combined to create military orders like the Knights Templar and the Teutonic Order, which melded the values of knighthood with monasticism. This represents the ideal form of higher man; using the material realm to reach a transcendent ideal. In this case, physical combat in defence of Christians and Christian lands as a path to God.

This spirit originates in the ancient European, yes. To be more exact, the Germanic/Nordic European. It’s commonly referred to as the Faustian or Solar race. It made its way into Christianity via the conversion of the Germanic pagans in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Christianity has a history of openness towards pagan ideals and folklore so long as it didn’t contradict the dogma of the Church; so this is nothing strange or unique.

The Germanic pagans of that time had a culture based around social hierarchy, tribal loyalty, military sacrifice, and heroism. This manifested in Christianity in the ideas of Christendom as tribe, the caste system of Medieval Europe, Just War and the Crusades. The peak of this ideal being Charlemagne, the Carolingian Empire, and the Carolingian Renaissance.

Since the Reformation and the Enlightenment, there has been a concerted effort to undo the “Germanization” of Christianity i.e. remove it’s heroic ideals, and bring it’s humanitarian ideals to the forefront instead. So instead of slaying our enemies, we’re kissing their feet. And while Christianity obviously empathizes vales like humility and love, it doesn’t mean we’re supposed to give in to domination and subjugation.

Psychological Analysis #2 : “Itachi & Kisame’s relationship”

’To speak about the relation between Itachi and Kisame, I have to speak about the one individually of the other one in a very brief way.

  Hoshigaki Kisame is a man who above all, doesn’t really know who he is and where is his place in this world. But if there is a thing of which he is certain, it’s that to survive in the world in which he lives, it must necessary to fight. His life in almost always been solitary, and when people speak about him, it is to qualify him of monster. But does Itachi see him like that ..? I’ll return to this point later.

   Uchiha Itachi… My favorite character in Naruto but contrary to my analysis of Deidara, which was very simple to build and write, the psychological analysis of Itachi would doubtless be the longest and the most difficult to be realized for me because this character is so much complex. No matter his integrity, his heroism, his intelligence, or his kindness, Itachi is above all, a man who is mentally perturbed. But I don’t want to expand Itachi’s analysis because I will make an analysis just about him!

Their relation is so complex that it becomes so realistic and charming!

A very famous french writer, Michel Tournier wrote :

“The big difference between love and friendship? There is not friendship without reciprocity." 

 If there is a friendship which was born between Itachi and Kisame, it is inevitably felt from both directions. This friendship is even maybe stronger than we believe it. Itachi and Kisame don’t often speak. Itachi is a man who is taciturn and Kisame manages to guess (uncertainly) what Itachi could feel without having a need to speak each other.

Itachi respects the other members of the Akatsuki because Itachi judges nobody. Because indeed, a man who killed all his family, Can he really allow to judge the acts of others? Itachi is the only man who doesn’t blame Kisame.

 The duet Itachi/Kisame distances clearly from Sasori/Deidara or Kakuzu/Hidan. Itachi and Kisame were never in conflicts, only during their first meeting where Itachi says clearly and without any tact what he thinks of Kisame. At first, Kisame feels very offended but he lowers nevertheless his sword. Hmm .. Why?

 Aristotle said that the friendship serves above all to have a true look on ourself. Outside, of our subjectivity. And it’s exactly what Kisame looks for : know who he is and find what is his place in this world filled with lies. Maybe Kisame found what he looks for about himself, through Itachi’s eyes. 

   "The desire of friendship is a desire to be understood, to be requested, to be appreciated for ourself.”

Aristotle organizes into a hierarchy the friendship in three sorts : The voucher, the pleasant and the useful

For Itachi and Kisame, only one interests us because the two others don’t correspond. (The voucher)

 Aristotle said : 

“The perfect friendship is the one virtuous men and who are similar in virtue. They are good and good for themselves. Each behaves to the other one because of its own nature. The friendship persists as long as they are good. And they are good at the same time absolutely and relatively.

Funny coincidence … Kisame tells Itachi during their meeting that they are both useless and bad. And Itachi answers him that none of them will be entitled to a decent death but that hey will know who they are at the time of their deaths. If their friendship was the virtuous one, as says it Kisame before his death, maybe that he was not so terrible as that finally.

In his last moments, all Kisame’s thoughts go only towards Itachi. Wondering if Itachi found what kind of man he was. And Itachi, even after his death, seeing Samehada, sadly understands that Kisame died. Wondering certainly if Kisame finally managed to discover who he really was.

   I think that Itachi doesn’t really want to become attached to Kisame, because after all : Itachi is going to die, then why to become attached to him as a friend? Contrary to the other members of the Akatsuki who don’t show respect to Itachi. (Sasori teases him, and Deidara… Well .. Okay?) Kisame, sometimes flatters him, speaks to him in a respectful way.

Itachi is a mystery to Kisame because after all, their friendship holds especially because they know almost nothing about each other and because in reality, this situation please them. 

Alcuin, a famous scholar of the Carolingian Renaissance said :

    “The friendship is the similarity of souls." 

    Indeed, Itachi and Kisame have something in common, they have both killed those who counted for them. They wait to know who they really are.  And if they’re so bad as everybody says it or if finally, they are just human beings, victims of what their society have made of them.

In the end, was it a friendship, a simple attachment, or nothing? To you to decide on it!

Michel De Montaigne, a very famous philosopher, said that friendship is more complex than that and we cannot understand.                                              When people ask him to describe his relation with his friend, he answered : 

” If you ask me to say why I love him, I feel that it can express itself only by : because it was him, and because it was me.’’

When I remembered this sentence, I said to myself that it suits perfectly to Itachi and Kisame’s relationship.

    Simply, because it was Itachi, and because it was Kisame.

Originally posted by narutos-bae

NB :

   Here also I would have been able to go further with the reports of equality in a friendship but it very blocks already rather like that! I hope that it is understandable!! Sorry for mistakes!!        °’°’Ophélia°’°’

@0oerickao0 and @shipilv

egilskalla-grimsson said:Yeah… “dark ages”. My ass! And who knows about the ‘Renaissance of the 12th century’? Almost nobody! :-(

To make matters even more interesting, there were actually three, so called, Medieval Renaissances.

  1. Carolingian (8th c.) - creation of schools with unified curricula, music notation, basis of Romanesque art, revolutions in architecture, standardization of currency…  
  2. Ottonian (10th c.) - art, art, art
  3. 12th century - unify all the kingdoms, translate all the Greek, open all the trade routes, invent all the goodies…