Loading...

HIST302: Medieval Europe

Unit 1: The End of the Roman Empire   *The Roman Empire reached its zenith during the second century.  However, the problems of administering such a vast territory and its diverse peoples, the lack of a coherent means of imperial succession, and a succession of weak emperors resulted in a series of crises.  In order to better manage the sprawling territory in the Mediterranean, Emperor Diocletian split the Roman Empire into eastern and western halves in 285.  Forty-five years later, this division was further entrenched when Emperor Constantine founded a new capital city—Constantinople—in the eastern empire.  During the next several centuries, the western Roman Empire was plagued by financial problems, a shrinking army, and barbarian invasions.  In 410, Rome was invaded by the Visigoths—a Germanic tribe in Spain—and in 476 Emperor Romulus Augustulus was deposed by the Germanic leader Odoacer.  While Justinian I, emperor of the eastern Roman Empire, was able to regain power over many territories in the West, the western Roman Empire continued effectively ceased to exist.

During this time, the eastern empire—also known as Byzantium—was plagued by its own problems.  Though Justinian I—the last Latin-speaking emperor—had enlarged the empire and codified legislative power, his death marked the beginning of a period of political turmoil and the arrival of the bubonic plague.  Invasions from the Persians in the east and from the Lombards in the west created an uncertain future for Byzantium.  Struggles against the Muslim world, including the siege of Constantinople in 717-718, plunged Byzantium into a period known the “dark ages.”  Although Byzantium did regain much of its former prestige under Macedonian rule, challenges from the Turks, internal conflicts, and skirmishes precipitated by the Crusades eventually brought the empire to its knees in the thirteenth century.

In this unit, we will consider the divergent paths of the western and eastern portions of the Roman Empire between the fourth and the fourteenth centuries.  We will study how the end of antiquity paved the way for the emergence of the medieval world.*

Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 10 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.3: 3 hours

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify and articulate the arguments made by historians to explain the importance of the Roman legacy to the development of medieval Europe.
  • Identify and describe the causes deemed critical by historians to explain the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in western Europe.
  • Explain the importance of the Byzantine Empire in the political and cultural history of early medieval Europe and the Middle East.
  • Identify and describe important milestones in the development of Christian theology and the manner in which these were incorporated into the legal, political, and cultural lifeof early medieval Europe.

1.1 The Roman World   1.1.1 Unity of the Classical World   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Pliny the Elder’s “The Grandeur of Rome” and The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Roman Empire at Its Height” Links: Fordham University’s Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Pliny the Elder’s “The Grandeur of Rome” (HTML) and The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Roman Empire at Its Height” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read “The Grandeur of Rome” and Lynn Nelson’s “The Roman Empire at Its Height” for an understanding of the late Roman world.  As you read, ask yourself the following questions: 1) How did the engineering achievements of the Empire enhance its unity?  2) What effect did the physical infrastructure of the Roman Empire have on later European cultures?  3) What legacies did the Roman Empire leave for later medieval civilization?
 
Pliny the Elder lived in the first century CE and wrote his Natural History during the reign of the emperor Vespasian (69–79).  Here he describes the marvels of the empire’s capital city.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

  • Web Media: CosmoLearning’s “The Roman Empire at Its Greatest Extent” Link: CosmoLearning’s “The Roman Empire at Its Greatest Extent” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please view the map “The Roman Empire at Its Greatest Extent” to supplement your understanding of the late Roman world.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

1.1.2 Germanic Invasions   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Salvian’s “Romans and Barbarians” and The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Germanic Invasions” Links: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Salvian’s “Romans and Barbarians” (HTML) and The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Germanic Invasions” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Salvian’s “Romans and Barbarians” and Lynn Nelson’s “The Germanic Invasions” for a view of the relationship between the Romans and the Germanic tribes and the effect that the Germanic migrations had on Europe.  As you read, ask yourself the following questions: 1) Why does Salvian see the barbarians as better than the Romans?  How does this reflect the attitude of earlier Roman writers, such as Tacticus, who wrote on the same topic?  2) In what ways were the barbarian invasions relatively peaceful?  Consider how historians’ views of the barbarians have changed over time.  3) What were the main effects of the barbarian invasions on ordinary Roman citizens?
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.
 

1.1.3 Fall of Rome   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Procopius of Caesarea’s “Alaric’s Sack of Rome (410)” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Procopius of Caesarea’s “Alaric’s Sack of Rome (410)” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Procopius’ “Alaric’s Sack of Rome” for an understanding of the attack of 410 and what it meant to the Romans and the Germans.  As you read this text, make sure to also review the map linked in this subunit.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: Mappery.com: “Germanic Invasions Map, 378-439” Link: Mappery.com: “Germanic Invasions Map, 378–439” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: While reading Procopius of Caesarea’s “Alaric’s Sack of Rome,” view Mappery.com’s “Germanic Invasions Map” to see the routes the various Germanic tribes took during their westward migration.  As you read and examine the map, ask yourself: 1) What did the sack of Rome mean for citizens of the empire?  2) How did it affect the Germanic tribes?
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.1.4 Constantine I   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Eusebius’ “The Conversion of Constantine” and The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Later Roman Empire” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Eusebius’ “The Conversion of Constantine” (HTML) and The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Later Roman Empire” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Eusebius’ “The Conversion of Constantine” and Lynn Nelson’s “The Later Roman Empire” for an overview of Constantine’s reign as Roman emperor and an understanding of his relationship with Christianity.
 
Eusebius was Bishop of Caesarea from 314 to 339, which brought him into close contact with the emperor Constantine I (306–337).  In “The Conversion of Constantine,” Eusebius describes the emperor and his reasons for favoring Christianity.  What were the advantages of the reforms brought about by Diocletian and Constantine?  How did legalization of Christianity affect its expansion?
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

1.1.5 The Development of Christianity   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “The Nicene Creed” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “The Nicene Creed” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read  “The Nicene Creed." As you read, ask
yourself why the Nicene Creed was an important element in Christian
unity.    

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.
  • Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "The Development of Christianity" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "The Development of Christianity" (PDF).

    Instructions: Please read "The Development of Christianity" in order to learn how the Roman government influenced Christianity in the early fourth century. To what extent did Constantine view himself as a Christian ruler after 313?  
     
    The Council of Nicaea (325) was a general meeting of bishops from throughout the Roman Empire called by the emperor Constantine.  Its primary goal was to standardize Christian belief and practice.

1.2 Byzantium   1.2.1 Eastern Roman Empire   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "Eastern Roman Empire" Link:  The Saylor Foundation's 'Eastern Roman Empire" (PDF)
 
Instructions:  Read "Eastern Roman Empire" to understand how the Eastern Roman empire differed from the West.  What advantages did the Eastern empire have over its Western counterparts?  What were some of the major differences between the Eastern and Western empires?

1.2.2 Constantinople   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Sozomen’s “Constantine Founds Constantinople” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Sozomen’s “Constantine Founds Constantinople” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Sozomen’s “Constantine Founds Constantinople,” and think about how this new city was different from the Rome described by Pliny in section 1.1.1 above.
 
Sozomen was a Christian historian who lived in Constantinople in the fifth century, about a century after the events he describes in his Ecclesiastical History.  In this text, he recounts the foundation of the second Roman capital.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

1.2.3 The Christian Church   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “The Codex Theodosianus: On Religion” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “The Codex Theodosianus: On Religion” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this excerpt from The Codex Theodosianus for an understanding of Christianity in the late fourth and early fifth centuries.
 
In 429 the emperor Theodosius II had a committee of scholars compile The Codex Theodosianus, a law code that included imperial law since the reign of Constantine I.  This section includes laws regarding religion.  Each law ends with the name of the emperor or emperors who promulgated that particular law.  As you read, ask yourself the following study questions: 1) What was the significance of compiling a law code during this era?  2) How did the codes speak to the question of religion?
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.4 Emperor Justinian   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “Justinian’s Code” and The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Reign of Justinian” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of  "Justinian’s Code" (HTML) and The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Reign of Justinian” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read “Justinian’s Code” and Lynn Nelson’s “The Reign of Justinian” to learn about Justinian’s importance in the development of the Byzantine Empire.
 
This code is a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence, originally written in Latin, and issued by Justinian I, Eastern Roman Emperor, between 529 and 534 C.E.  The document did not contain any new laws; it instead codified all existing imperial Roman pronouncements, dating back to the time of Hadrian in the second century.  The code spurred a new interest in Roman law that would last until the end of the Middle Ages.  As you read, ask yourself the following study questions:  1) What were the main achievements of Justinian’s rule?  2) How did Justinian’s campaigns in Italy, and the Byzantine influence that followed, affect later medieval culture?
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

1.2.5 Art and Architecture   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Procopius’ “De Aedificis” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Procopius’ “De Aedificis” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Procopius’ “De Aedificis” for an understanding of Byzantine architecture and its importance in the empire.
 
Procopius was the official historian at Justinian’s court and wrote two authorized histories of Justinian’s reign, “De Aedificis” and “The Italian Wars,” and one unauthorized history, “The Secret History.”
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.6 Invasions and the End of Justinian’s Rule   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Anctiochus Strategos’ “The Sack of Jerusalem (614)” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Anctiochus Strategos’ “The Sack of Jerusalem (614)” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read “The Sack of Jerusalem” to learn about the relationship between the Byzantines and the Persians and about the forces that nearly destroyed the Byzantine Empire in the seventh century.
 
After Justinian’s death in 565, the Byzantine government pulled out of the west largely because of military conflicts in the Balkans and on the Persian frontier in the east.  This source describes the fall of Jerusalem, a city important to Christianity, to the non-Christian Persians in 614.  Later in the century, the Persians would lose the city to a new group, the Muslims.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.3 Late Byzantium   1.3.1 Heraclius and the Byzantine Theme System   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "Heraclius and the Byzantine Theme System" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Heraclius and the Byzantine Theme System" (PDF). 

 Instructions: Please read  "Heraclius and the Byzantine Theme
System"  for an overview of the organization and purpose of the
system of themes.
  • Web Media: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Muir’s Historical Atlas: “Map of Byzantine Themes” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Muir’s Historical Atlas: “Map of Byzantine Themes”
     
    Instructions: View the “Map of Byzantine Themes” as a supplement to the reading above.  What were the Byzantine themes, and why were they an important political development?  Please note that this map was originally published in Muir's Historical Atlas and is in the public domain.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.3.2 Arab Invasions and the Attack of Constantinople   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “Accounts of the Arab Conquest of Egypt, 642” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “Accounts of the Arab Conquest of Egypt, 642” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read “Accounts of the Arab Conquest of Egypt” for an understanding of Byzantine-Muslim conflict in the seventh century.
 
Islam was founded by the prophet Muhammad in 610 in the city of Mecca on the Arabian peninsula.  Only thirty-two years later, the fledgling Islamic empire had reached the shores of the Mediterranean and was attacking Alexandria, one of the great seats of learning and religion in the Byzantine Empire.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: “The Spread of Islam 622-750 CE” Map Link: “The Spread of Islam 622-750 CE” Map (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Look at this map after reading “Accounts of the Arab Conquest of Egypt” above. How did the wave of Muslim conquests weaken the Byzantine Empire and how did the empire respond?
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.3.3 Dark Ages   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "The Dark Ages" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "The Dark Ages" (PDF).
 
Instructions: Instructions: Please read "The Dark Ages."  As you read, try to answer the following study questions: 1) What social, economic, and cultural changes characterize the Dark Ages?  2) How did Irene come to and maintain power, and what were her major accomplishments?

 Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately
30 minutes to complete. 

1.3.4 Iconoclasm   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of John of Damascus’ “In Defense of Icons” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of John of Damascus’ “In Defense of Icons” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read John of Damascus’ “In Defense of Icons” for a discussion of the place of icons in Orthodox Christianity and the Byzantine world.  As you read, ask yourself the following study questions: 1) How did the conflict over icons weaken the Byzantine Empire?  2) How did iconoclasm affect relations between the Eastern and Western halves of the Church?
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.3.5 The Macedonians   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "The Macedonians" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "The Macedonians" (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read "The Macedonians."  As you read, try to answer the following study questions: 1) What were the major achievements of the Macedonian emperors?  2) How did relations between Constantinople and Rome change during this period?
 
Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

1.3.6 Byzantine Collapse   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "Byzantine Collapse" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Byzantine Collapse" (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read "Byzantine Collapse."  As you read, try to answer the following study questions: 1) How did the internal conflict between the civil aristocracy and the military aristocracy weaken the Byzantine Empire?  2) How did the religious schism of 1054 represent a break between the Eastern and Western Christian churches? 3) How did the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 affect Byzantine dominance in Asia Minor? 

  • Web Media: CosmoLearning: Perry-Castaneda Library, Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin’s “The Byzantine Empire (1265)” Link: CosmoLearning: Perry-Castaneda Library, Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin’s “The Byzantine Empire (1265)” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please view the map “The Byzantine Empire (1265)” as a supplement to the lecture above.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.