Notes – Early Medieval Ages 7

Notes 7
The Roman Empire committed suicide by accident?
The further back the events the easier it is for the historian to “see it coming”
Who are the Barbarians?
Burgundian code

Refer to themselves as Barbarians not Romans
What do we know
From Archaeology

Have settlements but not urban 

Have grave sites

Have trade with Roman Empire

Roman items buried with them on occasion
Main written source for pre-invasion German tribes is Tacitus

Best known for his

Pessimistic annals of the Roman Empire

In Germania
For Tacitus the Germans are

Childlike and noble

The general Roman view on Barbarians

Intent on invading the empire and enjoying the riches 
Never visited Germania
Write about them as a way of castigating the Romans
Contrast a beautiful natural simple world

Gaugins paintings 


Compared to fatiguing rat race
Warlike concerned with personal bravery and honour

Close family ties


Treat women well

Contrasting with Romans 
Some vices




True of later German practices
Tacitus does not make up for a moral purpose
Extend kinship 

My second cousin will repay you if you kill me

Compensation for hurt killing

Cost – depend on who he is and what he did
Before enter empire

Lived in little villages

Cattle raisers

Cultivated grain

Iron working 

Spot of raiding
Above clan level

Federation or tribes?
Who are the Visigoths?

Come together 

Invent notion that from one place
Not a lot of evidence that they were searching for common ancestor 
Come into empire as


Allied troops

Supported by a system with bland name of hospitality
Destroyed idea of invasion with arrows on map

Came from here, then there
506 – Franks defeat Visigoths
500 – most impressive Barbarians Ostrogoths – in Italy

Been in Crimea


Tried to attack Constantinople
Impressive ruler

Ruled from Ravenna
Roman education survived in Italy for a bit 


Last person to try and spread Greek knowledge
In prison wrote

The consolation of Philosophy

Lives till 90ish
Transmits to us liberal arts

Invents idea that monks should copy literature
Liberal arts – things that are not immediately practically useful

Help illuminate the person seeking after knowledge

Seeking God and the divine 

Bible not an immediately evident document

View of world full of mysteries
Very few intellectuals in the Barbarian kingdom
After Theodoric dies 535

Eastern empire invades 

20 year war in Italy

Less accommodating than the Ostragoths

More fiercely Arian

Persecuted bishops

Plundered Rome several times in fifth century

Strong rulers
506 kingdom shrunk 

Fought among each other
Anglo Saxons

From continent in 440s

First place to withdraw


Celtic majority

Very little knowledge of what is going on

Very status orientated

Law shows a lot of Roman influence

If my dog bites you and kills you

No revenge if accident
Compensation for victims 
In west

Injure me – you break peace offend state

In early times – more personal 

Notes – Early Medieval Ages 6

Notes 6Transformation of the Roman Empire 
410 to 480

West empire disintegrated
Dismembered by Barbarians

Wanted to share in wealth and accomplishments not destroy it
476 fall of the Western Empire
Barbarian deposed a Roman emperor 

Barbarian leader Odavacer
Deposed Romulus Augustus

Us means little
He didn’t appoint new emperor and said he would follow the East
Kingdom smaller than empire
King of Italy, King of Franks

Why did the West fall?

External or internal
Who were these Barbarians?
How severe was this change?
Destruction of government also of the military 
Lost works 

Esculus wrote 60 plays 3 survive

Also Cicero’s work Hortensius


End colosseums
Literacy fell except in church
Some historians say a cataclysmic change, others quite a bit of continuity 

Survival of trade

Roll of bishops replacing government order

Bishops ensure food supply and lead rally against Barbarians
Barbarian leaders collected tax

Some maintenance of order
Not radically more primitive
Lecturer is a moderate catastrophist
Wickham – the inheritance of

Barbarian – Greek term

Uncivilised – speech unclear


Not unfamiliar

Most Arian Christians

Been at Roman border for ever

What changed 250 to 600
The ancient world became the medieval world

More rural
Why collapsed

Taken over by Germans

Who admired Rome
Last thing they wanted was to live in huts in the forest

Not that numerous 

Tens of thousands 
Changes in Roman Army
Afghan Mujahideen

Trained by USA
Lots in army were barbarians
In 370s Visigoths asked to be an allied army

Federati – barbarian troops serving

In Roman Empire
In 378 they were on the move
Emperor Valens defeated Adrianople
Magister Militum title to Barbarian leader of army
Visigoths given land in Romania

Stilicho and Alaric
Moving from the Balkans towards Italy
Where was the Roman army?
The Huns

Interested in plunder 
450s Huns united under Attila
Huns decided East too hard 
Then lost in France
Started sacking Roman cities 
Leo the first

Goes to remonstrate with Attila

Attila dies soon after
After this Barbarians takes
Vandals have taken over North Africa

Cut off grain supply
Vandals have navy

Sack Rome 455
Ostrogoths in Hungary
Angles and Saxons in Britain
493 eastern empire 
Have biography of saints
Severinus in Austria

Takes over helping poor

Organising society 
Urban population declines

Radical material simplification 

Fewer imports

More homemade crude building materials 
When vandals blocked grain supply

Cities could not support all people
In 5BC Rome 800,000 or 1,000,000
At time of Constantine 

After sack of Rome

300,000 – 500,000

In 800

Charlemagne crowned in St Peters

Max 30,000
People not aware at the time

That there was a decline

Patrick Leigh Fermov

Conversation with General

Knowledge of Latin and classics a lot weaker than in past – 100 years ago
Heirs of Roman Empire 

1 Byzantium
2 Barbarian Kings
3 Islam   
4 Church

Notes – Early Medieval Ages 5

Notes 5
Why study the Confessions?
Christianity had a great impact on Roman Empire late fourth and fifth century
3 problems

1. Problem of evil

2. Relation between body and soul

3. Understanding of sin and redemption 
All of these are dealt with thoroughly in Augustine’s work
More thorough than any other

Ancient thinker
Philosophical and Psychological investigation
Men go out and gaze at astonishment at high mountains… But they pay no attention to themselves

An examination of the author’s heart – intellectual and emotional 
Reads dialogue by Cicero hortensius

Convinces him life of mind most important
About a search for truth

That takes a lot of wrong turns

A confession of sin

About spiritual yearning
An intellectual and a passionate person

Not apposed to desire

Love is a psychological need

I was in love with the idea of love

Both sexual and spiritual

Also a believer in friendship
He is ambitious 

Ability to write


At that time the course of success

Was government service

Rhetoric and law

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion

Writing well and elegantly

Highly valued in Roman Empire
Mother is extremely pious
Augustine’s mother is a saint now

Wants him to be a success which means delaying baptism

Involvement in government service

Which involves dealing with sin,

Wrangling, parties, honours,

Sexual conquests
Gives it up when converts 
What bothers Augustine?
Problem of evil

Why does a good God allow bad things to happen
Compared to the works of the Greek writers and philosophers the Bible seems awfully crude

Rhetorically in terms of style

And conceptually in terms of ideas
The Old Testament God seems temperamental
The flood

Kills man touches the ark

Walking in garden

Talks to people 
Likes Manichaeanism

Two gods one bad
Christian belief

There will be bodies as well as spirit in resurrection

Evil is the absence of something Good

It is the absence of being and meaning

Turning away from the good is the human problem
People of cave

Chained looking at back of cave 

Seeing images of what is outside 

Forget chained

Think this is the real thing

If you tried to liberate them

Persecute you, don’t want to change
Key differences

Platonism assigns evil to ignorance

Christianity to sin
Why steal pears?


Not hungry, not desire 

It’s gratuitous – not from need
Platonists don’t have a good idea of why this happens as not to do with ignorance.
If human beings are sinful and education not going to help,

What will? 
The nature of sin is the pears

The way out of it is the conversion

At least in part
After his conversion Augustine’s plan was to lead a life of contemplation with his friends
Leisure with dignity
He did not follow through with it
Went back to North Africa

Became bishop

Defended doctrine against heretics

Died defending his city of

Hippo from the Vandals
Writes City of God when Rome falls in 410 to Vandals
You cannot live a life of perfection
Becomes more and more against doctrine of perfectionism
Cannot in any way earn salvation
Some saved by grace
Visible elect – know who’s going to heaven

Small community seeking salvation

Everyone outside doomed
Invisible – then everybody ought to be in the church

Ought to be roping in every one you can

Augustine believes in forced conversion

With baptism

Doesn’t mean perfection

Means entering the process
Key points

Opposition to perfectionism

Exaltation of grace

Sin as indelible 

Notes – Early Medieval 4


Christian Roman Empire


Then sole legal religion except Judaism


Constantine died 337
When he died empire restored to former glory
Fourth century often seen through the lens of 410 sacking 
Inequality one of signs/problems
Time of social mobility 

Many paths open

Barbarians taking major positions in Roman Empire, especially in army
Sometimes empire divided sometimes not
395 Theodosius dies

After always two, east and west
Julian the apostate 360-363

Tried to restore traditional paganism 

Intellectual of sorts
After his death no paganism
Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher
 393 Theodosius made only

Christianity legal and small space for Judaism
The saints are a kind of substitute for polytheism
Rural people and intellectuals

Especially platonists 
Chief occupation of emperors

Persians and on Danube Barbarians

Christ different from God
Platonism emphasises the absolute

and the superiority of the spiritual 

Material is mortal passes away

In Platonism 

The one

The Demi-urge 

Matched up with God the father

And son
There was a time when Christ was not

All co eternal, members of trinity 
Missionaries that converted barbarians were Arians

By time barbarians in empire

Arianism was gone

Barbarians – generally Germanic

320s Nicea

381 Constantinople a heresy
In west still Arianism 

If it turns out priest is bad 

Had buckled under torture

Your baby was not properly baptised

Marriage didn’t count etc
But if Bishop was fine but anointed by failed priest – not legitimate
Lends itself to sectarianism
Office greater than man?

Teaching about good and evil

Have real existence

War between good God and evil one

Eg Devil

Or the God of the Old Testament

Also matter evil
Salvation means casting off the flesh
What’s wrong

God is limited   

Takes away individual responsibility 
Roman emperors had to intervene
Frustrating for emperors as can’t kill the heretics
He was afraid of upsetting God

Didn’t want to let it go
Also frustrated with Arianism

Considered it over subtle and trivial 
Summoned bishops in Nicaea 325

God and Christ are the same essence but different persons
Begotten but not made – not in time
Constantine was baptised just before he died

He was a moderate Arian later in life

Augustine introduced child baptism
330s understanding that Christian no longer a sinner
Why read confessions?

An autobiography


Anxiety, desires, doubts

Shows the fluidity of religious scene

First Platonist

Then a Manichaean

Then Christian Manichaean

Then Christian Platonist

Then Orthodox Christian
More time is spent on stealing pears than his concubine
A lot of prayers, quotations from scripture

More interested in the one and trying to apprehend the one

Superiority of spirit over material 

Unlike Manichaeans material not

Sinful it is good but inferior
Platonic love – 

Platonism is a turning away
Loving physical more

Result of poor education

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Notes – Early Medieval Age 3

Conversion of Constantine

Permanent change

Hard to explain on strategic grounds

Starts the Christianisation of Roman Empire

Been illegal for 250 years

Romans killed Jesus
Polytheism and its ceremony was rife
First becomes tolerant

Then favoured

Then official and almost only religion
Paganism – polytheistic

Local variation

Eclectic – different gods in places times and times of life

Emotional vacuum

Denied longing of more to life 
Innerness – important
Other religions – mystery

Eg Mithraism 
Promise of afterlife

Appeal to elite and common
But it was alien

Romans did not always persecute 

Didn’t like intolerance
Judaism recognised Roman Leader

Rejected pleasures

Emperor worship

Killjoy religion

Persecution was not that intense


Third century

Enough persecution to give it backbone but not enough to crush it
Constantine son of one of the Caesars – helpers

Of the west
Sent east to serve Galerius eastern 

Not chosen next
306 Constantine rebelled

Raised empire in England
Maxentius rebelled in Rome 
Milvian Bridge 312 battle
2 stories of conversion

One had a dream – Angel spoke to him and told him to make symbol

Chi and rho
Other story later


Marching with army

Saw a cross in the sky 

On the sun

In this sign you will conquer
Chi rho 
No reason to doubt Constantine’s sincerity – hard to imagine any emperor thinking Christianity was good for empire 
Christianity was pacifist

Commands not to fight hit back
Saw himself favoured by fortune

Need to placate 
Quite clever

Latin literature

Some Greek
Doesn’t become totally committed Christian
Coins kept invincible son 
Only later – just the cross
Edict of toleration

Constantine and Licinius

Christianity legalised

Returned property confiscated from Diocletian 

No tax for church
Left pagan centre for moment

Built St Peters

Laterin Basilica
At his death about half of the empire had converted
What did it mean to the church?
Establishes the problem of the

Church in the world
St Augustine dealt with some of this
At start very successful
390 about 90% Christian (nominal)
Held out

Peasants – weather God


Intellectual elite – Greek Roman philosophy
Battle of Chrysopolis

Found importance of



 Bosporus – narrow canal or river
Can get to Danube and Persian border quite easily

The Difficult borders

City in richest part of empire
Like Brazil and Portugal

Brazil bigger and more important now
Facilitated division by addition of new capital like Rome


Sporting stadiums

Victory column 

Gets more devout and less tolerant

Gets more involved with doctrine

Taught that priests were not legitimate if had sinned 
People appealed to emperor 317
Involved in Arian heresy

Christ subordinate to God the father
Harsher crimes for sexual sins

Rape, concubines
Nicea 32

Dealt with Arian

Appears as head of the church

But not a bishop
Vs Diocletian


Military and Admin structure

Heavy taxes
Diocletian persecuted church but Constantine strengthened it
Ended tetrarchy but division strengthened with new capital
Constantine more successful economically 
476 fall