A. Shapur Shahbazi
Reinforced Assyrian invasions from the mid-eighth century prompted Iranian tribes to consolidate at local states. Thus, while the Medes strain consolidated around King Deioces, Persians (southern Iran) gathered around the banner of Achaemenes, who finally found the Achaemenid dynasty. By the time of the second monarch, Cyrus I, the Assyrians had controlled total supremacy over the Achamaenids. Redemption came with Cyaxares, the new leader under whom Achaemenid forces, jointly with the Babylonians, vanquished the Assyrians and hence ascended to superpowerdom. Cyrus II, being born out of wedlock between Persia and Media, which together formed the entire Persian Empire, the first world empire, became a conglomerate of Median and Persian rule. The restive state of Babylonia was exploited by Cyrus, whose occupation of the latter is termed as “peaceful and disciplined.” The Cyrus Cylinder, a royal proclamation recording the details, is assumed as derived from the Assyrian kinds.
This essay examines the economic activities and "work" of aristocratic women, c.1000–c.1400. Despite the limitations posed by law, custom, and social expectation, women played a central role in preserving and transferring family wealth through marriage, gifts, and inheritance. They were equally crucial in matters of household and estate management. Both older and recent scholarship explores the complexity of the woman's experience within the European family. Her role was neither rigidly static nor in perpetual flux. The diversity of a woman's economic responsibilities and her influence in the family reveal the inherent flexibility of the medieval family, once considered staunchly patriarchal. While some have argued that the patrilineal descent group was narrowing in this period, medieval families devised strategies to preserve the integrity of their holdings and to provide for a range of kin, regardless of gender.
This article reviews the transfer of goods and services between the continents bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It shows that the demands of long-distance trade, particularly but not solely across the Atlantic, encouraged innovation in technologies and methods, transformed commercial institutions, and required traders to develop novel ways of managing their businesses. After regaining independence from Spain in 1640, Portugal created a transatlantic trading system that was more vigorous than what had existed before 1580. The long eighteenth century witnessed a precipitate decline of France as an Atlantic commercial power and a steady rise of England. Paradoxically, France's Atlantic trading burgeoned, at least at first. While Britain and France struggled for Atlantic control, the Netherlands flourished, albeit in slightly different channels than before. The increase in the efficiency of shipping, the dematerialisation of finance, and the spread of information were substantial results of a burgeoning Atlantic trade. They also forced changes in traders' and governments' ideas about how commerce should be managed.
Church discipline and the ways in which it was implemented offers an important window on to the relations between churchmen and lay people. But historians need to understand what ‘discipline’ meant within a medieval context: rather than seeing it solely as to do with repression, it was a key concept in the productive government and shepherding of the Christian community, directed toward salvation. This chapter examines the historiographical challenges of understanding church discipline across the whole middle ages, focussing particularly on the role of the bishop; and it argues that aspects which are often thought to date only from the later middle ages can in fact be found much earlier.
Amy G. Remensnyder
This chapter examines the geographical, conceptual, and spiritual boundaries between Christendom and Islam in the middle ages, focussing on Iberia and the Levant. It notes that the demarcated divisions on modern maps may mislead us: medieval people did not conceive of the separation of faith and space in such clearly bounded ways. It explores the ideologies of Christian conquest, exploring how in the Christian kingdoms of Iberia, a notional Visigothic past of Christian dominance was drawn upon in much later centuries, creating a belief in a justified ‘reconquest’, while in the Levant, Latin settlers articulated a deep Christian past for what they increasingly called the ‘Holy Land’. The chapter also discusses the techniques by which conquered lands were made ‘Christian’—through church building for example, but also through the imaginative boundaries between Christian and Muslim. However, the lived reality was always more complex, as Christians, Muslims and Jews had long co-existed in these regions and the physical boundaries between Islam and Christendom were porous.
Christian literature in late antiquity offered contrasting models of female sanctity, emphasizing alternately the gender ambiguity of the young woman dressed as a man, and the nuptial imagery of the bride of Christ. Three texts, the second-century Acts of Paul and Thecla, the fourth-century Letter 22 to Eustochium by Saint Jerome, and the fifth- or sixth-century Passion of Eugenia, illustrate contrasting ways of thinking about how Christian literature could allow a young woman to reinvent herself.
Susan Mosher Stuard
Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, morgengabe, a husband's gift to his wife marking the formal consummation of marriage, was replaced in Italian, southern French, and Spanish towns with Roman dos or dowry, a gift from a bride's family that was her inheritance (legitim). In time, this momentous change spread north beyond the Alps. The resulting dotal regime abetted the monetization of the economy and placed increased authority in the hands of husbands, who managed dowry although they did not own it. A family's honor and prestige rode on grants of dowry. Disputes, lawsuits, and consilia (legal opinions) highlight the consequences of investing sums that were granted for daughters' dowries. In 1425 Florence created the Monte delle Doti to invest family funds for future dowries. Thereafter government finances were entwined with families' finances. To justify separating women's ownership of dowry from men's management, Aristotelian principles of women's incapacity were invoked.
The Byzantines perceived the body as malleable, able to be changed to suit the needs of society. They also believed that the appearance of the outer body reflected the quality of the inner person's soul. As a result, bodily appearance became an important marker for gender, class, and moral worth. Within the religious community, sexuality represented the ungoverned worldliness of the body and abstention the purity of the soul. The Byzantines bridged the gap between the worldly and the ascetic by creating a new kind of man, the eunuch. The eunuch lived and worked outside the realities of family and clan and was believed to have special connections to the spiritual world. Because the Byzantines were so conscious of outward appearances, they regularly commented on the appearance and actions of eunuchs, ascribing to them the best and worst kinds of natures and, in turn, reflecting attitudes about their own bodies.
Given the comparatively slow pace of human evolution, the body, as a biological entity, may be taken more or less as a historical constant during the past 1500 years. But every interaction with that body was mediated by culture, and thus gender analysis is a driving force in the expanding field of the history of health. This essay looks at how changing expectations of gender and knowledge shaped medical and surgical interventions in three circumstances: pregnancy; childbirth emergencies; and the care of intersexed persons. The field of the history of health is still rapidly expanding, and the perspectives of gender analysis are a major part of what is driving that expansion forward.
Carolingian ideas of "home" and "family" encompassed a wide range of meanings from physical buildings to kin and free and unfree dependents. Kinship ties played a vital role, both socially and politically, and marriage practices reflected that; Carolingian reforms respected parents' strategies concerning their children's marriages. The Frankish economy was structured around nuclear households, from peasant tenancies to the huge estates presided over by noble men and women. Male and female activities in both production and consumption were partially, but not completely gender-specific. Dowries provided some economic independence for women, but female wealth often depended on contingent factors such as family size and the attitudes of male relatives. The ordered conjugal household was an important image in Carolingian moral thought, with married women holding a subordinate, but honored position. Frankish ideology focused more on elite women's role in the management of dependents and social networks than on purely "housewifely" activities.
This article examines genocide in the Central and late Medieval Europe. The existence of peoples in Europe in the central and later Middle Ages reflected the facts of power: for contemporaries, ethnic communities were axiomatically political ones. Where the interactions of different peoples were most intensive, stress-laden, and ideologically and politically charged, acts of ethnic destruction were anticipated, and in some quarters sought most keenly. Outright ethnic destruction was most likely to occur where political subjugation was reinforced by fundamental religious difference. Pagans, Muslims, and Jews, but also, in an age of sharpened conceptions of religious orthodoxy, adherents of false forms of Christianity, were singled out for extreme solutions. For the rest, the history of this long period is partly one of how, through more intensive and precisely defined interactions, different imagined ethnic groups evolved forms of coexistence and mutual accommodation.
David J. Collins S.J.
This chapter reviews major themes in the history of Western Christianity from the onset of the Western Schism (1378) to the opening of the Council of Trent (1345). Topics include late medieval reform movements, trends in lay religious belief and activity, the papacy and conciliarism, the dominant schools of philosophical and theological thought, heresy and orthodoxy, Renaissance humanism, the early Protestant Reformation and contemporaneous Catholic renewal, and the relationship between Church and state. The scope of the chapter encompasses developments within Western Christianity as well as in its relationship to Eastern Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as well as its expansion into Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The chapter also considers the effects of general historiographical developments over the last century on church history, such as overarching trends within intellectual and institutional history on the one hand and social and cultural history on the other.
Grado Giovanni Merlo
Noting that ‘heresy’ is an identity and label which is imposed rather than self-ascribed, this chapter places at its centre the notion of ‘non-conformity’ within Christianity, tracing the recurrent tendencies of individuals and groups to find themselves in opposition to ecclesiastical authority, usually because they wish to embrace a form of Christianity harking back (in theory at least) to a more apostolic and evangelical form than that adopted by the medieval Church. The chapter discusses a variety of different 'heretical' groups, but also the developing attitudes and actions of the Church against their perceived threat. Throughout the chapter we are reminded that ‘heresy’ is a contested space within which ecclesiastical authority, political power, and spiritual ideals intersect.
For many historians, western Christendom between 1100 and 1500 can be characterized by the defining of Christian identity and the forging of Christian unity against an abstracted, caricatured non-Christian ‘Other’. This chapter argues that there are, however, greater complexities to how Christianity represented Jews, Muslims, and pagans; and that the nature of the ‘otherness’ they embodied was not straightforwardly negative or unknown. Although Jews, Muslims, and pagans were all identified as ‘infidels’ and denied hope of salvation, medieval Christian attitudes toward these groups were neither monolithic nor static. Depictions of Jews, Muslims, and pagans—and the policies applied to them—arose out of a complex interplay of symbol, discourse, and very real material circumstances. Moreover, the ‘otherness’ of the ‘Other’ repeatedly breaks down upon close examination: Christians, Jew, Muslims, and pagans were often considerably less different from each other than polemic and rhetoric seem to suggest.
This chapter considers processes of conversion in the medieval Church, from the Roman empire to the Duchy of Lithuania, but with a particular focus on the northern European kingdoms that converted between the ninth and thirteenth centuries. One must consider whether conversion was achieved primarily through politics, force, culture, or other means; and the chapter demonstrates a variety of routes taken. It tracks with particular care the intersection of religion with politics, and argues that the spread of Christianity can be thought of as creating a kind of ‘empire’, based on religious and cultural unity (even if politically disunited). Moreover, the centralizing tendency in Christianity—its focus on one God and one faith—may have helped to facilitate the consolidation of power for various rulers, particularly in northern Europe.
This chapter notes the early dominance of kings and emperors within the narrative of ‘the Church’, and argues that rather than thinking of early Christianity as a ‘royal religion’, we can more helpfully analyse ‘Christian political discourses’, to understand better how religion operated within the complex politics of early medieval societies. In areas where the legacy of the Roman Empire was minimal, Christianity gave to early rulers and chieftains an idea of kingship, informed by a Roman language of command but simultaneously infused with Old Testament models suitable to tribal realities (issuing laws, rewarding obedience, punishing rebellion). However, where the Empire remained a living legacy, Christianity was not needed in this role, as imperial models of rule still pertained; in these regions, the Church was more keen to present itself as an institution that stands beside (but independent of) government. Over time this shifted, with greater interpenetration of the two realms; and with this growing closeness, elements of sacrality began to become available to kingship itself, and Carolingian kings in particular began to ‘reform’ the Church. However, this conjunction of empire and Church also meant that discourses of Christian behaviour could be used for political critique, as well as legitimation.
Church lords were among the most powerful owners of property in the middle ages. We have learned much about the cultural and social histories of the medieval Church in the past generation, but we still have much to learn about its economic development. Ecclesiastical lordships were far more complex, diverse, and constructive than they might have appeared to an earlier generation of scholars. Strategies adopted by many churchmen between 1100 and 1400, often influenced by pressures and resistance exerted by peasants, monarchies, and city-states, brought about major transformations in the nature of ecclesiastical lordship. At the same time canon lawyers developed a vigorous legal tradition of ecclesiastical patronage. Nevertheless, the tension between the ideal of apostolic poverty and the reality of church property led to conflict, especially within the Franciscan Order. Many church lords responded constructively to the challenges of economic crisis in the later middle ages, but church property remained a divisive issue well into the early modern period.
‘Civic religion’ is a modern term, but useful nonetheless in framing the particular context of religion in medieval towns and cities, where greater social and political stratification paradoxically made an emphasis upon communitas and unity all the more important. This chapter examines various ways in which the social and political intersects with the religious within the medieval city, looking at institutions such as hospitals and confraternities, figures such as bishops and saints, and practices such as processions and ‘carnival’. It argues that theology and religious institutions gave medieval city-dwellers a framework, language, and tools through which they could pursue their social, economic, political and spiritual goals.
Ronnie Po-chia Hsia
This chapter considers the changes wrought by the Reformation, in an attempt to sketch continuities and changes from the Christianity of the middle ages. It looks to the further geographical changes that began in the late fifteenth century with the discovery of the New World; to the radical shifts in Christian practice in Protestant lands, and the more subtle changes in Catholic countries; and notes throughout the complex relationships between secular power, the papacy, and religion in the post-Reformation period.
Civic court records are a rare source for medieval social experience and attitudes, including low-status people who do not appear in most records. Because the requirements for proof in Roman law included fama, reputation, and status, witnesses in court discussed and at times differed over which aspects of a person’s behavior determined their honesty and respectability. This could become an implicit debate over gender expectations. Can a concubine be considered an honest woman? The article explores a 1295 case in which a wealthy politician was charged with the rape of a woman who lived as a concubine. The case hinged on the complex medieval legal understandings of rape. It is also a vivid example of a power struggle waged in and out of the court, involving both bribery and judicial torture. Ultimately, it reveals how class and gender expectations for men and women influenced the court process.