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I think this begs the question of what of less brutality you are comparing the middle ages to.

Early in the Roman Republic, the pater familia of a household had an absolute power over everyone in the family. He had the right, for example, to refuse to accept a newborn into the family, and those not accepted were literally thrown out with the trash. Since the family was extended, if an old man did not like his grandson's wife, he could throw her newborn baby out, just for spite.

In the Roman Republic, slaves were regarded as having value only in terms of money. If they got sick, they got no medical attention, unless there was a financial reason to give it. Slaves sent to mines were sometimes kept in the mines, without being allowed back to the surface, for the rest of their lives.

The Spartacus Revolt brought things to the point that, the Senate made it illegal for people to kill their slaves. But the law also said that if a slave killed the master, all the slaves belonging to that master had to be put to death, even if there were hundreds of them. Slaves were also not allowed to marry and most were not provided with sleeping quarters.

In the hundred years after Commodus, there were over sixty people who had strong enough claims to be emperor that they controlled mints and had money coined in their own names. Of these people, only one died of natural causes at an advanced age; he had abdicated almost as soon as he got power. One died of plague, one died in prison and this may have been from natural causes, and one was struck by lightening. The rest were nearly all murdered or died in battle.

I guess we could say that things in Roman times were brutal. But were the middle ages more brutal than Rome? What do we think we know about the middle ages? And what was real?

We think of medieval people as superstitious and intent on burning any poor warty old woman they could find, as a witch. But is this reality? Laws of the Franks and Lombards forbade executing witches unless it could be proven that they had actually killed someone with a curse. The problems of large numbers of witch burnings did not come up until the Late Middle Ages, and were not at their peak until the Reformation came along with all its supposedly educated and scientific people.

We think of people of the middle ages as dirty. But among the first guilds ever formed was a guild of soap makers, which was active in Verona in the seventh century. Medieval people believed that cleanliness was next to godliness and many would bathe in a river in winter if that was the best source of water they had.

We think of medieval people as ignorant. But we know that Cor Tewdws (Theodosius College) was operating in Wales in 446 and stayed open until it was closed by Henry VIII. And we know that Kings School in Canterbury was opened in 596, and remains open today. And we know that Beverley Grammar School, in Yorkshire, which is also open today, was run as a state operated school starting in the year 700. And interestingly, it remained open for decades when the government in the area was run by Vikings. I could go on and on about education. But the Vikings were opening their own schools before the Viking age was over.

We think of the middle ages as miserable and uncomfortable. But it was in the middle ages that the invention of the chimney made it possible to have fireplaces. In Roman times people had fires on dirt floors, or fires in braziers, and died of what they called suffocation, but we might call carbon monoxide.

We think of medieval government as arrogant and arbitrary monarchies. But it was the Middle Ages that produced the parliaments with representatives of the commons. And it was the Middle ages that produced republican city states for the first time since ancient Greece.

We think of women of the time as without value and abused, but the list of important women is long and impressive. A person with this view should read a biography of Ethelfleda, who governed the English kingdom of Mercia, and kicked the Vikings who threatened it around for years. Or read about Margaret I of Denmark, who was legally not allowed to rule, but did anyway because the nobility supported her and valued her abilities. Or read about Eleanor of Aquitaine, or Hildegard of Bingen, or Marie de France, who was a complete unknown but a great poet, or the order of female knights in Catalonia called the Order of the Hatchet, or even just examine a list of queens regnant, who ruled in their own right.

We think of medieval people as harsh and unjust. There is a manor house in Winchester that has been turned into a hotel called the Manor of God Begot. It was built as a monastery in Anglo saxon times. The court documents, from Norman times, are very clear on one point, not even officers of the king were allowed to enter the monastery buildings to remove a person who had fled there for sanctuary, even if that person was a felon. And monasteries all over Europe provided sanctuary to people high and low who needed it. There was more than one medieval queen who hid out in plain sight from a husband who was unwilling to fetch her out for fear of being excommunicated for violation of sanctuary.

I am not going to tell you that nothing bad happened in the middle ages. But, I will tell you one thing instead. We think of the middle ages as particularly brutal because people of later times thought it would profit them in some way to write about them being that way. In the middle ages, they had murderous volleys of arrows, armored knights and Greek fire. Today we have machine guns, tanks, and nuclear bombs, but we also have Hollywood, Mel Gibson, and Braveheart to entertain us and take our minds off our own brutality.

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13y ago
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I would not be surprised to discover that every year of the Middle Ages had a war in Europe somewhere.

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12y ago

Because the people were medieval.

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because they were...

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Q: Why was there a lot of fighting during the middle ages?
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Continue Learning about History of Western Civilization

How was the Architecture in Late Middle Ages in Spain?

Spanish medieval architecture was Gothic, with high arches and a lot of stained glass in the churches, and a feel of airiness. This was true through the entire late Middle Ages, though the period can be broken down into several distinct Spanish styles. I have added a link below.


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Is there any difference between Middle Ages Medieval and Dark Ages?

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When did the dark ages begin in Europe?

It might be safest to say the Dark Ages lasted from the 5th century to the 10th century. The term Dark Ages is not really clearly defined, and in fact has fallen from use quite a bit. Originally, the idea of an age of obscurity was used to describe the period after the fall of the West Roman Empire. At the time the concept of Dark Ages was first described, in about 1330, the Renaissance had not yet started, and the writer, Petrarch, regarded himself as living in the dark ages. Later writers regarded the Dark Ages as the time from the fall of the West Roman Empire to the Renaissance, and so dated them identically with the Middle Ages, from the 5th century to the 15th. During the 19th century, historians came to understand the the Middle Ages had a lot going on, too much to be called Dark, in the sense of decline or decay. They began to make the time equal to those parts of the Middle Ages when there was little written, meaning the time of the 5th through 10th centuries. This idea had already been around for some time. Under this scheme, the Middle Ages were between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance. The idea that the Carolingian Renaissance and Macedonian Renaissance, with their growth of culture and education, happened during a time of decay and decline, seems to fly in the face of logic. So many historians refer to the time from the 5th to 10th centuries as the Early Middle Ages instead of Dark Ages. Under this scheme, the term is not used at all. There have been people who had different, specific ideas of what the Dark Ages were.


What would a troubadour of the Middle Ages need to do to become a master?

You mean a master troubadour? A lot of talent and to be a good salesman. These people were more gypsy than anything else and had to be smart because they were on the move. With a lot of luck they came under the protection of a court where they could stay.

Related questions

Were there other religions insted of catholic during the middle ages?

There were a lot of Muslims in Spain during the Middle Ages, and in the Balkans during the late Middle Ages. There were a lot of Jews through many parts of Europe during much of the Middle Ages. In the start of the Middle Ages, there were still some pagans in the area that had been the Roman Empire, and pagans remained in northern and eastern Europe. There were other Christian groups. The Coptic Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Church were two that remain today. There were also other Churches, like the Celtic Church, and a variety of heretical organization, such as the Cathars, that were more ephemeral.


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Why did women in the middle ages wear a lot of cross jewelry?

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Who welcomed the jews during the Middle ages?

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