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Medieval and Byzantine History Medieval and Byzantine History Forum - Period of History between classical antiquity and modern times, roughly the 5th through 16th Centuries


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Old June 4th, 2018, 07:00 AM   #1

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The primitive Pagan barbarians and Christianization: a detour?


I wonder whether there was a detour for the primitive Pagan barbarians to reach the higher civilization of the Christians without converting into Christianity as they usually did?

Already in the Roman Empire it was obvious that areas in the coastal of eastern Mediterranean Sea were the wealthiest. When the Christians with Constantine also became emperors in the Roman Empire they adopted classical leaning and the intellectual pursuit as well apart maybe from the Pagan emperor, Julian the Apostate, who banned classical leaning in his briefly reign. However, when the Western Roman Empire collapsed in 400s and was overrun by Pagan “barbarians” the western part of Europe sunk into a “Dark Ages". It was thanks to monasteries and monks who kept alive classical learning and reason, and eventually the various barbarians converted into Christianity, and by doing that they gained access to written-system and classical learning. A pivotal time was when Charlemagne initiated the Carolingian Renaissance in the 800 or so. And from 1000-1200 or so the most of Europe became just as much advanced and rich as the states around eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Basically around 1000-1250 most of Europe became Christian, and thus stronger states appeared, developments in technology and agricultural were made which increased food production and population, and at the same time they got written system and access to classical learning. So, while the areas in the eastern Mediterranean Sea were the richest ones in Antiquity and Early Middle Ages (500 BCE and 1000 CE) the picture changed in High Middle Ages (1000-1250 CE) where areas such of France and Germany also reached the same level as the areas around the eastern Mediterranean Sea such of Byzantium and Baghdad.

So I wonder: Was there a way the primitive Pagan areas in Germany for example could have developed without converting into Christianity in Middle Ages? Was there a way they could have said “okay you monks, we are so inferior and stupid in comparison to your civilization. We want your written system, we want Euclid’s geometry, and the works of Aristoteles, John Philoponus and Aquinas.... But we don’t want Jesus Christ and Abrahamic God as we still want to worship rivers and tress”.

Was there a way the primitive Pagan areas could have been developed without converting into Christianity? (or Islam for the sake as Islamic societies were also superior to Pagan Europe).
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Old June 4th, 2018, 08:31 AM   #2
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In more recent times countries like Japan and India have modernized and absorbed many aspects of Western Civilization without or before becoming Christian.

I don't think it could be done so easily 1,500 years ago. In the early Middle Ages monks and other clerics were the most educated people in Europe. Those clerics would have been extremely reluctant to transfer their knowledge to non-Christians. There really wasn't anyone else who could teach the barbarians about Euclid, Aristotle, literacy, etc.
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Old June 4th, 2018, 08:53 AM   #3

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Just for clarification to avoid misunderstanding:

I am talking about Eurasia, and specific in the Middle Ages.

Surely there were advanced civilizations such of India and China(the latter which served as inpiration for Japan prior the Western intervention around 1800 or so).

But in Europe anno 900 CE there were only two ways to reach a higher civilization: Christianity or Islam which both inherited and studied classical learning. - India and China were simply to distant to make any influence on the Pagan Barbarians of Europe.

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Those clerics would have been extremely reluctant to transfer their knowledge to non-Christians. There really wasn't anyone else who could teach the barbarians about Euclid, Aristotle, literacy, etc.
That is what I am wondering about. So, what now if a barbarian Pagan king decided to pay the monks to translate their knowledge to them? As far as I know it never happened.

Last edited by El Cid; June 4th, 2018 at 08:59 AM.
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Old June 4th, 2018, 09:23 AM   #4

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Most of the Germanics overruning the WRE were Arian Christians.
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Old June 4th, 2018, 09:37 AM   #5

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Yeah. I don't know. That is also right somehow I think. Clovis in France converted already around 500 or so. But even many aspect of Pagan practices may have struck and many Pagans still lived, and I think it was first with Charlemagne that a regid correct Christianity came. Thought, Germany first converted into Christianity during or after Charlemagne's reign, and Scandinavia first converted into Christianity around 1000 or so. Russia also around 1000 or so.
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Old June 4th, 2018, 10:26 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by El Cid View Post
I wonder whether there was a detour for the primitive Pagan barbarians to reach the higher civilization of the Christians without converting into Christianity as they usually did?

Already in the Roman Empire it was obvious that areas in the coastal of eastern Mediterranean Sea were the wealthiest. When the Christians with Constantine also became emperors in the Roman Empire they adopted classical leaning and the intellectual pursuit as well apart maybe from the Pagan emperor, Julian the Apostate, who banned classical leaning in his briefly reign. However, when the Western Roman Empire collapsed in 400s and was overrun by Pagan “barbarians” the western part of Europe sunk into a “Dark Ages". It was thanks to monasteries and monks who kept alive classical learning and reason, and eventually the various barbarians converted into Christianity, and by doing that they gained access to written-system and classical learning. A pivotal time was when Charlemagne initiated the Carolingian Renaissance in the 800 or so. And from 1000-1200 or so the most of Europe became just as much advanced and rich as the states around eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Basically around 1000-1250 most of Europe became Christian, and thus stronger states appeared, developments in technology and agricultural were made which increased food production and population, and at the same time they got written system and access to classical learning. So, while the areas in the eastern Mediterranean Sea were the richest ones in Antiquity and Early Middle Ages (500 BCE and 1000 CE) the picture changed in High Middle Ages (1000-1250 CE) where areas such of France and Germany also reached the same level as the areas around the eastern Mediterranean Sea such of Byzantium and Baghdad.

So I wonder: Was there a way the primitive Pagan areas in Germany for example could have developed without converting into Christianity in Middle Ages? Was there a way they could have said “okay you monks, we are so inferior and stupid in comparison to your civilization. We want your written system, we want Euclid’s geometry, and the works of Aristoteles, John Philoponus and Aquinas.... But we don’t want Jesus Christ and Abrahamic God as we still want to worship rivers and tress”.

Was there a way the primitive Pagan areas could have been developed without converting into Christianity? (or Islam for the sake as Islamic societies were also superior to Pagan Europe).
Lithuania converted only around 1400 and it was a big power.
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Old June 4th, 2018, 12:21 PM   #7

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Originally Posted by macon View Post
Lithuania converted only around 1400 and it was a big power.
Do you know whether they did read the works of Aristotle and Euclid before Christianization...?
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Old June 4th, 2018, 12:30 PM   #8
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Do you know whether they did read the works of Aristotle and Euclid before Christianization...?
They were not really urbanized but their elites interacted with their christian neighbours Poles and Germans and they needed engineering skills and knowledge about governing.

I would guess that they read as much Aristotle and Euclid as Polish and German nobles = not much. Institutions were not there but open minded princes were employing all kinds of profiles, not only hardy soldiers.
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Old June 4th, 2018, 12:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El Cid View Post
I wonder whether there was a detour for the primitive Pagan barbarians to reach the higher civilization of the Christians without converting into Christianity as they usually did?

Already in the Roman Empire it was obvious that areas in the coastal of eastern Mediterranean Sea were the wealthiest. When the Christians with Constantine also became emperors in the Roman Empire they adopted classical leaning and the intellectual pursuit as well apart maybe from the Pagan emperor, Julian the Apostate, who banned classical leaning in his briefly reign.

From where did you get this idea? Julian was not a fan of Christianity, so I would understand him banning Christian books, but he was a fan of classical Greek philosophy. Do you have a source?
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Old June 4th, 2018, 02:42 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by macon View Post
Lithuania converted only around 1400 and it was a big power.
But Lithuania made virtually no contribution to technological advances, and literacy was lagging, and most of the other signs of higner civilization it lagged as well. What cities did Lithuania even have? What technological advances the Lithuanians had they got from their Christian neighbors.

I would say Lithuania were an example of the importance of Christianity for the development of higher civilization. That they had a lot of temporary military power is not a sign of civilization, the Mongols were a big power too.

The Christianization gave Europe a sense of common identity and culture that the pagan cultures lacked, The medieval universities attracted students from all over Europe from various nationalisties, that wouldn't have happened without Christinization. For example, theories of a Pole, Copernicus, were championed by an Italian, Galileo, and the German Kepler's calculation of planetary motion were based on the observation by the Danish Brahe, The works of an Englishman, Bede, were popular throughout Europe, and help established the use of AD for universal dating. The adoption of the legacy of the Greco-Roman civilization went hand in hand with Christianization in Europe. Would the Scandinavians adopt Latin as the language of learning without becoming Christians? I doubt it.

Lithuania's influence was entirely local, and its intellectual interaction with the rest of Europe non existence. England in the 8th century, just a hundred years after converting, was making more intellectual contributions than Lithuania in the 15th century.

Last edited by Bart Dale; June 4th, 2018 at 03:03 PM.
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