- Jun 2016
- A Shell of Steel
I would disagree with that assessment. Charlemagne became known to modern Europeans as the "Father of Europe", but this is only in hindsight, and with an eye to a very specific region of Europe. There wasn't an understanding, under Charlemagne or for several centuries after, of Europeans as a distinct group, either from non-Europeans or the previous inhabitants of Europe. Latin Christians in Western Europe increasingly began viewing themselves as a distinct group, but this was largely from other Europeans -- the Romans, namely, or as they began calling them "Greeks", as well as Pagan Germanic and Slavic peoples -- not as Europeans in contrast to Asians and Africans. Additionally, from the Roman perspective most of Western Europe had been lost to the Barbarians, and so they increasingly felt disconnected from its inhabitants and their customs. Overall, Charlemagne brought one collection of Europeans together and pushed others further apart, without ever really making any statements of European identity.
To get to the crux of the issue in the rest of the comment, I don't necessarily disagree with the minutiae of your observations, but I disagree with the basic idea that there was any collection of values, customs, or convictions common to "Europeans" that could collectively be termed the "European Tradition" in a pre-modern context. There were values, customs, and convictions common to Romans, there were values, customs, and convictions common to Muslims, there were values, customs, and convictions common to Latin Christians, and there were values, customs, and convictions common to Germanic Pagans, but there's no justification for lumping any of these under the label of "European tradition" until at least the 15th century, by which time the other traditions had faded and the Latin Christian had grown to dominate the continent. What you've been doing is tracking the Greco-Roman and then the medieval Germano-Latin traditions under the label of the "European Tradition". These are two very distinct -- if connected -- civilizations which coexisted as such for centuries, and neither matched up with the boundaries of Europe nor thought of themselves as European in anything approaching modern terms. There are thus simply no accurate observations that can actually be made about the "European Tradition" in an ancient or medieval context, because such observations will either apply only to a small portion of Europe or extend well beyond it -- anything that applies to Latin Christianity will extend only to that portion of Europe, for example, while anything that applies to Christianity in general will apply everywhere from Armenia to Ethiopia, and the same is true of art, architecture, language, the reception of classical literature, societal norms and structures, etc. Observations can certainly be made about developments within medieval Germano-Latin culture, which by-and-large goes on to form the basis for the more broadly European culture of the Early Modern Period, but it will never be accurate to describe these as developments of the "European Tradition" in a medieval context.
What you've put in red is partly what I've been doing. I would say that it appears this way particularly because there are certain strands of European history which are most prominent, but they do not encompass all that I mean by the European tradition. If one makes such an observation on the conditions of what is now Latvia during the 6th century and says, "this has nothing to do with that" (I'm just taking a random example, I actually don't know anything about that region under that period) I would not disagree, but there is a good chance I would consider both as part of what I'm calling the European tradition. I say only a good chance because for example I wouldn't consider the Moors part of the European tradition, if you get what I mean. It doesn't mean I'm trying to equate Latvia to France.
In conclusion, then, the goal of the project to examine the roots of the current European Tradition and its relationship with Islam is a perfectly valid one, but the concept of a pan-European culture or consciousness is a distinctly modern phenomenon that is fundamentally inapplicable in a medieval or ancient context. It would therefore be more productive to focus on the different historical traditions, within Europe and without, that contributed to the genesis of the European Tradition -- most notably the Christian, the Greco-Roman, and the Germanic -- and from which that tradition drew its structures, concepts, styles, and values.
You've already been doing the groundwork for this, but you've been trying to fit these diverse contributors to the European Tradition under its label and extend it back to classical antiquity, which is not a tenable framework in the face of historical reality. It is, in general, an interesting project, but it could make a much stronger argument, in my opinion, with a bit of a shift in the angle from which the history of the European Tradition is analyzed.
I think this discussion arose from considering whether Christianity should even be considered part of the European tradition. I had thought there might be reasons to consider it so, that was the context of bringing up post-Roman Europe in reference to Charlemagne (who was just an arbitrary example, not the singular justification). As I said before, certain things have caused me to re-consider whether that characterization of Christianity is accurate (eg. that it originated geographically outside of Europe, that the founding figures - I mean Jesus, apostles, etc. were not European, that it had roots in the Judaic tradition, etc.) The problem is of course because there is a degree of 'arbitrariness' to the categorization of European - Let's say some core criteria were the origins within the geographical location of Europe, the origins from those considered of European ethnicity (which I understand can be an issue in itself), the roots either in spontaneous relation to the geography, social conditions, or relation to/inspiration from past cultural manifestations, and so on... Still there could be issues. If Europeans were in America (non-geographically European) does it automatically sever them from that tradition? It was these questions which the OP was intended to consider rather than dogmatically impart from a position of pre-established wisdom. That is why I am trying to be clear about how much I appreciate your posts. I am not being insincere. The considerations you are making are exactly the kind I intended with the "considering" referred to in the title of this thread and the post.