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Italy; the Papacy; the (Greek) Byzantine Empire; Spain; Frank Kingdoms; Feudalism; Britain and England.

Medieval history. From end of western empire to the discovery of America (a.d. 476-1492). From Partition of Western Roman Empire to Treaty of Verdun (a.d. 476-843).
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The thousand years of history included in the mediaeval period present us with much interesting matter. The first half of the period has been known as the "Dark Ages," but this is somewhat of a misnomer. The occupation of the western part of the Roman Empire by the new nationalities was to a large extent, as has been seen, a friendly occupation in which the conquerors, if such they must be called, adopted much of the culture, institutions, and language, as well as the religion, which they found existing in their new homes. A fresh state of society and civilisation arises in the mingling of old and new elements, and the development of the German world begins in central Europe. The Christian hierarchy, possessed as they were of the Latin tongue, in its literary form, and acquiring great social and political influence through men's belief in and submission to their spiritual claims, made that classical language the medium of communication between diplomatists, statesmen, and men of learning in most European countries through all these middle ages, while the Greek language and literature survived in the Eastern Empire. Thus the light of learning was never wholly extinguished. The rise of Mohammedanism, feudalism, monastic institutions, modern towns and municipal government; the growth of commerce; the beginnings of great native literatures in the chief European countries; the development of the political freedom which was to culminate in the establishment of modern republics and constitutional monarchies, - these lead us on to the new world of geography and of mental and social life, due to the mariner's compass, the invention of printing, the great revival of classical learning, the rise of a middle class, the decay of blind faith and superstition, and the commencement of the reign of reason and free thought.

We left Odovaker (Odoacer) ruling in Italy in 476. A remarkable man now came to the front in the Ostrogothic prince Theoderic, well trained in his youth for ten years at Constantinople. He became in 474, at 20 years of age, king of the Ostrogoths, whom he settled in the region which is now southern Austria. In 488 Zeno, the Eastern (Greek or Byzantine) emperor, commissioned Theoderic to deprive Odovaker of Italy, and to rule his own Ostrogoths there as representative or lieutenant of the Byzantine power. The task was welcomed as suiting the ambition of one who desired to be head of a compact and civilised state, and Theoderic led his people, with all their cattle and property, across the Julian Alps. In September, 489, the battle of Verona, with great loss to the invaders, was won over Odovaker, and by the close of 491 Theoderic was master of the whole of Italy. The Ostrogothic kingdom, fairly founded by 493, was well ruled for 33 years by the sovereign who earned the title of "the Great." He showed rare tolerance in protecting the Jews against Christian bigotry, and rare taste in his earnest endeavours to preserve works of ancient art in buildings and statues. Theoderic's three capitals, Rome, Ravenna, and Verona, and many smaller cities, were adorned with churches, theatres, palaces, and public baths constructed at the king's order with lavish expenditure. In the literature which he encouraged, Theoderic's reign was distinguished by the learning of his secretary-of-state Cassiodorus, and of the philosopher Boethius, author and statesman, the greatest name in literature for 100 years, the last Roman of any note who understood the language and studied the literature of Greece. He was specially acquainted with Greek philosophy, and his translations and commentaries were the medium through which the writings of Aristotle on logic became first known to the western world. During his imprisonment on a charge of treason, for which he suffered death about 524, Boethius wrote in pure style his famous work De Consolatione Philosophic ("On the Comfort of Philosophy"), in alternate prose and verse, marked by exalted thought, and showing a real belief in prayer and Providence, without any mention of Christianity. Theoderic was a fine instance of a benevolent despot. Agriculture, commerce, and mining were encouraged; roads were repaired, marshes were drained, the coinage was restored, and justice was well administered. His three last years of reign and life were darkened by tyrannical deeds, which throw a shade over an otherwise great and beneficent career. In foreign affairs, a part of southern Gaul was annexed. The Ostrogothic realm was of brief duration. In 540 the second king, Vitiges or Witigis, was carried prisoner to Constantinople by Belisarius, the famous general of Justinian, Emperor of the East, and in 555, after a reconquest of most of Italy by the Ostrogoths, Narses, the successor of Belisarius, made an end of the kingdom, the country being ruled for a time by an Exarch of Ravenna, under the emperor at Constantinople. The Goths in Italy were Arians, and on this account, as well as from race-hatred, had never become united in feeling with the provincial population, and it is also probable that the race hardily reared on the Danubian territory had degenerated in the climate of Italy and in a life of unwonted luxury. The peninsula was soon to be overrun by a fierce body of northern barbarians. The Lombards (Longobardi or Langobardi), described by their enemies as more cruel than any other of the northern tribes, originally settled on the Lower Elbe, were in the middle of the 5th century, by conquest of the Gepidae, masters of Pannonia (south-western Austria and Hungary), and thus close to the gates of Italy. In 568 their chief Alboin led them onwards, and they were soon in possession of all the northern country since called Lombardy. They also founded duchies which gave them a hold on central and southern Italy. Arians in religion, they hated all Catholic (orthodox) persons and places, and destroyed farms and monasteries, fortresses and churches.

We must now turn to the rise of the Papal power which was to assume so large a place in the world's history. The Bishop of Rome, called "Pope" in the Western Church since the 5th century, must have always been a prominent ecclesiastical personage as head of the Church in the imperial city which all men regarded with reverence. He gained higher importance when Rome ceased to be the sole seat of rule, and Latin Christendom was separated from the Eastern. The claim to primacy was at first based simply on human authority - on the fact that Rome was the ancient capital of the empire, and the tradition that St. Peter preached there. In 449 Leo the Great, who had shown much prudence and courage during the Hunnish and Vandal invasions, maintained the -claim of his see to supremacy in the Western Church, and, in his instructions to his legates at the Council of Ephesus, he rested it on Divine authority in the words: "Thou art Peter," etc. When the Western Empire came to an end in 476, the chief man in Italy was the Pope, who was regarded as the leader and defender of the people. At the end of the 5th century (in 498) the election of a pope, formerly shared by the laity, came to rest solely with the clergy. The waning of the Eastern emperor's power in Italy after the Lombard inroad increased the Papal influence, and Gregory I. (the Great) may be regarded as the real founder of the Papal power. He held the seat from 590 to 604, and, mainly exercising spiritual influence, was reverenced for his character and his energy in reforms. By him the Lombard conquerors were won over to the Catholic faith, as well as the Arian Visigoths of Spain, and, though his missionary Augustine was certainly not the founder of Christianity in the British Isles, as lately (in 1897) assumed with so much pride and pomp in the Isle of Thanet, 13 centuries after his arrival, yet Gregory justly acquired new fame from the work done in England. In the 7th century the Popes were harassed by the Eastern emperors, who, still claiming to be masters of Rome and holding, by the " exarch," territory in Italy, required elections to be submitted to their confirmation.

The Papal power grew in the West, and in 664 the Church in England recognised the control of the See of Rome. In Germany, Irish missionaries, St. Columban and others, had been the first to preach Christianity, and from 677, for some years, the English Wilfrith (St. Wilfrid, bishop of York) made thousands of converts in Friesland (most of Holland and part of Prussia), being succeeded there by Willibrod, or Wilbrord, of Northumbrian origin, who became bishop of Utrecht, and worked with great zeal and success from about 690 to 739. All this later work was done under Papal sanction, and, under a commission from Gregory II (715-731), Winfried, or Winfrith, a native of Crediton in Devonshire, and a Benedictine monk, won to Christianity much of central and southern Germany. Churches and convents were everywhere founded, and supplied with priests, monks, and nuns from England. This eminent man, known ecclesiastically as St. Boniface, and as the "Apostle of the Germans," was made, in 732, archbishop and primate of all Germany. In 738 he became Papal legate in that region, and founded six bishoprics. In 746, as archbishop of Mainz, still the chief see in the German Church, he became Metropolitan of Germany. Eight years later he resigned his high post, to become again a missionary, and in June, 755, he was killed in Friesland, with his congregation of converts, by a band of armed heathens. His remains, first conveyed to Utrecht and then to Mainz, had their final resting-place in the famous Benedictine abbey of Fulda (in Hesse-Nassau), of his foundation. That religious house, once a great centre of missionary enterprise and seat of theological learning, can show a copy of the Gospels in the prelate-martyr's handwriting, one leaf being stained with his blood. The resistance of the Italian and the western clergy to the Byzantine emperor Leo III.'s decree (717) forbidding the worship or any use of images, brought a conflict with the "exarch," or imperial governor, and the Lombards then seized the imperial territories, and threatened the lands acquired by the Church. Liudprand, their king, took Ravenna, which was retaken by the Pope (Gregory II.), and northern and central Italy were finally lost to the Eastern Empire. Gregory III. (731-741) called in the help of the Frank chief Pipin or Pepin, who twice defeated the Lombards, and in 754 bestowed on the Roman See the territory of the former Exarchate of Ravenna, with Ancona, Rimini, and other cities, and the lands of Bologna and Ferrara. This was the beginning of the temporal power of the Papacy, the foundation of the States of the Church, which lasted, under various enlarged and diminished forms, until 1870. The destruction of the Langobard or Lombard kingdom came in 774, when Karl the Great (or, wrongly, "Charlemagne") besieged and captured king Desiderius in Pavia, and took possession of his territory in northern and central Italy.

During the first half of the 5th century the Eastern or Byzantine Empire was well ruled by the able minister Anthemius, during part of the minority of Theodosius II.; then by the young emperor's sister Pulcheria as regent, a woman of extraordinary capacity and devotion to duty, the first of her sex that had filled that position. For 36 years, including her reign as colleague with her brother until his death in 450, and then for some years as empress, peace was generally maintained, but it was needful for a time to buy off Attila and his Huns by an annual tribute. Leo I, (457-474), Zeno (474-491), and Anastasius (491-518) kept the realm unimpaired by barbarian conquest, and the last ruler left his successor a great treasure in gold, and a fine well-disciplined army of 150,000 men, largely composed of Isaurians, the mountain populations of southern Asia Minor, in corps raised by Zeno, who was of Isaurian birth, and of Armenians and others from the eastern frontier. The native elements of the army were thus strong enough to hold in check the Hunnish and German auxiliaries. Zeno had much trouble with Ostrogoth invaders of the Balkan peninsula, and at last got rid of the main body, as we have seen, by inducing Theoderic to turn his attention to Italy.

The greatest of the Eastern emperors was Justinian, nephew and heir of his predecessor, the rough uneducated soldier Justinius. He reigned from 527 to 565, and under him the empire reached its highest point of power and renown. This slave-born Illyrian, gifted with keen natural intelligence, was trained at Constantinople, and became accomplished in every department save that of military science, in which he, like Louis -XIV., was lucky or skilful enough in choice to have himself served by the ablest generals of his time. When he had almost reached middle age, the steady, practical man caused the world to wonder at his marriage in 526 with the dancer Theodora, the star of the Byzantine comic stage. Whatever her character may have been before her great elevation - there is little doubt that she has been much maligned - this extraordinary woman, one of the loveliest of all time, showed herself, both in intellect and in high spirit, as well as in spotless conduct, worthy to share an imperial throne. The emperor, ever brooding over great schemes, which he carried out with unscrupulous energy, had in his wife the most able and trustworthy of advisers. She was most bountiful to the poor, especially to unhappy beings of her own sex, and often intervened in favour of the victims of oppression. On one occasion, when the emperor's spirit quailed, her courage was the saving of his throne. At the splendid circus at Constantinople, called the Hippodrome, the chariot-races gave rise to the factions known as the "Blues" and the "Greens." This rivalry, by a singular perversion, was carried outside the circus into both religious and political affairs. The "Green" faction would oppose the Catholic or orthodox believers, or the "Blues" take a side in a contest for the throne. All classes of society chose their colour in this party-warfare, which, on many occasions in Byzantine history, caused very serious riots and insurrections. One of the worst of these outbreaks came in 532. The emperor ordered seven ringleaders from both sides to be executed, and a rescue of the last three at the scaffold brought on an insurrection in which both "Blues" and "Greens" united against the authorities with cries of Nika ("Conquer"), and demanded the removal of the finance-minister and of the city-prefect. Justinian lost his nerve, and promised to dismiss the officials. Then his imperial power became itself at stake. The only troops in Constantinople were 4,000 Imperial Guards, a few Germans, and some hundreds of armoured cavalry. Belisarius, the famous general, was in command, but the rioters made a fierce resistance. The Senate-house was fired; the cathedral was burned; most of the city fell into the hands of the insurgents, and on the sixth day of the outbreak they crowned Hypatius, nephew of the late emperor Anastasius. The Council sat at the palace, the only building now left to the emperor, and many of the ministers urged Justinian to flee by sea, and to reconquer the capital with troops collected in the provinces. Then the empress Theodora rose and declared that a king had better die than be a dethroned exile, and quoted the proverb "Empire is the best winding-sheet." The woman shamed the men into action, and a last attack was made by Belisarius. The Hippodrome was stormed at two portals, the rebels fell in thousands, and peace was quickly restored. In 548, at the age of 40, Theodora died, worn out by the anxieties and toils of her position.

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