Palaeography: Medieval Scribes and the Transmission of Hebrew Scientific Works

Before the age of printing, the texts and layouts of Hebrew works were not standardised. This is because the transmission of works was out of the hands of their authors and in the hands of scribes. Dr Israel Sandman considers the intervention of scribes when copying Hebrew scientific works. When transmitting Hebrew works, scribes were[…]

The Failure of the Third Crusade, 1189-1192

The Third Crusade failed to put Jerusalem back in Christian hands. Introduction In 1187 Outremer (the collective lands conquered by the crusaders) experienced its first major loss since Edessa in 1147 – the loss of Jerusalem at the hands of Saladin. Jerusalem was the primary aim of the First Crusade, and after this event would[…]

A Thousand Years of the Persian Book

Persian gained prominence as a literary language and a lingua franca—a common cultural language—about a thousand years ago. Introduction In the past millennium, a rich and varied written and spoken heritage has developed in the Persian language, elevating the visibility of Persian civilization among world intellectual traditions. That tradition is particularly strong in the fields[…]

Gluttonous Wealth and Desperate Poverty in the Middle Ages

The message in medieval manuscripts is clear: The rich are good, the poor are trouble. Gluttony—overindulging in food or drink—was one of the seven deadly sins of the medieval European church. In the medieval view, the story of Adam and Eve established gluttony as man’s original and worst sin. Tempted by the snake, they ate[…]

Times Like Good Friday Were Dangerous for Medieval Jews

Language about Jews in the medieval Good Friday liturgy often carried over into physical violence toward local Jewish communities. As Christians observe Good Friday they will remember, with devotion and prayer, the death of Jesus on the Cross. It is a day of solemnity in which Christians give thanks for their salvation made possible by the suffering[…]

Antisemitism in the Middle Ages

The medieval period saw Jews experience intense antisemitism. Introduction The roots of antisemitism can be found in ancient history. Antisemitism existed prior to Christianity, as the work of Manetho from the third century BCE shows. However, antisemitism increased considerably following the rise of Christianity in Europe. This was partly due to the differences in belief,[…]

Medieval European Warfare: Technological, Social, and Cultural Developments

Developments forced a dramatic transformation in the character of warfare from antiquity, changing tactics, weaponry, and fortifications. Strategy and Tactics De re militari Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus wrote De re militari (Concerning Military Matters) possibly in the late 4th century.[2] Described by historian Walter Goffart as “the bible of warfare throughout the Middle Ages”, De re militariwas widely distributed through the Latin West.[…]

Science and Technology in Ancient and Medieval Persia (Iran)

Throughout history, Iran was always a cradle of science, contributing to medicine, mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. Introduction Iran has made considerable advances in science and technology through education and training, despite international sanctions in almost all aspects of research during the past 30 years. In recent years, the growth in Iran’s scientific output is reported[…]

Written in the Stars: Astronomy and Astrology in Medieval Manuscripts

Faith, science, and stargazing influenced everyday decisions in the Middle Ages. Introduction Humankind has always looked to the sky in wonder, with a desire to understand our place in the universe. Eclipses, comets, and star and planet sightings mesmerize us and inspire awe. In the medieval world, from about 500 to 1500, astronomy was a[…]

Divine Light and Melodies Lead the Way: The Medieval Santmat Tradition of Bihar, India

Examining the branch of Santmat, prevalent in the rural areas of Bihar, India. Abstract This paper focuses on the branch of Santmat (thus far, unstudied by scholars of Indian religions), prevalent in the rural areas of Bihar, India. Santmat—literally meaning “the Path of Sants” or “Point of View of the Sants”—of Bihar represents a unique[…]

Advice from Medieval Monks on Avoiding Distraction

They saw the mind as an inherently jumpy thing. Medieval monks had a terrible time concentrating. And concentration was their lifelong work! Their tech was obviously different from ours. But their anxiety about distraction was not. They complained about being overloaded with information, and about how, even once you finally settled on something to read,[…]

Aden, Yemen: Antiquity to Independence

A local legend in Yemen states that Aden may be as old as human history itself. Introduction Aden is a port city and the temporary capital of Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea (the Gulf of Aden), some 170 km (110 mi) east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000 people. Aden’s natural harbour lies in the crater of[…]

The Medieval Political Federation of Kievan Rus

The Rus are first mentioned in the Annals of Saint-Bertin. Introduction Kievan Rus (862-1242 CE) was a medieval political federation located in modern-day Belarus, Ukraine, and part of Russia (the latter named for the Rus, a Scandinavian people). The name Kievan Rus is a modern-day (19th century CE) designation but has the same meaning as[…]

French Identity and Immigration to Constantinople and Greece in the 13th Century

After capturing Constantinople in 1204, the Fourth Crusaders established several states in former Byzantine territory. Starting from the captured imperial center, westerners moved into Thrace, Greece, the Aegean islands, and even Asia Minor. These campaigns of conquest had varied success, with the greatest and longest lasting in southern Greece.[1][2] The Fourth Crusaders had struck out[…]

Medieval Women’s Early Involvement in Manuscript Production

The discovery of lapis lazuli pigment preserved in the dental calculus of a religious woman in Germany radiocarbon-dated to the 11th or early 12th century, a rare pigment used in illuminated manuscripts. By Dr. Anita Radini (et.al.)Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in Medical HumanitiesUniversity of York Abstract During the European Middle Ages, the opening of long-distance[…]

Medieval Jerusalem: A Period of Decline

After about 1244 CE, the city remained a backwater of the late medieval Muslim empires and would not again exceed a population of 10,000 until the 16th century. Introduction The history of Jerusalem during the Middle Ages is generally one of decline; beginning as a major city in the Byzantine Empire, Jerusalem prospered during the[…]

A Brief Overview of Jewish History from the Diaspora to the Middle Ages

Jews living in Europe were easy, early targets for Crusaders while life was comparatively tranquil in Islamic lands. By Dr. Jessica Hammerman (left) and Dr. Shaina Hammerman (right)Jessica Hammerman: Professor of History, Central Oregon Community CollegeShaina Hammerman: Professor of Jewish History and Culture, Lehrhaus Judaica For every period of Jewish history, interactions with non-Jews have been essential to forming Jewish[…]

Notre Dame: Nine Centuries of Change, Renovation, and Renewal

The Notre Dame Cathedral wasn’t static. The design, as with most cathedrals, kept changing to keep up with the changing times. The Notre-Dame de Paris had been damaged and changed many times since it was begun in the mid-12th century. But the fire on April 15 might have been its most catastrophic event. Located on the eastern end[…]

Crusader States in the Medieval Levant

The Westerners managed to maintain a political presence in the region until 1291 CE but were constantly hampered by dynastic rivalries. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Crusader States (aka the Latin East or Outremer) were created after the First Crusade (1095-1102 CE) in order to keep hold of the territorial gains made by Christian armies[…]

The Albigensian Crusade: Christian Armies Turning the Sword Inward in Medieval France

The Albigensian Crusade was the first crusade to specifically target heretic Christians – the Cathars of southern France. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Not successful in repressing the heresy, the on-off campaigns over two decades, led by Simon IV de Montfort, did achieve their real purpose: the political annexation of the Languedoc region, eventually bringing it[…]

The Early Medieval Papacy and Spread of Christianity Beyond the Roman Empire

As the political boundaries of the Roman Empire diminished and collapsed in the West, Christianity spread beyond the old borders of the Empire and into lands that had never been under Rome. Introduction Christianity in the Middle Ages covers the history of Christianity from the Fall of the Western Roman Empire (c. 476) until the Fall[…]

The Continuation of Ancient Roman Patricianship in Post-Roman Europe

With the establishment of the medieval towns, Italian city-states and maritime republics, the patriciate was a formally defined class of governing wealthy families. Introduction Patricianship, the quality of belonging to a patriciate, began in the ancient world, where cities such as Ancient Rome had a class of patrician families whose members were the only people allowed to exercise many political[…]

A History of Virtue as a Philosophy since the Ancient World

In philosophy, the notion of virtue played a central role in ethical theory up until the Enlightenment. Introduction A virtue is a trait or disposition of character that leads to good behavior, for example, wisdom, courage, modesty, generosity, and self-control. There are also public virtues that characterize the spirit of a nation, such as justice, honor, and peace. Every culture has[…]

The Mongol Conquest and Rule of Iran, 1219-1370

The Mongol invasion of Iran began in 1219, after two diplomatic missions to Khwarezm sent by Genghis Khan had been massacred. The Mongol Invasion, 1219-1221 The Khwarazmian dynasty only lasted for a few decades, until the arrival of the Mongols. Genghis Khan had unified the Mongols, and under him the Mongol Empire quickly expanded in[…]

The Armies of the Crusades

The armies could have involved over 100,000 men on either side who came from all over Europe. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The armies of the Crusades (11th-15th centuries CE), which saw Christians and Muslims struggle for control of territories in the Middle East and elsewhere, could involve over 100,000 men on either side who came[…]

Knights in Medieval Europe

To reach this elevated status became more and more challenging as the Middle Ages wore on. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Knights were the most-feared and best-protected warriors on the medieval battlefield, while off it, they were amongst the most fashionably dressed and best-mannered members of society. To reach this elevated status, however, became more and[…]

Artillery in Medieval Europe

Artillery machines were used to good effect throughout antiquity and the medieval era. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Artillery weapons in medieval Europe included the mounted crossbow (ballista) and single-arm torsion catapult (mangonel), both similar to ancient Roman machines. As armies battled further afield such as in the Byzantine Empire and against the Arab caliphates, in[…]

Viking Raiding and Warfare

Viking warfare connected with the expansion of Scandinavian influence along the North Atlantic and into the Mediterranean. By Emma GroeneveldHistorian Introduction Viking warfare, along with its key component of raiding, is inextricably connected with the expansion of Scandinavian influence along the North Atlantic and into the Mediterranean in the Viking Age (c. 790-1100 CE), where the Vikings’ heavy use of[…]

Secluding Nuns in Early Christian Monastic Communities to Avoid Scandal

Since the early days of monasticism, the presence of nuns led to restrictions that limited contact between men and women. Pope Francis recently stated that Catholic nuns in various parts of the world, including Africa, Europe, India and Latin America, have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of priests and bishops. In his comments during a news[…]

Dome of the Rock: Religious Significance, History, and Architecture

Completed in 691 CE, the Dome of the Rock is the oldest extant Islamic building in the world. Introduction The Dome of the Rock (Arabic: مسجد قبة الصخرة, translit.: Masjid Qubbat As-Sakhrah, Hebrew: כיפת הסלע, translit.: Kipat Hasela) is an Islamic shrine and a major landmark in Jerusalem. It was completed in 691 C.E., making it the oldest extant Islamic building in the[…]