Famous Grammarians and Poets of the Byzantine Empire

Making a grammar book was one of the principal tools of Byzantine scholars to preserve the correct form of Classical Greek. Introduction Overview In the wake of the downfall of the Western Roman Empire and the intellectual collapse of Athens, Byzantine scholars engaged in preserving the Classical Greek language and its literature. Thus they became the guardians of a vanished culture. This article[…]

Grammar: From the Ancient Greeks to the Middle Ages

English sentence structure or grammar has been extraordinarily impacted by the ancient Greek and Latin models. By Dr. R GnanasekaranAssistant Professor, Department of EnglishKarpagam University Abstract In view of the fact that grammar is a central phase of instructing a language, many techniques have been adopted to instruct it effectively over the time. Right from[…]

Heimdall: Guardian of Asgard in Medieval Norse Mythology

The main literary source for Heimdall’s role in Norse mythology as a forefather would be the poem Rigsthula. By Irena Manea Introduction Heimdall is a mysterious deity of Norse mythology whose main attribute refers to guarding the realm of the gods, Asgard, from his high fortress called Himinbjörg found at the top of Bifröst, the rainbow bridge. He has the[…]

The Poetic Verbal Contest between Odin and Thor in Norse Mythology

They verbally duel in a so-called mannjafnaðr, a comparison of men, both trying their superiority. By Irina Manea Introduction The poem called The Lay of Greybeard (Old Norse: Hárbarðsljóð) is one story from Norse mythology that relates an intriguing verbal fight between two of its essential gods, Thor and Odin. The poem consists of 60 stanzas and is found complete in the 13th-century CE[…]

What Was Life Like for Women in the Medieval World?

A glimpse of the everyday challenges and triumphs medieval women faced during the Middle Ages. By Erin Migdol, Elizabeth Morrison, and Larisa Grollemond Introduction While depictions of the Middle Ages often revolve around knights, dragons, and fairy tales, the stories of how real people lived during this tumultuous time are often even more fascinating—particularly the[…]

Miniature Mosaics in the Byzantine World

The Byzantines began creating portable mosaic icons by setting small tesserae into wax or resin on wood panels. Introduction For many of us, the term “mosaics” evokes the soaring golden walls and ceilings of the Eastern Roman “Byzantine” Empire. But from approximately the twelfth to the fourteenth century, the Byzantines also began creating mosaics that[…]

A Work in Progress: Middle Byzantine Mosaics in the Hagia Sophia

These mosaics illustrate the ways Hagia Sophia became entangled in and responded to theological controversies and more. Introduction Who was the artwork’s patron? What were the artwork’s original meanings and functions? When art historians study a work of art, they ask questions about the artwork’s initial creation. But often, works of art and architecture change[…]

The Medieval Holocaust: Plague and Jewish Persecution in Germany, 1348-1349

The persecution and destruction of the Jews of Germany at the time of the Black Death. Introduction The Jews of Germany have suffered a great deal from persecutions over the centuries. The Holocaust of the 1940s, for example, ranks among the most brutal events in recorded history, but there were many other instances of oppression[…]

Samurai: The Rise of the Warrior Class in Medieval Japan

The era of the samurai lasted for 700 years, until the emperor was restored to power in 1868. Introduction During the Heian period, Japan experienced a golden age. That period was followed by civil war. In this chapter, you will learn about the rise of a powerful warrior class in Japan—the samurai . Minamoto Yoritomo[…]

Secular Learning and Sacred Purpose in a Medieval Carolingian Manuscript

This quadrivium miniature has often been cited as evidence for the prescience of the Carolingian educational reforms. Introduction Of the early medieval copies of Boethius’s De institutione arithmetica, by far the most sumptuous is a ninth-century manuscript that is presently housed in the Staatsbibliothek in Bamberg.[2] (Figure 1 above) Unlike other versions of the treatise,[3][…]

Medieval Byzantine Secular Art

The Byzantines also created art and architecture with no religious imagery and without explicit religious functions in mind. Religious vs. Secular? Admittedly, classifying medieval art in tidy categories of the “religious” or “secular” is a bit anachronistic, especially in the arts of the Byzantine court, where religious and political elements were often seamlessly blended. For[…]

Medieval Mental Illness and Care: The Case of Emma de Beston in 1383

Cases of people classified as mentally ill reveal medieval attitudes to mental illness, disability, and incapacity at a communal level. Introduction What happened in the medieval period when people became mentally ill? Modern advances in diagnosis and treatment, and a monolithic view of pre-modern culture, might entrench opinions that former attitudes to people undergoing the[…]

Tower Mills since the Thirteenth Century

It represented a modification or a demonstration of improving and adapting technology that had been known by humans for ages. Introduction A tower mill is a type of vertical windmill consisting of a brick or stone tower, on which sits a wooden ‘cap’ or roof, which can rotate to bring the sails into the wind.[1][2][3][4][5][…]

Windmills and Their Technology since the Middle Ages

Windmills were used throughout the high medieval and early modern periods. Introduction A windmill is a structure that converts wind power into rotational energy by means of vanes called sails or blades, specifically to mill grain (gristmills), but the term is also extended to windpumps, wind turbines and other applications. The term wind engine is[…]

Rights and Responsibilities under the Medieval System of Feudalism

Feudalism is the most distinctive and significant factor of the early and central middle ages. What Was Feudalism? Before the period known as the Middle Ages, the Roman Empire controlled most of Western Europe. Under Roman rule, Europe was organized and unified region. But in 400 A.D., the Roman Empire was split in two: the[…]

Viking Prophecy: The Poem Völuspá of the Poetic Edda

Every god has a specific enemy with whom they will do battle and many will be slain, including the chief god Odin. By Irina Manea Introduction The Völuspá (Old Norse: Vǫluspá) is a medieval poem of the Poetic Edda that describes how the world might have come into shape and would end according to Norse[…]

Competing Theories of the Medieval ‘Black Death’

Several possible causes have been advanced for the Black Death. Introduction Theories of the Black Death are a variety of explanations that have been advanced to explain the nature and transmission of the Black Death (1347–51). A number of epidemiologists since the 1980s have challenged the traditional view that the Black Death was caused by[…]

The Medieval West African Trading Empire of Ghana

The early West African societies of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai all created empires that gained much of their wealth from trade. Introduction The kingdom of Ghana lasted from sometime before 500 C.E. until its final collapse in the 1200s. It arose in the semidesert Sahel and eventually spread over the valley between the Senegal and[…]

The Salt Trade of Ancient West Africa

When exactly salt became a trade commodity is unknown, but the exchange of salt for cereals dates back to prehistory. Introduction Salt from the Sahara desert was one of the major trade goods of ancient West Africa where very little naturally occurring deposits of the mineral could be found. Transported via camel caravans and by[…]

What Did People Believe about Animals in the Middle Ages?

Lions, tigers, and dragons, oh my! By Erin Migdol, Elizabeth Morrison, and Larisa Grollemond During the Middle Ages (which lasted from the years 500–1500), people were as fascinated by animals of all stripes as we are—from snails to elephants to mythical beasts like unicorns and dragons. Animals represented themes and lessons from Christianity and were[…]

The Early Medieval Hiberno-Scottish Missions

Since the 8th and 9th centuries, these early missions were called ‘Celtic Christianity’. Introduction The Hiberno-Scottish mission was a series of missions and expeditions initiated by various Irish clerics and cleric-scholars who, for the most part, are not known to have acted in concert.[1] There was no overall coordinated mission, but there were nevertheless sporadic[…]

Missionaries and Manuscripts in the Early Latin West

Tangible evidence about Christianity’s spread from Rome to Canterbury and from Ireland to the Court of Charlemagne. Introduction As a religion of the book, Christianity established its roots and spread its message through texts. Manuscripts were as mobile as the missionaries who converted the pagan people in the name – and with the Word –[…]

Twentieth-Century Jewish Émigrés and Medieval European Economic History

Examining the significance of their intellectual contributions by uncovering the webs of meaning in which their work was suspended. Abstract This essay discusses the intellectual contributions of five Jewish émigrés to the study of European economic history. In the midst of the war years, these intellectuals reconceptualized premodern European economic history and established the predominant[…]

The Fear of Outsiders and Social Minorities in Medieval Europe

Of the many groups under pressure and persecution in this period were Jews, lepers, and homosexuals. Western Europe experienced a significant increase in discrimination against social minorities in the period conventionally labeled the long twelfth century.[1] This period was one of scholastic sophistication, urbanization, and consolidation of central secular and church power.[2] The very developments[…]

The Stone of Scone: Coronating Medieval Scottish Monarchs

Introduction The Stone of Scone (Gaelic: Lia Fail), also known as the Stone of Destiny or Coronation Stone, is a block of sandstone associated with the coronation ceremonies of the medieval monarchs of Scotland. These ceremonies were held at Scone, a prehistoric site in Perthshire. The Stone of Scone was removed from Scotland by Edward I of[…]

The Renaissance Queen Who Defied the Holy Roman Emperor

Queen Bona helps us understand how elite Renaissance women acquired, maintained, and negotiated power. Among the women of the European Renaissance, Bona Sforza is often stereotyped similarly to her aunt – the fabulous Lucrecia Borgia – as a dangerous and meddling femme fatale. Bona Sforza was the daughter of Gian Galeazzo Sforza, the Duke of[…]

A History of Water Cistern Engineering since the Ancient World

Cisterns were not only used to store water but also as underground chambers, hiding places for fugitives, burial places, and prison cells. Abstract The use of water cisterns has been traced back to the Neolithic Age; this paper thus presents a brief historical development of water cisterns worldwide over the last 5500 years. This paper[…]

How Plagues and Disease Have Influenced the Arts since the Ancient World

Throughout history, writers and artists have explored the impact of plagues and pandemics on humanity. One of the things about literature is that it always responds immediately to what’s happening in the environment, says Associate Professor Justin Clemens from the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. “People started writing responses to[…]

An Introduction to Icons in the Medieval Byzantine Empire

Christians initially disagreed over whether religious images were good or bad, resulting in the iconoclasm controversy. What Is an Icon? In our time, we often refer to celebrities as cultural icons, pop icons, and fashion icons. Rebels are sometimes labeled iconoclasts. Icons are also the little images that populate the screens of our computers, phones, and[…]

The Chronological Periods of the Byzantine Empire

Introducing the periods of Byzantine history, with attention to developments in art and architecture. From Rome to Constantinople In 313, the Roman Empire legalized Christianity, beginning a process that would eventually dismantle its centuries-old pagan tradition. Not long after, emperor Constantine transferred the empire’s capital from Rome to the ancient Greek city of Byzantion (modern[…]