The Byzantine and Islamic Empires and the Carolingian Renaissance

The Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire: The Eastern Roman Empire, unlike the Western Roman Empire, lasted for another ten centuries, until the 15th century. It was called the Byzantine Empire and the capital was Constantinople. The empire was influenced by its Roman background but also the Greek culture. Actually, they spoke Greek, not Latin.

Why did the Byzantine Empire survive until the 15th century? 1) the eastern Roman Empire was far away from the Germanic tribes. Its location made invasions difficult, and the Germanic tribes couldn’t reach this empire. 2) it was ruled by strong emperors called Basileus. The most important of them was Justinian. 3) the empire was rich and prosperous. Actually, it was the largest and wealthiest empire during that time. 4) the Byzantine empire had many important cities. The capital, Constantinople became one of the richest and biggest cities in the world

The Islamic Empire

the Islamic empire:

creation of Islam: Islam is a religion that was founded by a man called Mohammad. Mohammad was a trader from Mecca, a city in the Arabian peninsula. In the V century, inhabitants from the Arabian Peninsula were mainly nomads who lived in different tribes and traded around the Peninsula. Before Islam, these people were polytheistic, they worshiped many gods. They were called Arabs, people from the Arabian peninsula. Mohammad preached a new religion. He said there was only one God: Allah

Islamic Religion: the religion founded by Mohammad is based on the Five Pillas of Faith. 1)you must believe there is only one God, called Allah, and Mohammad is his prophet. 2)you must pray five times a day, facing Mecca , 3)yo must fast during the Ramadan month. 4)you should go on q pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your life. 5) you must give charity to the poor. These pillars are written in the Quran.

The West

The west

The Germanic kingdoms: The Western Roman Empire was attacked by different tribes from the North (Germanic tribes) for many years. Finally, in 476 A.D. the last Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus, was deposed.
These tribes settled in different areas and created their own kingdoms. These kingdoms lasted for around two centuries.

How were these tribes organized? These Germanic kingdoms had similar characteristics.
Politics: There was not a concept of empire anymore. The Empire was divided into independent kingdoms, ruled by a king. At the beginning, the king was chosen by a group of nobles, but later it became hereditary.

Economy: After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, travelling became extremely dangerous and difficult, so trade decreased dramatically. Most of the merchants and craftsmen disappeared, as they didn’t have anyone to trade with. The economy was based on agriculture and livestock farming. It was a subsistence economy, meaning they only had enough to survive.

Society: Cities were very dangerous, as the Germanic tribes invaded them. Most of the population left the cities and went to the countryside to work on the lands. As agriculture was the main economic activity, people became peasants. They started working for the nobles as serfs.
Culture: Culture lost importance with the Germanic tribes. Big constructions disappeared, and education was only found in the monasteries.
Religion: The Germanic tribes adopted the official Roman religion: Christianity.

The Carolingian Empire

The Carolingian Empire:

Charlemagne: Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, became king of the Franks at age 26, when his father, Pepin the Short, died in the year 768. He has been called “the Father of Europe”, as his empire united most of Western Europe and began the Carolingian Renaissance, with economic, political, intellectual and cultural revivals.
Charlemagne was a strong military leader – he spent over 30 years fighting to expand his empire. But he was also a good administrator and set up a strong, efficient government.
On Christmas Day, 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the Romans – the first person to hold this title in 300 years.

The decline of the Carolingian Empire: Charlemagne was 70 years old when he died in 814, and his empire passed to his third son, Louis. Louis was a religious man – he was called Louis the Pious – but not such a strong ruler as his father, and with such a large empire, there were internal power struggles. When Louis the Pious died in 840, all three of his sons wanted the throne. There was a civil war for three years, and with the Treaty of Verdun in 843 the kingdom was divided into three parts.
The Early Middle Ages were drawing to a close.


Feudalism: It is the political, economic and social system prevalent in Europe for almost four centuries, from the 9th century to the 13th century.
Feudalism is characterized by: The weakness of the kings./The strength of the lords./A society based on the relationships of interdependence among people./A self-sufficient economy based on agriculture.

How did feudalism work: Whit such a weak central government, feudalism established a strong social order, with each level of society dependent on the other with their rights and responsibilities. Feudalism was an exchange of land and services. It was like a contract: The lord gave land (fief) to his vassal./ The vassal gave the lord loyalty, such as military service, taxes, and work obligations. This is called the vassal system, where one person became a vassal to another, receiving land or protection in return for services. The relationship of lord and vassal was very important in the Middle Ages
Society during feudalism: Society was divided into different groups called estates. The group a person belonged to depended on their birth. You could not change from one estate to another – people stayed in the same estate all their lives. The only exception was the clergy. There were three estates, and each had a specific role to play in medieval society. The First Estate: the clergy. They were those who belonged to the Church. They prayed for the salvation of the people. The Second Estate: the king and the nobility. Their role was to protect the rest of the people.. They had the military function.The Third Estate: the peasants. This was the majority of the population, the common people.Most of them were peasants, but there were also craftsmen and merchants

How was a fief organized: During feudalism, people lived in fiefdoms. They were large territories in the countryside that belonged to the king and were normally granted to the nobles or to the clergy. These fiefdoms were self-sufficient. Everything needed for daily life was produced there: the agricultural tools, the craft works, and the agricultural products.castles: Nobles lived in castles. The castle was normally in the high area of the fiefdom for protection from enemies. In times of war the castle was the place where the rest of the population took refuge. It was surrounded by a defensive wall and towers to see their enemies. The tower of homage was the principal part. It contained the rooms of the noble and his family. Another important part of the castle was the great hall. There the lord meted out justice, attended banquets and organized the fiefdom.
Crusades: The Turks were Muslims, and not tolerant towards other religions. They didn’t let Christian pilgrims visit Jerusalem, an important city for Christians and the site of many pilgrimages. In 1095, the pope Urban II organized the First Crusade. Many knights joined the Crusade. Its purpose was to help protect the Byzantine Empire from the Turks, stop the spread of Islam, and take Jerusalem. The First Crusade took Jerusalem, but the war with the Turks continued for several centuries

Romanesque art: Romanesque art was a fusion of Roman, Carolingian, Byzantine and local Germanic traditions. For almost 600 years there had been no unifying style. There was no central power, little trade or travelling, and almost no culture or learning outside of the monasteries.But in the 11th and 12th centuries there were many changes:The number of monasteries increased dramatically/With increased travelling, new ideas and trade skills were exchanged./New churches all over Europe were being built, and within them there was new art.

romanesque architecture: Churches and monasteries were the most important buildings with so many new priests, monks and pilgrims. They needed to be bigger, with thick walls, round arches, vaults to hold the weight, few windows, large towers, and decorative arcades (walkways for visiting pilgrims).They were mainly built in the countryside, where most people lived, and on the pilgrimage routes.

He did not speak the language. (english)
He did not spend time in England.
He tried to sell his own country.
He got married in another country.
He tried to conquered Jerusalem but he couldn’t
In England, it took a quarter of every man’s income for a whole years to raise the funds for Richard’s release.
He spent the rest of his life in France doing what he seemed to enjoy most of all. (fighting)

religious orders:

Founded in 529 in Monte Cassino (Italy) by Saint Benedict. They follow the Rule of Saint Benedict: chastity and poverty. Motto: ORA ET LABORA. Living for God as a community: defining feature. They are autonomous. Every superior in a monastery takes the place of Christ as leader. Vows: obedience (to the superior) /Stability (therefore remaining in the same monastery)/Conversio Morum (changing the way one lives) It led to the flourishing of the great western monastic tradition (thanks to Charlemagne!). Black habit.


Reformed branch of the Benedictine Order. Founded in 910 in Burgundy (France) by William I, Duke of Aquitaine. The Benedictine rule had lost its essence. Spiritual work: main task. Vows: Chastity /Obedience /Singing and praying. Splendid liturgy and buildings. Eventually: excesses. Habit: black.

Founded in Cîteaux (France) in 1098 Rule of Saint Benedict: they follow it to the letter. Balance between prayer and work (agricultural work, specifically). Community life. Extreme austerity. Vows: Obedience Stability /Conversion of life /Poverty /Chastity Habit: black and white.

Founded by Saint Bruno in 1084 near Grenoble (France). Silence, solitude, living in cell by themselves. They rarely met one another. Vows: Obedience /Conversion of Life (+ poverty and chastity) /Stability Habit: white. Unit 3:

From the 11th to the 13th century Europe experienced an important revival. There were fewer attacks and invasions, and a time of prosperity and recovery. There were two main factors that helped this.
Improvements in agriculture: During the 11th and 12th centuries there was more food for everyone, because peasants developed new techniques to increase their crops. These techniques were:1)The three-field system. During the 12th century a new crop rotation system replaced the two-field system. This meant peasants could cultivate more lands each year.2) A new plough. The heavy plough was invented, which made working the land much faster.3) The water mill replaced the windmill. This was much more efficient and could do the work of many people.4) More forests were cut down so new land for farming was created. More food was produced, so the population grew around Europe.
Increase in trade: More food meant more people lived longer and more children survived.
As there were more people, there were more demands and needs for many products. Trade grew considerably, creating trade routes across Europe. The most important ones were the Mediterranean route and the Atlantic and Baltic route.Trade fairs were really important. The fairs were places where merchants met to buy and sell products such as leather, fur, textiles or spices.

As we studied before, during Feudalism most of the population lived in the countryside under their lord’s protection. But around the 12th century some people left the countryside and moved to the cities. But why? There were several reasons.1) Thanks to these new agricultural advances not everyone had to be working in the fields. So many people left the countryside to work in the city as artisans or merchants.2) The increase in trade demanded more craftsmen, and their trade fairs were held in cities, where there were more customers.3) The cities provided protection for merchants and also the weekly markets to exchange their products.4) Many peasants left to escape from serfdom. Peasants in cities had much more freedom than in the fiefdom, as they didn’t depend on the lord.
What were medieval cities like? Cities had narrow streets without any particular structure./Houses were close together./Only the important buildings, such as the church or the town hall, were made of stone/ The rest of the buildings were made of wood. Fires were common and devastating./The market was normally located in an open square; most of the daily activity was held there./ The church was the religious center of the city./Political power was held in the town hall; there were other important buildings like the university, the hospital or the guild houses./ Medieval cities were surrounded by thick walls.

Cities were unhealthy, dirty and smelly. There weren’t any sewage systems; people threw their rubbish out the windows and no one collected it. Animals like chickens or pigs were in the streets and also rats were common. This caused illnesses and diseases to easily spread.
Each city had different gates that were closed during the night. No one could go out or in; this was supposed to prevent crimes like burglaries or murders.

Key words:

JUSTINIAN: called The Great, 483–565 AD, Byzantine emperor (527–565). He sponsored the Justinian Code, a compilation of laws that influence legal systems to this day. In addition, he supported the Orthodox Church, reconquered the territories that had been lost after Rome’s fall, and promoted the arts. Under his rule, the church of Hagia Sophia, in Constantinople, was rebuilt, becoming one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. ORTHODOX CHURCH: also known as the Byzantine Church, it was created in 1054 after having split from the Roman Church. Its main authority was the Patriarch of Constantinople. HAGIA SOPHIA: a monument in present-day Istanbul, considered the finest example of Byzantine architecture. It was originally a church, and emperor Justinian I rebuilt it in the 6th century. In 1453 it was converted into a mosque following the Ottoman invasion. MOHAMMAD: an Arab trader from Mecca, and the prophet through whom the Quran was revealed and the religion of Islam established and completed. MECCA: the holy city of Islam in present-day Saudi Arabia. QURAN/KORAN: the holy book of the Islamic religion. It was written after Mohammad’s death, in the 7th century. GERMANIC TRIBES: tribes from the North that attacked the Roman Empire for many years. After the fall of the Roman Empire, they settled in different areas and created their own kingdoms. Examples of these tribes are the Visigoths, the Franks and the Angles and Saxons. TREATY OF VERDUN: an agreement to divide the Carolingian empire in three parts. It was signed in 843 and it was one of the reasons for the decline of that empire. CHARLEMAGNE: king of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor (800–814). He conquered many tribes, instituted many judicial and ecclesiastical reforms, and promoted commerce and agriculture throughout his empire. He has been called “the Father of Europe”. He was a strong military leader and a great supporter of education. DEFINITION OF KEY WORDS UNIT 2 Feudalism: It is the political, economic and social system prevalent in Europe for almost four centuries, from the 9th century to the 13th century. PLEASE NOTE: THIS DEFINITION DOES NOT INCLUDE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF FEUDALISM OR THE SECTION ABOUT HOW IT WORKED. Peasant: A poor person of low social status who works on the land. During Feudalism, peasants produced everything they needed. They were self-sufficient. Fief: A piece of land given to someone by their lord, to whom they had a duty to provide particular services in return. Estates: In feudal times, any of the three social classes. Religious orders: A community under a religious rule, especially one requiring members to take vows or obligations. Castle: A large fortified building or set of buildings. Crusades: They were the wars that were fought by Christians in Palestine against the Muslims during the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. Pilgrimage: A journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion. Romanesque: A style developed in Western Europe from the 10th to the 12th centuries. It was inspired by Roman art, hence its name.