The Roman Empire collapsed halfway
through the first millennium A.D. Out of this vacuum, three great civilizations
and traditions emerged, each reflecting the legacy of Rome in its own unique
way. This chapter, "The Making of Europe," explores the origins
of two of these traditions—western Europe and Byzantium. Chapter 9, "The
Islamic World, ca 600–1400," introduces the third. The following Internet
activities will assist you in understanding not only the emergence of the
western European and Byzantine tradition but also their ties to ancient Rome.
- You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore
different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and
questions detailed in each activity.
- On many web sites you can increase the size of the images
by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine
fine details in photographs.
- Examine Map
1. This map depicts a modern perspective of the continent of Europe.
Now look at this physical
map of Asia depicting a modern perspective of the continent of Asia.
Why did these mapmakers make the division where they did? Are there really
two continents? Obviously, the answer is no. Instead, it would be more accurate
to refer to Asia and Europe as one large continent, Eurasia. Europe and
Asia are more recent mental constructs developed by Europeans to distinguish
their civilization from Asian civilizations. You will explore the origins
of this European identity in the remaining exercises. This concept of Europe,
or how Europeans viewed themselves as distinct from the rest of the world,
will be an important theme throughout the rest of this course.
- Go to Map
2 and Map
3. These maps depict political boundaries in the sixth and seventh centuries.
What change over time do they show? What do they reveal about political
stability in Europe during this time period?
- Compare and contrast these maps with Map
1. What obvious difference do you see? Why is part of what Europeans
later called Asia and Africa included as part of Europe in Map
2 and Map
3? These maps demonstrate that Europe is more of a cultural concept
than a geographic one.
- Now review Map
of the Trade Routes found in Activity Six of Chapter 6, "The Glory
of Rome." Compare how Europe is depicted there to how it is depicted
2 and Map
3. By now you should be able to see that when the Roman Empire collapsed,
most of Europe, except for the part governed by the Byzantine Empire (also
called the eastern Roman Empire), lost its political cohesiveness.
- Without the Roman Empire providing order and stability
after the fifth century, Europe changed dramatically. One consequence was
the migrations of the Germanic tribes. Refresh your memory of these migrations
my examining map 4.
Now build upon what you already know about these tribes by reading The
Germanic Invasions of Western Europe.
The Germanic tribes were not civilized,
and one consequence is that they left no written records of their customs
and traditions. Much of what we know about them comes from Roman observers.
- Go to Medieval
Sourcebook: Tacitus: Germania. Who was Tacitus? What qualities did he
admire about the Germanic tribes? What qualities would play an important
role in shaping a post–Roman identity in Europe? Also review pages 223-225
in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition). Write a paragraph
summarizing your analysis.
- Another strong influence of the Germanic tribes on post–Roman
Europe was their legal tradition. Page 224 of McKay, A History of World
Societies (Sixth Edition) refers to this tradition. For a more detailed
account, click on Medieval
Sourcebook: The Law of the Salian Franks. How does this primary source
compliment McKay's treatment of Germanic law? Does it give any further insight?
Write a paragraph summarizing your conclusions.
- Another influence on the development of post–Roman Europe
was the Christian church, an institution that survived the collapse of Roman
political authority. The church continued to provide a common identity by
promoting uniformity and converting the Germanic tribes to the Christian
- Read The
4th & 5th Centuries: The Church in Radical Change. According to
this secondary source, what major issues did the church confront as Roman
authority collapsed in Europe?
- One issue facing the church was uniformity. Review pages
209-210 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition). How
did the early church promote uniformity? You might want to review The
Catholic Encyclopedia: The First Council of Nicaea as well. Write a
paragraph summarizing your conclusions.
- Another issue the early church had to deal with was conversion.
Read the secondary source The
Development of Christian Society in Early England. (Be sure to click
on "continue" at the bottom of each page until you finish the
article.) Keep a list of how the church managed to convert most of the people
of the British Isles. This will help you better understand how the church
was successful in its general conversion task.
- The church had to reconcile Roman classical learning
with the young Christian religion. No one person better demonstrates this
task than Augustine, whom you encountered in Chapter 8 of McKay, A History
of World Societies (Sixth Edition). Learn more about this important
thinker and his legacy by reading Augustine
of Hippo and Augustine
Influences Christianity. What was his role in the development of Christian
theology? Who did Augustine oppose, and how did his theological battles
with these opponents shape his thought?
While most of Europe was developing
a new identity that synthesized Christianity, classical Roman learning, and
Germanic traditions, part of the Roman Empire survived in the East. This civilization,
know as the Byzantine Empire, developed a tradition different from that in
the rest of Europe.
- To refresh your memory of the political and religious
divisions that evolved after the collapse of the Roman Empire, study map 5.
Notice the geographical locations of the Latin West and Byzantium, and their
relation to Asia. Keep this map in mind as you do the remaining activities.
- Go to A
Brief Summary of Byzantine History, a site sponsored by the Metropolitan
Museum of Art in New York City. Be sure to look at the artwork embedded
in this site. While doing so, make a list of various aspects of Byzantine
civilization that separated it from the rest of Europe. Pay special attention
to politics and religion. You may want to review pages 225–234 in McKay,
A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition), as well.
- The Byzantine tradition influenced western Europe mainly
as a preserver of knowledge. In other words, Byzantine civilization preserved
classical learning from the Roman Empire. Later, western Europeans were
exposed to this tradition through their contacts with the Byzantine Empire.
Also important, however, was the influence of Byzantine art and architecture.
Examine the following Byzantine works of art
(you can click to enlarge each image), and then read about the basic themes
of Byzantine art (make sure to go to each of the three theme pages).
What are those themes, and how did they shape the development of Byzantine
art? What influence did the Byzantine artistic tradition exert on the neighbors
of the Byzantine Empire?
- Finally, consider an example of Byzantine architecture.
Built under the direction of the emperor Justinian, the cathedral of Hagia
Sophia in Constantinople was the crowning achievement of Byzantine religious
architecture. Examine the following images of Hagia
Sophia in what is now Istanbul, Turkey. You can click to enlarge each
of the images. (Notice the Islamic decorations, added by the Muslim Turks
after they conquered Constantinople in 1453.)