Part 12 out of 15

The Jews were least persecuted in the commercial cities of northern Italy.
Florence, Genoa, and Venice in the thirteenth century were the money
centers of Europe. The banking companies in these cities received deposits
and then loaned the money to foreign governments and great nobles. It was
the Florentine bankers, for instance, who provided the English king,
Edward III, with the funds to carry on his wars against France. The
Italian banking houses had branches in the principal cities of Europe.
[19] It became possible, therefore, to introduce the use of bills of
exchange as a means of balancing debts between countries, without the
necessity of sending the actual money. This system of international credit
was doubly important at a time when so many risks attended the
transportation of the precious metals. Another Florentine invention was
bookkeeping by double-entry. [20]



The cities of northern Italy owed their prosperity, as we have learned, to
the commerce with the Orient. It was this which gave them the means and
the strength to keep up a long struggle for freedom against the German
emperors.[21] The end of the struggle, at the middle of the thirteenth
century, saw all North Italy divided into the dominions of various
independent cities. Among them were Milan, Pisa, Florence, Genoa, and


Milan, a city of Roman origin, lay in the fertile valley of the Po, at a
point where the trade routes through several Alpine passes converged.
Milan early rose to importance, and it still remains the commercial
metropolis of Italy. Manufacturing also flourished there. Milanese armor
was once celebrated throughout Europe. The city is rich in works of art,
the best known being the cathedral, which, after St. Peter's at Rome and
the cathedral of Seville, is the largest church in Europe. Though the
Milanese were able to throw off the imperial authority, their government
fell into the hands of the local nobles, who ruled as despots. Almost all
the Italian cities, except Venice, lost their freedom in this manner.


Pisa, like Milan, was an old Roman city which profited by the disorders of
the barbarian invasions to assert its independence. The situation of Pisa
on the Arno River, seven miles from the sea, made it a maritime state, and
the Pisan navy gained distinction in warfare against the Moslems in the
Mediterranean. The Pisans joined in the First Crusade and showed their
valor at the capture of Jerusalem. They profited greatly by the crusading
movement and soon possessed banks, warehouses, and trading privileges in
every eastern port. But Pisa had bitter rivals in Florence and Genoa, and
the conflicts with these two cities finally brought about the destruction
of its power.

These three buildings in the piazza of Pisa form one of the most
interesting architectural groups in Italy. The baptistery, completed in
1278 A.D., is a circular structure, 100 feet in diameter and covered with
a high dome. The cathedral was consecrated in 1118 A.D. The finest part of
the building is the west front with its four open arcades. The campanile,
or bell tower, reaches a height of 179 feet. Owing to the sinking of the
foundations, it leans from the perpendicular to a striking extent (now
about 161/2 feet).]


Florence, Pisa's neighbor on the Arno, was renowned for manufactures. The
fine wool, silk cloths, golden brocades, jewelry, and metal work of
Florence were imported into all European countries. The craft guilds were
very strong there, and even the neighboring nobles, who wished to become
citizens, had first to enroll themselves in some guild. It was from
banking, however, that Florence gained most wealth. In the fifteenth
century the city contained eighty great banking houses, in addition to
numerous branches outside of Italy. With their commercial spirit the
Florentines combined a remarkable taste for art and literature. Their
city, whose population never exceeded seventy thousand, gave birth to some
of the most illustrious poets, prose writers, architects, sculptors, and
painters of medieval times. It was the Athens of Italy. [22]


Genoa, located on the gulf of the same name, possessed a safe and spacious
harbor. During the era of the crusades the city carried on a flourishing
trade in both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. After the fall of the
Latin Empire of Constantinople [23] the Genoese almost monopolized
Oriental commerce along the Black Sea route. The closing of this route by
the Ottoman Turks was a heavy blow to their prosperity, which also
suffered from the active competition of Venice.


Almost alone among Italian cities Venice was not of Roman origin. Its
beginning is traced back to the period of barbarian inroads, when
fugitives from the mainland sought a new home on the islands at the head
of the Adriatic. [24] These islands, which lie about five miles from the
coast, are protected from the outer sea by a long sand bar. They are
little more than mud-banks, barely rising above the shallow water of the
lagoons. The oozy soil afforded no support for buildings, except when
strengthened by piles; there was scarcely any land fit for farming or
cattle-raising; and the only drinking water had to be stored from the
rainfall. Yet on this unpromising site arose one of the most splendid of
European cities.


The early inhabitants of Venice got their living from the sale of sea salt
and fish, two commodities for which a constant demand existed in the
Middle Ages. Large quantities of salt were needed for preserving meat in
the winter months, while fish was eaten by all Christians on the numerous
fast days and in Lent. The Venetians exchanged these commodities for the
productions of the mainland and so built up a thriving trade. From
fishermen they became merchants, with commercial relations which gradually
extended to the Orient. The crusades vastly increased the wealth of
Venice, for she provided the ships in which troops and supplies went to
the Holy Land and she secured the largest share of the new eastern trade.
Venice became the great emporium of the Mediterranean. As a commercial
center the city was the successor of ancient Tyre, Carthage, Athens, and


The famous Campanile or bell tower of St. Mark's Cathedral collapsed in
1902 A.D. A new tower, faithfully copying the old monument, was completed
nine years later. The Doge's Palace, a magnificent structure of brick and
marble, is especially remarkable for the graceful arched colonnades
forming the two lower stories. The blank walls of the upper story are
broken by a few large and richly ornamented windows.]


Venice also used the crusading movement for her political advantage. The
capture of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade extended Venetian control
over the Peloponnesus, [25] Crete, Rhodes, Cyprus, and many smaller
islands in the eastern Mediterranean. Even before this time Venice had
begun to gain possessions upon the Italian mainland and along the Adriatic
coast. At the height of her power about 1400 A.D. she ruled a real empire.


The commerce and possessions of Venice made it necessary for her to
maintain a powerful fleet. She is said to have had at one time over three
thousand merchant vessels, besides forty-five war galleys. Her ships went
out in squadrons, with men-of-war acting as a convoy against pirates. One
fleet traded with the ports of western Europe, another proceeded to the
Black Sea, while others visited Syria and Egypt to meet the caravans from
the Far East. Venetian sea power humbled Genoa and for a long time held
the Mediterranean against the Ottoman Turks.


The greatness of Venice was celebrated by the annual ceremony of "the
wedding of the sea." The doge, (that is, "duke.") or chief magistrate,
standing in the bows of the state barge, cast a ring of gold into the
Adriatic with the proud words, "We have wedded thee, O sea, in token of
our rightful and perpetual dominion."


The visitor to modern Venice can still gain a good impression of what the
city must have looked like in the fourteenth century, when ships of every
nation crowded its quays and strangers of every country thronged its
squares or sped in light gondolas over the canals which take the place of
streets. The main highway is still the Grand Canal, nearly two miles long
and lined with palaces and churches. The Grand Canal leads to St. Mark's
Cathedral, brilliant with mosaic pictures, the Campanile, or bell tower,
and the Doge's Palace. The "Bridge of Sighs" connects the ducal palace
with the state prisons. The Rialto in the business heart of Venice is
another famous bridge. But these are only a few of the historic and
beautiful buildings of the island city.



The important trade routes from Venice and Genoa through the Alpine passes
into the valleys of the Rhine and Danube were responsible for the
prosperity of many fine cities in southern and central Germany. Among them
were Augsburg, which rivaled Florence as a financial center, Nuremberg,
famous for artistic metal work, Ulm, Strassburg, and Cologne. The feeble
rule of the German kings compelled the cities to form several
confederacies for the purpose of resisting the extortionate tolls and
downright robberies of feudal lords.


It was the Baltic commerce which brought the cities of northern Germany
into a firm union. From the Baltic region came large quantities of dried
and salted fish, especially herring, wax candles for church services,
skins, tallow, and lumber. Furs were also in great demand. Every one wore
them during the winter, on account of the poorly heated houses. The German
cities which shared in this commerce early formed the celebrated Hanseatic
[27] League for protection against pirates and feudal lords.


The league seems to have begun with an alliance of Hamburg and Luebeck to
safeguard the traffic on the Elbe. The growth of the league was rapid. At
the period of its greatest power, about 1400 A.D., there were upwards of
eighty Hanseatic cities along the Baltic coast and in the inland districts
of northern Germany.


The commercial importance of the league extended far beyond the borders of
Germany. Its trading posts, or "factories," at Bergen in Norway and
Novgorod in Russia controlled the export trade of those two countries.
Similar establishments existed at London, on the Thames just above London
Bridge, and at Bruges in Flanders. Each factory served as a fortress where
merchants could be safe from attack, as a storehouse for goods, and as a
general market.


The Hanseatic League ruled over the Baltic Sea very much as Venice ruled
over the Adriatic. In spite of its monopolistic tendencies, so opposed to
the spirit of free intercourse between nations, the league did much useful
work by suppressing piracy and by encouraging the art of navigation.
Modern Germans look back to it as proof that their country can play a
great part on the seas. The Hanseatic merchants were also pioneers in the
half-barbarous lands of northern and eastern Europe, where they founded
towns, fostered industry, and introduced comforts and luxuries previously
unknown. Such services in advancing civilization were comparable to those
performed by the Teutonic Knights. [28]


After several centuries of usefulness the league lost its monopoly of the
Baltic trade and began to decline. Moreover the Baltic, like the
Mediterranean, sank to minor importance as a commercial center, after the
Portuguese had discovered the sea route to India and the Spaniards had
opened up the New World. [29] City after city gradually withdrew from the
league, till only Hamburg, Luebeck, and Bremen remained. They are still
called free and independent cities, though now they form a part of the
German Empire.



In the Middle Ages the Netherlands, or "Low Countries," now divided
between Holland and Belgium, consisted of a number of feudal states,
nominally under the control of German and French kings, but really quite
independent. Among them was the county of Flanders. It included the coast
region from Calais to the mouth of the Scheldt, as well as a considerable
district in what is now northwestern France. The inhabitants of Flanders
were partly of Teutonic extraction (the Flemings) and partly akin to the
French (the Walloons).


Flanders enjoyed a good situation for commerce. The country formed a
convenient stopping place for merchants who went by sea between the
Mediterranean and the Baltic, while important land routes led thither from
all parts of western Europe. Flanders was also an industrial center. Its
middle classes early discovered the fact that by devotion to manufacturing
even a small and sterile region may become rich and populous.


The leading industry of Flanders was weaving. England in the Middle Ages
raised great flocks of sheep, but lacking skilled workmen to manufacture
the wool into fine cloth, sent it across the Channel to Flanders. A
medieval writer declared that the whole world was clothed in English wool
manufactured by the Flemings. The taxes that were laid on the export of
wool helped to pay the expenses of English kings in their wars with the
Welsh, the Scotch, and the Irish. The wool trade also made Flanders the
ally of England in the Hundred Years' War, thus beginning that historic
friendship between the two countries which still endures.

[Illustration: BELFRY OF BRUGES
Bruges, the capital of West Flanders, contains many fine monuments of the
Middle Ages Among these is the belfry, which rises in the center of the
facade of the market hall. It dates from the end of the thirteenth
century. Its height is 352 feet. The belfry consists of three stories, the
two lower ones square, and the upper one, octagonal.]

One of the richest and most ornate examples of Gothic architecture Erected
in the fifteenth century The building consists of three stories above
which rises the lofty roof crowned with graceful towers. The interior
decoration and arrangements are commonplace.]


Among the thriving communities of Flanders three held an exceptional
position. Bruges was the mart where the trade of southern Europe, in the
hands of the Venetians, and the trade of northern Europe, in the hands of
the Hanseatic merchants, came together. Ghent, with forty thousand
workshops, and Ypres, which counted two hundred thousand workmen within
its walls and suburbs, were scarcely less prosperous. When these cities
declined in wealth, Antwerp became the commercial metropolis of the


During the fourteenth century Flanders was annexed by France. The Flemish
cities resisted bravely, and on more than one occasion their citizen
levies, who could handle sword and ax, as well as the loom, defeated the
French armies, thus demonstrating again that foot soldiers were a match
for mailed cavalry. Had the cities been able to form a lasting league,
they might have established an independent Flanders, but the bitter
rivalry of Ghent and Bruges led to foreign domination, lasting into the
nineteenth century. [30]


The great cities of Flanders, Germany, and Italy, not to speak of those in
France, Spain, and England, were much more than centers of trade,
industry, and finance. Within their walls learning and art flourished to
an extent which had never been possible in earlier times, when rural life
prevailed throughout western Europe. We shall now see what the cities of
the Middle Ages contributed to civilization.


1. Indicate on the map some great commercial cities of the Middle Ages as
follows: four in Italy; three in the Netherlands; and six in Germany.

2. Why does an American city have a charter? Where is it obtained? What
privileges does it confer?

3. Who comprised the "third estate" in the Middle Ages? What class
corresponds to it at the present time?

4. Why has the medieval city been called the "birthplace of modern

5. Compare the merchant guild with the modern chamber of commerce, and
craft guilds with modern trade unions.

6. Look up the origin of the words "apprentice," "journeyman," and

7. Why was there no antagonism between labor and capital under the guild

8. Compare the medieval abhorrence of "engrossing" with the modern idea
that "combinations in restraint of trade" are wrong.

9. Why were fairs a necessity in the Middle Ages? Why are they not so
useful now? Where are they still found?

10. Compare a medieval fair with a modern exposition.

11. What would be the effect on trade within an American state if tolls
were levied on the border of every county?

12. What is meant by a "robber baron"?

13. How did the names "damask" linen, "chinaware," "japanned" ware, and
"cashmere" shawls originate?

14. Why was the purchasing power of money much greater in the Middle Ages
than it is now?

15. Why are modern coins always made perfectly round and with "milled"

16. Are modern coins "debased" to any considerable extent? What is the use
of alloys?

17. Why was the money-changer so necessary a figure in medieval business?

18. How is it easy to evade laws forbidding usury?

19. Look up in an encyclopedia the legend of the "Wandering Jew." How does
it illustrate the medieval attitude toward Jews?

20. Write out the English equivalents of the Italian words mentioned in
footnote 20.

21. Compare the Italian despots with the Greek tyrants.

22. Show that Venice in medieval times was the seaport nearest the heart
of commercial Europe.

23. Compare the Venetian and Athenian sea-empires in respect to (a)
extent, (b) duration, and (c) commercial policy.

24. Why was Venice called the "bride of the sea"?


[1] The word "city" comes through the French from the Latin _civilitas_,
meaning citizenship, state. The word "town" (from Anglo-Saxon _tun_),
which is now often used as a synonym of city, originally meant a village
(French _ville_, Latin _villa_).

[2] See page 437.

[3] See page 81.

[4] From French _bourg,_ "town."

[5] See pages 506, 515.

[6] The visitor to Chester in England or Rothenburg in Germany finds the
old ramparts still standing and gains an excellent idea of the cramped
quarters of a medieval city. Nuremburg in southern Germany is another city
which has preserved its medieval monuments.

[7] French _couvre feu_, "cover fire."

[8] In French _hotel de ville_; in German _Rathhaus_.

[9] German _buergermeister_, from _burg_, "castle."

[10] French _maire_, from Latin _major_, "greater."

[11] Anglo-Saxon _ealdorman_ (_eald_ means "old").

[12] A map of London still shows such names as Shoe Lane, Distaff Lane,
Cornhill, and many other similar designations of streets.

[13] The civic procession in London on Lord Mayor's Day is the last
survival in England of these yearly shows.

[14] See page 336.

[15] See page 382.

[16] See pages 47-48.

[17] See page 417.

[18] See page 640.

[19] Lombard Street in London, the financial center of England, received
its name from the Italian bankers who established themselves in this part
of the city.

[20] Among the Italian words having to do with commerce and banking which
have come into general use are _conto, disconto, risico, netto, deposito,
folio_, and _bilanza_.

[21] See page 460.

[22] See page 590.

[23] See page 478.

[24] See page 248.

[25] Known in the Middle Ages as the Morea.

[26] For the Venetian possessions in 1453 A.D. see the map, page 494.

[27] From the old German _hansa_, a "confederacy."

[28] See page 526.

[29] See page 640.

[30] In 1831 A.D. the two provinces of East Flanders and West Flanders
became part of the modern kingdom of Belgium.





The twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which in western Europe saw the rise
of national states out of the chaos of feudalism and the development of
cities, may be regarded as the central period of the Middle Ages. During
this time there flourished a civilization which is properly described as
"medieval," to distinguish it from classical civilization on the one side
and modern civilization on the other side. The various European languages
then began to assume something like their present form. A large body of
literature, in both poetry and prose, appeared. Architecture revived, and
flowered in majestic cathedrals. Education also revived, especially in the
universities with their thousands of students. These and other aspects of
medieval life will now engage our attention.


Throughout the Middle Ages Latin continued to be an international
language. The Roman Church used it for papal bulls and other documents.
Prayers were recited, hymns were sung, and sometimes sermons were preached
in Latin. It was also the language of men of culture everywhere in western
Christendom. University professors lectured in Latin, students spoke
Latin, lawyers addressed judges in Latin, and the merchants in different
countries wrote Latin letters to one another. All learned books were
composed in Latin until the close of the sixteenth century. This practice
has not yet been entirely abandoned by European scholars.


Each European country during the Middle Ages had also its own national
tongue. The so-called Romance languages, [2] including modern French,
Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Rumanian, were derived from the Latin
spoken by the Romanized inhabitants of the lands now known as France,
Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Rumania. Their colloquial Latin naturally
lacked the elegance of the literary Latin used by Caesar, Cicero, Vergil,
and other classical authors. The difference between the written and spoken
forms of the language became more marked from the fifth century onward, in
consequence of the barbarian invasions, which brought about the decline of
learning. Gradually in each country new and vigorous tongues arose,
related to, yet different from, the old classical Latin in pronunciation,
grammar, and vocabulary.


The indebtedness of the Romance languages to Latin is well illustrated by
the case of French. It contains less than a thousand words introduced by
the German invaders of Gaul. Even fewer in number are the words of Celtic
origin. Nearly all the rest are derived from Latin.


The popular Latin of the Gallo-Romans gave rise to two quite independent
languages in medieval France. The first was used in the southern part of
the country; it was called Provencal (from Provence). The second was
spoken in the north, particularly in the region about Paris. The
unification of the French kingdom under Hugh Capet and his successors
gradually extended the speech of northern France over the entire country.
Even to-day, however, one may hear in the south of France the soft and
harmonious Provencal.


The barbarians who poured from the wilds of central Europe into the Roman
world brought their languages with them. But the speech of the Goths,
Vandals, Burgundians, and Lombards disappeared, while that of the Franks
in Gaul, after their conversion to Christianity, gradually gave way to the
popular Latin of their subjects. The Teutonic peoples who remained outside
what had been the limits of the Roman world continued to use their native
tongues during the Middle Ages. From them have come modern German, Dutch,
Flemish, [3] and the various Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian,
Swedish, and Icelandic [4]). In their earliest known forms all these
languages show unmistakable traces of a common origin.


Britain was the only Roman province in the west of Europe where a Teutonic
language took root and maintained itself. Here the rough, guttural speech
of the Anglo-Saxons so completely drove out the popular Latin that only
six words were left behind by the Romans, when they abandoned the island
early in the fifth century. More Celtic words remained, words like
_cradle, crock, mop_, and _pillow_, which were names of household objects,
and the names of rivers, mountains, and lakes, which were not easily
changed by the invaders. [5] But with such slight exceptions Anglo-Saxon
was thoroughly Teutonic in vocabulary, as well as in grammar.


In course of time Anglo-Saxon underwent various changes. Christian
missionaries, from the seventh century onward, introduced many new Latin
terms for church offices, services, and observances. The Danes, besides
contributing some place-names, gave us that most useful word _are_, and
also the habit of using _to_ before an infinitive. The coming of the
Normans deeply affected Anglo-Saxon. Norman-French influence helped to
make the language simpler, by ridding it of the cumbersome declensions and
conjugations which it had in common with all Teutonic tongues. Many new
Norman-French words also crept in, as the hostility of the English people
toward their conquerors disappeared.


By the middle of the thirteenth century Anglo-Saxon, or English, as it may
now be called, had taken on a somewhat familiar appearance, as in these
opening words of the Lord's Prayer: "Fadir ur, that es in heven, Halud thi
nam to nevene, Thou do as thi rich rike, Thi will on erd be wrought, eek
as it is wrought in heven ay." In the poems of Geoffrey Chaucer (about
1340-1400 A.D.), especially in his _Canterbury Tales_, English wears
quite a modern aspect, though the reader is often troubled by the old
spelling and by certain words not now in use. The changes in the grammar
of English have been so extremely small since 1485 A..D.--the beginning of
the reign of Henry VII [6]--that any Englishman of ordinary education can
read without difficulty a book written more than four hundred years ago.

From an old manuscript in the British Museum, London. The only existing
portrait of Chaucer.]

From an old manuscript now in the possession of the British Museum. The
shrine of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, was a celebrated resort
for (Proofer's Note: Remainder of text unavailable)]


What in medieval times was the speech of a few millions of Englishmen on a
single small island is now spoken by at least one hundred and fifty
millions of people all over the world. English is well fitted for the role
of a universal language, because of its absence of inflections and its
simple sentence-order. The great number of one-syllabled words in the
language also makes for ease in understanding it. Furthermore, English has
been, and still is, extremely hospitable to new words, so that its
vocabulary has grown very fast by the adoption of terms from Latin,
French, and other languages. These have immensely increased the
expressiveness of English, while giving it a position midway between the
very different Romance and Teutonic languages.



Medieval literature, though inferior in quality to that of Greece and
Rome, nevertheless includes many notable productions. In the twelfth and
the thirteenth centuries Latin hymns reached their perfection. The sublime
_Dies Irae_ ("Day of Wrath") presents a picture of the final judgment of
the wicked. The pathetic _Stabat Mater_, which describes the sorrows of
Mary at the foot of the Cross, has been often translated and set to music.
These two works were written by a companion and biographer of St. Francis
of Assisi. St. Bernard's _Jesu Dulcis Memoria_ ("Jesus, the Very Thought
of Thee") forms part of a beautiful hymn nearly two hundred lines in
length. Part of another hymn, composed by a monk of Cluny, has been
rendered into English as "Jerusalem the Golden." Latin hymns made use of
rhyme, then something of a novelty, and thus helped to popularize this
poetic device.


Very unlike the hymns in character were the Latin songs composed by
students who went from one university to another in search of knowledge
and adventure. Far from home, careless and pleasure-seeking, light of
purse and light of heart the wandering scholars of the Middle Ages
frequented taverns, as well as lecture rooms, and knew the wine-bowl even
better than books. Their songs of love, of dancing, drinking, and gaming,
reflect the jovial side of medieval life.


Still another glimpse of gay society is afforded by the songs of the
troubadours. These professional poets flourished in the south of France,
but many of them traveled from court to court in other countries. Their
verses, composed in the Provencal language, were always sung to the
accompaniment of some musical instrument, generally the lute. Romantic
love and deeds of chivalry were the two themes which most inspired the
troubadours. They, too, took up the use of rhyme, using it so skillfully
as to become the teachers of Europe in lyric poetry.


If southern France was the native home of the lyric, northern France gave
birth to epic or narrative verse. Here arose many poems, describing the
exploits of mythical heroes or historic kings. For a long time the poems
remained unwritten and were recited by minstrels, who did not hesitate to
modify and enlarge them at will. It was not until late in the eleventh
century that any epics were written down. They enjoyed high esteem in
aristocratic circles and penetrated all countries where feudalism


Many of the French epics centered about the commanding personality of
Charlemagne. After his death he became a figure of legend. He was said to
have reigned one hundred and twenty-five years, to have made a pilgrimage
to Jerusalem, and to have risen from the dead to lead the First Crusade.
Angels inspired his actions. His sword contained the point of the lance
which pierced the Savior's side. His standard was the banner of St. Peter.
Though history shows that Charlemagne had little contact with the Moslems,
in the popular mind he stood forth as the great champion of Christianity
against Islam.


The oldest, and at the same time the finest, epic connected with
Charlemagne is the Song of Roland. [7] The poem centers around Roland, one
of the twelve peers of France. When leading the rearguard of Charlemagne's
army out of Spain, Roland is suddenly attacked by the treacherous Moors.
He slays the enemy in heaps with his good sword, Durendal, and only after
nearly all the Franks have perished sounds his magic horn to summon aid.
Charlemagne, fifteen leagues distant, hears its notes and returns quickly.
But before help arrives, Roland has fallen. He dies on the field of
battle, with his face to the foe, and a prayer on his lips that "sweet
France" may never be dishonored. This stirring poem appealed strongly to
the martial Normans. A medieval chronicler relates that just before the
battle of Hastings a Norman minstrel rode out between the lines, tossing
his sword in air and catching it again, as he chanted the song "of Roland
and of Charlemagne, of Oliver and many a brave vassal who lost his life at

From a thirteenth-century window of stained glass in Chartres Cathedral.
At the right, Roland sounding his horn; at the left Roland endeavoring to
break his sword Durendal.]


King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were also important figures
in medieval legend. Arthur was said to have reigned in Britain early in
the sixth century and to have fought against the Anglo-Saxons. Whether he
ever lived or not we do not know. In the Arthurian romances this Celtic
king stands forth as the model knight, the ideal of noble chivalry. The
Norman conquerors of England carried the romances to France, and here,
where feudalism was so deeply rooted, they found a hearty welcome. Sir
Thomas Malory's _Morte d' Arthur_, one of the first books to be printed in
England, contains many of the narratives from which Tennyson, in his
_Idylls of the King_, and other modern poets have drawn their inspiration.


The greatest epic composed in Germany during the Middle Ages is the
_Nibelungenlied_. The poem begins in Burgundy, where three kings hold
court at Worms, on the Rhine. Thither comes the hero, Siegfried, ruler of
the Netherlands. He had slain the mysterious Nibelungs and seized their
treasure, together with the magic cloud-cloak which rendered its wearer
invisible to human eyes. He had also killed a dragon and by bathing in its
blood had become invulnerable, except in one place where a linden leaf
touched his body. Siegfried marries Kriemhild, a beautiful Burgundian
princess, and with her lives most happily. But a curse attached to the
Nibelung treasure, and Siegfried's enemy, the "grim Hagen," treacherously
slays him by a spear thrust in the one spot where he could be hurt. Many
years afterwards Kriemhild marries Attila, king of the Huns, on condition
that he help her to vengeance. Hagen and his Burgundians are invited to
Hunland, where Kriemhild causes them all to be put to death. The name of
the poet who compiled and probably wrote much of the _Nibelungenlied_
remains unknown, but his work has a place among the classics of German


No account of medieval literature ought to omit a reference to _Reynard
the Fox_. This is a long poem, first written in Latin, and then turned
into the chief languages of Europe. The characters are animals: Reynard,
cunning and audacious, who outwits all his foes; Chanticleer the cock;
Bruin the Bear; Isengrim the Wolf; and many others. But they are animals
in name only. We see them worship like Christians, go to Mass, ride on
horseback, debate in councils, and amuse themselves with hawking and
hunting. Satire often creeps in, as when the villainous Fox confesses his
sins to the Badger or vows that he will go to the Holy Land on a
pilgrimage. The special interest of this work lies in the fact that it
expressed the feelings of the common people, groaning under the oppression
of feudal lords.


The same democratic spirit breathes in the old English ballads of the
outlaw Robin Hood. According to some accounts he flourished in the second
half of the twelfth century, when Henry II and Richard the Lion-hearted
reigned over England. Robin Hood, with his merry men, leads an adventurous
life in Sherwood Forest, engaging in feats of strength and hunting the
king's tall deer. Bishops, sheriffs, and gamekeepers are his only enemies.
For the common people he has the greatest pity, and robs the rich to endow
the poor. Courtesy, generosity, and love of fair play are some of the
characteristics which made him a popular hero. If King Arthur was the
ideal knight, Robin Hood was the ideal yeoman. The ballads about him were
sung by country folk for hundreds of years.



The genius of the Middle Ages found its highest expression, not in books,
but in buildings. For several hundred years after the barbarian invasions
architecture had made little progress in western Europe, outside of Italy,
which was subject to Byzantine influence, [8] and Spain, which was a
center of Mohammedan culture. [9] Beginning about 800 A.D. came a revival,
and the adoption of an architectural style called Romanesque, because it
went back to Roman principles of construction. Romanesque architecture
arose in northern Italy and southern France and gradually spread to other
European countries. It was followed about 1100 A D. by the Gothic style of
architecture, which prevailed during the next four centuries.

Note the double transepts.]


The church of the early Christians seems to have been modeled upon the
Roman basilica, with its arrangement of nave and aisles, its circular
arched recess (apse) at one end, and its flat, wooden ceiling supported by
columns. [10] The Romanesque church departed from the basilican plan by
the introduction of transepts, thus giving the building the form of a
Latin cross. A dome, which might be covered by a pointed roof, was
generally raised over the junction of the nave and transepts. At the same
time the apse was enlarged so as to form the choir, a place reserved for
the clergy.

[Illustration: REIMS CATHEDRAL
The cathedral of Notre Dame at Reims in northwestern France stands on the
site where Clovis was baptized by St Remi. Here most of the French kings
were consecrated with holy oil by the archbishops of Reims. Except the
west front, which was built in the fourteenth century, the cathedral was
completed by the end of the thirteenth century. The towers, 267 feet high,
were originally designed to reach 394 feet. The facade, with its three
arched portals exquisite rose window, and "gallery of the kings," is
justly celebrated. The cathedral--walls, roof, statues, and windows--has
been terribly damaged by the German bombardment during the late war.]

The Cathedral, or Dom, one of the finest monuments of Gothic architecture
in Europe, was begun in the thirteenth century. The work of building
proceeded slowly and at the time of the Reformation it ceased altogether.
The structure was finally completed during the nineteenth century, and in
1880 AD it was opened in the presence of the emperor, William I. The
Cathedral, which is in the form of a cross, measures 480 feet in length
and 282 feet in breadth. Each of the towers reaches the height of 511
feet. The very numerous and richly-colored windows add greatly to the
imposing effect of the interior.]


The Romanesque church also differed from a basilica in the use of vaulting
to take the place of a flat ceiling. The old Romans had constructed their
vaulted roofs and domes in concrete, which forms a rigid mass and rests
securely upon the walls like the lid of a box. [11] Medieval architects,
however, built in stone, which exerts an outward thrust and tends to force
the walls apart. Consequently they found it necessary to make the walls
very thick and to strengthen them by piers, or buttresses, on the outside
of the edifice. It was also necessary to reduce the width of the vaulted
spaces. The vaulting, windows, and doorways had the form of the round
arch, that is, a semicircle, as in the ancient Roman monuments. [12]


Gothic architecture arose in France in the country around Paris, at a time
when the French kingdom was taking the lead in European affairs. Later it
spread to England, Germany, the Netherlands, and even to southern Europe.
As an old chronicler wrote, "It was as if the whole world had thrown off
the rags of its ancient time, and had arrayed itself in the white robes of
the churches." The term Gothic was applied contemptuously to this
architectural style by writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
who regarded everything non-classical as barbarous. They believed it to be
an invention of the barbarian Goths, and so they called it Gothic. The
name has stuck, as bad names have a habit of doing, but nowadays every one
recognizes the greatness of this medieval art. The most beautiful
buildings of the Middle Ages are of Gothic architecture.


The Gothic style formed a natural development of the Romanesque style. The
architects of a Gothic church wished to retain the vaulted ceiling but at
the same time to do away with thick, solid walls, which had so little
window space as to leave the interior of the building dark gloomy. They
solved this problem, in the first place, by using a great number of stone
ribs, which gathered up the weight of the ceiling and rested on pillars.
Ribbed vaulting made possible higher ceilings, spanning wider areas, than
in Romanesque churches. [13] In the second place, the pillars supporting
the ribs were themselves connected by means of flying buttresses with
stout piers of masonry outside the walls of the church. [14] These walls,
relieved from the pressure of the ceiling, now became a mere screen to
keep out the weather. They could be built of light materials and opened up
with high, wide windows.


Ribbed vaulting and the flying buttress are the distinctive features of
Gothic architecture. A third feature, noteworthy but not so important, is
the use of the pointed arch. It was not Christian in origin, for it had
long been known to the Arabs in the East and the Moslem conquerors of
Sicily. [15] The semicircular or round arch can be only half as high as it
is wide, but the pointed arch may vary greatly in its proportions. The use
of this device enabled the Gothic builder to bridge over different widths
at any required height. It is also lighter and more graceful than the
round arch. [16]

A, vaulting; B, ribs; C, flying buttresses; D, buttresses; E, low windows;
F, clerestory.]


The labors of the Gothic architect were admirably seconded by those of
other artists. The sculptor cut figures of men, animals, and plants in the
utmost profusion. The painter covered vacant wall spaces with brilliant
mosaics and frescoes. The wood-carver made exquisite choir stalls,
pulpits, altars, and screens. Master workmen filled the stone tracery of
the windows with stained glass unequaled in coloring by the finest modern
work. Some rigorous churchmen like St. Bernard condemned the expense of
these magnificent cathedrals, but most men found in their beauty an
additional reason to praise God.

Strange grotesque figures and faces of stone used as ornaments of Gothic
buildings and as spouts to carry off rain water. They represent beasts,
demons, and other creations of medieval fancy.]


The Gothic cathedral, in fact, perfectly expressed the religious spirit of
the Middle Ages. For its erection kings and nobles offered costly gifts.
The common people, when they had no money to give, contributed their
labor, each man doing what he could to carry upward the walls and towers
and to perfect every part of God's dwelling. The interior of such a
cathedral, with its vast nave rising in swelling arches to the vaulted
roof, its clustered columns, its glowing windows, and infinite variety of
ornamentation, forms the most awe-inspiring sanctuary ever raised by man.
It is a prayer, a hymn, a sermon in stone.


Gothic architecture, though at first confined to churches, came to be used
for other buildings. Among the monuments of the secular Gothic are
beautiful town halls, guild halls, markets, and charming private houses.
[17] But the cathedral remained the best expression of the Gothic style.



Not less important than the Gothic cathedrals for the understanding of
medieval civilization were the universities. They grew out of the monastic
and cathedral schools where boys were trained to become monks or priests.
Such schools had been created or restored by Charlemagne. [18] The
teaching, which lay entirely in the hands of the clergy, was elementary in
character. Pupils learned enough Latin grammar to read religious books, if
not always to understand them, and enough music to follow the services of
the Church. They also studied arithmetic by means of the awkward Roman
notation, received a smattering of astronomy, and sometimes gained a
little knowledge of such subjects as geography, law, and philosophy.
Besides these monastic and cathedral schools, others were maintained by
the guilds. Boys who had no regular schooling often received instruction
from the parish priest of the village or town. Illiteracy was common
enough in medieval times, but the mass of the people were by no means
entirely uneducated.


Between 1150 and 1500 A.D. at least eighty universities were established
in western Europe. Some speedily became extinct, but there are still about
fifty European institutions of learning which started in the Middle Ages.
The earliest universities did not look to the state or to some princely
benefactor for their foundation. They arose, as it were, spontaneously. In
the eleventh and twelfth centuries Europe felt the thrill of a great
intellectual revival. It was stimulated by intercourse with the highly
cultivated Arabs in Spain, Sicily, and the East, and with the Greek
scholars of Constantinople during the crusades. The desire for instruction
became so general that the common schools could not satisfy it. Other
schools were then opened in the cities and to them flocked eager learners
from every quarter.

PETER ABELARD 1079-1142 A.D.

How easily a university might grow up about the personality of some
eminent teacher is shown by the career of Abelard. The eldest son of a
noble family in Brittany, Abelard would naturally have entered upon a
military career, but he chose instead the life of a scholar and the
contests of debate. When still a young man he came to Paris and attended
the lectures given by a master of the cathedral school of Notre Dame.
Before long he had overcome his instructor in discussion, thus
establishing his own reputation. At the early age of twenty-two Abelard
himself set up as a lecturer. Few teachers have ever attracted so large
and so devoted a following. His lecture room under the shadow of the great
cathedral was filled with a crowd of youths and men drawn from all


The fame of Abelard led to an increase of masters and students at Paris
and so paved the way for the establishment of the university there, later
in the twelfth century. Paris soon became such a center of learning,
particularly in theology and philosophy, that a medieval writer referred
to it as "the mill where the world's corn is ground, and the hearth where
its bread is baked." The university of Paris, in the time of its greatest
prosperity, had over five thousand students. It furnished the model for
the English university of Oxford, as well as for the learned institutions
of Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, and Germany.


The institutions of learning in southern Europe were modeled, more or
less, upon the university of Bologna. At this Italian city, in the middle
of the twelfth century, a celebrated teacher named Irnerius gathered about
him thousands of pupils for the study of the Justinian code. [19] The
university developed out of his law school. Bologna was the center from
which the Roman system of jurisprudence made its way into France, Germany,
and other Continental countries. From Bologna, also, came the monk
Gratian, who drew up the accepted text-book of canon law, as followed in
all Church courts. [20] What Roman law was to the Empire canon law was to
the Papacy.


The word "university" [21] meant at first simply a union or association.
In the Middle Ages all artisans were organized in guilds, [22] and when
masters and pupils associated themselves for teaching and study they
naturally copied the guild form. This was the more necessary since the
student body included so many foreigners, who found protection against
annoyances only as members of a guild.


Like a craft guild a university consisted of masters (the professors), who
had the right to teach, and students, both elementary and advanced, who
corresponded to apprentices and journeymen. After several years of study a
student who had passed part of his examination became a "bachelor of arts"
and might teach certain elementary subjects to those beneath him. Upon the
completion of the full course--usually six years in length--the bachelor
took his final examinations and, if he passed them, received the coveted
degree of "master of arts." But as is the case to-day, many who attended
the universities never took a degree at all.


A university of the Middle Ages did not need an expensive collection of
libraries, laboratories, and museums. Its only necessary equipment
consisted in lecture rooms for the professors. Not even benches or chairs
were required. Students often sat on the straw-strewn floors. The high
price of manuscripts compelled professors to give all instruction by
lectures. This method of teaching has been retained in modern
universities, since even the printed book is a poor substitute for a
scholar's inspiring words.


The universities being under the protection of the Church, it was natural
that those who attended them should possess some of the privileges of
clergymen. Students were not required to pay taxes or to serve in the
army. They also enjoyed the right of trial in their own courts. This was
an especially valuable privilege, for medieval students were constantly
getting into trouble with the city authorities. The sober annals of many a
university are relieved by tales of truly Homeric conflicts between Town
and Gown. When the students were dissatisfied with their treatment in one
place, it was always easy for them to go to another university. Sometimes
masters and scholars made off in a body. Oxford appears to have owed its
existence to a large migration of English students from Paris, Cambridge
arose as the result of a migration from Oxford, and the German university
of Leipzig sprang from that of Prague in Bohemia.

New College, despite its name, is one of the oldest of the Oxford
collegiate foundations. It was established in 1379 A.D. by William of
Wykeham. The illustration shows the chapel, the cloisters consecrated in
1400 A.D., and the detached tower, a tall, massive structure on the line
of the city wall.]


The members of a university usually lived in a number of colleges. These
seem to have been at first little more than lodging-houses, where poor
students were cared for at the expense of some benefactor. In time,
however, as the colleges increased in wealth, through the gifts made to
them, they became centers of instruction under the direction of masters.
At Oxford and Cambridge, where the collegiate system has been retained to
the present time, each college has its separate buildings and enjoys the
privilege of self-government.


The studies in a medieval university were grouped under the four faculties
of arts, theology, law, and medicine. The first-named faculty taught the
"seven liberal arts," that is, grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic,
geometry, astronomy, and music. They formed a legacy from old Roman
education. Theology, law, and medicine then, as now, were professional
studies, taken up after the completion of the Arts course. Owing to the
constant movement of students from one university to another, each
institution tended to specialize in one or more subjects. Thus, Paris came
to be noted for theology, Montpellier, Padua, and Salerno for medicine,
and Orleans, Bologna, and Salamanca for law.

Magdalen (pronounced Maudlin) is perhaps the most beautiful college in
Oxford. The bell tower stands on High Street, the principal thoroughfare
of Oxford, and adjoins Magdalen Bridge, built across the Cherwell. Begun
in 1492 A.D.; completed in 1505 A.D. From its summit a Latin hymn is sung
every year on the morning of May Day. This graceful tower has been several
times imitated in American collegiate structures.]



Theology formed the chief subject of instruction in most medieval
universities. Nearly all the celebrated scholars of the age were
theologians. They sought to arrange the doctrines of the Church in
systematic and reasonable form, in order to answer those great questions
concerning the nature of God and of the soul which have always occupied
the human mind. For this purpose it was necessary to call in the aid of
philosophy. The union of theology and philosophy produced what is known as
scholasticism. [23]

The chief architectural ornament of King's College, founded by King Henry
VI, is the chapel in the Gothic perpendicular style.* This building was
begun in 1446 A.D., but was not completed until nearly seventy years
later. The finest features of the interior are the fan vaulting which
extends throughout the chapel, the stained-glass windows, and the wooden
organ screen.]


The scholastics were loyal children of the Church and did not presume to
question her teaching in matters of religion. They held that faith
precedes reason. "The Christian," it was said, "ought to advance to
knowledge through faith, not come to faith through knowledge." The
brilliant Abelard, with his keenly critical mind, found what he considered
a flaw in this position: on many subjects the authorities themselves
disagreed. To show this he wrote a little book called _Sic et Non_ ("Yes
and No"), setting forth the conflicting opinions of the Church Fathers on
one hundred and fifty-eight points of theology. In such cases how could
truth be reached unless one reasoned it out for oneself? "Constant
questioning," he declared, "is the key to wisdom.... Through doubting we
come to inquiry and through inquiry we perceive the truth." But this
reliance on the unaided human reason as a means of obtaining knowledge did
not meet with approval, and Abelard's views were condemned as unsound.
Abelard, indeed, was a man in advance of his age. Freedom of thought had
to wait many centuries before its rights should be acknowledged.


The philosophy on which the scholastics relied was chiefly that of
Aristotle. [24] Christian Europe read him at first in Latin translations
from the Arabic, but versions were later made from Greek copies found in
Constantinople and elsewhere in the East. This revival of Aristotle,
though it broadened men's minds by acquainting them with the ideas of the
greatest of Greek thinkers, had serious drawbacks. It discouraged rather
than favored the search for fresh truth. Many scholastics were satisfied
to appeal to Aristotle's authority, rather than take the trouble of
finding out things for themselves. The story is told of a medieval student
who, having detected spots in the sun, announced his discovery to a
learned man. "My son," said the latter, "I have read Aristotle many times,
and I assure you there is nothing of the kind mentioned by him. Be certain
that the spots which you have seen are in your eyes and not in the sun."

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, 1227-1274 A.D.

There were many famous scholastics, or "schoolmen," but easily the
foremost among them was the Italian monk, Thomas Aquinas. He taught at
Paris, Cologne, Rome, and Bologna, and became so celebrated for learning
as to be known as the "Angelic Doctor." Though Aquinas died at an early
age, he left behind him no less than eighteen folio volumes. His _Summa
Theologiae_ ("Compendium of Theology"), as the name indicates, gathered up
all that the Middle Ages believed of the relations between God and man.
The Roman Church has placed him among her saints and still recommends the
study of his writings as the foundation of all sound theology.


Enough has been said to show that the method of study in medieval
universities was not that which generally obtains to-day. There was almost
no original research. Law students memorized the Justinian code. Medical
students learned anatomy and physiology from old Greek books, instead of
in the dissecting room. Theologians and philosophers went to the Bible,
the Church Fathers, or Aristotle for the solution of all problems. They
often debated the most subtle questions, for instance, "Can God ever know
more than He knows that He knows?" Mental gymnastics of this sort
furnished a good training in logic, but added nothing to the sum of human
knowledge. Scholasticism, accordingly, fell into disrepute, in proportion
as men began to substitute scientific observation and experiment for



Not all medieval learning took the form of scholasticism. The twelfth and
thirteenth centuries were marked by a healthy interest in science. Long
encyclopedias, written in Latin, collected all available information about
the natural world. The study of physics made conspicuous progress, partly
as a result of Arab influence. Various scientific inventions, including
magnifying glasses and clocks, were worked out. The mariner's compass,
perhaps derived from the Arabs, also came into general use. [25]


As representative of this scientific interest we may take the Englishman,
Roger Bacon. He studied at Paris, where his attainments secured for him
the title of the "Wonderful Doctor," and lectured at Oxford. At a period
when Aristotle's influence was unbounded, Bacon turned away from
scholastic philosophy to mathematics and the sciences. No great
discoveries were made by him, but it is interesting to read a passage in
one of his works where some modern inventions are distinctly foreseen. In
time, he wrote, ships will be moved without rowers, and carriages will be
propelled without animals to draw them. Machines for flying will also be
constructed, "wherein a man sits revolving some engine by which artificial
wings are made to beat the air like a flying bird." Even in Bacon's day it
would appear that men were trying to make steamboats, automobiles, and

[Illustration: ROGER BACON]


The discovery of gunpowder, a compound of saltpeter, charcoal, and
sulphur, has often been attributed to Bacon, probably incorrectly. Bacon
and other men of his time seem to have been familiar with the composition
of gunpowder, but they regarded it as merely a sort of firework, producing
a sudden and brilliant flame. They little suspected that in a confined
space the expansive power of its gases could be used to hurl projectiles.
Gunpowder was occasionally manufactured during the fourteenth century, but
for a long time it made more noise than it did harm. Small brass cannon,
throwing stone balls, began at length to displace the medieval siege
weapons, and still later muskets took the place of the bow, the cross-bow,
and the pike. The revolution in the art of warfare introduced by gunpowder
had vast importance. It destroyed the usefulness of the castle and enabled
the peasant to fight the mailed knight on equal terms. Gunpowder,
accordingly, must be included among the forces which brought about the
downfall of feudalism.


The study of chemistry also engaged the attention of medieval
investigators. It was, however, much mixed up with alchemy, a false
science which the Middle Ages had received from the Greeks, and they, in
turn, from the Egyptians. The alchemists believed that minerals possessed
a real life of their own and that they were continually developing in the
ground toward the state of gold, the perfect metal. It was necessary,
therefore, to discover the "philosopher's stone," which would turn all
metals into gold. The alchemists never found it, but they learned a good
deal about the various metals and discovered a number of compounds and
colors. In this way alchemy contributed to the advance of chemistry.


Astronomy in the Middle Ages was the most advanced of any natural science,
though the telescope and the Copernican theory [26] were as yet in the
future. Astronomy, the wise mother, had a foolish daughter, astrology, the
origin of which can be traced back to Babylonia. [27] Medieval students no
longer regarded the stars as divine, but they believed that the natural
world and the life of men were controlled by celestial influences. Hence
astrologers professed to predict the fate of a person from the position of
the planets at the time of his birth. Astrological rules were also drawn
from the signs of the zodiac. A child born under the sign of the Lion will
be courageous; one born under the Crab will not go forward well in life;
one born under the Waterman will probably be drowned, and so forth. Such
fancies seem absurd enough, but in the Middle Ages educated people
entertained them.


Alchemy and astrology were not the only instances of medieval credulity.
The most improbable stories found ready acceptance. Roger Bacon, for
instance, thought that "flying dragons" still existed in Europe and that
eating their flesh lengthened human life. Works on natural history soberly
described the lizard-like salamander, which dwelt in fire, and the
phoenix, a bird which, after living for five hundred years, burned itself
to death and then rose again full grown from the ashes. Another fabulous
creature was the unicorn, with the head and body of a horse, the hind legs
of an antelope, the beard of a goat, and a long, sharp horn set in the
middle of the forehead. Various plants and minerals were also credited
with marvelous powers. Thus, the nasturtium, used as a liniment, would
keep one's hair from falling out, and the sapphire, when powdered and
mixed with milk, would heal ulcers and cure headache. Such quaint beliefs
linger to-day among uneducated people, even in civilized lands.

Miniature in a thirteenth-century manuscript in the Bibliotheque
Nationale, Paris. The Devil, attempting to seize a magician who had formed
a pact with him, is prevented by a lay brother.]


Magicians of every sort flourished in the Middle Ages. Oneiromancers [28]
took omens from dreams. Palmists read fortunes in the lines and
irregularities of the hand. Necromancers [29] professed to reveal the
future by pretended communications with departed spirits. Other magicians
made talismans or lucky objects to be worn on the person, mirrors in which
the images of the dead or the absent were reflected, and various powders
which, when mixed with food or drink, would inspire hatred or affection in
the one consuming them. Indeed, it would be easy to draw up a long list of
the devices by which practitioners of magic made a living at the expense
of the ignorant and the superstitious.



Many medieval superstitions are preserved in folk tales, or "fairy
stories." Every child now reads these tales in books, but until the
nineteenth century very few of them had been collected and written down.
[30] They lived on the lips of the people, being told by mothers and
nurses to children and by young and old about the firesides during the
long winter evenings. Story-telling formed one of the chief amusements of
the Middle Ages.


The fairies who appear so commonly in folk tales are known by different
names. They are bogies, brownies, goblins, pixies, kobolds (in Germany),
trolls (in Denmark), and so on. The Celts, especially, had a lively faith
in fairies, and it was from Wales, Scotland, and Ireland that many stories
about them became current in Europe after the tenth century. Some students
have explained the belief in fairies as due to memories of an ancient
pygmy people dwelling in underground homes. But most of these supernatural
beings seem to be the descendants of the spirits and demons which in
savage fancy haunt the world.


A comparison of European folk tales shows that fairies have certain
characteristics in common. They live in palaces underneath the ground,
from which they emerge at twilight to dance in mystic circles. They are
ruled by kings and queens and are possessed of great wealth. Though
usually invisible, they may sometimes be seen, especially by people who
have the faculty of perceiving spirits. To mortals the fairies are
generally hostile, leading wanderers astray, often blighting crops and
cattle, and shooting arrows which carry disease and death. They are
constantly on the watch to carry off human beings to their realm. A
prisoner must be released at the end of a certain time, unless he tastes
fairy food, in which event he can never return. Children in cradles are
frequently snatched away by the fairies, who leave, instead, imps of their
own called "changelings." A changeling may always be recognized by its
peevishness and backwardness in learning to walk and speak. If well
treated, the fairies will sometimes show their gratitude by bestowing on
their favorites health, wealth, and long life. Lucky the child who can
count on a "fairy god-mother."


Stories of giants are common in folk tales. Giants are often represented
as not only big but also stupid, and as easily overcome by keen-witted
human foes like "Jack the Giant-killer." It may be that traditions of pre-
historic peoples have sometimes given birth to legends of giants. Another
source of stories concerning them has been the discovery of huge fossil
bones, such as those of the mammoth or mastodon, which were formerly
supposed to be bones of gigantic men. The ogres, who sometimes figure in
folk tales, are giants with a taste for human flesh. They recall the
cannibals of the savage world.


Werewolves were persons who, by natural gift or magic art, were thought to
have the power of turning themselves for a time into wild beasts
(generally wolves or bears). In this animal shape they ravaged flocks and
devoured young children. A werewolf was said to sleep only two nights in
the month and to spend the rest of the time roaming the woods and fields.
Trials of persons accused of being werewolves were held in France as late
as the end of the sixteenth century. Even now the belief is found in out-
of-the-way parts of Europe.


Another medieval superstition was that of the evil eye. According to this
belief, certain persons could bewitch, injure, and kill by a glance.
Children and domestic animals were thought to be particularly susceptible
to the effects of "fascination." In order to guard against it charms of
various sorts, including texts from the Bible, were carried about. The
belief in the evil eye came into Europe from pagan antiquity. It survived
the Middle Ages and lingers yet among uneducated people.


The superstitions relating to werewolves and the evil eye are particular
forms of the belief in witchcraft, or "black magic." The Middle Ages could
not escape this delusion, which was firmly held by the Greeks and Romans
and other ancient peoples. Witchcraft had, indeed, a prehistoric origin
and the belief in it still prevails in savage society.

[Illustration: THE WITCHES' SABBATH.]


Witches and wizards were supposed to have sold themselves to the Devil,
receiving in return the power to work magic. They could change themselves
or others into animals, they had charms against the hurt of weapons, they
could raise storms and destroy crops, and they could convey thorns, pins,
and other objects into their victims' bodies, thus causing sickness and
death. At night they rode on broomsticks through the air and assembled in
some lonely place for feasts, dances, and wild revels. At these "Witches'
Sabbaths," as they were called, the Devil himself attended and taught his
followers their diabolic arts. There were various tests for the discovery
of witches and wizards, the most usual being the ordeal by water. [31]


The numerous trials and executions for witchcraft form a dark page in
history. Thousands of harmless old men and women were put to death on the
charge of being leagued with the Devil. Even the most intelligent and
humane people believed in the reality of witchcraft and found a
justification for its punishment in the Scriptural command, "Thou shalt
not suffer a witch to live." [32] The witch epidemic which broke out in
America during the seventeenth century, reaching its height at Salem,
Massachusetts, was simply a reflection of the European fear and hatred of


The Middle Ages inherited from antiquity the observance of unlucky days.
They went under the name of "Egyptian days," so called because it was held
that on one of them the plagues had been sent to devastate the land of
Egypt and on another Pharaoh and his host had been swallowed up in the Red
Sea. At least twenty-four days in the year were regarded as very unlucky.
At such times one ought not to buy and sell, to build a house, to plant a
field, to travel or, in fact, to undertake anything at all important.
After the sixteenth century the belief in unlucky days declined, but there
still exists a prejudice against fishermen starting out to fish, or seamen
to take a voyage, or landsmen a journey, or domestic servants to enter a
new place, on a Friday.



It is pleasant to turn from the superstitions of the Middle Ages to the
games, sports, and festivals which helped to make life agreeable alike for
rich and poor, for nobles and peasants. Some indoor games are of eastern
origin. Thus chess, with which European peoples seem to have become
acquainted as early as the tenth century [33] arose in India as a war
game. On each side a king and his general, with chariots, cavalry,
elephants, and infantry, met in battle array. These survive in the rooks,
knights, bishops, and pawns of the modern game. Checkers is a sort of
simplified chess, in which the pieces are all pawns, till they get across
the board and become kings. Playing cards are another Oriental invention.
They were introduced into Europe in the fourteenth century, either by the
Arabs or the gypsies. Their first use seems to have been for telling

Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. The figures are carved in ivory.]


Many outdoor games are derived from those played in medieval times. How
one kind of game may become the parent of many others is seen in the case
of the ball-play. The ancients tossed and caught balls as children do now.
They also had a game in which each side tried to secure the ball and throw
it over the adversary's goal line. This game lasted on into the Middle
Ages, and from it football has descended. The ancients seem never to have
used a stick or bat in their ball-play. The Persians, however, began to
play ball on horseback, using a long mallet for the purpose, and
introduced their new sport throughout Asia. Under the Tibetan name of
_pulu_ ("ball") it found its way into Europe. When once the mallet had
been invented for use on horseback, it could be easily used on foot, and
so polo gave rise to the various games in which balls are hit with bats,
including tennis, hockey, golf, cricket, and croquet.


The difference between our ideas of what constitutes "sport" and those of
our ancestors is shown by the popularity of baiting. In the twelfth
century bulls, bears, and even horses were baited. Cock-fighting formed
another common amusement. It was not till the nineteenth century that an
English society for the prevention of cruelty to animals succeeded in
getting a law passed which forbade these cruel sports. Most other European
countries have now followed England's example.


No account of life in the Middle Ages can well omit some reference to the
celebration of festivals. For the peasant and artisan they provided relief
from physical exertion, and for all classes of society the pageants,
processions, sports, feasts, and merry-makings which accompanied them
furnished welcome diversion. Medieval festivals included not only those of
the Christian Year, [34] but also others which had come down from pre-
Christian times.

[Illustration: BEAR BAITING.
From the Luttrell Psalter.]


Many festivals not of Christian origin were derived from the ceremonies
with which the heathen peoples of Europe had been accustomed to mark the
changes of the seasons. Thus, April Fool's Day formed a relic of
festivities held at the vernal equinox. May Day, another festival of
spring, honored the spirits of trees and of all budding vegetation. The
persons who acted as May kings and May queens represented these spirits.
According to the original custom a new May tree was cut down in the forest
every year, but later a permanent May pole was set up on the village
common. On Midsummer Eve (June 23), which marked the summer solstice, came
the fire festival, when people built bonfires and leaped over them, walked
in procession with torches round the fields, and rolled burning wheels
down the hillsides. These curious rites may have been once connected with
sun worship. Hallow Eve, so called from being the eve of All Saints' Day
(November 1), also seems to have been a survival of a heathen celebration.
On this night witches and fairies were supposed to assemble. Hallow Eve
does not appear to have been a season for pranks and jokes, as is its
present degenerate form. Even the festival of Christmas, coming at the
winter solstice, kept some heathen features, such as the use of mistletoe
with which Celtic priests once decked the altars of their gods. The
Christmas tree, however, is not a relic of heathenism. It seems to have
come into use as late as the seventeenth century.


Young and old took part in the dances which accompanied village festivals.
Very popular in medieval England was the Morris dance. The name, a
corruption of Moorish, refers to its origin in Spain. The Morris dance was
especially associated with May Day and was danced round a May pole to a
lively and capering step. The performers represented Robin Hood, Maid
Marian, his wife, Tom the Piper, and other traditional characters. On
their garments they wore bells tuned to different notes, so as to sound in


Mumming had a particular association with Christmas. Mummers were bands of
men and women who disguised themselves in masks and skins of animals and
then serenaded people outside their houses. Oftentimes the mummers acted
out little plays in which Father Christmas, Old King Cole, and St. George
were familiar figures.

[Illustration: MUMMERS
From a manuscript now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It was written and
illuminated in the reign of Edward III.]


Besides these village amusements, many plays of a religious character came
into vogue during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The earliest were
the miracle plays. They presented in dramatic form scenes from the Bible
and stories of the saints or martyrs. The actors at first were priests,
and the stage was the church itself or the churchyard. This religious
setting did not prevent the introduction of clowns and buffoons. After a
time the miracle play passed from the clergy to the guilds. All the guilds
of a town usually gave an exhibition once a year. Each guild presented a
single scene in the story. An exhibition might last for several days and
have as many as fifty scenes, beginning at Creation and ending with
Doomsday. [35]

The rude platform on wheels which served as a stage, was drawn by
apprentices to the market place. Each guild had its own stage.]


The miracle plays were followed by the "moralities." They dealt with the
struggle between good and evil, rather than with theology. Characters such
as Charity, Faith, Prudence, Riches, Confession, and Death appeared and
enacted a story intended to teach moral lessons. [36] Out of the rude
"morality" and its predecessor, the miracle play, has grown the drama of
modern times.



A previous chapter (Chapter XVIII.) described some features of domestic
life in castle and village during the age of feudalism. In England, where
the Norman kings discouraged castle building, the manor house formed the
ordinary residence of the nobility. Even in Continental Europe many
castles were gradually made over into manor houses after the cessation of
feudal warfare. A manor house, however, was only less bare and
inconvenient than a castle. It was still poorly lighted, ill-ventilated,
and in winter scarcely warmed by the open wood fires. Among the
improvements of the fourteenth century were the building of a fireplace at
one or both ends of the manor hall, instead of in the center, and the
substitution of glass windows for wooden shutters or oiled paper.

Built in the twelfth century.]


People in the Middle Ages, even the well-to-do, got along with little
furniture. The great hall of a manor house contained a long dining table,
with benches used at meals, and a few stools. The family beds often
occupied curtained recesses in the walls, but guests might have to sleep
on the floor of the manor hall. Servants often slept in the stables. Few
persons could afford rugs to cover the floor; the poor had to put up with
rushes. Utensils were not numerous, and articles of glass and silver were
practically unknown, except in the houses of the rich. Entries in wills
show the high value set upon a single spoon.

Shows the great hall of a manor house at Penshurst, Kent. The screen with
the minstrels' gallery over it is seen at the end of the hall, and in the
center, the brazier for fire. Built about 1340 A.D.]


The pictures in old manuscripts give us a good idea of medieval dress.
Naturally it varied with time and place, and according to the social
position of the wearer. Sometimes laws were passed, without much result,
to regulate the quality, shape, and cost of the costumes to be worn by
different orders of society. The moralists of the age were shocked, then
as now, when tightly fitting garments, which showed the outlines of the
body, became fashionable. The inconvenience of putting them on led to the
use of buttons and buttonholes. Women's headdresses were often of
extraordinary height and shape. Not less remarkable were the pointed shoes
worn by men. The points finally got so long that they hindered walking,
unless tied by a ribbon to the knees.



The medieval noble of the twelfth century as a rule went clean shaven. To
wear a beard was regarded as a sign of effeminacy in a man. The Bayeux
Tapestry, [37] for instance, shows the Normans mostly clean-shaven, while
the English wear only moustaches. The introduction of long beards seems to
have been due to contact with the East during the crusading period.


Regular bathing was not by any means neglected during the later Middle
Ages. In the country districts river, lake, or pool met the needs of
people used to outdoor life. The hot air and vapor baths of the Byzantines
were adopted by the Moslems and later, through the Moors and crusaders,
were made known to western Europe. After the beginning of the thirteenth
century few large cities lacked public bathing places.


Medieval cookbooks show that people of means had all sorts of elaborate
and expensive dishes. Dinner at a nobleman's house might include as many
as ten or twelve courses, mostly meats and game. Such things as hedgehogs,
peacocks, sparrows, and porpoises, which would hardly tempt the modern
palate, were relished. Much use was made of spices in preparing meats and
gravies, and also for flavoring wines. Over-eating was a common vice in
the Middle Ages, but the open-air life and constant exercise enabled men
and women to digest the huge quantities of food they consumed.


People in medieval times had no knives or forks and consequently ate with
their fingers. Daggers also were employed to convey food to the mouth.
Forks date from the end of the thirteenth century, but were adopted only
slowly. As late as the sixteenth century German preachers condemned their
use, for, said they, the Lord would not have given us fingers if he had
wanted us to rely on forks. Napkins were another table convenience unknown
in the Middle Ages.


In the absence of tea and coffee, ale and beer formed the drink of the
common people. The upper classes regaled themselves on costly wines.
Drunkenness was as common and as little reprobated as gluttony. The
monotony of life in medieval Europe, when the nobles had little to do but
hunt and fight, may partly account for the prevailing inebriety. But
doubtless in large measure it was a Teutonic characteristic. The Northmen
were hard drinkers, and of the ancient Germans a Roman writer states that
"to pass an entire day and night in drinking disgraces no one." [38] This
habit of intoxication survived in medieval Germany, and the Anglo-Saxons
and Danes introduced it into England.


Our survey of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries has now shown us that
these two hundred years deserve to be called the central period of the
Middle Ages. When the Arabs had brought the culture of the Orient to Spain
and Sicily, when the Northmen after their wonderful expansion had settled
down in Normandy, England, and other countries, and when the peoples of
western Europe, whether as peaceful pilgrims or as warlike crusaders, had
visited Constantinople and the Holy Land, men's minds received a wonderful
stimulus. The intellectual life of Europe was "speeded up," and the way
was prepared for the even more rapid advance of knowledge in the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, as the Middle Ages passed into modern


1. Look up on the map between pages 358-359 the following places where
Gothic cathedrals are found: Canterbury, York, Salisbury, Reims, Amiens,
Chartres, Cologne, Strassburg, Burgos, Toledo, and Milan.

2. Look up on the map facing page 654 the location of the following
medieval universities: Oxford, Montpellier, Paris, Orleans, Cologne,
Leipzig, Prague, Naples, and Salamanca.

3. Explain the following terms: scholasticism; canon law; alchemy;
troubadours; Provencal language; transept; choir; flying buttress;
werewolf; and mumming.

4. Who were St. Thomas Aquinas, Abelard, Gratian, Irnerius, and Roger

5. Show how Latin served as an international language in the Middle Ages.
Name two artificial languages which have been invented as a substitute for

6. What is meant by saying that "French is a mere _patois_ of Latin"?

7. In what parts of the world is English now the prevailing speech?

8. Why has Siegfried, the hero of the _Nibelungenlied_, been called the
"Achilles of Teutonic legend"?

9. What productions of medieval literature reflect aristocratic and
democratic ideals, respectively?

10. Distinguish between the Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture.
What is the origin of each term?

11. Compare the ground plans of a Greek temple (page 291), a Roman
basilica (page 284), and a Gothic cathedral (page 562).

12. Contrast a Gothic cathedral with a Greek temple, particularly in
regard to size, height, support of the roof, windows, and decorative

13. Why is there some excuse for describing a Gothic building as "a wall
of glass with a roof of stone"?

14. Do you see any resemblance in structural features between a Gothic
cathedral and a modern "sky-scraper"?

15. Mention some likenesses between medieval and modern universities.

16. Mention some important subjects of instruction in modern universities
which were not treated in those of the Middle Ages.

17. Why has scholasticism been called "a sort of Aristotelian

18. Look up the original meaning of the words "jovial," "saturnine,"
"mercurial," "disastrous," "contemplate," and "consider."

19. Show the indebtedness of chemistry to alchemy and of astronomy to

20. Mention some common folk tales which illustrate medieval

21. Why was Friday regarded as a specially unlucky day?

22. Enumerate the most important contributions to civilization made during
the Middle Ages.


[1] Webster, _Readings in Medieval and Modern History_, chapter xvii,
"Medieval Tales"; chapter xviii, "Three Medieval Epics."

[2] See pages 203, 322.

[3] The language spoken by the natives of Flanders. The country is now
divided between France, Belgium, and Holland. See page 549.

[4] Icelandic is the oldest and purest form of Scandinavian. Danish and
Norwegian are practically the same, in fact, their literary or book-
language is one.

[5] Two names for rivers--_Avon_ and _Ex_--which in one form or another
are found in every part of England, are Celtic words meaning "water."

[6] See page 518.

[7] See page 309, note 1.

[8] See page 336.

[9] See page 386.

[10] See pages 284, 344.

[11] See page 283.

[12] The cathedral, baptistery, and campanile of Pisa form an interesting
example of Romanesque architecture. See the illustration, page 544.

[13] The interior of King's College Chapel, Cambridge, shows the ribs and
the beautiful tracery of the ceiling of a Gothic building. See the plate
facin page 570.

[14] The flying buttress is well shown in the view of Canterbury Cathedral
(page 324).

[15] See page 386.

[16] For the pointed arch see the view of Melrose Abbey (page 660).

[17] See the illustrations, pages 550, 551.

[18] See page 310.

[19] See pages 207, 331.

[20] See page 444.

[21] Latin _universitas_.

[22] See page 536.

[23] The method of the school (Latin _schola_).

[24] See pages 275 and 383.

[25] See page 618.

[26] See pages 133 and 608.

[27] See page 53.

[28] Greek _oneiros_, "dream."

[29] Greek _nekros_, "corpse."

[30] Charles Perrault's _Tales of Passed Times_ appeared at Paris in 1697
A.D. It included the now-familiar stories of "Bluebeard," "Cinderella,"
"Sleeping Beauty," and "Little Red Riding Hood." In 1812 A.D. the brothers
Grimm published their _Household Tales_, a collection of stories current
in Germany.

[31] See page 420.

[32] _Exodus_, xxii, 18.

[33] See page 428.

[34] See page 346.

[35] The great Passion Play at Ober Ammergau in Germany is the modern
survival and representative of this medieval religious drama.

[36] _Everyman_, one of the best of the morality plays, has recently been
revived before large audiences.

[37] See the illustration, page 408.

[38] Tacitus, _Germania_, 22.





The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, covering the later period of the
Middle Ages, are commonly known as those of the Renaissance. This French
word means Rebirth or Revival. It is a convenient term for all the changes
in society, law, and government, in science, philosophy, and religion, in
literature and art which gradually transformed medieval civilization into
that of modern times.


The Renaissance, just because of its transitional character, cannot be
exactly dated. Some Renaissance movements started before 1300 A.D. For
instance, the study of Roman law, as a substitute for Germanic customs,
began toward the close of the eleventh century. The rise of European
cities, with all that they meant for industry and commerce, belonged to
about the same time. Other Renaissance movements, again, extended beyond
1500 A.D. Among these were the expansion of geographical knowledge,
resulting from the discovery of the New World, and the revolt against the
Papacy, known as the Protestant Reformation. The Middle Ages, in fact,
came to an end at different times in different fields of human activity.


The name Renaissance applied, at first, only to the rebirth or revival of
men's interest in the literature and art of classical antiquity. Italy was
the original home of this Renaissance. There it first appeared, there it
found widest acceptance, and there it reached its highest development.
From Italy the Renaissance gradually spread beyond the Alps, until it had
made the round of western Europe.


Italy, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, was a land particularly
favorable to the growth of learning and the arts. In northern Italy the
great cities of Milan, Pisa, Genoa, Florence, Venice, and many others had
early succeeded in throwing off their feudal burdens and had become
independent, self-governing communities. Democracy flourished in them, as
in the old Greek city-states. Noble birth counted for little; a man of
ability and ambition might rise to any place. The fierce party conflicts
within their walls stimulated mental activity and helped to make life
full, varied, and intense. Their widespread trade and thriving
manufactures made them prosperous. Wealth brought leisure, bred a taste
for luxury and the refinements of life, and gave means for the
gratification of that taste. People wanted to have about them beautiful
pictures, statuary, furniture, palaces, and churches; and they rewarded
richly the artists who could produce such things. It is not without
significance that the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance was
democratic, industrial, and wealthy Florence. [2]


Italy enjoyed another advantage over the other European countries in its
nearness to Rome. Admiration for the ancient Roman civilization, as
expressed in literature, art, and law, was felt by all Italians. Wherever
they looked, they were reminded of the great past which once had been
theirs. Nor was the inheritance of Greece wholly lost. Greek traders and
the descendants of Greek colonists in Italy still used their ancient
language; all through the medieval centuries there were Italians who
studied Greek. The classic tradition thus survived in Italy and defied


In the Middle Ages Italy formed a meeting place of several civilizations.
Byzantine influence was felt both in the north and in the south. The
conquest of Sicily by the Arabs made the Italians familiar with the
science, art, and poetry of this cultivated people. After the Normans had
established themselves in southern Italy and Sicily, they in turn
developed a brilliant civilization. [3] From all these sources flowed
streams of cultural influence which united in the Renaissance.

The second or northern pair of bronze doors of the baptistery at Florence.
Completed by Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1452 A.D. after twenty seven years of
labor The ten panels represent scenes from Old Testament history.
Michelangelo pronounced these magnificent creations worthy to be the gates
of paradise.]

[Illustration: ST. PETER'S, ROME
St Peter's, begun in 1506 A.D., was completed in 1667, according to the
designs of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, and other celebrated
architects. It is the largest church in the world. The central aisle,
nave, and choir measure about 600 feet in length, the great dome, 140 feet
in diameter, rises to a height of more than 400 feet. A double colonnade
encircles the piazza in front of the church. The Vatican is seen to the
right of St Peter's.]



The literature of Greece and Rome did not entirely disappear in western
Europe after the Germanic invasions. The monastery and cathedral schools
of the Middle Ages had nourished devoted students of ancient books. The
Benedictine monks labored zealously in copying the works of pagan as well
as Christian authors. The rise of universities made it possible for the
student to pursue a fairly extended course in Latin literature at more
than one institution of learning. Greek literature, however, was little
known in the West. The poems of Homer were read only in a brief Latin
summary, and even Aristotle's writings were studied in Latin translations.


Reverence for the classics finds constant expression in the writings of
the Italian poet Dante. He was a native of Florence, but passed much of
his life in exile. Dante's most famous work, the _Divine Comedy_,
describes an imaginary visit to the other world. Vergil guides him through
the realms of Hell and Purgatory until he meets his lady Beatrice, the
personification of love and purity, who conducts him through Paradise. The
_Divine Comedy_ gives in artistic verse an epitome of all that medieval
men knew and hoped and felt: it is a mirror of the Middle Ages. At the
same time it drew much of its inspiration from Graeco-Roman sources.
Athens, for Dante, is the "hearth from which all knowledge glows"; Homer
is the "loftiest of poets", and Aristotle is the "master of those who
know." This feeling for classical antiquity entitles Dante to rank as a
prophet of the Renaissance.

[Illustration: DANTE ALIGHIERI
From a fresco, somewhat restored, ascribed to the contemporary artist,
Giotto. In the National Museum, Florence.]


Dante exerted a noteworthy influence on the Italian language. He wrote the
_Divine Comedy_, not in Latin, but in the vernacular Italian as spoken in
Florence. The popularity of this work helped to give currency to the
Florentine dialect, and in time it became the literary language of Italy.
Italian was the first of the Romance tongues to assume a national

PETRARCH, 1304-1374 A.D.

Petrarch, a younger contemporary of Dante, and like him a native of
Florence, has been called the first modern scholar and man of letters. He
devoted himself with tireless energy to classical studies. Writing to a
friend, Petrarch declares that he has read Vergil, Horace, Livy, and
Cicero, "not once, but a thousand times, not cursorily but studiously and
intently, bringing to them the best powers of my mind. I tasted in the
morning and digested at night. I quaffed as a boy, to ruminate as an old
man. These works have become so familiar to me that they cling not to my
memory merely, but to the very marrow of my bones."

[Illustration: PETRARCH
From a miniature in the Laurentian Library, Florence]


Petrarch himself composed many Latin works and did much to spread a
knowledge of Latin authors. He traveled widely in Italy, France, and other
countries, searching everywhere for ancient manuscripts. When he found in
one place two lost orations of Cicero and in another place a collection of
Cicero's letters, he was transported with delight. He kept copyists in his
house, at times as many as four, busily making transcripts of the
manuscripts that he had discovered or borrowed. Petrarch knew almost no
Greek. His copy of Homer, it is said, he often kissed, though he could not
read it.

BOCCACCIO, 1313-1375 A.D.

Petrarch's friend and disciple, Boccaccio, was the first to bring to Italy
manuscripts of the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_. Having learned some Greek,
he wrote out a translation of those epic poems. But Boccaccio's fame to-
day rests on the _Decameron_. It is a collection of one hundred stories
written in Italian. They are supposed to be told by a merry company of men
and women, who, during a plague at Florence, have retired to a villa in
the country. The _Decameron_ is the first important work in Italian prose.
Many English writers, notably Chaucer in his _Canterbury Tales_ [4] have
gone to it for ideas and plots. The modern short story may be said to date
from Boccaccio.


The renewed interest in Latin literature, due to Petrarch, Boccaccio, and
others, was followed in the fifteenth century by the revival of Greek
literature. In 1396 A.D. Chrysoloras, a scholar from Constantinople, began
to lecture on Greek in the university of Florence. He afterwards taught in
other Italian cities and further aided the growth of Hellenic studies by
preparing a Greek grammar--the first book of its kind. From this time, and
especially after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D., many learned
Greeks came to Italy, thus transplanting in the West the culture of the
East. "Greece had not perished, but had emigrated to Italy."


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