Part 8 out of 15

[25] See page 208.

[26] See page 350.

[27] The enthusiasm of the Celtic Christians reached such proportions that
it swept back upon the Continent. In the seventh and eighth centuries
Irish missionaries worked among the heathen Germans and founded
monasteries in Burgundy, Lombardy, and southern Germany (now Switzerland).

[28] Bede, _Historia ecclesiastica_, iii, 25.

[29] The separation from Rome occurred in 1534 A.D., during the reign of
Henry VIII.

[30] See page 378.

[31] See page 330.

[32] See page 236.





The Roman Empire in the West moved rapidly to its "fall" in 476 A.D., at
the hands of the Germanic invaders. The Roman Empire in the East, though
threatened by enemies from without and weakened by civil conflicts from
within, endured for more than a thousand years. Until the middle of the
eleventh century it was the strongest state in Europe, except during the
reign of Charlemagne, when the Frankish kingdom eclipsed it. Until the
middle of the fifteenth century it preserved the name, the civilization,
and some part of the dominions, of ancient Rome. [1]


The long life of the Roman Empire in the East is one of the marvels of
history. Its great and constant vitality appears the more remarkable, when
one considers that it had no easily defensible frontiers, contained many
different races with little in common, and on all sides faced hostile
states. The empire survived so long, because of its vast wealth and
resources, its despotic, centralized government, the strength of its army,
and the almost impregnable position occupied by Constantinople, the
capital city.


The changing fortunes of the empire during the Middle Ages are reflected
in some of the names by which it is often known. The term "Greek Empire"
expresses the fact that the state became more and more Greek in character,
owing to the loss, first of the western provinces in the fifth century,
and then of Syria and Egypt in the seventh century. Another term--
"Byzantine Empire"--appropriately describes the condition of the state in
still later times, when its possessions were reduced to Constantinople
(ancient Byzantium) and the territory in the neighborhood of that city.
But through all this period the rulers at Constantinople regarded
themselves as the true successors of Augustus, Diocletian, and
Constantine. They never admitted the right of Charlemagne and Otto the
Great to establish a rival Roman Empire in western Europe. [2] They
claimed to be the only legitimate heirs of Old Rome.



The history of the Roman Empire in the East, for more than one hundred
years after the death of Theodosius, is uneventful. His successors, though
unable to prevent the Germans from seizing Italy and the other western
provinces, managed to keep their own dominions intact. The eastern
provinces escaped the fate of those in the West, because they were more
populous and offered greater obstacles to the barbarian invaders, who
followed the line of least resistance. The gradual recovery of the empire
in strength and warlike energy prepared the way for a really eminent


Justinian is described as a man of noble bearing, simple in his habits,
affable in speech, and easy of approach to all his subjects. Historians
have often drawn attention to his wonderful activity of mind and power of
steady industry. So great was his zeal for work that one of his courtiers
called him "the emperor who never sleeps." Possessed of large ideas and
inspired by the majesty of Rome, Justinian aimed to be a great conqueror,
a great lawgiver, and a great restorer of civilization. His success in
whatever he undertook must be ascribed in part to his wife, Theodora, whom
he associated with himself on the throne. Theodora, strong of mind and
wise in counsel, made a worthy helpmate for Justinian, who more than once
declared that in affairs of state he had consulted his "revered wife."


It was the ambition of Justinian to conquer the Germanic kingdoms which
had been formed out of the Mediterranean provinces. In this task he relied
chiefly on the military genius of Belisarius, one of the world's foremost
commanders. Belisarius was able in one short campaign to destroy the
Vandal kingdom in North Africa. [3] The Vandals by this time had lost
their early vigor; they made but a feeble resistance; and their Roman
subjects welcomed Belisarius as a deliverer. Justinian awarded a triumph
to his victorious general, an honor which for five centuries emperors
alone had enjoyed. The conquest of North Africa, together with the islands
of Sardinia and Corsica, was followed by the overthrow of the Ostrogothic
kingdom in Sicily and Italy. [4] Justinian also recovered from the
Visigoths [5] the southeastern part of Spain. He could now say with truth
that the Mediterranean was once more a Roman sea. [6]

A mosaic dating from 547 A.D., in the church of San Vitale, Ravenna. It
shows the emperor (in the center) with a bishop, his suite and imperial
guards. The picture probably gives us a fair idea of Justinian's
appearance, though it represents him as somewhat younger than he was at
the time.]


The conquests of Justinian proved to be less enduring than his work as a
lawgiver. Until his reign the sources of Roman law, including the
legislation of the popular assemblies, the decrees of the Senate, the
edicts of the of Roman praetors and emperors, and the decisions of learned
lawyers, had never been completely collected and arranged in scientific
form. Justinian appointed a commission of legal scholars to perform this
task. The result of their labors, in which the emperor himself assisted,
was the publication of the _Corpus Juris Civilis_, the "Body of Civil
Law." Under this form the Roman principles of jurisprudence have become
the foundation of the legal systems of modern Italy, Spain, France,
Germany, and other European countries. These principles even influenced
the Common law of England, which has been adopted by the United States.
[7] The _Corpus Juris Civilis_, because of this widespread influence, is
justly regarded as one of Rome's most important gifts to the world.


Justinian's claim to the title of "Great" rests also on his civilizing
work. He wished to restore the prosperity, as well as the provinces, of
the empire. During his reign roads, bridges, and aqueducts were repaired,
and commerce and agriculture were encouraged. It was at this time that two
Christian missionaries brought from China the eggs of the silkworm, and
introduced the manufacture of silk in Europe. As a builder Justinian
gained special fame. The edifices which he caused to be raised throughout
his dominions included massive fortifications on the exposed frontiers,
splendid palaces, and many monasteries and churches. The most noteworthy
monument to his piety is the church of Sancta Sophia [8] at
Constantinople, now used as a Mohammedan mosque. By his conquests, his
laws, and his buildings, Justinian revived for a time the waning glory of
imperial Rome.



The Roman Empire in the East did not long remain at the pinnacle of
greatness to which Justinian had raised it. His conquests, indeed,
weakened rather than strengthened the empire, since now there were much
more extensive frontiers to defend. Within half a century after his death
it was attacked both in Europe and in Asia. The Lombards [9] soon seized
Italy, and in the East the Persians renewed their contest against the
Roman power.



The struggle with the Persians was an inheritance from earlier times. [10]
Under an ambitious king, Chosroes II, the Persians overran all the Asiatic
provinces of the empire. A savior arose, however, in the person of the
Roman emperor, Heraclius (610-641 A.D.). His brilliant campaigns against
Chosroes partook of the nature of a crusade, or "holy war," for the
Persians had violated the Holy Sepulcher at Jerusalem and had stolen away
the True Cross, the most sacred relic of Christendom. Heraclius recovered
all his provinces, but only at the cost of a bloody struggle which drained
them of men and money and helped to make them fall easy victims to foes
still more terrible than the Persians. These were the Arabs.


Heraclius had not closed his reign before he saw all his victories undone
by the advance of the Arabs. The first wave of invasion tore away Syria
and Egypt from the empire, penetrated Asia Minor, and reached the shores
of the Bosporus. Repulsed before the walls of Constantinople, the Arabs
carried their arms to the West and seized North Africa, Spain, part of
southern Italy, and the Mediterranean islands. Asia Minor and the Balkan
peninsula still held out, however, and during the tenth century a line of
able rulers at Constantinople succeeded in winning back some of their lost


During the eleventh century the empire had to face new enemies. These were
the Seljuk Turks, [11] fierce nomads from the steppes beyond the Caspian.
After their conversion to Mohammedanism, they swept with irresistible
force through the East and conquered nearly all Asia Minor. The ruin of
this country, in earlier ages one of the most populous and flourishing
regions of the world, dates from its occupation by the Seljuks. To resist
their further advance the Roman emperor sought in 1095 A.D. the help of
the Christians of Europe. His appeals for aid resulted in the First
Crusade, with which a new chapter of medieval history began. (See Chapter


Thus, for more than five centuries after Justinian, the Roman Empire in
the East was engaged in a long struggle with the foes--Persians, Arabs,
and Seljuk Turks--which successively attacked its dominions. By its
stubborn resistance of the advance of the invaders the old empire
protected the young states of Europe from attack, until they grew strong
enough to meet and repulse the hordes of Asia. This service to
civilization was not less important than that which had been performed by
Greece and Rome in their contests with the Persians and the Carthaginians.



The troubled years after Justinian's death also witnessed the beginning of
the Slavic [12] settlements in southeastern Europe. The Slavs belonged to
the Indo-European race, but had not progressed in civilization as far as
the Germans. Their cradle land seems to have been in western Russia,
whence they slowly spread to the Baltic, the Elbe, and the Danube. We have
already mentioned the campaigns which Charlemagne and Henry the Fowler
waged against them. [13] The emperors at Constantinople were less
successful in resisting that branch of the Slavs which tried to occupy the
Balkan peninsula. After crossing the Danube, the Slavs pressed on farther
and farther, until they reached the southern extremity of ancient Greece.
They avoided the cities, but formed peasant communities in the open
country, where they readily mingled with the inhabitants. Their
descendants have remained in the Balkan peninsula to this day. The
inhabitants of modern Serbia [14] are Slavs, and even in the Greeks there
is a considerable strain of Slavic blood.


The Bulgarians, a people akin to the Huns and Avars, made their appearance
south of the lower Danube in the seventh century. For more than three
hundred years these barbarians, brutal, fierce, and cruel, were a menace
to the empire. At one time they threatened Constantinople and even killed
a Roman emperor, whose skull was converted into a drinking cup to grace
their feasts. The Bulgarians settled in the region which now bears their
name and gradually adopted the speech and customs of the Slavs. Modern
Bulgaria is essentially a Slavic state.


The empire was attacked in southeastern Europe by still other barbarians,
among whom were the Russians. This Slavic people, led by chieftains from
Sweden, descended the Dnieper and Dniester rivers and, crossing the Black
Sea, appeared before the walls of Constantinople. Already, in the tenth
century, that city formed the goal of Russian ambitions. The invaders are
said to have made four attempts to plunder its treasures. Though
unsuccessful, they compelled the emperors from time to time to pay them


Christianity reached the invaders of the Balkan peninsula from
Constantinople. The Serbians, Bulgarians, and Russians were converted in
the ninth and tenth centuries. With Christianity they received the use of
letters and some knowledge of Roman law and methods of government.
Constantinople was to them, henceforth, such a center of religion and
culture as Rome was to the Germans. By becoming the teacher of the vast
Slavic peoples of the Balkan peninsula and European Russia, the empire
performed another important service to civilization.



The Roman Empire in the East, though often menaced by barbarian foes, long
continued to be the leading European power. Its highest degree of
prosperity was reached between the middle of the ninth and the middle of
the eleventh century. The provinces in Asia Minor and the Balkan peninsula
produced a vast annual revenue, much of which went for defense. It was
necessary to maintain a large, well-disciplined army, great fleets and
engines of war, and the extensive fortifications of Constantinople and the
frontier cities. Confronted by so many dangers, the empire could hope to
survive only by making itself a strong military state.


The merchant ships of Constantinople, during the earlier part of the
Middle Ages, carried on most of the commerce of the Mediterranean and the
Black Sea. The products of Byzantine industry, including silks,
embroideries, mosaics, enamels, and metal work, were exchanged at that
city for the spices, drugs, and precious stones of the East. Byzantine
wares also found their way into Italy and France and, by way of the
Russian rivers, reached the heart of eastern Europe. Russia, in turn,
furnished Constantinople with large quantities of honey, wax, fur, wool,
grain, and slaves. A traveler of the twelfth century well described the
city as a metropolis "common to all the world, without distinction of
country or religion."


Many of the Roman emperors from Justinian onward were great builders.
Byzantine architecture, seen especially in the churches, became a leading
form of art. Its most striking feature is the dome, which replaces the
flat, wooden roof used in the basilican [15] Churches of Italy. The
exterior of a Byzantine church is plain and unimposing, but the interior
is adorned on a magnificent scale. The eyes of the worshiper are dazzled
by the walls faced with marble slabs of variegated colors, by the columns
of polished marble, jasper, and porphyry, and by the brilliant mosaic
pictures of gilded glass. The entire impression is one of richness and
splendor. Byzantine artists, though mediocre painters and sculptors,
excelled in all kinds of decorative work. Their carvings in wood, ivory,
and metal, together with their embroideries, enamels, and miniatures,
enjoyed a high reputation throughout medieval Europe.


Byzantine art, from the sixth century to the present time, has exerted a
wide influence. Sicily, southern Italy, Rome, Ravenna, and Venice contain
many examples of Byzantine churches. Italian painting in the Middle Ages
seems to have been derived directly from the mosaic pictures of the
artists of Constantinople. Russia received not only its religion but also
its art from Constantinople. The great Russian churches of Moscow and
Petrograd follow Byzantine models. Even the Arabs, in spite of their
hostility to Christianity, borrowed Byzantine artists and profited by
their services. The Mohammedan mosques of Damascus, Cairo, and Cordova,
both in methods of construction and in details of ornamentation, reproduce
Byzantine styles.


The libraries and museums of Constantinople preserved classical learning.
In the flourishing schools of that city the wisest men of the day taught
philosophy, law, medicine, and science to thousands of students. The
professors figured among the important persons of the court: official
documents mention the "prince of the rhetoricians" and the "consul of the
philosophers." Many of the emperors showed a taste for scholarship; one of
them was said to have been so devoted to study that he almost forgot to
reign. When kings in western Europe were so ignorant that they could with
difficulty scrawl their names, eastern emperors wrote books and composed
poetry. It is true that Byzantine scholars were erudite rather than
original. Impressed by the great treasures of knowledge about them, they
found it difficult to strike out into new, unbeaten paths. Most students
were content to make huge collections of extracts and notes from the books
which antiquity had bequeathed to them. Even this task was useful,
however, for their encyclopedias preserved much information which
otherwise would have been lost. During the Middle Ages the East cherished
the productions of classical learning, until the time came when the West
was ready to receive them and to profit by them.



The heart of Byzantine civilization was Constantinople. The city lies on a
peninsula between the Sea of Marmora and the spacious harbor called the
Golden Horn. Washed on three sides by the water and, like Rome, enthroned
upon seven hills, Constantinople occupies a site justly celebrated as the
noblest in the world. It stands in Europe, looks on Asia, and commands the
entrance to both the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. As a sixteenth
century writer pointed out, Constantinople "is a city which Nature herself
has designed to be the mistress of the world."



The position of Constantinople made it difficult to attack but easy to
defend. To surround the city an enemy would have to be strong upon both
land and sea. A hostile army, advancing through Asia Minor, found its
further advance arrested by the long, winding channel which the Bosporus,
the Sea of Marmora, and the Dardanelles combine to form. A hostile fleet,
coming by way of the Mediterranean or the Black Sea, faced grave
difficulties in attempting to penetrate the narrow strait into which this
waterway contracts at each extremity. On the landward side the line of
defense was so short--about four miles in width--that it could be strongly
fortified and held by a small force against large numbers. During the
Middle Ages the rear of the city was protected by two huge walls, the
remains of which are still visible. Constantinople, in fact, was all but
impregnable. Though each new century brought a fresh horde of enemies, it
resisted siege after siege and long continued to be the capital of what
was left of the Roman Empire. [16]


Constantine had laid out his new city on an imposing scale and adorned it
with the choicest treasures of art from Greece, Italy, and the Orient.
Fourteen churches, fourteen palaces, eight public baths, and several
triumphal arches are assigned to the founder of the city. His most stately
building was the Hippodrome, an immense structure devoted to chariot races
and all sorts of popular gatherings. There new emperors, after their
consecration in Sancta Sophia, were greeted by their subjects; there civic
festivals were held; and there the last Roman triumphs were celebrated.
Theodosius the Great built the principal gate of Constantinople, the
"Golden Gate," as it was called, by which the emperors made their solemn
entry into the city. But it was Justinian who, after Constantine, did most
to adorn the new capital by the Bosporus. He is said to have erected more
than twenty-five churches in Constantinople and its suburbs. Of these, the
most beautiful is the world-famed cathedral dedicated by Justinian to
"Holy Wisdom." On its completion the emperor declared that he had
surpassed Solomon's Temple. Though nearly fourteen hundred years old and
now defaced by vandal hands, it remains perhaps the supreme achievement of
Christian architecture.

Built by Justinian and dedicated on Christmas Day, 538 A.D. The main
building is roofed over by a great central dome 107 feet in diameter and
179 feet in height. After the Ottoman Turks turned the church into a
mosque, a minaret was erected at each of the four exterior angles. The
outside of Sancta Sophia is somewhat disappointing, but the interior, with
its walls and columns of polished marble granite and porphyry, is
magnificent. The crystal balustrades, pulpits, and large metal disks are


These three monuments preserve for us the exact line of the low wall or
_spina_, which divided the race course and around which the charioteers
drove their furious steeds. The obelisk was transported from Egypt by
Constantine. Between it and the crumbling tower beyond is a pillar of
three brazen serpents, originally set up at Delphi by the Greeks, after
the battle of Plataea. On this trophy were engraved the names of the
various states that sent soldiers to fight the Persians.]

[Illustration: Map, CONSTANTINOPLE]


Excepting Athens and Rome, no other European city can lay claim to so long
and so important a history as Constantinople. Her day came after theirs
was done. Throughout the Middle Ages Constantinople remained the most
important city in Europe. When London, Paris, and Vienna were small and
mean towns, Constantinople was a large and flourishing metropolis. The
renown of the city penetrated even into barbarian lands. The Scandinavians
called it Micklegarth, the "Great City"; the Russians knew of it as
Tsarigrad, the "City of the Caesars." But its own people best described it
as the "City guarded by God." Here, for more than eleven centuries, was
the capital of the Roman Empire and the center of Eastern Christendom.


1. Compare the area of the Roman Empire in the East in 395 A.D. with its
area in 800 A.D. (maps between pages 222-223 and facing page 308).

2. Compare the respective areas in 800 A.D. of the Roman Empire in the
East and Charlemagne's empire.

3. On the map, page 338, locate Adrianople, Gallipoli, Nicaea, the
Bosporus, Sea of Marmora, and Dardanelles.

4. Who were Belisarius, Chosroes II, and Heraclius?

5. In your opinion which of the two rival imperial lines after 800 A.D.
had the better title to represent ancient Rome?

6. Why has Justinian been called the "lawgiver of civilization"?

7. Why was it necessary to codify Roman law? Is the English Common law

8. Compare the work of Alexandrian and Byzantine scholars in preserving

9. "The Byzantines were the teachers of the Slavs, as the Romans were of
the Germans." Comment on this statement.

10. The Byzantine Empire was once called "a gigantic mass of mould, a
thousand years old." Does this seem a fair description?

11. "The history of medieval civilization is, in large measure, the
history of the Roman Empire in the East." Comment on this statement.

12. Show that Constantinople formed "a natural citadel."

13. On the map, page 340, trace the successive walls of Constantinople.


[1] The fall of the empire came in 1453 A.D., when Constantinople was
captured by the Ottoman Turks.

[2] See pages 311-312, 317-318.

[3] See page 245.

[4] See page 300.

[5] See page 244.

[6] See the map, page 301.

[7] Roman law still prevails in the province of Quebec and the state of
Louisiana, territories formerly under French control, and in all the
Spanish-American countries.

[8] In Greek, _Hagia Sophia_, "Holy Wisdom."

[9] See page 302.

[10] See page 219.

[11] So named from one of their leaders.

[12] The word _slova_ means "speech"; the Slavs are those who speak the
same language.

[13] See pages 309, 315.

[14] A more accurate designation than Servia. Originally, all Slavic
peoples called themselves Serbs.

[15] See page 284.

[16] Of the eight sieges to which Constantinople was subjected in medieval
times, only two succeeded. In 1204 A.D. it was captured by the Venetians
and in 1453 A.D., by the Ottoman Turks. See pages 477 and 492.





A preceding chapter has traced the early history of Christianity. We there
saw how the new religion appeared in the Orient, how it spread rapidly
over the Roman Empire, how it engaged with the imperial government in the
long conflict called the Persecutions, how the emperor Constantine, after
his conversion, placed it on an equality with paganism, and how at the end
of the fourth century the emperor Theodosius made it the state religion.
By this time the Church had become a great and powerful organization, with
fixed laws, with a graded system of officers, and with councils attended
by clergy from all parts of the Roman world. To this organization the word
Catholic, that is, "universal," came to be applied. Membership in the
Catholic Church, secured only by baptism, was believed to be essential to
salvation. As St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, had said, "He can no longer
have God for his Father who has not the Church for his Mother."


The first three centuries of Christianity witnessed the development of the
episcopal system in the Church. Each provincial city had its bishop,
assisted by priests and deacons. An archbishop (sometimes called a
metropolitan) presided over the bishops of each province, and a patriarch
had jurisdiction, in turn, over metropolitans. This graded arrangement of
ecclesiastical officers, from the lowest to the highest, helped to make
the Church centralized and strong. It appears to have been modeled, almost
unconsciously, on the government of the Roman Empire. [2]


The development of the patriarchate calls for special notice. At the time
of the Council of Nicaea [3] there were three patriarchs, namely, the
bishops of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria. These cities ranked among the
most important in the Roman world. It was only natural, therefore, that
the churches established in them should be singled out for preeminence.
Some years after the removal of the capital to Constantinople, the bishop
of that imperial city was recognized as a patriarch at a general council
of the Church. In the fifth century the bishop of Jerusalem received the
same dignity. Henceforth there were five patriarchs--four in the East but
only one in the West.


The Christian Church was a very democratic organization. Patriarchs,
archbishops, bishops, priests, and deacons were drawn from all ranks of
life. No special training at first was considered necessary to fit them
for their duties, though the more celebrated ministers were often highly
educated. To eke out their salaries the clergy sometimes carried on
business as farmers and shopkeepers. Where, however, a church had
sufficient funds to support its bishop, his engagement in secular affairs
was discouraged and finally prohibited. In the fourth century, as earlier,
priests and bishops were generally married men. The sentiment in favor of
celibacy for the clergy became very pronounced during the early Middle
Ages, especially in the West, and led at length to the general abandonment
of priestly marriage in those parts of Europe where papal influence
prevailed. Distinctive garments for clergymen did not begin to come into
use until the fifth century, when some of them began to don clothing of a
more sober hue than was fashionable at the time. Clerical vestments were
developed from two pieces of ancient Roman dress--the tunic and the toga.
[4] Thus the clergy were gradually separated from the people, or laity, by
differences in dress, by their celibate lives, and by their abstention
from worldly occupations.


While the Church was perfecting her organization, she was also elaborating
her doctrines. Theologians engaged in many controversies upon such
subjects as the connection of Christ with God and the nature of the
Trinity. In order to obtain an authoritative expression of Christian
opinion, councils of the higher clergy were held, at which the opposing
views were debated and a decision was reached. The Council of Nicaea,
which condemned Arianism, formed the first, and one of the most important,
of these general gatherings of the Church. After the Church had once
expressed itself on any matter of Christian belief, it was regarded as
unlawful to maintain a contrary opinion. Those who did so were called
heretics, and their teachings, heresies. The emperor Theodosius, whose
severe laws finally shattered the ancient paganism, [5] devoted even more
attention to stamping out heresies among his Christian subjects. He
prohibited meetings of heretics, burned their books, and threatened them
with death if they persisted in their peculiar doctrines. During his reign
a Spanish bishop and six of his partisans were executed for holding
unorthodox beliefs. This was the beginning of the persecutions for heresy.


As soon as Christianity had triumphed in the Roman Empire, thus becoming
the religion of the rich and powerful as well as the religion of the poor
and lowly, more attention was devoted to the conduct of worship.
Magnificent church buildings were often erected. Their architects seem to
have followed as models the basilicas, or public halls, which formed so
familiar a sight in Roman cities. [6] Church interiors were adorned with
paintings, mosaic pictures, images of saints and martyrs, and the figure
of the cross. Lighted candles on the altars and the burning of fragrant
incense lent an additional impressiveness to worship. Beautiful prayers
and hymns were composed. Some of the early Christian hymns, such as the
_Gloria in Excelsis_ and the _Te Deum Laudamus_, are still sung in our
churches. Organs did not come into use until the seventh century, and then
only in the West, but church bells, summoning the worshiper to divine
service, early became attached to Christian edifices.

[Illustration: RELIGIOUS MUSIC
From a window of the cathedral of Bourges, a city in central France. Shows
a pipe organ and chimes.]


The Christians from the start appear to have observed "the first day of
the week" [7] in memory of Christ's resurrection. They attended public
worship on the Lord's Day, but otherwise did not rigidly abstain from
worldly business and amusements. The Jewish element in some churches, and
especially in the East, was strong enough to secure an additional
observance of Saturday as a weekly festival. Saturday long continued to be
marked by religious assemblies and feasting, though not by any compulsory
cessation of the ordinary occupations. During the fourth century Sunday,
as the Lord's Day was now generally called, came more and more to be kept
as a day of obligatory rest. Constantine's Sunday law [8] formed the first
of a long series of imperial edicts imposing the observance of that day as
a legal duty. In this manner Sunday, like the Jewish Sabbath on the
seventh day of the week, was dedicated wholly to the exercises of


The great yearly festivals of the Church gradually took shape during the
early Christian centuries. The most important anniversary to be observed
was Easter, in memory of the resurrection of Christ. A period of fasting
(Lent), which finally lasted forty days, preceded the festival.
Whitsunday, or Pentecost, was celebrated on the fiftieth day after Easter.
[9] Two other festivals of later adoption were Christmas, the celebration
of which was finally assigned to the 25th of December, [10] and Epiphany
(January 6), commemorating the baptism of Christ. In course of time many
other feasts and fasts, together with numerous saints' days, were added to
the calendar of the "Christian Year."



By the time of Constantine, Christianity had spread widely throughout the
eastern half of the Roman Empire. Asia Minor was then largely Christian.
Thrace, Macedonia, Epirus, and Greece were all ecclesiastical provinces
with their own metropolitans. Many Christians were found in Syria and
Egypt. Churches also existed in Mesopotamia and Arabia, and even beyond
the boundaries of the empire in Armenia and Persia. Between the time of
Constantine and that of Justinian, Christianity continued to expand in the
East, until the gospel had been carried to such distant regions as
Abyssinia and India.


Most of the Christian communities in the Orient owed allegiance to the
patriarchs of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria. The
Roman emperor, however, was the supreme religious authority in the East.
He felt it as much his duty to maintain the doctrines and organization of
Christianity as to preserve the imperial dominions against foreign foes.
Since he presided over the Church, there could be no real independence for
its officers. Bishops, metropolitans, and patriarchs were in every respect
subordinate to his will. This union of Church and State formed one of the
most characteristic features of Christianity in the East.


Eastern Christians, far more than those in the West, devoted themselves to
theological speculations. Constantinople and the great Hellenistic cities
of Antioch and Alexandria contained many learned scholars who had
prolonged and heated arguments over subtle questions of belief. After the
Arian controversy had been settled in the fourth century, other disputes
concerning the true nature of Christ broke out. These gave rise to many


The heresy known as Nestorianism, from Nestorius, a patriarch of
Constantinople, spread widely in the East. Nestorian missionaries even
penetrated to India, China, and Mongolia. The churches which they
established were numerous and influential during the Middle Ages, but
since then most of them have been destroyed by the Mohammedans. Members of
this sect are still to be found, however, in eastern lands. [11]

Evidence of Nestorian missions in China is afforded by the famous monument
at Chang-an, province of Shensi. The stone, which was set up in 781 A.D.,
commemorates by an inscription in Chinese characters and the figure of a
cross the introduction of Christianity into northwestern China. A replica
of the Nestorian monument was taken to the United States in 1908 A.D. and
was deposited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.]


After the formation of the Nestorian and other heretical sects, the
orthodox faith was preserved in the East only by the Greeks of Asia Minor
and Europe. The Greek Church, which calls itself the "Holy Orthodox
Church," for a time remained in unity with the Roman Church in the West.
The final separation of these two churches occurred in the eleventh
century. [12]



Christianity in the West presented two sharp contrasts to eastern
Christianity. In the first place, the great heresies which divided the
East scarcely affected the West. In the second place, no union of Church
and State existed among western Christians. Instead of acknowledging the
religious supremacy of the emperor at Constantinople, they yielded
obedience to the bishop of Rome, the head of the Roman Church. He is known
to us as the pope, and his office is called the Papacy. We shall now
inquire how the popes secured their unchallenged authority over western

[Illustration: PAPAL ARMS
According to the well-known passage in _Matthew_ (xvi, 19), Christ gave to
St. Peter the "keys of the kingdom of heaven," with the power "to bind and
to loose." These keys are always represented in the papal arms, together
with the tiara or headdress, worn by the popes on certain occasions.]


A church in Rome must have been established at an early date, for it was
to Roman Christians that St. Paul addressed one of the _Epistles_ now
preserved in the New Testament. St. Paul visited Rome, as we know from the
_Acts of the Apostles_, and there he is said to have suffered martyrdom.
Christian tradition, very ancient and very generally received, declares
that St. Peter also labored in Rome, where he met a martyr's death,
perhaps during the reign of the emperor Nero. To the early Christians,
therefore, the Roman Church must have seemed in the highest degree sacred,
for it had been founded by the two greatest apostles and had been
nourished by their blood.


Another circumstance helped to give the Roman Church a superior position
in the West. It was a vigorous missionary church. Rome, the largest and
most flourishing city in the empire and the seat of the imperial
government, naturally became the center from which Christianity spread
over the western provinces. Many of the early Christian communities
planted in Spain, Gaul, and Africa owed their start to the missionary zeal
of the Roman Church. To Rome, as the great "Mother-church," her daughters
in western Europe would turn henceforth with reverence and affection; they
would readily acknowledge her leading place among the churches; and they
would seek her advice on disputed points of Christian belief or worship.


The independence of the Roman Church also furthered its development. The
bishop of Rome was the sole patriarch in the West, while in the East there
were two, and later four patriarchs, each exercising authority in
religious matters. Furthermore, the removal of the capital from Rome to
Constantinople helped to free the Roman bishop from the close oversight of
the imperial government. He was able, henceforth, to promote the interests
of the church under his control without much interference on the part of
the eastern emperor.


Finally, it must be noted how much the development of the Roman Church was
aided by its attitude on disputed questions of belief. While eastern
Christendom was torn by theological controversies, the Church of Rome
stood firmly by the Nicene Creed. [13] After the Arian, Nestorian, and
other heresies were finally condemned, orthodox Christians felt indebted
to the Roman Church for its unwavering championship of "the faith once
delivered to the saints." They were all the more ready, therefore, to
defer to that church in matters of doctrine and to accept without question
its spiritual authority.


The claim of the Roman bishops to supremacy over the Christian world had a
double basis. Certain passages in the New Testament, where St. Peter is
represented as the rock on which the Church is built, the pastor of the
sheep and lambs of the Lord, and the doorkeeper of the kingdom of heaven,
appear to indicate that he was regarded by Christ as the chief of the
Apostles. Furthermore, a well-established tradition made St. Peter the
founder of the Roman Church and its first bishop. It was then argued that
he passed to his successors, the popes, all his rights and dignity. As St.
Peter was the first among the Apostles, so the popes were to be the first
among bishops. Such was the doctrine of the Petrine supremacy, expressed
as far back as the second century, strongly asserted by many popes during
the Middle Ages, and maintained to-day by the Roman Church.



Up to the middle of the fifth century about forty-five bishops had
occupied St. Peter's chair at Rome. The most eminent these was Leo the
Great. When he became bishop, the Germans were overrunning the western
provinces of the empire. The invaders professed the Arian faith, as we
have seen, and often persecuted the orthodox Christians among whom they
settled. At such a time, when the imperial power was growing weaker,
faithful Catholics in the West naturally turned for support to the bishop
of Rome. Leo became their champion against the barbarians. Tradition
declares that he succeeded in diverting Attila from an attack on Rome, and
when the Vandals sacked the city Leo also intervened to prevent its
destruction. [14]


After Leo, no important name occurs in the list of popes until we come to
Gregory the Great. Gregory, as the son of a rich and distinguished Roman
senator, enjoyed a good education in all the learning of the time. He
entered public life and at an early age became prefect of Rome. But now,
almost at the outset of his career, Gregory laid aside earthly ambition.
He gave up his honorable position and spent the fortune, inherited from
his father, in the foundation of monasteries and the relief of the poor.
He himself became a monk, turned his palace at Rome into a monastery, and
almost ruined his health by too great devotion to fasts and midnight
vigils. Gregory's conspicuous talents, however, soon called him from
retirement and led to his election as pope.


The work of Gregory lay principally in two directions. As a statesman he
did much to make the popes virtual sovereigns at Rome and in Italy. At
this time the Italian peninsula, overrun by the Lombards and neglected by
the eastern emperor, was in a deplorable condition. The bishop of Rome
seemed to be the only man who could protect the people and maintain order.
Gregory had very great success in this task. He appointed governors of
cities, issued orders to generals, drilled the Romans for military
defense, and sent ambassadors to treat with the king of the Lombards. It
was largely owing to Gregory's efforts that these barbarians were
prevented from conquering central Italy.


Gregory was no less eminent as a churchman. His writings and his personal
influence greatly furthered the advancement of the Roman Church in the
West. We find him sternly repressing heresies wherever they arose, aiding
the conversion of Arian Visigoths in Spain and Arian Lombards in Italy,
and sending out monks as missionaries to distant Britain. [15] He well
deserved by these labors the title "Servant of the servants of God," [16]
which he assumed, and which the popes after him have retained. The
admiration felt for his character and abilities raised him, in later ages,
to the rank of a saint.


When Gregory the Great closed his remarkable career, the Papacy had
reached a commanding place in western Christendom. To their spiritual
authority the popes had now begun to add some measure of temporal power as
rulers at Rome and in Italy. During the eighth century, as we have already
learned, [17] the alliance of the popes and the Franks helped further to
establish the Papacy as an ecclesiastical monarchy, ruling over both the
souls and bodies of men. Henceforth it was to go forward from strength to



The Papacy during the Middle Ages found its strongest supporters among the
monks. By the time of Gregory the Great monasticism [18] was well
established in the Christian Church. Its origin must be sought in the
need, often felt by spiritually-minded men, of withdrawing from the world
--from its temptations and its transitory pleasures--to a life of
solitude, prayer, and religious contemplation. Joined to this feeling has
been the conviction that the soul may be purified by subduing the desires
and passions of the body. Men, influenced by the monastic spirit, sought
a closer approach to God.


The monastic spirit in Christianity owed much to the example of its
founder, who was himself unmarried, poor, and without a place "where to
lay his head." Some of Christ's teachings, taken literally, also helped to
exalt the worth of the monastic life. At a very early period there were
Christian men and women who abstained from marriage, flesh meat, and the
use of wine, and gave themselves up to prayer, religious exercises, and
works of charity. This they did in their homes, without abandoning their
families and human society.


Another monastic movement began about the middle of the third century,
when many Christians in Egypt withdrew into the desert to live as hermits.
St. Anthony, who has been called the first Christian hermit, passed twenty
years in a deserted fort on the east bank of the Nile. During all this
time he never saw a human face. Some of the hermits, believing that pain
and suffering had a spiritual value, went to extremes of self-
mortification. They dwelt in wells, tombs, and on the summits of pillars,
deprived themselves of necessary food and sleep, wore no clothing, and
neglected to bathe or to care for the body in any way. Other hermits, who
did not practice such austerities, spent all day or all night in prayer.
The examples of these recluses found many imitators in Syria and other
eastern lands. [19]

From a Byzantine miniature in the Vatican.]


A life shut off from all contact with one's fellows is difficult and
beyond the strength of ordinary men. The mere human need for social
intercourse gradually brought the hermits together, at first in small
groups and then in larger communities, or monasteries. The next step was
to give the scattered monasteries a common organization and government.
Those in the East gradually adopted the regulations which St. Basil, a
leading churchman of the fourth century, drew up for the guidance of the
monks under his direction. St. Basil's Rule, as it is called, has remained
to the present time the basis of monasticism in the Greek Church.


The monastic system, which early gained an entrance into western
Christendom, looked to St. Benedict as its organizer. While yet a young
man, St. Benedict had sought to escape from the vice about him by retiring
to a cave in the Sabine hills near Rome. Here he lived for three years as
a hermit, shutting himself off from all human intercourse, wearing a hair
shirt, and rolling in beds of thistles to subdue "the flesh." St.
Benedict's experience of the hermit's life convinced him that there was a
surer and better road to religious peace of mind. His fame as a holy man
had attracted to him many disciples, and these he now began to group in
monastic communities under his own supervision. St. Benedict's most
important monastery was at Monte Cassino, midway between Rome and Naples.
It became the capital of monasticism in the West.



To control the monks of Monte Cassino St. Benedict framed a Rule, or
constitution, which was modeled in some respects upon the earlier Rule of
St. Basil. The monks formed a sort of corporation, presided over by an
abbot, [20] who held office for life. To the abbot every candidate for
admission took the vow of obedience. Any man, rich or poor, noble or
peasant, might enter the monastery, after a year's probation; having once
joined, however, he must remain a monk for the rest of his days. The monks
were to live under strict discipline. They could not own any property;
they could not go beyond the monastery walls without the abbot's consent;
they could not even receive letters from home; and they were sent to bed
early. A violation of the regulations brought punishment in the shape of
private admonitions, exclusion from common prayer, and, in extreme cases,


The Rule of St. Benedict came to have the same wide influence in the West
which that of St. Basil exerted in the East. Gregory the Great established
it in many places in Italy, Sicily, and England. During Charlemagne's
reign it was made the only form of monasticism throughout his dominions.
By the tenth century the Rule prevailed everywhere in western Europe. [21]



St. Benedict sought to draw a sharp line between the monastic life and
that of the outside world. Hence he required that, as far as possible,
each monastery should form an independent, self-supporting community whose
members had no need of going beyond its limits for anything. In course of
time, as a monastery increased in wealth and number of inmates, it might
come to form an enormous establishment, covering many acres and presenting
within its massive walls the appearance of a fortified town.


The principal buildings of a Benedictine monastery of the larger sort were
grouped around an inner court, called a cloister. These included a church,
a refectory, or dining room, with the kitchen and buttery near it, a
dormitory, where the monks slept, and a chapter house, where they
transacted business. There was also a library, a school, a hospital, and a
guest house for the reception of strangers, besides barns, bakeries,
laundries, workshops, and storerooms for provisions. Beyond these
buildings lay vegetable gardens, orchards, grain fields, and often a mill,
if the monastery was built on a stream. The high wall and ditch, usually
surrounding a monastery, shut it off from outsiders and in time of danger
protected it against attack.

This celebrated monastery was founded in the sixth century. Of the
original buildings only the abbey church remains. The illustration shows
the monastery as it was in 1361 A.D., with walls, towers, drawbridge, and
moat. Adjoining the church were the cloister, the refectory, and the


St. Benedict defined a monastery as "a school for the service of the
Lord." The monks under his Rule occupied themselves with a regular round
of worship, reading, and manual labor. Each day was divided into seven
sacred offices, beginning and ending with services in the monastery
church. The first service came usually about two o'clock in the morning;
the last, just as evening set in, before the monks retired to rest. In
addition to their attendance at church, the monks spent several hours in
reading from the Bible, private prayer, and meditation. For most of the
day, however, they worked hard with their hands, doing the necessary
washing and cooking for the monastery, raising the necessary supplies of
vegetables and grain, and performing all the other tasks required to
maintain a large establishment. This emphasis on labor, as a religious
duty, was a characteristic feature of western monasticism. "To labor is to
pray" became a favorite motto of the Benedictines. [22]

[Illustration: A MONK COPYIST
From a manuscript in the British Museum, London.]


It is clear that life in a Benedictine monastery appealed to many
different kinds of people in the Middle Ages. Those of a spiritual turn of
mind found in the monastic life the opportunity of giving themselves
wholly to God. Studious and thoughtful persons, with no disposition for an
active career in the world, naturally turned to the monastery as a secure
retreat. The friendless and the disgraced often took refuge within its
walls. Many a troubled soul, to whom the trials of this world seemed
unendurable, sought to escape from them by seeking the peaceful shelter of
the cloister.


The civilizing influence of the Benedictine monks during the early Middle
Ages can scarcely be over-emphasized. A monastery was often at once a
model farm, an inn, a hospital, a school, and a library. By the careful
cultivation of their lands the monks set an example of good farming
wherever they settled. They entertained pilgrims and travelers, at a
period when western Europe was almost destitute of inns. They performed
many works of charity, feeding the hungry, healing the sick who were
brought to their doors, and distributing their medicines freely to those
who needed them. In their schools they trained both boys who wished to
become priests and those who intended to lead active lives in the world.
The monks, too, were the only scholars of the age. By copying the
manuscripts of classical authors, they preserved valuable books that would
otherwise have been lost. By keeping records of the most striking events
of their time, they acted as chroniclers of medieval history. To all these
services must be added the work of the monks as missionaries to the
heathen peoples of Europe.



Almost all Europe had been won to Christianity by the end of the eleventh
century. In the direction of this great missionary campaign the Roman
Church took the leading part. [23] The officers of her armies were zealous
popes, bishops, and abbots; her private soldiers were equally zealous
monks, priests, and laymen. Pagan Rome had never succeeded in making a
complete and permanent conquest of the barbarians. Christian Rome,
however, was able to bring them all under her spiritual sway.


Christianity first reached the Germanic invaders in its Arian [24] form.
Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Burgundians, and Lombards were all Arians.
The Roman Church regarded them as heretics and labored with success to
reconvert them. This work was at last completed when the Lombards, in the
seventh century, accepted the Catholic faith.


The Franks and the Anglo-Saxons, whose kingdoms were to develop into the
chief states of medieval Europe, adopted from the outset the Catholic form
of Christianity. The conversion of the Franks provided the Roman Church
with its strongest and most faithful adherents among the Germanic tribes.
[25] The conversion of Anglo-Saxon Britain by Augustine and his monks,
followed later by the spread of Roman Catholicism in Ireland and Scotland,
firmly united the British Isles to the Papacy. [26] Thus Rome during the
Middle Ages came to be the one center of church life for the peoples of
western Europe.


An Anglo-Saxon monk, St. Boniface, did more than any other missionary to
carry Christianity to the remote tribes of Germany. Like Augustine in
England, St. Boniface was sent by the pope, who created him missionary
bishop and ordered him to "carry the word of God to unbelievers." St.
Boniface also enjoyed the support of the Frankish rulers, Charles Martel
and Pepin the Short. Thanks to their assistance this intrepid monk was
able to penetrate into the heart of Germany. Here he labored for nearly
forty years, preaching, baptizing, and founding numerous churches,
monasteries, and schools. His boldness in attacking heathenism is
illustrated by the story of how he cut down with his own hands a certain
oak tree, much reverenced by the natives of Hesse as sacred to the god
Woden, and out of its wood built a chapel dedicated to St. Peter. St.
Boniface crowned a lifetime of missionary labor with a martyr's death,
probably in 754 A.D. His work was continued by Charlemagne, who forced the
Saxons to accept Christianity at the point of the sword. [27] All Germany
at length became a Christian land, devoted to the Papacy.


Roman Catholicism not only spread to Celtic and Germanic peoples, but it
also gained a foothold among the Slavs. Both Henry the Fowler and Otto the
Great attempted to Christianize the Slavic tribes between the Elbe of the
Slavs and the Vistula, by locating bishoprics in their territory. The work
of conversion encountered many setbacks and did not reach completion until
the middle of the twelfth century. The most eminent missionaries to the
Slavs were Cyril and Methodius. These brother-monks were sent from
Constantinople in 863 A.D. to convert the Moravians, who formed a kingdom
on the eastern boundary of Germany. Seeing their great success as
missionaries, the pope invited them to Rome and secured their consent to
an arrangement which brought the Moravian Christians under the control of
the Papacy. [28] From Moravia Christianity penetrated into Bohemia and
Poland. These countries still remain strongholds of the Roman Church. The
Serbians and Russians, as we have learned, [29] received Christianity by
way of Constantinople and so became adherents of the Greek Church.


Roman Catholicism gradually spread to most of the remaining peoples of
Europe. The conversion of the Norwegians and Swedes was well advanced by
the middle of the eleventh century. The Magyars, or Hungarians, accepted
Christianity at about the same date. The king of Hungary was such a devout
Catholic that in the year 1000 A.D. the pope sent to him a golden crown
and saluted him as "His Apostolic Majesty." The last parts of heathen
Europe to receive the message of the gospel were the districts south and
east of the Baltic, occupied by the Prussians, Lithuanians, and Finns.
Their conversion took place between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries.



Before the Christian conquest of Europe was finished, Christianity had
divided into two great communions--the Greek Church and the Roman Church.
Their separation was a long, slow process, arising from the deep-seated
differences between East and West. Though Rome had carried her conquering
arms throughout the Mediterranean basin, all the region east of the
Adriatic was imperfectly Romanized. [30] It remained Greek in language and
culture, and tended, as time went on, to grow more and more unlike the
West, which was truly Roman. The founding of Constantinople and the
transference of the capital from the banks of the Tiber to the shores of
the Bosporus still further widened the breach between the two halves of
the Roman world. After the Germans established their kingdoms in Italy,
Spain, Gaul, and Britain, western Europe was practically independent of
the rulers at Constantinople. The coronation of Charlemagne in 800 A.D.
marked the final severance of East and West.


The division of the Roman Empire led naturally to a grouping of the
Christian Church about Rome and Constantinople, the two chief centers of
government. The popes, it has been seen, had always enjoyed spiritual
leadership in the West. In temporal matters they acknowledged the
authority of the eastern emperors, until the failure of the latter to
protect Rome and Italy from the barbarians showed clearly that the popes
must rely on their own efforts to defend Christian civilization. We have
already learned how well such men as Leo the Great and Gregory the Great
performed this task. Then in the eighth century came the alliance with the
Frankish king, Pepin the Short, which gave the Papacy a powerful and
generous protector beyond the Alps. Finally, by crowning Charlemagne, the
pope definitely broke with the emperor at Constantinople and transferred
his allegiance to the newly created western emperor.


The patriarch of Constantinople, as bishop of the capital city, enjoyed an
excellent position from which to assert his preeminence over the bishops
of the other churches in the East. Justinian in 550 A.D. conferred on him
the privilege of receiving appeals from the other patriarchs, and a few
years later that dignitary assumed the high-sounding title of "Universal
Archbishop." The authority of the patriarch of Constantinople was
immensely strengthened when the Mohammedans, having conquered Syria and
Egypt, practically extinguished the three patriarchates of Antioch,
Jerusalem, and Alexandria. [31] The Church in the East now had a single
patriarch, just as that in the West had the one bishop of Rome. Rivalry
between them was inevitable.


One source of strife between pope and patriarch was the controversy,
arising in the eighth century, over the use of images in the churches.
These images seem to have been, not statues, but pictures (icons) of the
apostles, saints, and martyrs. Many eastern Christians sought to strip the
churches of icons, on the ground that by the ignorant they were venerated
almost as idols. The Iconoclasts ("image-breakers") gained no support in
the West. The Papacy took the view that images were a help to true
devotion and might, therefore, be allowed. When a Roman emperor issued a
decree for the destruction of all images, the pope refused to obey the
order in the churches under his direction, and went so far as to exclude
the Iconoclasts from Christian fellowship. Although the iconoclastic
movement failed in the East, after a violent controversy, it helped still
further to sharpen the antagonism between the two branches of Christendom.
Other causes of dispute arose in later times, chiefly concerning fine
points of doctrine on which neither side would yield.


The final rupture of Christendom was delayed until the middle of the
eleventh century. In 1054 A.D. the pope sent his legates to Constantinople
to demand obedience to the Papacy. This being refused, they laid upon the
high altar of Sancta Sophia the pope's bill of excommunication. Against
the patriarch and his followers they pronounced a solemn curse, or
anathema, devoting them "to the eternal society of the Devil and his
angels." Then, we are told, they strode out of Sancta Sophia, shaking the
dust from their feet and crying, "Let God see and judge." The two branches
of the Christian Church, thus torn apart, were never afterward reunited.



The Greek and Roman churches, in some respects, are nearer together than
Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Both recognize three orders for the
ministry, namely, bishops, priests, and deacons. Priests of the Greek
Church may marry, but this privilege is not extended to bishops, who,
therefore, are chosen from the monks. Baptism, by both churches, is
administered to infants, but by the Greek Church under the form of total
immersion. Confirmation in the Greek Church follows immediately after
baptism; in the Roman Church it is postponed to the age of reason. In the
communion service the Greek Church gives leavened bread, dipped in wine.
The Roman Church withholds wine from the laity and uses only a dry,
unleavened wafer. While the services of the Roman Church are conducted in
Latin, for those of the Greek Church the national languages (Greek,
Russian, etc.) of the communicants are used. Its festivals do not coincide
in time of celebration with those of the Roman Church, since the "Julian
Calendar" followed in the East is now thirteen days behind the "Gregorian
Calendar." [33]


The Greek Church has not lacked missionary zeal. Through her agency the
barbarians who entered southeastern Europe during the early Middle Ages
were converted to Christianity. At the present time nearly all the peoples
of the Balkan peninsula, including Greeks, Montenegrins, Serbians,
Bulgarians, and Rumanians, belong to the Greek Church. [34] Its greatest
victory was won toward the close of the tenth century, when the Russians
were induced to accept the Greek form of Christianity. Outlying branches
of the Greek Church are found also in the Turkish Empire. It now includes
about one hundred and thirty-five million adherents in European lands.


The patriarch of Constantinople is the spiritual head of the Greek Church.
He enjoys, however, no such wide authority over eastern Christians as that
exercised by the pope over all Roman Catholics. There are as many as
sixteen branches of the Greek Church, each self-governing and under its
own officers. Despite the local independence of its branches, the Greek
Church remains unified in doctrine. It claims to be the only "Orthodox"
church and clings with almost Oriental conservatism to the traditions of
earlier ages. Nevertheless, as the official church of Russia, the largest
and most swiftly growing of European countries, the Greek Church has
before it a future of great importance.



The separation of eastern and western Christianity naturally increased the
importance of the Papacy. The popes henceforth had a free hand to guide
the destinies of the Roman Church. That church under their direction was
to show itself vigorous and progressive, with a wonderful power of
adaptation to new and changed conditions.


The Roman Empire in the West had gone down before the assaults of the
Germanic barbarians, but in its place had arisen a new creation--the Roman
Church. The chief city of the old empire became the capital of the Papacy.
The pope took, and has since retained, the title of Supreme Pontiff
(_Pontifex Maximus_), once given to the head of the Roman state religion.
[35] Latin has continued to be the official language of Roman Catholicism.
The Roman genius for law and government found a new expression in the
creation of the papal power. The true successors of the ancient Roman
statesmen were the popes of the Middle Ages. The idea of Rome, of her
universality and of her eternity, lived on in the Roman Church.


The Roman Church, as the successor of the Roman Empire in the West, formed
the chief center of civilization during the earlier part of the Middle
Ages. She stood between the conquering Germans and the Romanized
provincials and helped to join them both in lasting union. To the heathen
she sent out her missionaries, preaching a religion of love and charity
and introducing a higher morality than the barbarians had ever known
before. She multiplied hospitals, orphanages, and asylums. Her bishops
were the only protectors of the weak and the oppressed. She fostered
education, art, and learning within the walls of churches and monasteries.
Her priests and monks were the only teachers in an ignorant age. In an age
of bloodshed and violence, when might made right, she proclaimed the
superiority of the spirit to mere brute force. To sum up: the Roman Church
was an indispensable agent in the making of medieval Europe.


Christianity in its Greek and Roman forms was not the only great religion
of the Middle Ages. In the seventh century, before the separation of the
two churches had been completed and before all Europe had become
Christian, another religion arose. It grew with marvelous rapidity,
stripped the Church of much territory in western Asia, northern Africa,
and Spain, and promised for a time to become the dominant faith of the
world. This was Islam, or Mohammedanism, the religion of the Arabs.


1. In what different senses is the word "church" often used?

2. "The eastern patriarch was the shadow of the emperor, cast on the
spiritual world." Explain this statement.

3. Why did heresies develop in the East rather than in the West?

4. Look up in the New Testament the following texts relating to the
primacy of St. Peter: _Matthew_, xvi, 18-19; _Luke_, xxii, 31-32; and
_John_, xxi, 15-17.

5. What is "the power of the keys" which the popes claim to possess?

6. What reasons for the growth of the Papacy have been set forth in this

7. In what non-Christian religions is monasticism an established

8. Look up in the New Testament the following texts quoted as favorable to
monasticism: _Matthew_, xix, 21; _Mark_, x, 29-30; and _Luke_, xiv, 26.

9. What is the origin of the words "monk," "hermit," "anchorite," and

10. Summarize the principal benefits which the monastic system conferred
on Europe.

11. Give reasons for the rapid conversion of the Germans to Christianity.

12. In what sense is it true that "half Europe owes its Christianity to

13. Who was the "Apostle to the Germans"?

14. Who were the "Apostles to the Slavs"?

15. Comment on the significance to European civilization of the missionary
activity of the Christian Church in the Middle Ages.

16. Why has the separation of the Greek and Roman churches been described
as "the most momentous fact in the history of Christendom during the
Middle Ages"?

17. Why could not such an institution as the Papacy develop in the East?


[1] Webster, _Readings in Medieval and Modern History_, chapter iii, "The
Benedictine Rule"; chapter iv, "The Reestablishment of Christianity in
Britain"; chapter v, "St. Boniface, Apostle to the Germans."

[2] The correspondence may be indicated as follows:

The Roman Empire The Christian Church
City--Municipal officials. Bishop.
Province--Governor. Archbishop, or Metropolitan.
Diocese--Vicar. Patriarch.
Prefecture--Prefect. (No corresponding division.)

[3] See page 235.

[4] See page 258.

[5] See page 236.

[6] See page 284.

[7] _John_, xx, i, 19; compare I _Corinthians_, xvi, 2.

[8] See page 235 and note 1.

[9] See _Acts_, ii, 1-4.

[10] See page 239, note 1.

[11] In modern India (Malabar) there are no less than 400,000 Syrian
Christians who owe their religion to Nestorian missionaries.

[12] See page 362.

[13] See page 236.

[14] See pages 248-249.

[15] See page 322.

[16] _Servus servorum Dei_.

[17] See pages 305-307.

[18] From a Greek word which means "living alone."

[19] See Tennyson's poem, _St. Simeon Stylites_.

[20] From a Syrian word, abba, meaning "father." Hence a monastery was
often called an abbey.

[21] Other monastic orders arose during the later Middle Ages (see pages
449, 452), but the Benedictines still exist, chiefly in Austria and Italy.
Their order was introduced into the United States during the nineteenth

[22] _Laborare est orare._

[23] For the missionary work of Celtic Christians see page 323 and note 1.

[24] See page 236.

[25] See pages 304-305.

[26] See pages 322-325.

[27] See page 308.

[28] Cyril and Methodius were canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881 A.D. A
millenial celebration of the two apostles was held in 1863 A.D. by the
people of Moravia and Bohemia.

[29] See page 335. The Bulgarians also got their Christianity from
Constantinople in the ninth century.

[30] See pages 217, 223.

[31] See page 376.

[32] Unsuccessful attempts to heal the schism between the two churches
took place in the Middle Ages. The latest movement in this direction was
made by Pope Leo XIII in 1894 A.D., but his efforts were not crowned with

[33] See page 186, note 2.

[34] Many Roman Catholics are found in Croatia-Slavonia, Bosnia, Dalmatia,
and Albania.

[35] See page 148, note 2.





Arabia, a vast peninsula between the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, and
the Red Sea, forms the link between Asia and Africa. It is connected with
Asia by the arid plains extending northward to the Euphrates; with Africa,
by the equally arid isthmus of Suez. Though the country is more than one-
third the size of the United States (excluding Alaska), it has never
supported a large population. The interior, except for occasional oases,
is a desert, inhabited only by wandering tribes. Along the southern and
western coasts, between the mountains and the sea, the soil is generally
fertile, the climate temperate, and the rainfall sufficient. Here the
chief cities and towns are located.


The original home of the Semites is believed to have been Arabia. Some
Semitic peoples appear to have migrated northward to Babylonia and Syria,
while others crossed the Red Sea to Abyssinia. Physically, the Arabs are
an attractive people, with well-shaped, muscular figures, handsome,
bronzed faces, brilliant, black eyes, and all the organs of sense
exquisitely acute. Simple and abstemious in their habits, they lead
healthy lives and often reach an extreme yet vigorous old age.


The Bedouin Arabs, by which name the nomadic inhabitants of the desert are
known, claim Ishmael, the son of Abraham and half-brother of Isaac, as
their ancestor. The life which they lead in the Arabian wilderness closely
resembles that of the Hebrew patriarchs, as described in the Old
Testament. The Bedouins are shepherds and herdsmen, continually moving
with their sheep and camels from one pasturage and water-hole to another.
Their virtues--hospitality to the stranger, generosity, faithfulness to
the ties of kinship--are those of a nomadic, barbarian people. Such also
are their vices--love of fighting and plunder, revengefulness, and
impatience of restraint. Nothing like a settled government is known to
them. The only tribal authority is that of the chief, or "sheik," who,
because of his birth, courage, or wealth, has been chosen to the
leadership. This description of the Bedouins to-day applies equally well
to them in the age of Mohammed, during the sixth century.

[Illustration: MECCA
The chief sanctuary of Mecca is the building called the Kaaba, which lies
in the center of a vast courtyard surrounded by a colonnade. The Kaaba is
here seen covered with a heavy black cloth renewed each year. Pilgrims
enter the courtyard, walk slowly around the Kaaba seven times--seven is a
holy number in Islam--and kiss the sacred black stone fixed in the walls
of the structure. The stone is now broken into pieces, which are kept
together by a silver setting. The Kaaba has been rebuilt several times
since the days of Mohammed, but it still preserves the old form of a
heathen temple.]


The Arabs who settled along the southern and western coasts of the
peninsula had reached in the sixth century a considerable degree of
civilization. They practiced agriculture and carried on a flourishing
trade across the Red Sea and even to distant India. Between these
sedentary Arabs and the Bedouins raged constant feuds, leading to much
petty warfare. Nevertheless the hundreds of tribes throughout the
peninsula preserved a feeling of national unity, which was greatly
strengthened by Mohammed's appearance on the scene.


The city of Mecca, located about fifty miles from the Red Sea, was a
commercial metropolis and the center of Arabian heathenism. Every year the
Arab tribes ceased fighting for four months, and went up to Mecca to buy
and sell and visit the famous sanctuary called the Kaaba. Here were three
hundred and sixty idols and a small, black stone (probably a meteorite),
which legend declared had been brought from heaven. The stone was
originally white, but the sins of the people who touched it had blackened
it. Although most of the Arabs were idolaters, yet some of them recognized
the "Unknown God" of the Semites, Allah, the Creator of all things. Arabia
at this time contained many Jews, Zoroastrians, and Christians, who helped
to spread abroad the conception of one God and thus to prepare the way for
a prophet of a new religion.



Mohammed, [2] born at Mecca about 570 A.D., belonged to the tribe of the
Koreish, who had long been guardians of the sacred Kaaba. Left an orphan
at an early age, the future prophet was obliged to earn his own living. He
served first as a shepherd on the hillsides of Mecca. This occupation,
though lowly, gave him the love of solitude, and helped to nourish in his
soul that appreciation of nature which later found expression in so many
of his utterances. While still a youth he became a camel-driver and twice
crossed the deserts with caravans to Syria. Doubtless he made many
acquaintances on these journeys and picked up much useful information.
Mohammed, however, did not receive a regular education; it is doubtful
whether he could read or write. His marriage, when about twenty-five years
of age, to a rich widow, named Khadija, brought him wealth and
consideration. For some time, henceforth, he led the life of a prosperous
merchant of Mecca.

A letter, probably in the handwriting of Mohammed's secretary, addressed
to the governor of Alexandria. The seal is inscribed "Mohammed, the
prophet of God."]


Mohammed seems always to have been a deeply religious man. As he grew
older, his thoughts more and more centered on spiritual themes. He could
not reconcile the gross idolatry of the Arabs with that belief in the
unity of God which he himself had reached. In his distress he would
withdraw into the wilderness, where he spent much time in fasting and
solitary vigils, practices perhaps suggested to him by the example of
Christian hermits. [3] During these lonely hours in the desert strange
scenes passed before his eyes and strange voices sounded in his ears. At
first Mohammed thought that evil spirits possessed him, but Khadija
encouraged him to believe that his visions were a revelation from another
world. One day, so he declared, God's messenger, the archangel Gabriel,
appeared to him and bade him preach a new religion to the Arabs. It was
very simple, but in its simplicity lay its strength: "There is no god but
God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God."


The prophet made his first converts in his wife, his children, and the
friends who knew him best. Then, becoming bolder, he began to preach
publicly in Mecca. In spite of Mohammed's eloquence, obvious sincerity,
and attractive personality, he met a discouraging reception. A few slaves
and poor freemen became his followers, but most of the citizens of Mecca
regarded him as a madman. Mohammed's disciples, called Moslems, [4] were
bitterly persecuted by the Koreish, who resented the prophet's attacks on
idolatry and feared the loss of their privileges at the Kaaba. Finally
Mohammed and his converts took refuge in Medina, where some of the
inhabitants had already accepted his teachings. This was the famous Hegira
(Flight of the prophet). [5]


At Medina Mohammed occupied a position of high honor and influence. The
people welcomed him gladly and made him their chief magistrate. As his
adherents increased in number, Mohammed began to combine fighting with
preaching. His military expeditions against the Arab tribes proved to be
very successful. Many of the conquered Bedouins enlisted under his banner
and in 630 A.D. captured Mecca for the prophet. He treated its inhabitants
leniently, but threw down all the idols in the Kaaba, After the submission
of Mecca most of the Arabs abandoned idolatry and accepted the new


Mohammed did not long enjoy his position as uncrowned king of Arabia. He
died in 632 A.D., at Medina, where he was buried and where his tomb is
still visited by pious Moslems. His followers could scarcely believe that
their great prophet had gone away from them forever. They were ready to
worship him as a god, until old Abu Bekr, Mohammed's father-in-law,
rebuked them with the memorable words: "Whoso worshipeth Mohammed, let him
know that Mohammed is dead; but whoso worshipeth God, let him know that
God liveth and dieth not."


The character of Mohammed has been variously estimated. Moslem writers
make him a saint; Christian writers, until Mohammed's recent times, have
called him an "impostor." We know that he was a man of simple habits, who,
even in the days of his prosperity, lived on dates, barley bread, and
water, mended his woolen garments, and attended to his own wants. He was
mild and gentle, a lover of children, devoted to his friends, and
forgiving toward his foes. He seems to have won the admiration of all with
whom he came in contact. We know, too, that Mohammed was so deeply
impressed with the consciousness of his religious mission that he was
ready to give up wealth and an honorable position and face for years the
ridicule and hatred of the people of Mecca. His faults--deceitfulness,
superstitiousness, sensuality--were those of the Arabs of his time. Their
existence in Mohammed's character should not prevent our recognition of
his real greatness as a prophet and as a statesman.



The religion which Mohammed preached is called Islam, an Arabic word
meaning "surrender," or "resignation." This religion has its sacred book,
the Koran ("thing read" or "thing recited"). It contains the speeches,
prayers, and other utterances of Mohammed at various times during his
career. Some parts of the Koran were dictated by the prophet to his
disciples and by them were written out on skins, leaves of palm trees,
bones, and bits of parchment. Many other parts remained at first only in
the memory of Mohammed's followers. Soon after his death all the scattered
passages were collected into one book. Since the middle of the seventh
century the Koran, every word of which the Moslems consider holy, has
remained unchanged.

From a manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.]


The doctrines found in the Koran show many adaptations from the Jewish and
Christian religions. Like them Islam emphasizes the unity of God. The
Moslem cry--"_Allah Akbar!_" "God is Great!"--forms its cardinal
principle. Like them, also, Islam recognizes the existence of prophets,
including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, but insists that Mohammed was the
last and greatest of the prophets. The existence of angels and demons is
recognized. The chief of the demons, Iblis, bears some resemblance to the
Jewish Satan and the Christian Devil. The account of the creation and fall
of man is taken, with variations, from the Old Testament. The description
of the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment, and the division of
the future world into paradise and hell, the former for believers in
Islam, the latter for those who have refused to accept it, seems to have
been based on Persian and Jewish ideas. These borrowings from other
religions facilitated the spread of Islam among eastern peoples.


The Koran imposes on the faithful Moslem five great obligations. First, he
must recite, at least once in his life, aloud, correctly, and with full
understanding, the short creed: "There is no god but God, and Mohammed is
the prophet of God." Second, he must pray five times a day: at dawn, just
after noon, before sunset, just after sunset, and at the end of the day.
In every Mohammedan city the hour of prayer is announced from the tall
minaret of the mosque by a crier (_muezzin_). Before engaging in prayer
the worshiper washes face, hands, and feet; during the prayer he turns
toward Mecca and bows his head to the ground. Third, he must observe a
strict fast, from morning to night, during every day of _Ramadan_, the
ninth month of the Mohammedan year. [6] In this month God presented the
Koran to Gabriel for revelation to the prophet. Fourth, he must give alms
to the poor. Fifth, he must, "if he is able," undertake at least one
pilgrimage to Mecca. The annual visit of thousands of pilgrims to the holy
city helps to preserve the feeling of brotherhood among Moslems all over
the world. These five obligations are the "pillars" of Islam.


As a religious system Islam is exceedingly simple. It does not provide any
elaborate ceremonies of worship and permits no altars, pictures, or images
in the mosque. Islam even lacks a priesthood. Every Moslem acts as his own
priest. There is, however, an official, who on Friday, the Mohammedan
Sabbath, offers up public prayers in the mosque and delivers a sermon to
the assembled worshipers. All work is suspended during this service, but
at its close secular activities are resumed.


The Koran furnishes a moral code for the adherents of Islam. It contains a
few important prohibitions. The Moslem is not to make images, to engage in
games of chance, to eat pork, or to drink wine. This last prohibition has
saved the Mohammedan world from the degradation and misery which alcohol
has introduced into Christian lands. To Mohammed strong drink was "the
mother of all evil," and drunkenness, a sin. The Koran also inculcates
many active virtues, including reverence toward parents, protection of
widows and orphans, charity toward the poor, kindness to slaves, and
gentle treatment of the lower animals. On the whole it must be admitted
that the laws of the Koran did much to restrain the vices of the Arabs and
to provide them with higher standards of right and wrong. Islam marked a
great advance over Arabian heathenism.



Mohammed, as we have learned, did not scruple to use the sword as a means
of spreading his new religion among the idolatrous Arab tribes. By thus
following up preaching with force, he subdued the greater part of Arabia.
The prophet's methods were adopted by his successors. Within a century
after Mohammed's death, they carried the doctrines of Islam over a large
part of the civilized world and founded an Arabian Empire.


Islam was a religion of conquest. It proclaimed the righteousness of a
"holy war," or _jihad_, against unbelievers. It promised rich booty for
those who fought and won, and paradise for those who fell. The Arab
soldier, dying on the battlefield, expected to be carried away by bright-
eyed maidens to a garden of delight, where, reclining on soft cushions and
rugs, he was to enjoy forever an existence of sensual ease. "Whosoever
falls in battle," so runs a passage in the Koran, "his sins are forgiven,
and at the day of judgment his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of
angels and cherubim."


The sudden creation of the Arabian power must not be understood, however,
as solely a religious movement. Pride and greed, as well as fanaticism,
drove the Arabs forward on their conquering career. Long before Mohammed's
time Arabia had been in a state of unrest. Its warlike tribes, feeling a
sense of their superiority to other peoples, were eager to overrun the
rich districts of western Asia, much as the Germans had overrun western
Europe. Islam strengthened the racial pride of the Arabs, united them into
one nation, and gave them an effective organization for world-wide rule.


The most extensive conquests of the Arabs were made within ten years after
Mohammed's death. During this time the Moslem warriors, though poorly
armed, ill-disciplined, and in every battle greatly outnumbered, attacked
with success the two strongest military powers then in the world--Rome and
Persia. From the Roman Empire in the East they seized the provinces of
Syria and Palestine, with the famous cities of Damascus, Antioch, and
Jerusalem. [7] They took Mesopotamia from the Persians and then, invading
Iran, overthrew the Persian power. [8] Egypt also was subjugated by these
irresistible soldiers of the Crescent.


According to the strict teaching of the Koran, those who refused to accept
Islam were either to be killed or to be reduced to slavery. As a matter of
fact, the Arabs treated their new subjects with marked liberality. No
massacres and no persecutions occurred. The conquered peoples were allowed
to retain their own religions, on condition of paying ample tribute. In
course of time, however, many of the Christians in Syria and Egypt and
most of the Zoroastrians [9] in Persia adopted Islam, in order that they
might acquire the rights and privileges of Moslem citizens.


The sweeping conquests of the decade 632-642 A.D. were followed in later
years by a further extension of the boundaries of the Arabian Empire. In
the remote East the Arabs sent their victorious armies beyond the Oxus and
Indus rivers to central Asia and India. They captured the island of
Cyprus, annexed parts of Armenia and Asia Minor, and at length threatened
to take Constantinople. Had that city fallen, all eastern Europe would
have been laid open to invasion.

[Illustration: Map, EXPANSION OF ISLAM]


The first attempts on Constantinople were made by sea and were repulsed,
but during the years 716-717 A.D. the city had to face a combined attack
by a Moslem navy and army. The eastern emperor, Leo the Isaurian,
conducted a heroic defense, using with much effectiveness the celebrated
mixture known as "Greek fire." This combustible, probably composed of
sulphur, naphtha, and quicklime, was poured or hurled on the enemy's ships
in order to burn them. "Greek fire," the rigors of an uncommonly severe
winter, and timely aid from the Bulgarians at length compelled the Arabs
to beat a retreat. Their failure to take Constantinople gave the Roman
Empire in the East another long lease of life.

From a Byzantine manuscript of the fourteenth century at Madrid. "Greek
fire" in marine warfare was most commonly propelled through long tubes of
copper which were placed on the prow of a ship and managed by a gunner.
Combustibles might also be kept in tubes flung by hand and exploded on
board the enemy's vessel.]



Though repulsed before the impregnable walls of Constantinople, the Arabs
continued to win new dominions in other North Africa parts of the
Christian world. After their occupation of Egypt, they began to overrun
North Africa, which Justinian, little more than a century earlier, had
reconquered from the Vandals. [10] The Romanized provincials, groaning
under the burdensome taxes imposed on them by the eastern emperors, made
only a slight resistance to the Moslem armies. A few of the great cities
held out for a time, but after the capture and destruction of Carthage
[11] in 698 A.D., Arab rule was soon established over the whole extent of
the Mediterranean coast from Egypt to the Atlantic.


Islam made in North Africa one of its most permanent conquests. After the
coming of the Arabs many of the Christian inhabitants appear to have
withdrawn to Spain and Sicily, leaving the field clear for the
introduction of Arabian civilization. The Arabs who settled in North
Africa gave their religion and government to the Berbers, as the natives
of the country were called, and to some extent intermingled with them.
Arabs and Berbers still comprise the population of North Africa, though
their once independent states have now been absorbed by European powers.


With North Africa in their hands the Moslems did not long delay the
invasion of Spain. In 711 A.D. an army of Arabs and Berbers, under their
leader Tarik, crossed the strait which still bears his name [13] and for
the first time confronted the Germans. The Visigothic kingdom, [14]
already much enfeebled, proved to be an easy prey. A single battle made
the invaders masters of half of Spain. Within a few years their hosts
swept northward to the Pyrenees. Only small districts in the northern part
of the Spanish peninsula remained unconquered.


The Moslems were not stopped by the Pyrenees. Crossing these mountains,
they captured many of the old Roman cities in the south of Gaul and then
advanced to the north, attracted, apparently, by the booty to be found in
Christian monasteries and churches. In the vicinity of Tours they
encountered the great army which Charles Martel, the chief minister of the
Frankish king, [15] had collected to oppose their advance.


The battle of Tours seems to have continued for several days. Of its
details we know nothing, though a Spanish chronicler tells us that the
heavy infantry of the Franks stood "immovable as a wall, inflexible as a
block of ice" against the desperate assaults of the Moslem horsemen. When
the Franks, after the last day's fighting, wished to renew the struggle,
they found that the enemy had fled, leaving a camp filled with the spoils
of war. This engagement, though famous in history, was scarcely decisive.
For some time afterward the Moslems maintained themselves in southern
Gaul. It was the Frankish ruler, Pepin the Short, who annexed their
possessions there and drove them back across the Pyrenees to Spain. [16]



Only eighteen years after the battle of Tours, the Arabian Empire was
divided into two rival and more or less hostile parts, which came to be
called the Eastern and Western caliphates. The title of caliph, meaning
"successor" or "representative," had first been assumed by Mohammed's
father-in-law, Abu Bekr, who was chosen to succeed the prophet as the
civil and religious head of the Moslem world. After him followed Omar, who
had been one of Mohammed's most faithful adherents, and then Othman and
Ali, both sons-in-law of Mohammed. These four rulers are sometimes known
as the "Orthodox" caliphs, because their right to the succession was
universally acknowledged by Moslems.


After Ali's death the governor of Syria, Moawiya by name, succeeded in
making himself caliph of the Moslem world. This usurper converted the
caliphate into a hereditary, instead of an elective, office, and
established the dynasty of the Ommiads. [17] Their capital was no longer
Medina in Arabia, but the Syrian city of Damascus. The descendants of
Mohammed's family refused, however, to recognize the Ommiads as legitimate
caliphs. In 750 A.D. a sudden revolt, headed by the party of the Abbasids,
[18] established a new dynasty. The Abbasids treacherously murdered nearly
all the members of the Ommiad family, but one survivor escaped to Spain,
where he founded at Cordova an independent Ommiad dynasty. [19] North
Africa, also, before long separated itself from Abbasid rule. Thus the
once united caliphate, like the old Roman Empire, split in twain.


The Abbasids continued to reign over the Moslems in Asia for more than
three hundred years. The most celebrated of Abbasid caliphs was Harun-al-
Rashid (Aaron the Just), a contemporary of Charlemagne, to whom the Arab
ruler sent several presents, including an elephant and a water-clock which
struck the hours. The tales of Harun-al-Rashid's magnificence, his gold
and silver, his silks and gems, his rugs and tapestries, reflect the
luxurious life of the Abbasid rulers. Gradually, however, their power
declined, and in 1058 A.D. the Seljuk Turks, [20] recent converts to
Islam, deprived them of their power. A Turkish chieftain, with the title
of "King of the East and West," then took the place of the Arabian caliph,
though the latter remained the religious head of Islam. He lost even this
spiritual authority, just two centuries later, when the Mongols from
central Asia overran the Turkish dominions. [21]


The Abbasids removed their capital from Damascus to Bagdad on the banks of
the middle Euphrates. The new city, under the fostering care of the
caliphs, grew with great rapidity. Its population in the ninth century is
said to have reached two millions. For a time it was the largest and
richest city in the Moslem world. How its splendor impressed the
imagination may be seen from the stories of the _Thousand and One Nights_.
[22] After the extinction of the Abbasid caliphate, its importance as the
religious and political center of Islam declined. But memories of the
former grandeur of Bagdad still cling to it, and even to-day it is
referred to in Turkish official documents as the "glorious city."


It was a very great misfortune for the eastern world when the Arabian
Empire passed under the control of rude Asiatic peoples. The Turks
accepted Islam, but they did little to preserve and extend Arabian
civilization. The stagnant, non-progressive condition of the East at the
present time is largely due to the misgovernment of its Turkish



The great Moslem cities of Bagdad, Damascus, Cairo, and Cordova were not
only seats of government for the different divisions of the Arabian
Empire; they were also the centers of Arabian civilization. The conquests
of the Arabs had brought them into contact with highly developed peoples
whose culture they absorbed and to some extent improved. They owed most to
Persia and, after Persia, to Greece, through the empire at Constantinople,
In their hands there was somewhat the same fusion of East and West as
Alexander the Great had sought to accomplish. [23] Greek science and
philosophy mingled with the arts of Persia and other Oriental lands.
Arabian civilization, for about four centuries under the Ommiad and
Abbasid caliphs, far surpassed anything to be found in western Europe.


Many improvements in agriculture were due to the Arabs. They had a good
system of irrigation, practiced rotation of crops, employed fertilizers,
and understood how to graft and produce new varieties of plants and
fruits. From the Arabs we have received cotton, flax, hemp, buckwheat,
rice, sugar cane, and coffee, various vegetables, including asparagus,
artichokes, and beans, and such fruits as melons, oranges, lemons,
apricots, and plums.


The Arabs excelled in various manufactures. Damascus was famous for its
brocades, tapestries, and blades of tempered steel. The Moorish cities in
Spain had also their special productions: Cordova, leather; Toledo, armor;
and Granada, rich silks. Arab craftsmen taught the Venetians to make
crystal and plate glass. The work of Arab potters and weavers was at once
the admiration and despair of its imitators in western Europe. The Arabs
knew the secrets of dyeing and they made a kind of paper. Their textile
fabrics and articles of metal were distinguished for beauty of design and
perfection of workmanship. European peoples during the early Middle Ages
received the greater part of their manufactured articles of luxury through
the Arabs. [24]


The products of Arab farms and workshops were carried far and wide
throughout medieval lands. The Arabs were keen merchants, and Mohammed had
expressly encouraged commerce by declaring it agreeable to God. The Arabs
traded with India, China, the East Indies (Java and Sumatra), the interior
of Africa, Russia, and even with the Baltic lands. Bagdad, which commanded
both land and water routes, was the chief center of this commerce, but


Back to Full Books