Chapter 5 Disruption and Renewal in West Asia and Europe. Ancient Palestine and the Jewish Kingdoms
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Disruption and Renewal in West Asia and Europe
1. Phoenicia was centrally located on the main trade routes between Egypt, Asia Minor, and Mesopotamia. The first Phoenicians (Canaanites) established their urban centers at Sidon, Byblos, and Ugarit about 3000 B.C.E.
2. From the Hittites, the Phoenicians learned how to smelt iron and passed the techniques west to the Greeks and south to the African continent. The Phoenician urban civilization also served as a center for manufacturing, the skills of which were learned from the conquering Egyptians who in return were influenced by Phoenician cults and religious ideas.
3. Phoenician culture was influenced by Babylonian mythological stories of the beginning of the world, the birth of the gods, and the creation of humanity. It may have been through the Phoenicians that the Babylonian origin myths were passed to the Hebrews and Greeks.
3. The northern Phoenician coast is isolated by the Lebanon Range but approachable from the sea by a series of harbors at Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos. By about 2000 B.C.E., Byblos was supplying Egypt with timber from nearby forests. It also traded Egyptian papyrus which the Greeks called byblos after the city from which it came (biblia came to mean book in Greek). The port went into decline after 1100 B.C.E. as Tyre and Sidon became more powerful. Before 1100 B.C.E., Tyre was controlled by Egypt and traded with the people of Asia Minor and the Aegean.
4. Palestine is about 150 miles long and less than 10,000 square miles in area. The coast is harborless and except for the rich Plain of Esdraelon the land is barren limestone. Although the area had neither sufficient rainfall, means of irrigation, nor economic resources, its location on the chief trade routes from east to west was an invitation to migrating people from the deserts and the mountains. As Palestine became a battleground for stronger nations, the culture of the region came to reflect the influence of Babylon, Egypt, and the Hittites.
5. The name Hebrew may come from the ancient Semitic word abar meaning "to cross or pass over" and perhaps refers to the passage of Abraham and his followers into Canaan across the Syrian Desert fromUr.
6. The Semitic Israelites began their exodus from slavery in the Nile Delta about 1230 B.C. Crossing a series of shallow lakes, they drove south down to the barren, rock-strewn Sinai, the Wilderness of Zin. At Mt. Sinai their God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. About 1200 B.C.E. the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into Canaan where they came into conflict with the Philistines who were part of the Sea Peoples who had settled the coastal plain of Palestine. The wars forced the scattered Israelite tribes to unite under a king. Once the Philistines were defeated, Israelites split into two halves: in the north, Israel with its capital at Samaria, and in the south, Judah centered on Jerusalem.
1. What role did the Phoenicians play in cultural diffusion?
2. How did the environment and contact with other people shape the Israelites
Ancient Palestine and the Jewish Kingdoms
Barbarian Migrations in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries C.E.
The New Kingdoms of the Old Western Empire
1. Extending diagonally across northern Italy were the Papal States that were gained by the papacy when a Frankish army of King Pipin (751-768) defeated the Lombards. Significantly, the Franks would provide the Church with a dependable western ally to replace the Byzantines who had previously protected Rome from the Lombards.
2. In 773 the Lombards in northern Italy were again defeated, this time by the forces of Charlemagne (768-814). The victory established Charlemagne's control over the north of Italy.
3. Charlemagne invaded northern Spain in 778 to take advantage of feuds among the Muslims. Ultimately, the Franks drove the Muslims back to the Ebro River. Between the Ebro and the Pyrenees, he established and fortified the Spanish March as a bulwark against Muslim Spain.
4. Charlemagne's army expanded Frankish control into Bavaria in 788 and in 804 into Saxony after stubborn resistance and several campaigns. In both instances Christianity was extended as the German tribal leaders and their followers were converted, at least nominally.
5. With the eastern frontier under continual threat by the Avars, Asiatic nomads related to the Huns, and the Slavs, Charlemagne mounted six campaigns that almost eliminated the Avars. A military province in the valley of the Danube was set up to guard against any future activity from the eastern nomads. Called East Mark, it later was named Austrasia.
6. Aachen, centrally located in the north, was to be Charlemagne's new capital. The site was selected for its hot springs. The plan was to make the new city as glorious as Constantinople and Ravenna. It never matched the dreams and was abandoned after Charlemagne's death (814). Nevertheless, Charlemagne did succeed in establishing a palace school here. Among the learned men brought to Aachen was the English scholar Alcuin from York in Northumbria. Through the school and Alcuin, classic learning was kept alive.
7. In part, the empire collapsed after Charlemagne's death because it had become too large and unmanageable.
8. The death of Charlemagne in 814 brought to power his weak son Louis the Pious (814-840) who could not control the Frankish aristocrats. Louis's death in 840 resulted in his three sons fighting over their inheritances. Finally, they agreed to the Treaty of Verdun (843) that divided the Empire into three parts: Charles the Bald (840-877) received the west Frankish lands (the core of modern France); Lothar (840-855) the "Middle Kingdoms" extending from the North Sea to Italy; and Louis the German (840-876) the eastern lands (the core of modern Germany). Almost immediately, the "Middle Kingdom" broke up into petty principalities over which the other two kings fought.
1. How was Charlemagne able to create and maintain such a vast empire?
2. Why were the successors unable to maintain the empire Charlemagne had established?
3. What is role of Charlemagne in the rebirth of intellectual activity?
4. What were the relationships and the consequences of Charlemagne's dealings with the Church?
1. Agriculturists had long ago learned that if a field was repeatedly planted productivity would fall as nutrients were robbed from the soil. Thus, fields were rotated throughout the planting seasons to give the soil a chance to recover. At any one time from a third to half of the fields lay fallow. Crops such as wheat and rye would be grown in the autumn field and peas, beans, and barley in the spring field. What was planted varied from year to year as crops were rotated.
2. The size of the manor varied. A large manor could cover several thousand acres while a small one would be slightly more than a hundred acres. A small manor would have no more than a dozen households while a large one might have as many as fifty families. The people were congregated into a village consisting of several one-room dirt floor huts in which, perhaps, a family of five would dwell. Around these dwellings were spaces large enough for vegetable gardens.
3. The lord'sdemesne that could consist of from a third to half of the arable land on the estate, was worked about three days of the week in return for lands to the peasant. The open fields were divided into strips of about an acre which were separated by narrow paths. The lack of fences permitted domesticated animals to roam freely in the winter to forage for food.
4. The nearby forest was of economic importance. In addition to providing timber for building and fuel, bark could be used to make rope, the resin for lighting, and the ash and lime for fertilizers. Moreover, the forest environs contained nuts, berries, and wild game (though this was usually reserved for the hunting of the lord). The pond and stream provided a source of water and food.
5. Peasants could be required to grind their grain in the lord’s mill and cook in the lord’s oven, both for a price.
6. Technological innovations such as the heavy plow, the shoulder collar for horses, metal horseshoes, and more efficient water and windmills contributed to a significant increase in the food supply. Between 500 and 1300 the European population grew from 25 million to more than 70 million. This was reversed in the fourteenth century when a colder and rainier climate caused harvests to shrink and prices to rise. Famine became a fact of life, complicated by the Black Death between 1348 and 1354.
1. In what respect was the manor a self-sustaining enterprise?
2. What was the relationship between the peasant on the manor and the lord?
3. What new innovations contributed to the increase of production? How did they do this?
A Medieval Manor
1. The origin of the Black Death was apparently in central Asia. It consisted of three elements: bubonic, pneumonic, and septicaemic plague. The bubonic plague migrated west with the invading Mongols and rodents affected by ecological change. The most active carriers of the plague were the Asian black rats that played host to the fleas that carried the bacillus. Pneumonic plague was a bacterial infection spread to the lungs. It was more deadly than bubonic plague but occurred less frequently. Insects carried rare septicaemic plague that was extremely deadly. The plague apparently arrived in Europe by Genoese merchant ships either from the Middle East or the Crimea, especially Caffa, which disembarked at Messina in Sicily in October 1347. From here it spread across Sicily and then moved northward following the routes of trade. Within a year it had reached England and by the end of 1550 the plague was in the Baltic.
2. Areas that lay outside the major trade routes, such as Bohemia, appear to have been virtually unaffected.
3. The losses from the Plague were astonishing. Florence, Genoa, and Pisa with populations before the plague of nearly 100,000 suffered losses of 50 to 60 percent. In England and northern France perhaps a third of the population died. Farming villages in northern France suffered mortality rates of 30 percent and cities such of Rouen experienced loses of 30 to 40 percent. In Germany and England entire village disappeared. Overall, assessments of those who died range from a quarter to half the population of Europe. This would place the loss at between 19 and 38 million (the total population of Europe at this time is estimated at 75 million).
4. Among those shouldering the blame for the catastrophe were the Jews who were the object of pogroms, especially in Germany. One of the worst was at Strasbourg in 1349.
5. The plague did not end in 1351. There were major outbreaks again in 1361-1362 and 1369 and then recurrences every five or six to ten or twelve years depending upon climatic and ecological conditions for the remainder of the fourteenth and all of the fifteenth centuries.
1. What was the source of the Black Plague?
2. How was the plague transmitted so rapidly throughout Europe?
3. Why were some areas spared from the ravages of the plague?
Spread of Black Death
1. Ravenna was the capital of the western empire and from which the Ostrogothic king Theodoric (493-526) ruled as regent for the emperor in Constantinople.
2. The ease with which North Africa was gained in 533-34 led Emperor Justinian (527-565) to push on to Sicily and then into Italy where Naples, Rome, and Ravenna fell by 540. The campaigns continued another twelve years with the result that the Ostrogoths were driven north of the Alps and southern Spain was conquered.
3. Pressure upon the Byzantine Empire came from the north and east. Around 560 the Avars, Bulgars (mounted Asiatic nomads), and the Slavs (Indo-Europeans) pressed into the Balkans. When the northern frontier crumbled, the Bulgars succeeded in seizing control of the lower Danube valley by 679. Meanwhile, in the East the Persians forced the collapse of the frontier in 602. This was followed in 626 by the alliance of the Avars and the Persians to assault Constantinople. While the city was successful in resisting the onslaught, the attack so exhausted both sides that neither would be able to counter Muslim expansion later in the century.
1. How successful was Justinian in trying to rebuild the Roman Empire?
2. What were the consequences of expansion for the Byzantine Empire?
The Byzantine Empire in the Time of Justinian
The Middle East in the time of Muhammad
1. Arabia is a bleak land about 1500 miles long and 1200 miles wide. It features two large deserts, portions of which have no rainfall. There are a few seasonal streams but no real rivers. Although the people are nomads, before 450 powerful states in Yemen did exercise control. The decline of Yemen's authority and the return to nomadism was reinforced by Ethiopian and Persian invasions in the sixth century.
2. There are numerous theories as to the cause of the expansion of Islam: the harsh environmental conditions, population pressure, religious zeal, the longing of single men in the army for booty, or the desire to export the religious reform of Arabia.
3. Muhammad was born in 570 in a Mecca that was undergoing considerable change due to the growth of trade. Significantly, the new economic life had failed to accommodate the old moral values of Arab life. Desert Arabs retained a religion centered on the belief in the immortality of the tribe and clan. However, as seen with Muhammad, in Mecca where the sacred black stone was housed at the Ka'ba, a concept of monotheism was evolving. His god was called Allah, derived from the Arab word al-ailah meaning "the god." Thus, a word was used which needed no explanation. The earliest converts were young men who were preaching against the abandonment of the old virtues. The merchant aristocracy generally resisted Muhammad's teachings as a challenge to their gods and goddesses as well as threatening ancestral ways. Preceded by his Meccan followers, in July 622 Muhammad fled to Yathrib (later changed to Medina meaning "the city," i.e. the city of the prophet) which had requested his aid as a neutral arbitrator among its five tribes (three were Jewish). Here Muhammad had success in converting the people and when he became both the secular and spiritual authority of the city, an attack was initiated against Mecca. It fell in 629 in part due to a grain boycott on the agriculturally dependent city.
4. Expansion west through Byzantine Egypt was preceded by thrusts against Syria and Mesopotamia. Despite stubborn resistance from the Byzantines, by 640 Syria had fallen and Damascus and Jerusalem were occupied. Egypt was in Muslim hands six years later. The struggle here was made easier by the people's weariness over taxation and the theological and factional struggles of Christianity. Muslim promises of political and religious freedom were enticing. From Egypt there was a slow drive across North Africa leading eventually into Spain in 711. With only weak opposition, Spain fell to the Muslims as Christian resistance fell back to northwestern Iberia. By 732 Muslim raiders were in the kingdom of the Franks and near Tours fought an indecisive battle. Since this amounted to no more than an adventure, the raiders returned to Spain. However, they did not venture across the Pyrenees again.
5. In the east, Persian forces succumbed to the Muslims by 650. The Umayyad dynasty (661-750) pushed their conquests to the Indus River. After 660 the Umayyad capital was moved to Damascus since this was the center of power for Mu'awiya (661-680), the first Umayyad ruler.
6. The Slavs in the north and the Muslims in the east were pressing the ByzantineEmpire. The Umayyad navy held several Aegean island and from these attacked Constantinople between 674 and 678. For the moment, the Arab advance was checked with a successful defense. This success was followed in 718 with the defeat of a Muslim naval fleet in the Sea of Marmara.
7. The Umayyad Dynasty fell in 750 bringing to power the Abbasid Dynasty (750-1258) that built a new capital at Baghdad. The location shifted Islam’s center to Iraq and marked the beginning of enormous prosperity that drew from contacts on three continents: spices, minerals, dyes, silks, and porcelain from India and China; gems and fabrics from Central Asia; honey and wax from Scandinavia and Russia; and ivory and gold dust from Africa.
1. What role did geography have to play in the expansion of Islam?
2. Why was Islam so successful in expanding into Christian lands?
Spread of Islam