|Question: With the collapse of the classical civilizations, post-classical civilizations arose shortly thereafter. Compare the factors that led to the rise post-classical civilizations from 500 CE to 1200CE between two of the following regions- Europe, East Asia, Africa or the Middle East.
Model Essay Comparison Essay Post-Classical Civilizations
With the collapse of the Roman, Gupta and Han empires, the world was left in a period of chaos with little structure in most areas. However after these collapses and the interlude that followed, post-classical civilizations arose in various regions. There were various reasons for this that ranged from rise of religion to the re-organization of political structures. During the time frame 500 CE to 1200 CE the Middle East and Europe both experienced this post-classical rise and had many similarities and differences among the factors that led to this, particularly in the areas of religion (similarities in rise, differences in spread and role of Christianity and Islam), trade (similarities in rebirth of commerce and rise of new economic systems) and political structure (differences with feudalism, similarities in theocracies and imperial).
Religion was an important factor in the re-emergence of post-classical civilizations in both the Middle East and Europe. Both the religions of Christianity and Islam had their origins in the Semitic Near East and had spread widely throughout both regions by 1200 CE. This is because both were easy to convert to and traveled along the trade routes of the Roman Empire prior to its collapse and through jihad by the caliphs that followed Muhammad after his death. A difference between these two religions in regards to their spread was how people converted. Early in Christianity, people came to the religion based on the efforts of missionaries. Later as Christianity was spread by the Franks (particularly Charlemagne), it was a forced conversion. Evidence is also seen in this in the Reconquista when Ferdinand and Isabella conquered southern Spain and forced thousands of Jews and Muslim Moors to convert, die or leave. Though Islamic jihads spread rapidly throughout the Middle East and North Africa (even into Europe), they rarely forced conversion by the sword and instead wanted people to come to it of their own will, which allowed a “truer” believer. The reason for this difference is probably due to the threats that the early western European church faced from constantly invading nomads and thus wanted those under their control to be Christian and nothing else. Islam was not as concerned with this due to the overwhelming nature of their conquests. This is also demonstrated in the eastern Roman empire (Byzantine Empire) because they never “collapsed” and thus allowed a diversity of religions within their empire unlike western Europe. The structure of these religions allowed both regions to have a sense of stability and common beliefs even though both had a diversity of cultures within their regions. This structure allowed for political systems to get stronger and protect the people during this period of constant invasion (especially for Europe) and allowed the rise of more advanced civilizations. One sees this with rise of the Holy Roman Empire in Western Europe and the caliphate empires of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. This similarity in the impact of structured religion in both regions can be explained by the need for people to latch on to any stable, organized entity that would allow them to survive the chaos after 500 CE.
The revival of trade was also a common factor in the rise of post-classical civilization in the Middle East and Europe. Commerce in much of the Middle East and Europe collapsed with the fall of Roman and the Han empires since they controlled both ends of the lucrative Silk Road. With the rise of caliphate empires in the Middle East and as a result of the Crusades upon Europe, trade re-emerged within and between these regions. Trade occurs within the confines of the Islamic world which stretched from Spain to the Indus River. In Europe the Italian city-states (Venice in particular) take advantage of post Crusade Mediterranean trade. One also sees trade in the Northern European cities of Ypres, Bruges and Ghent. This is most likely due to merchants now having a modicum of protection for their trade caravans from the newly arisen political rule in both regions. Commerce between regions also helps lead to the advancement of post-classical civilizations in both regions because it allows for the spread of new ideas and innovations. The stirrup from central Asia finds its way into Europe and the Middle East through trade. Gunpowder also makes its way from China into both regions due to trade (also Mongol conquests). The great advancements of the Abbasid dynasty and the city of Baghdad were a result of this new trade which led to medical, scientific and literary achievements unrivaled in other parts of the world. The Italian Renaissance in Europe was a direct result of the new trade caused by the Crusades. A difference between the Middle East and Europe (west) economically was the fact that Europe relied on the manorial system for so long after the collapse of Rome (at least a millennium) and the Middle East primarily stayed a commerce oriented region. This difference is due to the fact that Europe, outside of Charlemagne’s brief rule, never had a unified empire to protect the old Roman overland trade routes and towns and the schism between the Byzantine Empire and Rome further isolated the West. People thus had to become self-sufficient. Trade will come back to Europe, but not as fast as it does for the Middle East.
The final factor that both regions shared commonalities and dissimilarities with was political systems. Western Europe was unique compared to the Middle East in that it developed a feudal system that was land oriented and fragmented whereas the Middle East was imperial under the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates. This difference occurred because there were no kings strong enough to protect all the people from the invasions of various nomadic groups after Charlemagne’s death, and people were forced to pledge fidelity to the local strong man. These strong men became the new noble class in Europe and it would not be until after the Crusades that kings begin to reclaim their power. Similarities between the two regions politically however did include the rise of theocratic governments (caliphates in the Middle East and the Holy Roman Empire in Europe). Also the Byzantine emperors held power over their respective Orthodox sect of Christianity and were thus theocratic. Also with Abbasids and Umayyad caliphates, the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire, imperial government did exist in both regions. The fact that both regions’ governments were tied so heavily to religion was because that religion played such a critical role in the period of chaos after the fall of Rome and to control the people, one had to control or least be a part of the new religious structures that emerged.
As one can see, there were many similarities and differences between the regions of the Middle East and Europe in regards to the factors that allowed for the rise of new post-classical civilizations in these regions. However, these factors can also be compared globally. For instance, feudalism also arose in Japan during the Heian period and was very similar to European feudalism in the fact that it was land oriented and had a hierarchy of nobles and peasants. The Inca of South America were also a theocratic empire (king was seen as a son of the Sun God) and relied on trade across its Andean roads to survive. These factors were common outside of the two regions where post-classical civilizations arose and led to advanced civilizations across the world during this time frame.