How did the histories of the Byzantine Empire and Western Europe differ during the era of third-wave civilizations?
What accounts for the different historical trajectories of these two expressions of Christendom?
How did Byzantium and Western Europe interact with each other and with the larger world of the postclassical era?
Was the civilization of the Latin West distinctive and unique, or was it broadly comparable to other third-wave civilizations?
How does the history of the Christian world in the postclassical era compare with that of Tang and Song dynasty China?
In what respects did Byzantium continue the patterns of the classical Roman Empire? In what ways did it diverge from those patterns?
How did Eastern Orthodox Christianity differ from Roman Catholicism?
In what ways was the Byzantine Empire linked to a wider world?
How did links to Byzantium transform the new civilization of Kievan Rus?
How did the historical development of the European West differ from that of Byzantium in the postclassical era?
What replaced the Roman order in Western Europe?
In what ways was European civilization changing after 1000?
What was the impact of the Crusades in world history?
In what ways did borrowing from abroad shape European civilization after 1000?
Why was Europe unable to achieve the kind of political unity that China experienced? What impact did this have on the subsequent history of Europe?
In what different ways did classical Greek philosophy and science have an impact in the West, in Byzantium, and in the Islamic world?
• Western Europe collapsed politically in the fifth century, never to come together again as a single political entity, whereas Byzantium survived as a single political entity throughout the period.
• The Byzantine emperor exerted greater control over the Orthodox Church than political authorities in Western Europe did over the Catholic Church.
• The Byzantine Empire maintained a prominent role in the long-distance trade networks of Eurasia throughout the period, whereas Western Europe's role declined precipitously following the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, only to reengage with those trade networks after 1000.
• After 1000, Western Europe's influence in the Mediterranean and in Eastern Europe expanded, while the influence of the Byzantine Empire contracted (especially in the Mediterranean basin) after 600 C.E.
• The survival of a powerful imperial state in the Byzantine Empire resulted in greater state control over the Orthodox Church.
• Cultural differences also played a role. For instance, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Greek became the language of religious practice instead of the Latin used in the Roman Catholic Church. Moreover, more so than in the West, Byzantine thinkers sought to formulate Christian doctrine in terms of Greek philosophical concepts.
• The Eastern Orthodox faith expanded into Eastern Europe when the Byzantine Empire was at its height, but it was driven from other regions, particularly in North Africa and the Near East, by the expansion of Islam. After 1000, the Roman Catholic tradition became the more expansive of the two expressions, as its influence spread into Islamic Spain, non-Christian northern Europe, and Orthodox Eastern Europe.
• Byzantium and Western Europe interacted frequently; for instance, in the 500s C.E., the Byzantine emperor Justinian succeeded in conquering parts of Western Europe in his effort to reconstitute the Roman Empire.
• The two societies were both Christian, which led to frequent interactions, disputes, and ultimately a schism between the two confessions.
• The revival of Western Europe after 1000 C.E. brought it into a closer trade relationship with Byzantium.
• The crusading movement in Western Europe inspired hundreds of thousands of Western Europeans to travel to the eastern Mediterranean and even led to the sack of Constantinople by Crusaders in 1204 C.E.
• In terms of the wider world, Byzantium and Western Europe were both part of the Eurasian long-distance trade network. Byzantium participated actively throughout the period, while Western Europe did so increasingly after 1000 C.E.
• Both interacted with the Islamic world through military conflict, trade, and the exchange of ideas.
• Both had a profound impact on Eastern Europe, especially through their promotion of rival versions of the Christian faith.
• The book argues strongly that the Latin West shares many of the same features of other third-wave civilizations, especially in its willingness to borrow and then modify and improve upon ideas, business practices, and technological innovations. Therefore, it is broadly comparable to other third-wave civilizations.
• That said, it also makes the point that the Western European experience had distinctive features, including a fragmented political structure, unusually independent towns, and an acceptance of the study of natural philosophy, which ultimately helped to define a distinctive Latin West.
• The Western Catholic Christian world was less developed in comparison to Tang and Song dynasty China in that the former had smaller cities, weaker political authorities, a fragmented political structure, a less commercialized economy, and inferior technology. It was also a more militarized society, with more privileged cities and a more favorable environment for merchants. By 1500, however, Western Europe had come a long way in catching up and, though it depended more on borrowing than did its Chinese counterpart, deserves comparison to China.
• The Orthodox Christian world was more similar to Tang and Song dynasty China in that it possessed comparable cities, a powerful emperor, a unified government, a professional bureaucracy, a commercialized economy, and a technologically advanced society.
• Continuance can be seen in Byzantium's roads, military structures, centralized administration, imperial court, laws, and Christian organization.
• It can also be seen in Byzantium's pursuit of the long-term Roman struggle with the Persian Empire.
• Byzantium diverged through the development of a reformed administrative system that gave appointed generals civil authority in the empire's provinces and allowed them to raise armies from the landowning peasants of the region. It also diverged through the new ideas encompassed in caesaropapism that defined the relationship between the state and the Church.
• Unlike Western Europe, where the Catholic Church maintained some degree of independence from political authorities, in Byzantium the emperor assumed something of the role of both “Caesar,” as head of state, and the pope, as head of the Church. Thus the Byzantine emperor appointed the patriarch of the Orthodox Church, sometimes made decisions about doctrine, called church councils into session, and generally treated the Church as a government department.
• In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Greek became the language of religious practice instead of the Latin used in the Roman Catholic Church.
• More so than in the West, Byzantine thinkers sought to formulate Christian doctrine in terms of Greek philosophical concepts.
• The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches disagreed on a number of doctrinal issues, including the nature of the Trinity, the relative importance of faith and reason, and the veneration of icons.
• Priests in Byzantium allowed their beards to grow long and were permitted to marry, while priests in the West shaved and, after 1050 or so, were supposed to remain celibate.
• Orthodox ritual called for using bread leavened with yeast in the Mass, but Catholics used unleavened bread.
• Eastern Orthodox leaders sharply rejected the growing claims of Roman popes to be the sole and final authority for all Christians everywhere.
• On a political and military level, Byzantium continued the long-term Roman struggle with the Persian Empire.
• Economically, the Byzantine Empire was a central player in the long-distance trade of Eurasia, with commercial links to Western Europe, Russia, Central Asia, the Islamic world, and China.
• Culturally, Byzantium preserved much of ancient Greek learning and transmitted this classical heritage to both the Islamic world and the Christian West.
• Byzantine religious culture spread widely among Slavic-speaking peoples in the Balkans and Russia.
• Kievan Rus borrowed from Byzantium architectural styles, the Cyrillic alphabet, the extensive use of icons, a monastic tradition stressing prayer and service, and political ideals of imperial control of the Church.
• Unlike Byzantium, any semblance of large-scale centralized rule vanished in the West, to be replaced by a series of regional kingdoms.
• In addition, urban life diminished sharply, long-distance trade dried up, and literacy lost ground.
• In the West, a social system developed based on reciprocal ties between greater and lesser lords among the warrior elites and between lords and serfs.
• In the West, the Roman Catholic Church was able to maintain greater independence from political authorities than the Orthodox Church did in Byzantium, although, like its Byzantine counterpart, it did actively work with the political authorities.
• Politically, the Roman imperial order collapsed, to be replaced by a series of regional kingdoms ruled by Germanic warlords.
• But these states maintained some Roman features, including written Roman law and the use of fines and penalties to provide order and justice.
• Some of the larger Germanic kingdoms, including the Carolingian Empire and the empire of Otto I of Saxony, also had aspirations to recreate something of the unity of the Roman Empire, although these kingdoms were short-lived and unsuccessful in reviving anything approaching Roman authority.
• In the West, a social system developed based on reciprocal ties between greater and lesser lords among the warrior elites, which replaced the Roman social structure.
• Roman slavery gave way to the practice of serfdom.
• The Roman Catholic Church increased its influence over society.
• The population grew rapidly.
• New lands were opened for cultivation.
• Long-distance trade was revived and expanded.
• The population of towns grew and attracted new professional groupings that introduced a new and more productive division of labor into European society.
• Women found substantial new opportunities because of economic growth and urbanization, but by the fifteenth century, many of these opportunities were declining.
• Territorial states grew in this period and established more effective institutions of government, commanding the loyalty or at least the obedience of their subjects.
• The Roman Catholic Church expanded the area in which Roman Catholicism was practiced into Eastern Europe and Islamic Spain.
• They marked an expansion of the influence of Western Christendom at the same time that Eastern Christendom and Byzantium were declining.
• They stimulated the demand for Asian luxury goods in Europe.
• They also allowed Europeans to learn techniques for producing sugar on large plantations using slave labor, which had incalculable consequences in later centuries when Europeans transferred the plantation system to the Americas.
• Muslim scholarship, together with the Greek learning that it incorporated, flowed into Europe.
• The Crusades hardened cultural barriers between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Moreover, Christian anti-Semitism was exacerbated.
• European empire building, especially in the Americas, continued the crusading notion that “God wills it.”
• The Crusades have also on many occasions proved politically or ideologically significant when the worlds of Europe and Islam have collided over the past two centuries.
• Borrowing from abroad played a critical role in establishing a significant tradition of technological innovation that allowed Europe by 1500 to catch up with, and in some areas perhaps to surpass, China and the Islamic world.
• A more efficient horse collar, which probably originated in China or Central Asia, contributed to European efforts to plow the heavy soils of northern Europe.
• Gunpowder from China, combined with cannons developed in Western Europe, gave Europeans a military edge over other civilizations.
• Improvements in shipbuilding and navigational techniques, including the magnetic compass and sternpost rudder from China and adaptations of the Arab lateen sail, enabled Europeans to build advanced ships for oceanic voyages.
• Geographic barriers, ethnic and linguistic diversity, and the shifting balances of power among Europe's many states prevented the emergence of a single European empire like that of China.
• In the West after 1000 C.E., a belief in the ability of human reason to penetrate divine mysteries and to grasp the operation of the natural order took shape, and that in turn stimulated a renewed interest in Greek philosophy and science. During this period, European scholars obtained copies of Greek texts from both the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world. At first this new confidence in human reason was applied primarily to theology, but increasingly it was also applied to the scientific study of nature, known as “natural philosophy,” which ultimately became a foundation for the Scientific Revolution.
• In the Byzantine Empire, scholars kept the classical tradition alive, but their primary interest lay in the humanities and theology rather than in the natural sciences or medicine. The Orthodox Church had serious reservations about classical Greek learning, sometimes persecuting scholars who were too enamored with the ancients. Those who studied Greek philosophy and science did so in a conservative spirit, concerned to preserve and transmit the classical heritage rather than using it as a springboard for creating new knowledge.
• The Islamic world undertook a massive translation project in the ninth and tenth centuries that made many Greek texts available in Arabic. This contributed to a flowering of Arab scholarship, especially in the sciences and natural philosophy, between roughly 800 and 1200 C.E. But it also stimulated debate among Muslim thinkers about faith and reason. Unlike church authorities in Western Europe, learned opinion in the Islamic world did not come to regard natural philosophy as a wholly legitimate enterprise. Because of this, the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, while never completely disappearing, receded from Islamic scholarship after the thirteenth century, and natural philosophy did not become a central concern for Islamic higher education as it did in Western Europe.