Roman Achievement and the Late Medieval Mind

  1. Roman Technology and the Advancement of Empire

    1. The Romans made numerous advances in technology that expanded both their military might and their commerce

      1. Roads, some of which are still in use today

      2. Arches - enabled larger, lighter and more stable buildings, contributed to the aqueduct

      3. Aqueducts - enabled growth of cities and more extensive farming

      4. Running water - also critical to the expanding city

      5. Advanced concrete

        1. able to build large durable buildings

        2. able to set underwater, enabling extensive bridges an harbors

      6. Domes

      7. Machines of war and construction

    2. Few advances in science, mainly collecting and expanding on Greek learning

      1. Galen (130-200 AD)

        1. advances the study of medicine

        2. writes extensively, becomes the standard for centuries

        3. saw the body as a collection of pneumatic systems

      2. Ptolemy (85-165 AD)

        1. synthesizes and expands on Platonic/Aristotelian system of Earth-centered universe

        2. Explains motions of planets through complex system of epicycles and eccentrics

    3. Collapse in the West (400s AD)

      1. Profound decline in technological knowledge

      2. Literacy generally declines, particularly in Greek

      3. One surviving Roman institution in the West - the Roman Church

        1. Critical for the survival of thin veneer of literacy and scholarship

        2. But overwhelmingly focused on evangelism and survival in early centuries, as most of Europe is non-Christian in early Medieval period

        3. Heavily influenced by the otherworldly thinking of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430AD
          1. As Western Roman Empire collapsed, he defended Christianity against those who said it was responsible for collapse
          2. Put Christianity on solid philosophical ground
          3. City of God - church should focus on spirituality before political concerns
          4. Encouraged spirituality and meditation - this leads to monasticism.
          5. Material world was corrupt and ultimately illusory - discouraged study of material world
  2. The Early Medieval Period in Europe
    1. Initial post-Roman collapse (c.500 AD)
      1. Rapid decline of cities - many disappear altogether
      2. Population and agriculture also drop dramatically
      3. Collapse of trade - little trade of any kind beyond a local level
      4. Initially, most of Europe is non-Christian, as Christianity had been overwhelmingly urban
      5. Church enables some literacy to survive - cathedral schools begin to emerge during Charlemagne's reign (post 789 AD)
      6. Technological collapse - most of population living in villages at or barely above Neolithic levels of technology
    2. Advances in agriculture allow for recovery of population and gradual reemergence of cities and trade (600-1000 AD)
      1. Scratch plow replaced by heavy iron plow, pulled by teams of up to eight oxen - opened up new lands
      2. Horse collar allows oxen to replaced by the horse, which was faster, more versatile, and had greater endurance, allowed villages to farm a larger area
      3. Replacing two-field rotation system with three-filed rotation system put more land under tillage and allowed for more varied diet
      4. Population of Europe from Atlantic to Urals rises from c. 26 million in 600 AD to c. 79 million in 1300 AD
    3. Advances in military and mechanical technology
      1. Introduction of stirrup allowed for "mounted shock combat," which led to the armored knight and numerous new technologies
      2. Decentralized power led to constant warfare - and developments in battlements and siege technology
      3. Water and wind-powered mills developed to grind grain - would allow development of pre-industrial machinery
  3. Medieval Education
    1. Church required literacy (in Latin) for its priests, though in practice not all were truly literate
    2. Charlemagne decrees foundation of cathedral schools in 789 AD
    3. Monasteries also establish schools
    4. Medieval education based on the trivium and the quadrivium, inherited from classical education
      1. Trivium (considered superior)
        1. Grammar
        2. Rhetoric
        3. Logic
      2. Quadrivium
        1. Arithmetic
        2. Music
        3. Geometry
        4. Astronomy
    5. Revival of cities c. 1000 AD allows for the emergence of the medieval university
      1. University of Bologna begins to organize in the eleventh  and twelfth century
      2. Paris and Oxford organized in 1200 and 2070
      3. Over 80 universities are founded by 1500
      4. Depended on the existence of a class of leisured students who saw job opportunities from receiving an education
    6. Organization of Medieval Universities
      1. A unique institution at the time
      2. Not state supported
      3. Independently chartered, autonomous, self-governing
      4. Organized like craft guilds, either as student unions or guilds of master teachers
    7. Instruction in the Medieval university
      1. "Undergraduate" arts (bachelor's) degree was based on the trivium and the quadrivium
      2. Students could then pursue a masters in law, theology, or medicine (PhDs do not exist till 19th century)
      3. Trained lawyers, clergy, church administrators, doctors, teachers
      4. Incorporation of Greek and Islamic natural sciences depended on availability and translation
        1. The Crusades and the Reconquest in Spain (particularly the fall of Toledo in 1085) made much "lost" material available
        2. Gained not only ancient Greek texts unknown to much of Medieval Europe, but also four centuries of Islamic advancements, particularly in math, astronomy, medicine, and alchemy
        3. Euclid's Elements (geometry), Ptolemy's Almagest (astronomy), and large amounts of previously unknown Aristotle suddenly became available
      5. Thomas Aquinas (1224-74) synthesizes Aristotelian thought with Christianity, providing an intellectual basis for late medieval education and scholarship
        1. The continuation of this project (synthesizing pagan rationality, notably Aristotle with Christian faith) becomes a central intellectual pursuit - faith and reason must be harmonized
        2. But some features of Aristotle can not be assimilated - the eternal Earth, no creation, soul not necessarily immortal
        3. This will lead to a Church condemnation of 219 "execrable errors" in Aristotle in 1277
        4. Ironically, this opens up the possibility to consider ideas that differed from Aristotle, encouraging original thinking about nature
    8. Late Medieval scholarship
      1. Hardly monolithic - each university was unique, and with growing wealth, semi-independent researchers began to emerge
      2. While large working from Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Galen, also challenged those traditions
      3. Aristotle's unsatisfying explanation for the movement of projectiles in particular spurred a cottage industry of research and speculation
      4. Some, like Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseteste (1168-1253, Oxford) argued for the importance of hands on experimentation
      5. Important advances in astronomy, medicine, and optics
    9. The calamitous 14th century disrupted much of this research, but also shook medieval society to its core and allowed for innovations
      1. Bubonic plague - which disproportionately killed intellectuals because they mostly lived in cities
      2. 100 years war
      3. Papal schism
      4. Fall of Constantinople