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Comments School Profile. School Supply Lists. View Your School Supply List. Legal developments included the codification of Roman law ; the first effort—the Codex Theodosianus —was completed in At the Emperor's death, the Byzantines had control of most of Italy , North Africa, and a small foothold in southern Spain. Justinian's reconquests have been criticised by historians for overextending his realm and setting the stage for the early Muslim conquests , but many of the difficulties faced by Justinian's successors were due not just to over-taxation to pay for his wars but to the essentially civilian nature of the empire, which made raising troops difficult.
In the Eastern Empire the slow infiltration of the Balkans by the Slavs added a further difficulty for Justinian's successors. It began gradually, but by the late s Slavic tribes were in Thrace and Illyrium , and had defeated an imperial army near Adrianople in In the s the Avars began to expand from their base on the north bank of the Danube ; by the end of the 6th-century, they were the dominant power in Central Europe and routinely able to force the Eastern emperors to pay tribute. They remained a strong power until An additional problem to face the empire came as a result of the involvement of Emperor Maurice r.
This led to a period of peace, but when Maurice was overthrown, the Persians invaded and during the reign of Emperor Heraclius r. In the empire secured a peace treaty and recovered all of its lost territories. In Western Europe, some of the older Roman elite families died out while others became more involved with ecclesiastical than secular affairs. Values attached to Latin scholarship and education mostly disappeared, and while literacy remained important, it became a practical skill rather than a sign of elite status.
In the 4th century, Jerome d. By the 6th century, Gregory of Tours d. The writings of Sidonius Apollinaris d. Changes also took place among laymen, as aristocratic culture focused on great feasts held in halls rather than on literary pursuits. Clothing for the elites was richly embellished with jewels and gold. Lords and kings supported entourages of fighters who formed the backbone of the military forces. These ties led to the prevalence of the feud in aristocratic society, examples of which included those related by Gregory of Tours that took place in Merovingian Gaul.
Most feuds seem to have ended quickly with the payment of some sort of compensation. In Anglo-Saxon society the lack of many child rulers meant a lesser role for women as queen mothers, but this was compensated for by the increased role played by abbesses of monasteries. Only in Italy does it appear that women were always considered under the protection and control of a male relative.
Peasant society is much less documented than the nobility. Most of the surviving information available to historians comes from archaeology ; few detailed written records documenting peasant life remain from before the 9th century. Most of the descriptions of the lower classes come from either law codes or writers from the upper classes. These differences allowed for a wide variety of peasant societies, some dominated by aristocratic landholders and others having a great deal of autonomy. Some peasants lived in large settlements that numbered as many as inhabitants.
Others lived in small groups of a few families and still others lived on isolated farms spread over the countryside. There were also areas where the pattern was a mix of two or more of those systems. Roman city life and culture changed greatly in the early Middle Ages. Although Italian cities remained inhabited, they contracted significantly in size. Rome, for instance, shrank from a population of hundreds of thousands to around 30, by the end of the 6th century.
Roman temples were converted into Christian churches and city walls remained in use. The establishment of new kingdoms often meant some growth for the towns chosen as capitals. Officially they were tolerated, if subject to conversion efforts, and at times were even encouraged to settle in new areas. Religious beliefs in the Eastern Empire and Iran were in flux during the late sixth and early seventh centuries. Judaism was an active proselytising faith, and at least one Arab political leader converted to it. All these strands came together with the emergence of Islam in Arabia during the lifetime of Muhammad d.
The Islamic conquests reached their peak in the mid-eighth century. The defeat of Muslim forces at the Battle of Tours in led to the reconquest of southern France by the Franks, but the main reason for the halt of Islamic growth in Europe was the overthrow of the Umayyad Caliphate and its replacement by the Abbasid Caliphate. The Abbasids moved their capital to Baghdad and were more concerned with the Middle East than Europe, losing control of sections of the Muslim lands.
Franks traded timber, furs, swords and slaves in return for silks and other fabrics, spices, and precious metals from the Arabs. The migrations and invasions of the 4th and 5th centuries disrupted trade networks around the Mediterranean. African goods stopped being imported into Europe, first disappearing from the interior and by the 7th century found only in a few cities such as Rome or Naples.
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By the end of the 7th century, under the impact of the Muslim conquests, African products were no longer found in Western Europe. The replacement of goods from long-range trade with local products was a trend throughout the old Roman lands that happened in the Early Middle Ages. This was especially marked in the lands that did not lie on the Mediterranean, such as northern Gaul or Britain. Non-local goods appearing in the archaeological record are usually luxury goods.
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In the northern parts of Europe, not only were the trade networks local, but the goods carried were simple, with little pottery or other complex products. Around the Mediterranean, pottery remained prevalent and appears to have been traded over medium-range networks, not just produced locally. The various Germanic states in the west all had coinages that imitated existing Roman and Byzantine forms. Gold continued to be minted until the end of the 7th century, when it was replaced by silver coins.
The basic Frankish silver coin was the denarius or denier , while the Anglo-Saxon version was called a penny. From these areas, the denier or penny spread throughout Europe during the centuries from to Copper or bronze coins were not struck, nor were gold except in Southern Europe. No silver coins denominated in multiple units were minted. Christianity was a major unifying factor between Eastern and Western Europe before the Arab conquests, but the conquest of North Africa sundered maritime connections between those areas. Increasingly the Byzantine Church differed in language, practices, and liturgy from the Western Church.
Theological and political differences emerged, and by the early and middle 8th century issues such as iconoclasm , clerical marriage , and state control of the Church had widened to the extent that the cultural and religious differences were greater than the similarities. The ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Empire survived the movements and invasions in the west mostly intact, but the papacy was little regarded, and few of the Western bishops looked to the bishop of Rome for religious or political leadership.
Many of the popes prior to were more concerned with Byzantine affairs and Eastern theological controversies. The register, or archived copies of the letters, of Pope Gregory the Great pope — survived, and of those more than letters, the vast majority were concerned with affairs in Italy or Constantinople.
The only part of Western Europe where the papacy had influence was Britain, where Gregory had sent the Gregorian mission in to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. Under such monks as Columba d. The Early Middle Ages witnessed the rise of monasticism in the West. The shape of European monasticism was determined by traditions and ideas that originated with the Desert Fathers of Egypt and Syria.
Preindustrial workers worked fewer hours than today's
Most European monasteries were of the type that focuses on community experience of the spiritual life, called cenobitism , which was pioneered by Pachomius d. Monastic ideals spread from Egypt to Western Europe in the 5th and 6th centuries through hagiographical literature such as the Life of Anthony.
Many of the surviving manuscripts of the Latin classics were copied in monasteries in the Early Middle Ages. The Frankish kingdom in northern Gaul split into kingdoms called Austrasia , Neustria , and Burgundy during the 6th and 7th centuries, all of them ruled by the Merovingian dynasty, who were descended from Clovis.
The 7th century was a tumultuous period of wars between Austrasia and Neustria. Later members of his family inherited the office, acting as advisers and regents. One of his descendants, Charles Martel d. Smaller kingdoms in present-day Wales and Scotland were still under the control of the native Britons and Picts. There were perhaps as many as local kings in Ireland, of varying importance.
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