EUROPE BEFORE 1492

*In this section we will examine the foundations of western society.  If you think of a house or a building they both must be built upon a strong foundation.  Europe’s past is a foundation on which the United States was built.  Many of our traditions and customs come from Europe. 


BACKGROUND INFORMATION: “WHAT CAME BEFORE THE AGE OF EXPLORATION?” A brief look at the history of
Western Europe.

 

ANCIENT GREECE (500B.C.-338 B.C )

 

ABOUT ANCIENT GREECE:

-Ancient Greece is the foundation of western society (Western Europe, USA)

-Many of our traditions and customs come from ancient Greece.

-Ancient Greece had a long and distinguished and interesting history. (You may explore this in World History)

 

THE GOLDEN AGE:

-The Golden Age is a time in Greek history when there were serious advancements in philosophy, government, science, art,etc.

-Men like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are associated with this time period

-The Golden Age mainly took place in the city state of Athens around 500 B.C.

 

WHAT IS A CITY-STATE?

-A city-state is a city that functions much like a nation.

-Ancient Greece was divided into many city-states

-Athens and Sparta are the most famous city-states.

 

DEMOCRACY:

-System of government used in Athens

-Most city states and cultures at the time were ruled by kings, emperors, and dictators.

-Athens was a “democracy” in which the people ruled and governed themselves.

-Athens had what we call a “true democracy” in which all people had a position in the actual government

-It is the first place democracy was seen in the world

-The USA uses a form of democracy (government by the people) called a Republic (see Rome below)



ANCIENT
ROME: (753 B.C. TO 476 A.D.)

WHY STUDY
ROME?
Rome collapsed more than 1,500 years ago, but in many ways never died. Instead, it continues to influence people throughout the world today. Rome was the foundation of Western society, & has greatly influences the United States.

WHERE IS
ROME?
Rome is located in what is now Italy. At the time Italy was not a country. Rome was what was known as a city-state. A city-state is a city which acts like a country.

THE LEGEND OF ROME’S FOUNDERS:
-According to legend, Rome was founded by two twin brothers - Romulus & Remus (753 B.C.)
-The brothers were abandoned in the woods & raised by a she wolf (female wolf).
-They founded the city upon the
Seven Hills of Rome.
-Priests ask the brothers to go to separate hills to decide who shall be king - signs point to
Romulus
-Remus is upset - two fight - legend claims that
Romulus killed Remus to take control of the city.

THE ETRUSCANS & THEIR KINGS:
-Many different types of people lived in what is now
Italy.
-The Etruscans were a people living in
Northern Italy.
-excellent organizers - metal workers - engineering - architecture - brutal games - morally corrupt
-The Etruscans were very good at organizing society. - first Census (counting people)
-organized an assembly of citizens call the “Senate” (used census)
-The Etruscans controlled Rome for years with a series of 7 kings

THE ROMAN REPUBLIC: (Res Publica: thing belonging to the people)
-Romans start to dislike Etruscan kings
-Etruscan prince assaulted a well liked Roman woman
-Romans rebel & use force to kick the Etruscans out of the city.
-Romans create a “REPUBLICAN” form of government
-In a republic, people elect government officials to represent them in the government.
-The
United States of America is a republic not a true democracy!
-Romans elected 2 Councils (leaders) each year - checks & balances - veto (I forbid)
-Roman Senate: 300 men served for life - no real power, but very influential
-system of justice - other popular assemblies
-in an emergency, a dictator would be appointed (Cincinnatus)
- George Washington was put in a similar circumstance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


STORIES ABOUT ANCIENT ROME (very brief):
-THE PUNIC WARS with Carthage - series of 3 wars
-Carthage is a powerful Empire in Northern Africa
-1st Punic War: 241 B.C. - lasted 23 years - many sea battles (Rome copied Carthaginian ships)
had never fought at sea before - Rome wins - gets Sicily & Sardinia - all $$ in Cath. treasury
-2nd Punic War - 218 B.C. - lasted 15 years
Hannibal and his army of elephants - cross Alps - terrorized Italy - never lost a battle -
“Hannibal is at the gates!“ -cannot take Rome
Rome attacks Carthage - Hannible returns -Skippio defeats Hannibal at Battle of Zama (Tunisia)
-3rd Punic War - 1/2 million die - Carthage completely destroyed - salt in the Earth
-Rome controls the Mediterranean world

-THE FALL OF THE REPUBLIC - Julius Caesar was a popular general
Caesar had conquered the Gauls (France) - brutal fighting - war crimes
Caesar asked to return to Rome - not allowed to bring army
Caesar crosses Rubicon with army - marches on Rome 64 B.C. - takes over
declared dictator for life by senate - assassinated by members of the Senate - Republic ends

-THE SECOND TRIUMVIRATE - civil war erupts after death of Caesar
Octavian (Augustus) vs. Marc Antony - Octavian defeats Antony at Battle of Antium (Greece)
Octavian changes his name to Augustus (the revered one) - first emperor (First Citizen)

- CLEOPATRA - queen of Egypt - actually Greek - thought to have been beautiful, but was actually
unattractive. -killed her brother to take control - wanted Egypt to be powerful again - sided with Rome -
had Caeser’s child - sided with Antony - committed suicide after Antium (Cobra bite)

NERO - insane - burned city of Rome - wanted to rebuild - played harp as the city burned
- blamed a religious sect known as Christians for the fire -

CONSTANTINE - converted Rome to Christianity in 312 - “In this sign, conquer.” - had been pagan
-moved capital to Constantinople in 330 - divided empire East & West

-THE COLISEUM: games last all day (executions - morning, animals - afternoon, gladiators- night)
Arena (Latin for sand)

-THE ROMAN LEGIONS (ARMY): best in the world - loyal to generals - well trained, paid, etc.
citizens served for 20 years - all Italian until later - others incorporated (son gets citizenship for service)

-PAX ROMANO (27 B.C. to 180 A.D.) years of peace & stability - little warfare
-many other stories as well-

DECLINE & FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE:
-many different theories
constant CIVIL WAR - no civilian control of army - generals fight for control - no outside threats
-LEAD PIPE THEORY - lead in the water pipes poisoned chromosomes - Emperors had no hiers
-BREAD & CIRCUSES - Roman slaves did most of the work - government supported people - entertained
them with games & gave them food - no one was working to improve
-BARBARIANS - moved into the Empire - most assimilated (did not have the same virtues as Romans)
-CHRISTIANITY - some think the new religion made the people weak - lost stoic attitude
-THE EASTERN EMPIRE - Constantine moves capital - power & wealth shift to new city in East
-ECONOMICS - taxes became heavy - no knew monies coming in to Rome
-PAX ROMANO: people become lazy - no outside threats - lack of expansion will always destroy an
expansionist empire (USSR) - legions & commanders fight civil wars instead
-many others
-Rome falls in 476 A.D. - Europe falls into anarchy

ROMAN CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE UNITED STATES & WESTERN SOCIETY:
-Romans learned from the Ancient Greeks & improved on their ideas
-LANGUAGE: Latin becomes: Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, & Romanian (Romance languages)
50% of English words have Latin roots
-ARCHITECTURE: the arch, the aqua ducts, the Coliseum, Concrete, dome, multi-story buildings
-ROADS: built roads all over the empire - communication, troop movements, trade
railroad gage we use today is the same width as the wheels on Roman carts
-LAW: our legal system & procedures are based on Roman law. “Law of 12 Tablets” (450 B.C.)
-GOVERNMENT: USA uses a republican for of government - organization
-ART & LITERATURE: accurate statues (problem with eyes) Virgil (writer)
-CITY PLANNING: all Roman cities are laid out the same - grid system - city blocks
-CALENDAR: our calendar is based on one created by Caesar
(July - Julius & August - Augustus)
-SCIENCE: medicine used until 1500’s - names of planets (Mars) - other theories
-others


THE MIDDLE AGES: (476 - 1350)

WHAT WERE THE MIDDLES AGES?
* With the fall of
Rome, Western Europe falls into the Dark Ages. During the Middle Ages, European society stops making progress and moves backwards. Europe was divided into many small kingdoms & people hid behind castle walls for fear of outsiders. There is no travel, no trade, no education, & no strong central governments. The great shinning light that was Rome, was extinguished for the darkness of the Medieval Ages.

MUSLIM EXPANSION & THE BATTLE OF TOURS: 732
-By this time, a group of people known as the Muslims had come out of Arabia an conquered North Africa
-the Muslims practice the religion of Islam
-eventually, the Muslims cross the Straights of Gibraltar and conquered Spain
-Muslim general’s name is “Gib” - Muslim word for rock “alter” - thus the name
-Muslim forces move West into what is now France
-King of the Frankish Tribe - Charles Martel rallies Christian armies to defeat them at Tours (toors)
-aided by Berber rebellions in Africa - some Muslim troops sent to Africa instead
-Battle saves Western Europe from Muslim occupation - history could have been very different

THE VIKINGS: Northmen, or Norse
-fearsome invaders from Scandinavia (Norway, Denmark, Sweden)
-as the population in Scandinavia grew food became scarce
-many Norse sailed from Scandinavia in search of food - “a-Viking” to sail
-Vikings were skillful sailors - longships - dragon head
-brutal warriors - rough men - reddish hair
-attacked and pillaged Europe - People in Europe were terrified of Vikings
-leaders in Europe could not stop invasions - disrupted life
-some Vikings settled in Europe (France - Normandy - England - others)
-took many of native customs depending on where they settled

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


FEUDALISM:
-a system in which kings & nobles grant land to other nobles in return for loyalty, military obligation, &
other services.
-kings had vast amounts of territories, but could not defend against Viking invasions
-Because of the Viking invasions, political problems within the Frankish Kingdom, & other factors, a system of Feudalism evolves to provide basic needs and protection.
-people leave cities and cluster together in small areas for protection. (towns & castles)
-trade & travel virtually stop
-powerful LORDS divided up their land & gave portions of land to VASSALS
-land given to a vassal was called a “fief”
- vassals also divided up their lands & gave portions to others - this process repeats itself
-a vassal promises military service, financial obligations, & others (ransom $$ etc.)
-serfs were allowed to live on a vassals land if they agree to work the land - not allowed to leave
-knights were highly trained warriors who usually was a vassal

LIFE IN THE MIDDLE AGES:

EVERY DAY LIFE:
-Manorialism was an economic system used in the Middle Ages. The MANOR, included a manor house or
castle, pastures, fields, a mill, small homes, & a village located near a stream - due to a lack of trade the
manor had to be self-sufficient (produce & grow everything they need)
-the lord kept 1/3 of the land, peasants paid to use the rest (farmed his land - gave him crops)
-manor land was divided into 3 sections for growing grain - (only 2 planted, 1 fallow or unplanted)
-peasants had their own strip of land
-religion is very important

CHIVALRY:
-Code of conduct for knights
-required a knight to be brave - fight fairly (tricks were considered cowardly) - loyal to his friends - keep his word - treat his enemies gallantly - especially courteous to women
-the knight did not extended this courteously to all - only members of the upper class

MEDIEVAL LAW:
-Christian religion very important in medieval life
-unlike Roman law - TRAIL BY ORDEAL (Trial by Fire)
-God was the ultimate judge - he would pass judgment & punish accordingly
-If you were killed in combat it was the will of God
-others were forced to undergo Trail by Ordeal meaning: they would be forced to do something that would
seemingly injure them unless they were innocent & God would save them.
-example (picking up a white hot piece of metal - if your hands do not burn off you are innocent)

WARFARE DURING THE MIDDLE AGES:
-knights were highly trained warriors on horseback
-common people & peasants did not fight in wars
-heavy armor was used for protection
- With their armor on often times knights could only be identified by their family crests.
- metal weapons such as swords, axes, mace, arrows, shields, etc.
-castles & other fortifications were constructed for protection
-contests such as jousting were held


 

 

 

THE CRUSADES:
-during the 1000’s a group of Muslims from central Asia known as the Seljuk Turks captured the Holy Land
-the Holy Land refers to places in the Middle East were Jesus was said to live
-the Seljuk Turks began to attack & kill visiting Christian visitors
-people in Europe were of the Christian religion led by the Pope
-in 1096 Pope Urban II called for a Christian army to recapture the Holy Land
-The First Crusade was successful as European armies capture Jerusalem
-slaughter thousands - set up feudal system in the Middle East
-The Second Crusade (1147) - European armies fail to defend Holy Land - recaptured by Turks
-The Third Crusade (1187) - European armies fail to recapture Holy Land - Richard the Lion Hearted
-other Crusades were attempted, yet all of them failed to recapture the Holy Land

RESULTS OF THE CRUSADES:
-militarily the Crusades were a failure
-however Europeans were introduced to many new weapons (crossbow, gunpowder)
-shipbuilders learned how to build better ships - Italy
-Europeans were introduced to new exotic goods from the East
(spices, medicines, perfumes, dyes, gems, silk, cotton, linen fabrics, foods, etc.)
-Europeans start to increase TRADE with East & each other (trade timber, furs, fish, wine, etc.)
-with the increase in trade, people need to travel to places where trade is occurring (markets & fairs)
-people in Europe settle near trading posts - CITIES BEGIN TO RISE again!

THE RENAISSANCE (1330-1600)
-French word meaning rebirth - renewed interest in learning
-begins in Italy - geographic location helps trade
-increase in writing, science, & art (mostly religious subjects)
-Leonardo di Vinci (artist & scientist) Last Supper, & Mona Lisa
-others Michelangelo - Raphael - others
-Galileo: scientist - drops cannon balls off Leaning Tower of Pisa (proof of gravity)
-invention of the printing press - (1450) - previously books had to be hand written -
Gutenberg invents movable text - Bible first book printed
-REBIRTH OF TRADE & CITIES!

THE RISE OF STRONG NATIONS:

ENGLAND:
-We study English history because
England settled the original 13 colonies that later became the USA.
-
England was ruled by a group of people known as the Anglo-Saxons
-When the King Edward the Confessor died, a distant relative (the Duke of Normandy) was one of many
who claimed the thrown.
-In 1066, William the Conqueror & his army invaded England from Normandy (Northern France)
-William defeated Anglo Saxon King Herold at the Battle of Hastings
- Herold was shot through the eye with an arrow - William crowns himself king of England
-William was descended from Vikings - the English language would develop over the years

THE MAGNA CARTA: 1215
-English nobles dislike paying high taxes to king (Henry II)
-force him to sign a document limiting the power of the King called the Magna Carta
-this document would later influence our founding fathers (a copy is on display at the Archives in D.C)


 

 

 

 

SPAIN:
-Spain was under the control of the Muslim armies for other 1000 years
-they were known as Moors
-by 1400 four Christian kingdoms arose in Spain - they fought to kick the Moors out of Spain
-1469 Isabella of Castile & Ferdinand of Aragon were married and their kingdoms were united
-1492 the Moors were finally driven out of Spain at the Battle of Grenada

OTHER NATIONS:
FRANCE: would slowly be united under one king
ITALY & GERMANY: would remain many small independent countries & would not unite until the 1800