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What is striking is not simply the physical decline but the complete loss of urban consciousness and the change of role. As long as the cities of the Mediterranean maintained a vigorous social life in the fifth and sixth century circus racing continued to be an immensely popular activity despite ecclesiastical disapproval. Here a mosaic from Gafsa in Tunisia shows a group of spectators in the fifth century. Significantly most showed little sign of recovery when a measure of prosperity and stability returned to the empire from the late ninth century.

Large-scale urban life was of course maintained in Constantinople, and to a lesser extent Thessalonica. Even in the capital, however, a drastic fall in population is suggested by the failure to repair the aqueduct of Valens after and Constantine V's efforts to repopulate the city. By the tenth century Constantinople was again an impressive city with a population of several hundred thousand, but it remained an exceptional, parasitic metropolis.

Its population c'atered almost exclusively to the needs of the court and administration for goods and services, and its trade and industry were rigorously controlled by imperial officials and forced to attend primarily to the needs of the state. It is hardly surprising that an Arab geographer commented that there were only five proper cities in Anatolia in the ninth century. The contrast with the Arab world was very marked. Urban development forged ahead in the areas conquered by the Arabs, with large cities prospering not only in the Levant and Mesopotamia, such as Cairo, Damascus, and Baghdad, but also in the deurbanized west, where Fez, Kairouan, Cordoba, and Palermo rose to prominence.

The reasons for this revival include the existence of a vast common market, a renewed influx of gold from Africa and the east, the high status accorded to merchants, and the degree of autonomy enjoyed by urban elites. In the western half of the Mediterranean urban life changed gear radically because of political upheavals and a sharp drop in trade and monetary circulation, but the decline was much less marked than in northern Gaul or Britain. A large measure of physical continuity was evident in the preservation of Roman walls, aqueducts, and other structures, often through the efforts of local bishops.

Temples such as the Pantheon in Rome were converted into churches, Roman street plans were preserved in Lucca, Barcelona, and elsewhere, and on occasion large private buildings became the nucleus of early medieval towns, as in the case of Diocletian's vast palace at Split, which became a refuge from Slav attacks for the population of nearby Salona. The level of continuity was not, however, uniform. In northern Italy virtually all the Roman civitates survived with a few exceptions, but in the south the majority of towns ceased to be recorded as episcopal sees around the time of the Lombard invasions, and urban life was largely confined to the coastal cities which enjoyed the lifeline of Byzantine commerce and naval support.

Specific external attacks could be a factor in a city's decline, as perhaps in the case of Aquileia, but in general longer-term factors were more important such as the silting up of harbours, changes in trade networks, and an overall increase in insecurity.

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Often the need for a settlement in a particular area continued, and the population of exposed Roman towns sought refuge in more defensible sites, A great number of Roman cities survived the invasions because of the protection. On occasion other types of building could be taken over for use as refuges, as in this case. When the Avars and Slavs attacked nearby Salona in , its inhabitants sought refuge within the walls of the palace. Split then became an important centre within the Byzantine theme of Dalmatia and the medieval town developed inside the palace. The cities which survived presented a sorry sight in the early Middle Ages.

In Rome the late Roman population of several hundred thousand had shrunk to perhaps 30, by the late sixth century as a result of siege, famine, and plague, important classical buildings lay derelict or were despoiled for building materials, and vast areas of the city were desolate. Although the Roman tradition of lavish municipal patronage had been replaced by a Christian programme of churchbuilding, the edifices erected were small and impoverished, to judge from the fifty-seven churches recorded in Lucca before Roman patterns of life were steadily eroded in a number of spheres.

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Among the clergy and the majority Roman population, Roman law persisted, but mainly at the simplest level of notaries transcribing routine formulae to record transactions. Municipal autonomy, already on the wane in the Late Roman period finally disappeared as military aristocrats assumed power in both the Lombard and Byzantine areas of Italy.

In Rome the greatest 'town council', the Senate, which had been allotted an important administrative role under the Ostrogoths, found its membership sapped by a drift to the east and its powers taken over by the papal and military authorities. Various activities at the heart of Roman civic life, such as horse-racing, circus games, and public bathing, disappeared in a hostile climate of ecclesiastical disapproval and economic dislocation. While Roman institutions petered out or were taken over by the Church, a number of Roman traditions remained alive. Cities remained the focus of politics and administration and aristocrats, whether Byzantine, Lombard, or Frankish, maintained the custom of urban living, in sharp contrast with England or most of Gaul.

Cities in Italy also retained a sense of identity with their Roman past. This was strongest in the cities which had remained under Roman political control, such as Rome, Ravenna, and Naples, where ecclesiastical writers extolled the past glories and Roman titles such as consul and tribune remained in use. More surprising is the strength of such feelings in Lombard areas: city descriptions survive from eighth-century Milan and Verona which proudly list the walls, temples, forum, and amphitheatres of their cities as well as their churches and relics, and which display a civic consciousness partly founded on Roman legacies.

Particularly significant for the future was the dynamism which Italian cities showed in new spheres. Whereas Roman towns had primarily been residential and administrative centres with little involvement in trade, a number of early medieval towns built their fortunes on commercial activity.

Towns had always possessed some role as local markets and royal legislation concerning the protection and taxing of merchants confirms that this continued under the Lombards. By the eighth century salt produced at pans on the northern Adriatic coast became one of the first commodities to be traded over longer distances and The Case of City Life 27 promoted the rise of first Comacchio and later Venice. As a subject of Byzantium Venice had privileged access to markets in the east and soon diversified from salt and fish into importing luxuries such as textiles and spices and exporting slaves.

The will of a doge shows that by a large part of the aristocracy's wealth lay in investments in overseas trading ventures. In the early tenth century Venetian merchants are recorded at Pavia as paying customary gifts of spices and cosmetics in return for their right to sell oriental luxuries. Venetian commerce acted as a stimulus to Lombard cities, who supplied the coastal city with food and cloth and re-exported its imports to northern Europe.

A similar luxury trade also operated to the south in the late ninth century, as is shown by a saint's life in which Venetian merchants praised a Byzantine cloak which the hero had purchased in Rome. Such items constituted catalysts to more general economic activity and were in great demand as status symbols. In the south the chief centres of longdistance commerce were Gaeta, Amalfi, and Naples, subjects of Byzantium which also carried on a flourishing trade with the Arabs.

Inland cities such as Milan and Cremona had their prosperous merchants by the ninth century, but they remained a minor element who tended to use their wealth to buy land or to marry into aristocratic families. The future trading giants of Pisa and Genoa were still little more than villages. Unlike the eastern empire, where such groups saw their interests and ambitions as lying with the metropolitan life of the capital, Italians developed a fierce pride in their local city, which was expressed through the cult of patron saints and even in revolts against royal officials.

Cities possessed ill-documented institutions such as the court of 'worthy men' and the 'assembly in front of the church' in which market arrangements and other common concerns were discussed. One example of this civic patriotism is Modena, whose position on the turbulent border between the Byzantines and the Lombards had reduced it to dereliction and which survived through the attachment of the local clergy to the martyr St Gimignano.

As in most northern cities the bishop came to exercise everyday administration, and so in the s we find its bishop, Leudoin, rebuilding the walls and even inscribing a poem in a chapel which called on the citizens to display vigilance in the best classical traditions of Rome and Troy. Although in the tenth century bishops became unpopular as outsiders and representatives of royal power, in earlier centuries they were the mouthpiece for local interests and feelings and their cathedral chapters were influential as opinion-makers and custodians of their cities' traditions.

This economic and cultural vitality, so missing in the 'cities' of the Byzantine interior, only found its full expression in Italy with the political awakening of the cities in the eleventh century. Most of the other areas of the Christian west lacked the same level of economic activity, occupational diversity, and local pride. Only the cities of Dalmatia, which had economic ties with the Adriatic 28 Transformation of Roman Mediterranean coast of Italy and benefited from a nominal allegiance to Byzantium, displayed an active commercial and ecclesiastical life and a strong civic consciousness in the face of constant pressure from their Slav neighbours.

In the Christian areas of northern Spain economic life was relatively backward and the towns' main importance was as military strongholds. Even in these underdeveloped areas, however, there was a striking reliance on the written word in legal transactions which contrasts sharply with the northern European IJosition, and an enduring use of Visigothic law codes. In southern France the previously prosperous coastal towns such as Marseilles maintained some commercial role and Roman traditions in such fields as Roman legal practice, but what little evidence survives suggests that their development in the eighth and ninth centuries was retarded by endemic internal disorder and the effects of recurrent Arab raids.

In no area of the Mediterranean, therefore, were urban traditions completely extinguished. In spite of the invasions the modicum of stability necessary for urban life was soon re-established, except in exposed frontier zones, and certain cities developed a novel role as commercial centres. Even in areas where economic life remained depressed, urban values and traditions proved durable and helped to produce a social climate which later proved capable of responding dynamically to new opportunities.

Unity and Fragmentation in the Mediterranean World 'The whole sea shared a common destiny In the early Middle Ages the similarity of certain general trends cannot conceal the fact that the Mediterranean ceased to be a Roman lake, a channel of communication uniting a uniform area, and many historians have attributed the break with ancient culture and society to this development. The classic statement of this view was put forward in the S and by the Belgian historian Henri Pirenne, who argued that the Arabs destroyed the unity of the Mediterranean in the seventh century and so paved the way for a distinctively western European civilization.

Telling criticisms have been made of his approach and data, in particular his exaggeration of the extent of trade, his equation of economic activity with cultural achievement, and his pro-Roman bias. His provocative thesis also involves confusion of cause and effect; the Mediterranean did cease to form the cultural, political, and economic unit it had been earlier, but this fissure was in many respects a symptom of other developments.

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Not only the consequences of this momentous change, but also its date and causes are difficult to establish. Throughout the early Middle Ages pilgrimage traffic was considerable, and many western pilgrims visited the Holy Land. They often brought back as souvenirs metal flasks decorated with biblical scenes to contain oil from lamps which burned at pilgrimage shrines. This sixth-century example, part of a collection in the cathedral treasury of Monza, depicts the Ascension of Christ.

An accompanying papyrus records that they were brought to Rome in the time of Gregory the Great. In the easternmost basin, the Aegean Sea, Roman sea power and trade continued along traditional lines well into the seventh century: the sea-borne transport of commodities is shown by the state-directed supply of corn from Egypt to Constantinople and by the discovery of a wreck off south-west Turkey which sank around with a cargo of wine in amphorae and other mass-produced utensils.

In the western Tyrrhenian basin, piracy and the activities of the Vandal fleet in the fifth century dealt long-distance traffic a blow from which it never recovered, even though short coastal voyages continued because they were cheaper and safer than overland communication. Africa's trade in foodstuffs declined into insignificance. Justinian's defeat of the Vandals and Goths only partially restored Roman naval power. Even in the Aegean area the Byzantine naval monopoly was broken when the Ummayads built up a fleet composed largely of Christian renegades, seized Christian bases such as Cyprus and Rhodes, and twice blockaded Constantinople itself.

The Byzantines were quick to appreciate the importance of naval supremacy in defending and provisioning their many coastal provinces, and retrieved the situation by building new 'thematic' fleets supplied from particular areas. This 30 Transformation of Roman Mediterranean naval recovery was helped by the rise of the Abbasid caliphs based on Baghdad, who were less sea-minded than their Ummayad predecessors. In the ninth century Byzantium's naval hegemony was undermined by a series of revolts in the naval themes and by the emergence of aggressive new Muslim states, especially the Aghlabids of North Africa.

As a result of this Sicily was invaded in , Crete was lost in , and the empire's western provinces suffered devastating raids. Although Byzantine naval dominance was therefore seriously challenged from around , the empire retained a strong presence in those waters which were strategic to its survival, thanks to the technical superiority of its ships, the professionalism of its sailors, and the advantage of plentiful timber and naval supplies in comparison with the Arabs.

The vicissitudes of Byzantium's naval strength were only one factor in the weakening of its ties with the west. Equally important was the blocking of the land route by the Avar and Slav invasions, which was only gradually reopened with the conversion of the Balkans in the ninth and tenth centuries. Foremost among these was the immensely rich aristocrat Anicia Iuliana, who belonged to the imperial house of Theodosius I. Here she is portrayed surrounded by putti and personifications of Magnanimity and Prudence in the dedication page of an illustrated herbal manuscript known as the Vienna Dioscurides.

Unity and Fragmentation 3I for the empire turning its back on the west were also psychological. A cultural and linguistic cleavage between east and west already existed in the Late Roman period. In the west knowledge of Greek was confined to a few intellectuals such as Boethius, and in their war with Justinian the Goths did their utmost to exploit the Italians' suspicions of the 'unmanly' Greeks. That the authorities were aware of the political dangers of such antagonisms is shown in a seventh-century show trial in Constantinople when a dissident theologian was accused of 'loving the Romans and hating Greeks'.

In the east Latin ceased to be the official language of the administration, and the previously important Latin presence in the capital was thinned out by cultural assimilation and the executions of the Emperor Phocas. While historians of the mid-sixth century could still give exhaustive accounts of campaigns in the west and Germanic customs, their successors offered only occasional asides about the west and by the ninth century the interest of the main chronicler was confined to the hostility displayed by the Roman pontiffs against his betes noires, the iconoclast emperors.

The imperial government displayed a broader view, showing its continued commitment to the west by the dispatch of embassies and gold to the Franks and to renegade Lombards, but it was prevented from deploying adequate resources in men and money by more immediate pressures in the east.

A further decline in involvement occurred in the S, when the empire's back-to-the-wall conflict with the Arabs led to a decline in the number of oriental troops recorded in Italy and the disappearance of Byzantine tribute from Frankish coin hoards. A gradual contraction of horizons took place throughout the Mediterranean in response to immediate dangers and economic needs as much as the Arab advance and the disintegration of an increasingly remote and irrelevant empire. An illuminating example is Byzantine Italy where fusion took place between indigenous elements and immigrant soldiers to produce a militarily effective society with a strong sense of local patriotism, whose nominal loyalty to Byzantium rested on little more than inertia.

The weakening of ties with the universal empire had its beneficial effects: freed from the domination of a uniform elitist culture and the siren pulling-power of a metropolitan centre, local cultures and communities gradually blossomed. Sometimes this entailed a resurgence of local ethnic traditions, as with the Basques in Spain and Moors in Africa; elsewhere, as in Italy, it found expression in the rebirth of identity and vitality among existing cities.

Long-distance trade was of limited importance in the Roman world, although large quantities of goods and produce were transported through official channels, most notably by state-sponsored shippers. With the breakdown of the state apparatus, especially in the west, such large-scale transport was restricted, and an increasing role was taken by Jewish and Syrian traders who specialized in luxury items from the east.

Records of these long-distance peddlars dry up in 32 Transformation of Roman Mediterranean the seventh century, but eastern goods continued to flow into the west by other means. A great number of items were distributed by the Byzantines as tribute or diplomatic gifts to allies and important churchmen in the west. These objects had a significance out of all proportion to their quantity and price because they were valued as an index of social status and because they served as models for local craftsmen.

Even the supply of basic commodities never dried up completely. Although there was a trend towards locally produced parchment, papyrus continued to be used for more important documents in traditionalist centres such as Rome and Ravenna. The hiatus of the seventh century was therefore confined to the already limited level of commercial exchange. This break did not apply to the non-Christian areas of the west; Spain and North Africa developed lucrative trade links with the Levant as a result of their integration into an Islamic free-trade zone.

Elsewhere long-distance trade picked up considerably from the eighth century onwards, reflecting increased internal stability and a demographic and climatic recovery. References to wealthy merchants become frequent in documents from Lombard Italy and elsewhere, and in the ninth century a number of cities which were under nominal Byzantine authority such as Amalfi and Venice became active centres of trade with the east. Ironically therefore international commerce took off at the very time when the Arabs were making their naval presence felt in the central and western Mediterranean, and political reality forced cities such as Naples to enter into close relations with the Islamic world, which included the payment of protection money and trading in slaves.

By the tenth century the extent of trading links is shown by descriptions of south Italian portS by Arab geographers and by the circulation of an Islamic coin, the tari, in the south of the peninsula. Other, non-commercial channels remained important for the diffusion of goods. Papal sources abound with references to oriental relics, vestments, and ornaments, many of which must have arrived in Rome as official gifts, and many luxury textiles came to the west by official or unofficial diplomatic means.

When the western envoy Liutprand of Cremona was caught smuggling a silken garment out of Constantinople, he was engaging in a widespread practice which the Byzantines sought to prevent to maintain the rarity value of such items. The question of Mediterranean unity is therefore more complex than a simple following of Pirenne's views would suggest. Ties between east and west changed in nature and extent, but never ceased completely. An awareness of the rich and powerful east survived in the west, kept alive by diplomats and pilgrims rather than traders, while the east had little reason to reciprocate interest in an impoverished west.

This is shown by the remarkable frescos in the Church of Santa Maria 'Outside the Walls' at Castelseprio, an early medieval fortified settlement forty km north-west of Milan. The lively and spontaneous cycle, which was restored in , has been variously dated from the sixth century to the tenth, but the Hellenizing style of the frescos and the basing of their iconography on apocryphal Gospels popular in the east as in this scene of the proof of Mary's virginity suggest that they were executed by Greek artists sent to the Lombard kingdom soon after its conversion to Catholicism in the late seventh century.

As in the Roman Empire, the economy remained overwhelmingly agrarian, and the peasantry who made up the vast majority of the population lived a harsh life of poverty, and self-sufficiency, dominated by the demands of 5 34 Transformation of Roman Mediterranean local lords and, in the east, of tax-collectors. The Mediterranean had become transformed into a jigsaw of local communities, and therein lay both its weakness and its strength.

Rulership and Government One concept which long outlived the reality of a unified Mediterranean world was that of an enduring Roman Empire. Both east and west drew upon a common reservoir of ideological notions of a divinely ordained, universal empire which had been evolved in the days of the great Christian emperors, Constantine and Theodosius.

The Byzantines called themselves Rhomaioi Romans and had no difficulty in maintaining the claims to universal rule which had been energetically proclaimed by Justinian. The west also drew upon Late Roman traditions as an ideological basis for its kingship, but had to adapt notions of universal empire to transformed political conditions and the predominance of ecclesiastical thought. St Augustine of Hippo recognized the decline of the empire but considered it secondary to God's instruments for salvation, the visible Church and the true community of the just 'the City of God' , while writers in Visigothic Spain saw God's mandate as having passed from the weak and heterodox Romans to the powerful Catholic rulers of the Germanic west.

In general, however, the west was content with a vague recognition of the universal authority of the remote emperors of Constantinople, because of the lack of any coherent ideological alternative and the widespread equation of the Roman Empire with the 'Fourth Kingdom' of the Book of Daniel, destined to survive until the coming of Antichrist. The ambivalence of western barbarian kingdoms can be seen in the laws which the Lombard king, Rothari, issued in ; an unashamedly traditional Germanic code was written up in Latin, almost certainly by a Roman official, and was prefaced by a short history of the Lombard people and a pious statement of the purposes of legislation borrowed from the Novels of Justinian.

A new and more coherent attitude in the west emerged with the coronation of Charlemagne in following the papacy's disenchantment with Byzantium.

Thereafter the western emperor became an ideological focus and a de jure ruler for the west, even though the unity of the Carolingian Empire soon crumbled and some elements in Rome and southern Italy retained a snobbish attachment to Byzantium for its power and wealth. The rivalries betweell the two empires were well brought out in a letter of from the Carolingian Emperor Louis II to his eastern opposite number in which Louis justified his claim to the title of Roman emperor on grounds of virtue, inheritance, and divine anointing and condemned the Greeks for their 'cacodoxy'.

While the lines were drawn for the suspicion and antagonism which led to the conflicts of the crusading period, Rulership and Government 35 awareness of shared Christian belief and common hostility to outside threats could persist. The Byzantine Emperor Theophilus addressed a plea to Louis the Pious for aid in the face of Arab raids and Louis II's polemical letter was written in the context of attempts to forge an alliance against the Arab threat in the central Mediterranean.

Administrative structures in the west had none of the strengths of 'those of Byzantium. Whereas the latter had inherited a unitary capital, salaried administrators, and a centralized system of justice and finance from Roman times, the power of western rulers rested on the much flimsier basis of military prowess, church support, and an ability to cajole loyalty out of often recalcitrant nobles. In the Late Roman and Byzantine periods imperial images were widely used as propaganda to focus the allegiance of subjects in a wide range of artistic objects and in the most widely disseminated medium of all, the imperial coinage.

In the late seventh century the Emperor Justinian II took the revolutionary step of replacing the iinperial image on the obverse of the gold coinage with a bust of Christ. This step was probably taken to exploit increasing attachment to popular symbols of Christian devotion, such as icons and relics, which greatly boosted Byzantine morale in the struggle against Arab and Avar invaders. One of the strongest and most able Visigothic kings of Spain was Recceswinth, who issued a comprehensive legal code in The close links established by the kings with the Church are reflected in a votive crown which was presumably presented to a church in Toledo.

It was discovered with 'other items at Guarrazar in 18 The bureaucratic and educational capacity remained to keep up tax registers and to employ paid officials to collect imperial dues, and a reliable gold coinage was maintained less for the purpose of stimulating economic activity than in order to facilitate the smooth collection of taxes and their disbursement to troops and officials.

Such a sophisticated system gave the administration enormous advantages, but the contrast between a monolithic east and a fragmented west should not be pressed too far. The capacity of western kingdoms to impose taxes was limited to tolls on trade and imposts on justice; only the Visigothic kingdom of Spain was able to maintain a land-tax on Roman lines. Kings did, however, command substantial resources in land. The Lombards possessed extensive royal estates, and it has been calculated that in the eleventh century, after two centuries of alienations and endowment of the Church, the crown still owned more than 10 per cent of the land in northern Italy.

Other valuable sources of royal income included booty, tribute, confiscation of property, the monopoly of minting coinage, and the right to ratify a range of legal transactions and building operations. The main activity to which Roman and Byzantine fiscal resources were devoted was of course the financing of the army.

This was a burden which Germanic kingdoms were spared because all free warriors had an obligation to serve their king in the army under their local dukes in return for the land on which they had been settled. The enforcement of this system required constant vigilance on the part of the Lombard kings and their Carolingian successors since there was a relentless tendency for large landowners to reduce peasants to a state of dependence.

Another major prop of the Byzantine state was its control of justice. Not only did centrally appointed judges administer courts at all levels, but the Roman principle of territorial law was maintained with its presupposition that all authority emanated from the emperor; the predominantly Latin Corpus of Justinian was supplemented by the simplified Ecloga collection issued by Leo III in and by the authoritative Basilica Code promulgated by Leo VI.

Law was never as systematic or as uniform in the west; it was personal rather than territorial, with the clergy and the native population 'professing' Roman law as preserved in a simplified local or 'vulgar' form and their Germanic conquerors 'professing' Gothic, Frankish, or Lombard law. Nevertheless, the kings gail1ed more control over the law than their counterparts in the north. In the case of Italy it was royal officials who administered the courts, and the law codes issued by the kings became increasingly influenced by Roman customs.

Royal authority was strengthened with the development of concepts of treason and the king's peace, and new provisions were introduced to allow for the free disposal of Rulership and Government 37 property, to discourage feud, and to cater for the role 'of merchants and other aspects of a more settled urban society. The features of Constantinople which made most impression on western visitors were the dazzling richness of the court and the elaboration of the central bureaucracy.

In the west, a court such as that of the Lombard kings retained certain Germanic features; it was politically imperative for a king to surround himself with a warrior following and traditional servants such as the marpahis groom.

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Gradually, however, dress and ceremonial came to ape Byzantine models, and many of the officials who appear with bureaucratic duties, such as the chamberlain and notaries, 'have clear Roman origins. The take-over of Roman traditions was vividly demonstrated when King Agilulf had his son Adaloald presented as king in the circus of Milan. A plaque from the helmet of the Lombard King Agilulf, now in the Bargello Museum in Florence, shows the king enthroned in majesty and flanked by bodyguards, winged personifications of victory and subject cities bearing tribute.

The Roman character of the court was further emphasized after the Lombards' conversion to Catholicism, and throughout the Lombard and Carolingian periods Pavia remained the cultivated nerve centre of a central administration capable of making its power felt throughout the kingdom.

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Local government was the weak spot of all early medieval monarchies, and it was here that the superiority of the Byzantine state was less than might be thought. The eastern empire was compelled by the invasions of the seventh century to replace the largely civilian administration of the Late Roman period 38 Transformation of Roman Mediterranean with a streamlined system, in which considerable autonomy was granted to theme commanders. The external crisis facing the empire gave rise to a militarized society analogous in many ways to that of the Germanic kingdoms, since the military commanded the lion's share of local power, land, and social status.

Byzantine emperors could exercise greater control by virtue of their elaborate system of written instructions and supervision by inspectors, and most forcefully by their power of the purse; Liutprand was astonished to see theme commanders receive bags of gold as salaries in Constantinople. Even so the decentralization inherent in the system could serve as a focus for political and religious tensions and encourage coups and revolts by ambitious warlords. For most of our period, however; the balance between ruler and local strongmen was tipped in favour of the former, and a series of strong dynasties initiated by successful soldieremperors enabled Byzantium to avoid the fate of Visigothic Spain or Lombard Italy.

Another crucial strength of Byzantium was that local officials at first formed a dutiful meritocracy with no entrenched family position or landed wealth. By the ninth century, however, these figures had put down strong local roots and become a hereditary aristocracy similar to those of the west; as cohesive families emerged with distinctive surnames, their most powerful members amassed vast estates and began to exercise powers of patronage over the thematic soldiers and peasants, the military and fiscal linchpins of the Byzantine state.

A Paphlagonian landowner in the late eighth century owned 48 estates and 12, sheep, and in the ninth century a Peloponnesian heiress bequeathed 80 properties and 3, slaves to the emperor. The conditions were being created for a proto-feudal society comparable to the dominance which western aristocrats exerted in their localities through landholding. In Lombard and Carolingian Italy the monarchy succeeded in keeping their nobles in check by essentially ad hoc methods; under the Lombards a king's military prestige could count for more than formal hierarchy, and the Carolingian rulers relied on the appointment of loyal Frankish nobles and their supervision by royal inspectors missi.

The death of Louis II in ushered in a period of dynastic uncertainty and administrative weakness as magnates usurped royal rights and lands and built up their local power and wealth. Despite the relative sophistication of royal government in Italy, it lacked the trump card enjoyed by the eastern empire; Byzantine aristocrats had a vested interest in the imperial system, because their ambitions were best served by attachment to a central court which was the source of legitimacy, lucrative offices, and dignities essential to their status.

If central authority in Italy proved a broken reed in the longer term, the materials remained for a vigorous political life at a local level. The measure of decentralization which had existed in the Roman areas since the seventh century came to extend to the Germanic areas as well. In contrast to France, where Religion and Mentalities 39 justice became a private or feudal right, the complexity of Italian life helped to preserve the public nature of courts, written law, and an acceptance of formal legal procedures.

The reliance on legal formalities and the written word was in part a reflection of a level of lay literacy which far exceeded other areas of the west: 77 per cent of witnesses who appeared in Lucca charters of the S were able to sign their names.


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Although most Italian towns around had come under the authority of individual lords and bishops, complex nations of community and public ideology survived to form the necessary foundation for the later development of independent communes. The Italian model of devolved political life and public authority was to prove more dynamic than the Byzantine, where autocracy had been maintained at the cost of eliminating local communities and diverting political energies from the provinces to the capital.

Oddly the Italian position had closer parallels with the Islamic world, where high levels of wealth and literacy produced a complex society but a superficially autocratic administration in practice limited its role to the collection of taxes and the maintenance of security, leaving local elites control over markets and everyday life in their cities.

Religion and Mentalities Christianity was already widespread throughout the Mediterranean area in the Late Roman period, although it was stronger in the east than in the west and the countryside was still dominated by the pagani literally 'country-dwellers'. Added to basket. Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey. The Countess of Carnarvon. God's Executioner. Micheal O Siochru. A History of Ancient Britain. Neil Oliver. Ian Mortimer. Anne Lister. Nicholas Crane. An Utterly Impartial History of Britain. John O'Farrell. How England Made the English. Harry Mount. How to be a Victorian.

Ruth Goodman. The Secret Rooms. Catherine Bailey. Tracy Borman. First Light. More Details Original Title. Other Editions 7. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Scotland , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Oct 04, Briynne rated it liked it. When it comes to European history, I like to think of myself as something of a gentleman enthusiast well, so to speak, anyway. I really enjoyed this collection of essays on Scottish history, and had a lovely time counting how many more times my family name came u When it comes to European history, I like to think of myself as something of a gentleman enthusiast well, so to speak, anyway.

I really enjoyed this collection of essays on Scottish history, and had a lovely time counting how many more times my family name came up versus that of my husband. The first essay deals with just under years of history in thirty pages, and was a bit daunting in its scope and galloping pace through broad swathes of unrecorded years. I know nation-states are a very modern invention, but in the case of Scotland, it almost seems a miracle that such an ill-defined mess of ethnicities, cultures, and allegiances could ever have been formed into a cohesive whole.

The essays concerning the medieval period largely concerned themselves with this process, and while they were interesting, they were also a little dense and slow to get through. I love the moxy of Mary de Guise, and her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, must be the most famous Scottish woman who ever lived. Their stories have everything you could ask for — French and English intrigues, murder, broken alliances, wars, courts in uproar, and one very infamous execution. The seventeenth century in general was depressing to read about, but especially so in regards to the union of the crowns.

I always find myself coming back to a nationalist stance regardless of the issue. Why have a USSR when you can have a ton of separate countries? Ditto Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. I wish the Catalans and Basques and Kurds and Tibetans and pretty much anyone else who wanted their own country could have it. Calvinism at the peak of its joyless severity was really rather heavy as well, but luckily things picked up once again with the remarkable achievements of the Scottish Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution during the next centuries.

The essay on the Scottish Diaspora was also excellent and personally interesting, as it explains on a high level why people like my great-great-greats ditched Edinburgh for Ontario and later Michigan. Apparently the Scots have a grand old tradition of getting out of Dodge as quickly as possible and then pining poetically after the motherland for generations to come.

I just want to know who decides these things. View 2 comments. Jan 13, Josephine Ensign rated it liked it. This is a fascinating and more nuanced history of Scotland than what is commonly available. I learned more about the Scottish Poor Laws which were much more punitive than even the British Poor Laws likely due to Scotland at the time having fewer resources as well as a much stronger Protestant work ethics.

Jun 03, David Blankenship rated it liked it.