Medieval: Historical Introduction (condensed from Hoppin)

-Renaissance scholars of Italy designated years between them and Greek/Roman civilizations as "Medieval" i.e. "middle age"

-designation persisted

-400-500 A.D. thru circa 1400: convenient arbitrary compromise

-almost no music survives from first 1000 years of Christianity, except for sacred music

Roman Empire

-quite prosperous, but before first century, symptoms of decay had emerged

-5 "good" emperors:

1. Nerva (96-98)

2. Trajan (98-117)

3. Marcus Aurelius (d. 180)

-financial (inflation) problems; internal civil wars for political , imperial succession; northern invaders took advantage of instability, creating problems and adding pressure on Empire

-military dictatorship, assassination most common method of advancement

-initial disintegration only temporary

4. Aurelian (270-275) murdered

-overcame all his rivals; regained control of the entire empire for north & east of the Rhine and Danube rivers

5. Diocletian (284-305)

-restored empire so as to survive a century

-state of Christianity as a faith advanced as to be tolerated

6. Constantine (312-337)

7. Theodosius (379-395)

-decreed Christianity the compulsory religion except for Jews

-men of social/political prominence became clergy

-due to extensive propertyholdings, Church acquired wealth and power

-ecclesiastical government modeled from territorial organization of the Roman Empire

-founding of Constantinople: division of empire into Latin West and Greek East: affected future of Christianity, its music

-striking political consequences: Eastern Empire survived for over 1000 years

-Constantinople strategically located; withstood repeated attacks by northern invaders, Moslems, but finally fell to Ottomans in 1453

-Byzantine Empire preserved cultural, intellectual traditions temporarily lost in the West, subsequently contributed to rebuilding of the West

Fall of the Roman Empire

-various signs of social, political, cultural and economic decay preceded collapse of Western Empire

-shortage of troops forced Empire to hire northern soldiers (mercenaries), who became Roman citizens: subsequently rose to high positions in administration

-Honorius (395-423) incompetent Emperor

-invasion of Italy by Visigothic allies stationed at Danube

-Honorius withdrew to Revenna, leaving Visigoths under Alaric free to subdue Rome

-frontiers open to invasion and warfare

376-Huns forced Visigoths into Roman territory

451-Roman General Aetius defeated Huns, forcing them from Gaul into Italy

453-Attila dies; Huns disbanded

455-Rome sacked by the Vandals

476-Zeno, Eastern emporer, became theoretical sovereign of entire empire: really had no authority; End of the Roman Empire

-Zeno established Kingdom of Ostrogoths in Italy

-Theodoric, son of an Ostrogothic King, rose to power, became leader of Ostrogoths, was sent by Zeno to recover Italy, in hopes he might be killed in the process; however, Theodoric was successful and ruled Italy from 493-526


-Clovis, of the Merovingians, became leader of the Franks

-removed all rivals, became founder of Frankish dynasty of Merovingian kings

-fought off Alamans, Burgundians, Visigoths to extend boundaries of Frankish empire to Pyrennes and beyond the Rhine

-held in abeyance by Theodoric

-Clovis converted to Christianity at end of 4thC; with approval of Church, campaigned against heathens to north and southern Visigoths

-by his death in 511, Clovis created a large powerful kingdom, initiating events which led to the creation of France


-previous events determined social and political conditions which prevailed for several centuries: mixture of Roman and Germanic elements

-assimilation occurred, at expense in degree of civilization, which declined

-aristrocracy evolved based on military strength, property holdings

-emergence of peasants from lower social classes

Boethius (480-524): philosopher

Cassiodorus (485-575): historian and statesman

-both served at Theodoric's court

-wrote musical treatises based on Greek sources

-work of Boethius remained foundation of musical study throughout medieval period

-Roman influence due to rise & spread of Christianity

-Western Church became only stable element in turbulent Europe

-many German tribes abandoned their language in favor of Latin as spoken by invaded peoples

-survival of Latin as the romance languages: French, Spanish, Portuogese, Italian

-regions where languages are spoken correspond to most thoroughly "Latinized" parts of Western Europe

Sixth Century

-after Clovis, Franks became most powerful people in West Europe

-other Kingdoms weakened, tempting Eastern Emperor Justinian to attempt to reconquer the West

-Justinian (ruled 527-565): last of Byzantine emporers

-recaptured Italy for a while; later Spain

-efforts led to exhaustion of Western Empire, destruction of civilization

568-Lombards invaded Italy: little political organization, however-resulted in the creation of a patchwork of petty states which survived until late 1800's

-papacy still central administrative authority

-Popes became political leaders of Rome

-Popes held little interest in restoration of Empire (conflict of interest)

Petrine theory of papal supremacy

-Pope Leo the Great (440-461): Bishop of Rome was supreme authority of Christendom; needless to say, was not accepted in East

-Gregory the Great (590-604): established independence of Western Church

Rise of Islam

-7th C: nomadic swarms from Arabia without precedent; invasion under religious banner

-imposed new culture, creating great civilization, establishing Islam as a major religion

-territorial expansion

632-Mohammed dies

-within a century, Holy War of Islam (Jihad) extended through Persia, Afghanistan; westward across Africa to Atlantic: conversions

655-imperial fleet virtually destroyed by Moslems, who now controlled Mediterranean Sea

-Moors finally defeated, who provided troops for European invasion

711-under Tariq, Moors crossed strait of Gibraltor; defeated last Visigothic king, occupied capital of Toledo

-Moslems soon held almost all of Iberian Peninsula, pressing across Pyrenees

-raids in Gaul stopped by Charles Martel, Charlemagne's grandpere, winning a decisive victory in 732

-Charles Martel won position as saviour of Christianity

-Pepen I and Charlemagne confined Moslems to south of the Pyrennes, while in the East, the diminished empire withstood attacks

846-Rome attacked

early 900's: invaders finally expelled from Rome

Basic tenets of Islam:

-submission to Allah, who is also God of Jews and Christians: those other faiths tolerated

-Jews and Christians still flourished in Spain

-Europe benefited from Moslem influence

-Arab world unable to maintain political/religious unity: still evident

-united by a common culture and civilization, language

-contact between Islam and accumulated knowledge of earlier centuries civilizations

-Baghdad as a cultural center, where Greek manuscripts were housed and studied; trade routes brought Oriental culture within reach

-many Greek documents were first known in Latin through Arabic translations

-extent of Arabic influence upon rebirth of Western civilization difficult to discern, with scholars giving credit Arab or Byzantine contributions

-Arabs credit themselves with invention of measured notation and polyphony

"The Darkest Age"

-Latin world declined into barbarism

-aristocracy degenerated into warlord landholders

-ignorance of peasantry

-Church kept dim lamp of culture burning

-Classical learning nearly forgotten

-Scholarship was utilitarian: served to promote the true faith

-ignorance coupled with superstition, no rationality

-7th & 8th C produced little

-spread of papal influence, authority

-revival of Frankish empire under Charlemagne

-"Carolingian Renaissance": first rebuilding steps

Revival of Frankish Kingdom: Charlemagne

-Pepin of Herstal (679-714): united main divisions of Merovingian realm; passed to his son, Charles Martel (714-741)

-family ruled as kings in all but name

-Pepin I (741-768) declared as King

-Carolingian dynasty reached its height under Charlemagne

-Carolingians and Papacy were allies

774-Charlemagne conquered Lombards, then subdued/Christianized Saxons, Bavarians, Avars

-created a series of military districts to protect the Eastern frontier from the Baltic to Adriatic seas

-failed to conquer Moslems in Spain

-returning across Pyrennes in 778, rearguard under Roland was ambushed by Christian Basques: death of Roland

-Charlemagne won control over vast empire

799-insurrectin in Rome forced Pope Leo III to take refuge with Charlemagne, was proclaimed Charles Augustus, Emperor of the Romans: provided Charlemagne with a title to go with his authority

-created jurisdiction over papacy: source of problems for his successors

-tradition by which French and German Kings received imperial crown from Roman popes: Holy Roman Empire

Carolingian Renaissance

-Charlemagne stabilized empire: enabled him to improve educational system: aware of a need for an educated ruling class

-founded school at Aix-la-Chapelle with Alcuin (735-804) as its director

-school based on traditional liberal arts; the humanistic trivium (grammar, rhetoric, logic) and the scientific quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music)

-only grammar was studied thoroughly

-Boethius, Cassiodorus, Alcuin

-Greek philosophy & science were then unknown

-education received was rather superficial

-mathematics impractical: based on Roman numerals

-writings of Boethius, etc. concerned with philosophical speculations on the nature of music, effects, relation to world of humans

-music placed in quadrivium because the study originated with the study of interval ratios

-typical of medieval mind: music as numbers related to sounds-number and proportions regulate the universe

-performers and composers were considered removed from the intellectual aspects of music

-only the educated [i.e. men] possessing reason were considered by be musician: attitude prevailed throughout middle ages

-meanwhile, composers continued to evolve new types

-no real contribution by these scholars; however, a new interest in learning was rekindled

-Cathedral & Monasteries coexisted as well: manuscript production; scribes preserved medieval literature and liturgy of the Church


-development of the Carolingian miniscule, which evolved into modern styles of handwriting

-in summary, a renewal of Latin education

Disintegration of Carolingian Empire

-new inbasions

-Charlemagne's son: Louis the Pious (814-840)

-while educated, was little experienced, unable to cope

-upon Louis' death, empire split among his 3 sons:

1. Lothair (840-855): King of Italy, Emperor

2. Louis the German (840-876): King of East Franks

3. Charles the Bald (840-877): King of West Franks

-rivalry settled in 843 at Verdun: East & West chunks eventualy developed into France & Germany

-invasions by Moslems, Vikings

-Vikings soon systematically conquered inner regions

-Britain & Ireland completely conquered

886-Vikings besieged Paris

-Vikings had no regard for Church: easy target to plunder

-Normans settled in England, north France near the Seine: Normady dukes acknowledged Frankish sovereigns

-Normans quickly adopted culture of the lands they settled

-11thC: settled in Sicily; south Italy

-exploitation of Western Europe, England under William the Conqueror,

Duke of Normandy in 1066

-Vikings from Sweden invaded East Europe as well: Kiev to the Black Sea, attracting attentin of the Byzantines, who called them Russians (Rhos)

-Russians more of a threat to Byzantine Empire

-this contact led to their conversion to Christianity, dominance of Byzantine influence

-Magyar invaders a threat from Asia

-generally called Hungarians: invaded/devastated Europe, settled in Middle Danube plains; were Christianized under Stephen I (997-1038)

-Magyar invasion led to collapse of Empire

-Carolingian line died out; Dukes of provinces ruled as equal and independent sovereigns

-Charles the Fat deposed in France in 887, Count Odo of Paris became King

-descendents of both families contested; finally Louis V (986-987): last Carolingian

-Hugh Capet (987-996): Odo's cousin; founded Capetian dynasty of French kings

-however, France was divided into feudal states

-title of Roman Emperor was now meaningless

-collapse of military strength produced decline in papal power

-series of weak profligate popes brought papacy to its lowest level of degradation

-Europe in 10thC: state of chaos

-Otto the Great revived imperial title in 962, acquiring control over central portion of empire

-title of Holy Roman empire kept until 1806

-European civilization began to be reconstructed

-papacy strengthened, rising to authority

-papacy reformed; abbey of Clury: 910

-Clunaic reform grew under emperor Henry III (1039-56): renewal of Christian ideals, wave of religious fervor which swept Europe in 11th, 12th C; produced many great monuments of art

-feudal system filled vacuum of central authority


-agrarian society based on manorial system

-Feudalism provided people with protection, livelihood

-vasals: worked with overlords: granted fiefs

-Feudalism evolved: organized aristocrats

-inheritance by eldest son

-Feudalization of Church led to its weakening of central organization

-produced constant warfare: gave aristocracy pleasure and profit

-Moslems finally expelled from Spain in 1492

-feudal military organization made possible the Crusades, which united Europe under the Church

-courts and castles became centers for the cultivation of secular literature, music