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Tag Archives: Christianity

Christianity Spread in a Divided Empire

The year is 400 A.D. Andropolos paces impatiently up and down the deck of the merchant ship. He is eager to get back home; and to Andropolos, home is the city of Constantinople, a new capital of the Roman Empire. He can already see the walls and buildings of the great city shimmering in the distance. Now the ship is nearing the narrow Bosporus, the waterway where Europe and Asia are hardly a mile apart. The voyage from Ostia, the port of the old city of Rome, had been long and tiresome. Andropolos had been only too glad to leave Italy. The city that was once a hub of the Roman Empire, though still large, had a down at the heel look. Simultaneously the cities of northern Italy were becoming crowded with rough barbarians. Tall Germans also were filling the ranks of Roman legions. In times past, men such as these had been defeated again and again by Roman armies made up of men from Italy, but those victories had been won long ago and Rome had no such fighters left. Yes, Andropolos is thankful to leave Italy. Here in Constantinople the authority of the Roman emperor still counts. Andropolos shakes his head sadly as he recalls what has happened — the Roman Empire is not what it used to be. For Andropolos, though he is Greek born and Greek speaking, proudly calls himself a Roman citizen. The walls of Constantinople on the left grow closer as the ship enters the Bosporus. Soon it will dock in the harbour of the Golden Horn and Andropolos’ long voyage will be over. When he steps ashore, the first thing he will do, good Christian that he is, will be to go to the nearest of the many churches in Constantinople. There Andropolos …

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Workingmen of All Countries, Unite! 1848 – 1900

marx

The ideas that attracted these Russians came mostly from a man named Karl Marx. Marx was born in Germany in 1818, the son of Jewish parents who had become converted to Christianity. He began the study of law, but soon dropped it to study philosophy. After receiving his degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Jena, he became the editor of a newspaper. When the German government ordered the paper to stop publication, Marx moved to Brussels. He returned to Germany to take part in the unsuccessful revolution of 1848, but by 1850 he had settled in London, where he would live until his death in 1883. Meanwhile, in 1844, Marx had met Friedrich Engels. The two men thought very much alike and from that time on they worked closely together, studying, discussing, writing, each helping the other. Engels, too, was a German. He came from a wealthy family and he carried on his father’s business, even though he hated business and had no use for businessmen. For many years he supported Marx, who had little money and few opportunities to earn any. Both men believed in socialism. They were not the first socialists, nor were they the only ones in Europe at that time. Other men were also looking to socialism as a way to solve the problems of the world. For a great change had taken place in Europe in the nineteenth century. Before, Europe had been agricultural; now, industry was growing at a furious rate. Before, work had been done by hand; now, many kinds of work were being done by machine. Before, Europe’s system of society had been feudalism; now, it was capitalism. People were flocking to the cities; machines were roaring; smoke was pouring out over the once green countryside. Kings and aristocrats …

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Parceling Out a Continent 1841-1910

africa

Africa, the second largest continent in the world, extends south from the Mediterranean Sea four thousand miles. Along its north coast is a strip of land known to Europeans since ancient times. South of this strip lie mountains and deserts. The Sahara, an empty “sea” of sand and rock, crosses the continent in a belt several hundreds of miles wide; it is hot and dry, vast and rugged. Europeans knew very little about the lands beyond it. Almost all they knew of Africa were the coasts, which they could reach by sea. As late as the time of the American Civil War and the unification of Italy and Germany, Africa was still largely unknown – the “Dark Continent.” The people of North Africa were white — descendants of the early inhabitants and of Arabs who had conquered them for Islam. South of the Sahara lay “Black Africa” a land of Negroes. The Negroes were divided into thousands of tribes, but had no organized states. They spoke hundreds of languages, but had no writing. They lived by hunting, raising cattle and simple farming and worshiped tribal gods. All of Black Africa was Negro except for a few places on the Indian Ocean where Arab traders had settled and the southernmost part of the continent, where some European families had settled. STANLEY AND LIVINGSTON In the sixteenth century, Portuguese and Spanish ships had begun to stop at points on the Atlantic shore of Africa to trade. Later, traders came from other European countries. The names they gave to stretches of shoreland — the Gold Coast, the Ivory Coast, the Slave Coast — show what they came for. The Europeans found that the sultry coastland was ridden with disease. So many of them died there that West Africa came to be known as …

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The Race for Empire 1870-1914

imperialism

While the peoples of the West were concerned with the problems that grew out of industrialization, their governments were taking part in one of the greatest land grabs in history. By the end of the nineteenth century they had brought within their grasp most of the earth’s land surface and half its inhabitants. This development created new empires and enlarged old ones, it was called imperialism. Imperialism came about in many ways, from armed invasions to polite talks that led native rulers to place their countries under the protection of an imperialist power. It took many forms, from colonies which one power ruled outright, to “spheres of influence,” in which one power enjoyed rights, particularly trading rights, denied to other powers. So, it arose from many causes — economic, political and cultural. Empire-building was not new; it was as old as civilization. In ancient times, the Romans had built a vast empire that ruled peoples in Europe, Asia and Africa. In the fifteenth century, European nations had colonized the Americas and conquered the Indians. Elsewhere they had not challenged native rulers, being content to set up trading posts, where they bought native wares for resale at home. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, most of British North America became independent, as did the United States. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, almost all of Latin America won its freedom from Spain and Portugal. During the next half-century, while industry went through its first slow stage of growth, goods circulated freely throughout the world and governments cared little about building up their empires. The French, to be sure, occupied Algeria, the British strengthened their hold on India, the Dutch developed the East Indies and the western powers, including the United States, opened Japan to trade and started …

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Russia Under the Tsars 1462-1796

tsars

IN THE LAST PART of the fifteenth century, the monks and courtiers of Moscow began to say that Moscow was destined to become the “Third Rome.” The first Rome, they said had been great as the centre of Christianity; but when the Romans had recognized the pope, Rome had been punished by destruction. The second Rome had been Constantinople, the centre of the Orthodox Church; but Constantinople, too, had briefly recognized the pope, and it, too, had fallen. Now Moscow, where the Orthodox faith still remained pure, was to become the Third Rome — the great centre of the Christian world. It would remain so, “for two Romes have fallen, the third stands and a fourth will not be.” Once Moscow had been small and unimportant, but the dukes of Moscow had been bold and ambitious, seizing every opportunity to make Moscow stronger. Sometimes they acted more like thieves than princes. Grand Duke Daniel once invited another prince to dinner, pretending friendship. When the guest arrived, Daniel threw him into prison and seized his lands. Daniel’s son, Ivan, who was called Ivan Moneybags, made Moscow the home of the Metropolitan, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Ivan Moneybags also became the tax collector for the Tatar overlords and he kept a good part of the taxes, for himself. Other dukes stole or bought or conquered new lands to make Moscow greater. THE BOYARS So, when Ivan III became Grand Duke in 1462, he inherited one of the most powerful kingdoms of Russia. Ivan acted very much as though he believed the story of the Third Rome. He married Sophia, niece of the last Byzantine emperor. He put the two-headed eagle of Rome on his own state seal. He sometimes even called himself tsar, which was the Russian way of …

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A New World and a New Sea 1492-1522

Columbus

ALONG THE DUSTY SPANISH road leading north from Granada plodded a mule. On its back, bouncing and cursing his luck, sat a glum Italian sea captain. Four years before, Captain Cristobal Colon — the English would call him Christopher Columbus — had come to Spain on horseback, like a gentleman. He had been received at court, granted audiences with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and invited to describe his daring plan to sail west across the Ocean Sea to India. Royal advisers had asked to study his maps and the charts on which he had plotted a course and he had waited, full of hope. The king was busy chasing Moslems out of Granada and the pious queen was more interested in church matters than exploration. Although everyone was polite and encouraging, no one offered the gold Columbus needed for his expedition. At last, gathering up his maps, he set out for the court of France. This time, like a peasant, he rode on the back of a mule, the only mount he could afford. Some miles out of Granada, Columbus heard behind him the sound of galloping hoofs. Then a horseman in royal livery reined in beside him and called for him to stop. He must turn back, the horseman said. The queen wished to hear again his plan to sail to the Indies. One royal adviser had not forgotten Columbus’ maps. When he heard that the captain was leaving Spain, he had rushed to Queen Isabella and urged her to hire Columbus to sail under the Spanish flag. Portugal, he reminded her, was profiting richly from such expeditions. He added, if Columbus found a route to the East, there would be a splendid opportunity to convert the heathen Indians and Chinese to Christianity. The queen agreed and asked …

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The Counter Reformation 1521-1648

loyola

THE BLAST OF MUSKETS and the clang of swords against armour echoed across the plains of Italy, Spain and the Lowlands. Warriors of the king of France were clashing with the Spanish infantry and German knights of the Holy Roman Emperor. Control of the nations of Europe was the prize both nations sought. They schemed and plotted; their generals planned campaigns; their soldiers marched out to victory or defeat. Victories counted for little, for much of Europe’s future was decided by another, different kind of war – a war for the minds and souls of men. Village squares and royal council chambers, churches, university lecture halls and schoolrooms were the battlefields of this new war. Its troops were armies of preachers whose battle-songs were hymns and whose weapons were Bibles and textbooks. Reformers were on the march, Lutherans and Calvinists. Their thundering voices shook the domes of ancient cathedrals and wakened bishops dozing in their palaces. The Reformers won no easy victories‚ however. The forces of the pope were also on the march and the strongholds of the Church were well defended. Frightened by rebellions in Germany and Switzerland, the Catholic leaders in Rome took further measures to strengthen the Church. “There is but one way to silence the Protestants’ complaints‚” a learned churchman told the pope “and that is not to deserve them.” Lowly monks and the powerful cardinals alike began to talk of reform, of hard work, of honesty and godliness. Gradually there were deeds to match the talk — a great Church house-cleaning that one day would be called the Counter-Reformation. Meanwhile, in Europe’s towns and colleges‚ new soldiers of the Church appeared. Their uniforms were the simple black robes of monks, but their minds were as keen as dueling swords — much too sharp and smooth, …

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The Walls Come Tumbling Down 1300-1415

wyclif

IN THE MIDDLE AGES, when knights fought wars in Europe’s fields, robbers roamed the roads and the dark forests seemed filled with unknown dangers, men put their trust in walls. Around each little town rose ramparts of massive stonework, a strong defense against the evils outside. Within the safety of the wall was a crowded little world, complete in itself — a castle‚ a church, a monastery or two, a marketplace and a tangle of cobbled streets lined with the thatch-roofed houses of townsmen. In such a town a man knew his place. He was a nobleman or a knight, a churchman, a craftsman, or a farmer and there were ancient invisible walls that marked off the little world in which each kind of person belonged. For a lord there was the realm of chivalry. He lived according to the code of knights and in time of war, put on his armour and defended the town against its enemies. In peacetime, he amused himself with hunting, banquets, poetry, music, dancing and wooing ladies in the complicated fashion called courtly love. Religion and scholarship were the territory of monks, priests and bishops. They were men who had learned to read the Bible and other books and who understood the Latin of church services. For commoners, there was work on land owned by the nobles and in shops that served the castle. It was an orderly system and it seemed as if it would never change. No peasant dreamed of becoming a knight or questioned the wisdom of the churchmen. The invisible walls, like the walls of stone around the town, were strong and old and within them a man felt safe. THE WORLD OF CHRISTENDOM The world of Europe also had its walls in the Middle Ages. To the east and …

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The Coming of the Europeans A.D. 1498-1707

europeans

MORE than two centuries before Aurungzeb’s death and even before the coming of Babur, a new kind of invader had appeared in India. Instead of thundering down on horseback from the Himalayan passes, he arrived on the coast by ship. Instead of plunder, he sought trade. Instead of wanting to conquer the subcontinent, he wanted to conquer the seas around it. This invader’s name was Vasco da Gama. He had sailed his small fleet all the way around Africa from his homeland of Portugal in southwest Europe. In 1498, just six years after Columbus discovered America, he landed at the South Indian port of Calicut. “Why have you come?” someone asked him. “For Christians and spices,” he replied. The captain’s brief answer summed up a great deal of history. Throughout the Middle Ages, Europe had depended on the East for Silk, precious stones and spices‚ such as cloves and — most prized of all — pepper. Supplies had come from India across Moslem territory. Deliveries had always been uncertain, but after the Turks took Constantinople in 1453, they became even more so. The Turks held up shipments and demanded money to let them pass. If this toll was paid, the price of the goods had to be raised. If it was not paid, the Turks would not allow the shipment to go through. Eastern goods became scarce in Europe and this sent the price still higher. It soon became plain that anyone who could bring the products of Asia directly to Europe would make a fortune. The Portuguese, as the foremost seafarers of Europe, were the first people to try to get around the Turkish blockade by setting up a sea route to India. There were other reasons, too, behind da Gama’s voyage. The pope and the European kings feared …

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Arabia, Mother of Religions 3000 B. C. – 570 A. D

ARABIA

ARABIA, the big, boot-shaped peninsula off the northeast corner of Africa, is one of the hottest and driest regions on earth. It is also extremely rugged. Almost all of it is made up of mountains‚ deserts and immense plains of sand broken by hills. Not a single river crosses it, only dry riverbeds called wadis which quickly carry away the little rain that falls. Water is so scarce that trees and plants can grow only along some of the coasts and in small “islands” of green called oases, mostly found in the wadis, which dot the vast interior. Yet this bleak‚ patched land was once the home of a people, the Semites, who gave the world much of its learning and three of its greatest religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Thousands of years ago some Semitic tribesmen migrated north to the fertile region by the Mediterranean Sea. Over many generations they developed the principles of Judaism, the religion of the Jews. Much later Christianity also came into being there. Before the coming of the third great Semitic faith, Islam, Judaism and Christianity had long been established in Arabia. Most of the people still worshiped the sun, moon, stars and the spirits of hills, caves, rocks, springs and palm trees. They bowed down before the day idols of hundreds of gods, goddesses and demons. THE BEDOUINS Most Arabians were herdsmen called Bedouins. They roamed endlessly across the empty spaces, looking for water and grass for their camels, goats and sheep. They ate dates and a mixture of flour with water or goat’s milk and slept in tents woven from the hair of camels or goats. They wore flowing head-scarves and long shirts and went barefoot. They owned very little. A Bedouin’s most prized possessions were his camels and his sword. For …

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