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Tag Archives: Jerusalem

The Revival of Town Life and the Growth of Learning

middle ages

Pierre watched the merchant caravan clatter down the narrow dirt road that led through the manor. Pack mules threaded their way to avoid the deep puddles, while the horses strained as they pulled the creaking two wheeled carts. Pierre envied the merchants as well as the sturdy bowmen who guarded the caravan. During his seventeen years Pierre had never been more than a few miles from the manor where he had been born a serf. He was not free to move around as were these merchants who were city folk. Was it true, as Pierre had heard, that a serf who escaped to a town or city and lived there for a year and a day was forever free? He wondered. The merchant caravan disappeared around the bend in the road. Should Pierre follow it? To stay on the manor meant a serf’s life — a life of back-breaking toil. That night after dark, his mind made up, Pierre slipped unseen across the fields and onto a narrow  path that led over the surrounding hills. For two nights he walked as rapidly as he could, sleeping fitfully in deep thickets during the daylight hours. Soon after sunrise on the second morning the forest trail led to a wider road, an hour’s journey out of the city of Lacourt. Pierre helped to free an oxcart bogged down in the mire of the roadside ditch and then trudged toward Lacourt in the company of the grateful driver. The young serf’s eyes grew wide with wonder at the unfamiliar sights as he approached the outskirts of the city. Completely encircling it was a wall of stone four times the height of a man. At one point the wall was pierced by a gateway, its great oaken doors swung back. Through the opening Pierre could …

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Early Civilization Spreads by Land and Sea

Civilization

Now Hiram, King of Tyre, sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him King. . . And Solomon sent word to Hiram, “ . . . I purpose to build a house for the name of the Lord my God. . . Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me; and . . . I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set; for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians [people of the city of Sidon].” . . . And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, “. . . I am ready to do all you desire in the matter of cedar and cypress timber. My servants shall bring it down to the sea from Lebanon; and I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you direct and I will have them broken up there, and you shall receive it; and you shall meet my wishes by providing food for my household.” So Hiram supplied Solomon with all the timber of cedar and cypress that he desired. while Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand cors [measures] of wheat as food for his household and twenty thousand cors of beaten oil. . . And there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and the two of them made a treaty. And King Solomon built a fleet of ships. . . And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, seamen who were familiar with the sea. . . These words adapted from the Bible tell the story of trade agreements between two kings who ruled about 1000 B.C. You have probably heard of Solomon. He had the reputation of being the wisest king of ancient times. But …

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Stepping-Stones for the West, 1869

suez

ON NOVEMBER 16, 1869, the sun rose over the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and shone on the blue water. The squat buildings of Port Said, on the shore of Egypt, glowed against the clear sky. A new town, Port Said had begun to rise only ten years before from the barren plain that joins Africa to Asia. In the man-made harbour were crowded eighty ships. Some were warships, others merchantmen, but all were strung with brightly-coloured pennants. On board were distinguished visitors, among them the emperor of Austria-Hungary, the crown prince of Prussia, the prince of Holland and ambassadors, generals, admirals from many lands. As the sun climbed higher, passengers began to appear on the decks and hundreds of other people gathered on the piers and the seawall. At eight o’clock‚ the warships’ big guns boomed out salutes to the European monarchs‚ to the khedive’s of Egypt and to the khedive’s overlord, the sultan of Turkey. When the smoke cleared, a trim, graceful vessel came steaming toward the harbour — the French imperial yacht Aigle. Again the cannon thundered, to welcome Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III. She was the guest of honour and as her yacht glided past, the sailors on the other ships stood at attention, cheering, while music blared from several bands. The black-haired empress, standing on the Aigle’s bridge, smiled to left and right. She looked happy, proud and by the time her yacht had docked, everyone agreed she was as beautiful as she was said to be. In the afternoon, the visitors, in uniforms, frock coats and formal gowns and Egyptians‚ who wore flowing robes, all trooped out onto the desert. There, perhaps for the first time, Christians and Moslems worshiped side by side. The Moslems were led in prayer by the …

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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 Crusades 1096-1260

crusade

ON A COLD NOVEMBER DAY IN 1096, a great crowd of people gathered in a field at the town of Clermont in France. They had come from miles around and near them were pitched the tents they had put up for shelter. For some days, Pope Urban II had been holding a great council of cardinals, bishops and princes. Today he was to speak to the people and so many wanted to hear that no building was large enough to hold them all. A platform had been built in the center of the field and as Pope Urban stepped up on it a hush fell over the crowd. Pope Urban was a Frenchman and he spoke to the people around him as fellow Frenchmen. “Oh, race of Franks,” he said, “race beloved and chosen by God . . . set apart from all other nations by the situation of your country as well as by your Catholic faith and the honour which you render to the holy Church: to you our discourse is addressed. . . .” “From the confines of Jerusalem and from Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth that an accursed race, wholly alienated from God, has violently invaded the lands of these Christians and has depopulated them by pillage and fire. They have led away a part of the captives into their own country and a part they have killed by cruel tortures. . .” The people knew what he meant. He was speaking of the Holy Land, that lay on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Here were the cities of Jerusalem, Nazareth, Gaza and Damascus. Here Jesus Christ had lived and preached and had been crucified; here Christianity had begun. Here were many sacred shrines and during the Middle Ages thousands of Europeans …

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The Conquest of England 1066-1265

england

IN THE DIM LIGHT of early morning, the Frenchmen were preparing for battle. Squires helped the knights put on their armour, grooms brought up the horses‚ archers tested their bows, foot soldiers began to assemble, while mounted messengers hurried busily here and there. The date was October 14, 1066 and before the sun set that day a kingdom would change hands and a new era in English history would begin. The battle, one of the most decisive ever fought, would be known as the Battle of Hastings. The cause of the battle was ambition — the driving ambition of Duke William of Normandy to win himself a kingdom and a crown. The son of a Viking pirate chief, William inherited the French duchy of Normandy in 1035, when he was only eight years old. At the age of twenty he began to govern Normandy himself and he proved to be a stern and able ruler. Under his firm guidance, Normandy prospered and its population increased, until William had become the French king’s most powerful vassal. Unable to seek new lands and glory in France, because of his feudal oath of loyalty to the king, William decided to invade England. Anglo-Saxon England was a loosely knit, rural land which had never really recovered from the Viking raids. The petty kingdoms ruled by Anglo-Saxon chiefs had finally been absorbed into the Viking empire of King Canute. Then, during Edward the Confessor’s reign, the country again became weak as the feudal lords struggled with each other for power. One of these lords, Harold Godwinson, seized the English crown for himself. Three weeks after Harold had taken the throne‚ Duke William crossed the English channel with an army of 5000 men and landed 41 Pevensey Beach. Now King Harold and his hastily gathered army …

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Christian Knights and Mongol Horsemen A. D. 099-1404

genghis khan

THROUGHOUT THE eleventh century, the divided Arab Empire became weaker in all its parts. Meanwhile, the Christian lands to the north became stronger. Adventures from northern France snatched Sicily and Southern Italy from the Arabs. The pope called on the rulers of Europe for a united Christian attack on the Moslems. By the end of the century, European knights in chain-mail armour were streaming into Syria by land and sea, determined to recapture the holy places of their religion. This campaign was the first of many. The Crusades dragged on for two centuries, with long periods of peace coming between bouts of fighting. Christian kings and noblemen carved small states out of Moslem territory, only to lose them. In 1099, Frankish troops seized Jerusalem, the Christians’ holy city, and made it the capital of a kingdom. In 1187 Saladin reconquered the country for Islam. After the Moslems forced the last Crusaders to leave Syria in 1291, only the island of Cyprus remained under the Christian flag. So, in the end, although the Crusades did not change the balance of power between Christianity and Islam, they left behind bitter memories which were to poison Moslem-Christian relations for centuries. Not all of the results were bad, however. The Crusaders, who came to the Near East convinced of their own superiority, found that their despised enemies knew more than they did about a great many things. They took the knowledge they had gained home to Europe. The brave deeds of the warriors on both sides gave rise to thousands of poems, songs and tales which enriched the literatures of Europe and Islam. The Christian heroes included two kings — Richard the Lion Hearted of England and Louis IX of France, who was made a saint. Among the Moslem heroes, the most famous were …

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The Abbasids: Glory and Decay A.D. 750-1258

baghdad

UNDER THE Omayyads, who ruled from 661 to 750, Islam had grown into a mighty empire. Arabic had become its language, while the Arabs, in turn, had picked up useful skills from the peoples they had conquered. The state had grown rich from the tribute paid by non-Moslems and the land tax paid by landowners. Though the caliphs were mainly concerned with pleasure and power, they had not neglected religion completely. They had built the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus — two magnificent sanctuaries which were the holiest places in Islam after the Kaaba and the Medina mosque. The believers had become divided, as they would remain divided, into Sunnites and Shiites. Now it was the turn of the Abbasids, who were to rule over the eastern part of the Arab Empire from 750 to 1258. Their first century of power was the Golden Age of Islam. Of all thirty-seven Abbassid caliphs, three stand out above the rest: al-Mansur, Harun al-Raschid and al-Mamun. Although he reigned after his brother the Bloodshedder, al-Mansur (754-775) was the real founder of the dynasty. It was he who firmly established it in power. He crushed a rebellion of Shiites. He raided the border strongholds of the Byzantines. He appointed the first vizier, or chief advisor. This practice, copied from the courts of the Persian emperors, was carried on by all the caliphs who came after him. BAGHDAD AND ITS RULERS Al-Mansur’s greatest achievement was building Baghdad, the fabled city of The Arabian Nights. He himself chose the site on the banks of the Tigris. Constructed in four years by a hundred thousand architects and workmen, Baghdad became the imperial capital of the Abbasids. It also became one of the greatest centres of trade in the world. To …

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The Holy Book of Allah A. D. 632-732

koran

Mohammed sometimes dictated his thoughts to his secretary, Zayd, but when he spoke in public no one wrote down what he said. Instead, his listeners learned his speeches by heart and mistakes crept in, as they usually do. Only a short time after Mohammed’s death people were repeating his sayings in quite different ways. If Mohammed had been anyone else, this would not really have mattered. It would have been enough to remember what he had said without bothering too much about how he had said it. But the Moslems believed that God himself had addressed them through Mohammed. Every word the prophet had spoken was therefore divine and even every pause between words. The more the different reports of his teachings multiplied, the more confused his followers became. THE KORAN Mohammed’s old companions soon realized that if this confusion Were allowed to go on, Islam could easily split up into quarreling groups. Eventually, either Abu Bakr or a later head of the movement, Othman, ordered Zayd to prepare a text of Mohammed’s teachings that would be correct and complete. Gathering written and remembered fragments of his master’s words “from the ribs of palm-leaves and tablets of white stone and from the hearts of men,” Zayd brought them all together in a book. This book afterwards came to be called the Koran, meaning “the reading aloud” in Arabic. To Moslems, its contents are the very word of Allah. Four-fifths the size of the New Testament, the Koran is made up of 114 suras, or chapters. These suras are not arranged in the order in which Mohammed first spoke them, but by length, beginning with the longest. Most of them, short and fiery, came to Mohammed during his early years of struggle in Mecca. They deal with such things as the …

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Byzantine Glory A.D. 610-1057

Byzantine

The period from 610 to 717 was one of the darkest in Byzantine history. During that time, the edges of the empire crumbled under the pressure of powerful enemies. A people from northern Italy, the Lombards, conquered more than half of Italy. In central Arabia, the Arab tribes had joined together under the religion of Mohammed and marched against their neighbors. They took the kingdom of Persia, invaded Palestine and in 658 captured Jerusalem. The conquering Moslems, as the followers of Mohammed were called, swept on and soon took over Syria and Egypt. They marched along the northern shore of Africa and took Carthage in 697, then sailed across the Mediterranean and captured Spain. By this time the empire seemed all but doomed. It had been reduced to Asia Minor, the Balkan Peninsula and southern Italy. Shortly after Leo III had been crowned emperor he was forced to defend Constantinople during the Arab siege of 717-718. Later he drove them back on the Taurus front. After saving the empire from the Arabs, he organized the country into military districts and placed a military government over each of them. This system, together with Justinian’s fortresses, made the empire’s defenses stronger than ever before. The empire reached the height of its glory under Basil I and his descendants, a period lasting from 867 to 1057. Most of the emperors of this period were brilliant military leaders and good administrators. Under them the empire regained its strength, beat back the Arabs in South Italy and in the East forced the Arabs back to the Euphrates, overran Cilicia and Syria, and pushed down into Palestine to the gates of Jerusalem. On the European side, Basil II crushed the mighty empire of the Bulgars. DIPLOMACY AND TREACHERY Byzantine emperors often used treachery to weaken their …

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