Islam from the Koran, and The Procopius portrayal of Justinian.

1) What do you learn about Islam from the Koran selections you read?

The Koran is the collection of speeches given by Muhammad, the founder of Islam.  It is believed by Muslims that Muhammad is not the author of the Koran, but the author was God, Allah, who directly gave the word to Muhammad.  The Koran is divided into chapters, or surahs, the selections provided in the lesson were from surah 1, and surah 47.

In the selections of surah 1,  it is stated that Allah is the sovereign being.  It is straight to the point, it immediately communicates to the reader that Allah is God, who possesses absolute sovereignty.

In surah 47, the author poses that one must believe in, and worship Allah, to attain life.  One that does do the will of Allah, will receive freedom from their sins, and from my understanding, his followers will receive eternal life.  It states that in battle, if a Muslim is confronted with someone who does not believe, the Muslims have the right to kill the non-believers.  It is also stated that those who kill in the name of Allah will essentially be pardoned.  Allah is protector of his followers, and those who do not follow him, do not have protection.

Overall, the message I take from these selections of the Koran, is that Muslims are general peaceful people–mainly among themselves.  They are permitted by Allah to kill people who do not believe in their religion.  The only instances in which they are not peaceful, is when confronted, in a battle atmosphere, with non-believers, or civilizations of non-believers.
2) What kind of person emerges from the Procopius portrayal of Justinian?

Procopius was a Greek-Byzantine historian, who wrote a portrayal of the most well-known Byzantine emperor Justinian (r.527-565).   This is the most accurate account of Justinian that we have today.

He begins by describing the physical characteristics of Justinian, not a bad looking guy.  Then, goes on to describe Justinian’s personality, in which he made him sound like an easy-to-manipulate, dishonest man; a moron.  He describes Justinian as someone that would be difficult to be friends with, he was two-faced, he was deceitful, and he lied.  He was described as too ignorant to fully hear out accusations, and too quick to punish.  This description does not exactly portray him as someone who would be a good, or even decent emperor, however, he did make significant impact.

Upon gaining the office of emperor, he turned a lot of things around.  He changed law codes, he removed old political offices and introduced new ones.  He did however, have good ambitions, and he wanted to recapture and unify Africa, Italy, Spain, Gaul and Britain with a single religion, orthodox Christianity.  He had some successes in this, but he did not achieve all of his goals.

The kind of person that emerges from the Procopius portrayal of Justinian, is somewhat of a crude individual, however, also an individual with goals and ambitions to help serve his people.



The Carolingian Renaissance and The Spread of Christianity in England

1) What was the Carolingian Renaissance, and why was it significant?

The Carolingians were a family that ruled the Franks beginning in 751, in the region that is now modern-day France.  Lead by the Carolingians, the Franks accepted orthodox Christianity which built the foundation of a trustworthy alliance between the church and the Franks.  The Carolingians; in particular, Charlemagne, wanted to do something significant, something that would give them a memorable position in European history.  This motivation bore the Carolingian renaissance.

The word “renaissance” actually means a revival, or restoration of a culture.  The aim of the Carolingian renaissance was to restore the culture of Rome, but with a Christian emphasis.  The Frankish government would now carry out tasks, that in previous cultures, the emperor had been responsible.  As a result of this renaissance, there was an outpour of cultural improvement, including aspects of Christianity, literature, art, and the judicial system.

The Carolingian renaissance was significant because it revived the culture of ancient Rome, with an emphasis on Christianity.  It revived many of the characteristics of Roman culture and put them in a position to be preserved and passed down through history.
2) Describe the process by which Christianity was spread in England.

In the early 400’s, Roman troops who were defending Britain, had to be withdrawn to defend their own land against barbaric invasion.  This left the Celts weak, so they hired mercenaries to help them defend their land, among these were the Anglo-Saxons.  The Anglo-Saxons took advantage of this deal by driving the natives to small territory, and keeping lands for themselves.  Due to the Anglo-Saxons taking advantage of them, and being brutal towards them, the Celtic people had no motivation to spread Christianity to these people.  It had to be done by someone else because these people were not willing.

Pope Gregory the Great develops an interest to convert England before he even became pope.  After becoming pope, he arranges missionaries to convert England.  He was assisted by St. Augustine of Canterbury.  Pope Gregory sent 40 monks, lead by Augustine, to King Ethelbert of Kent, who was actually married to a Frankish Catholic.  Augustine spoke to the king about Christ, and the king allows them to spread their message.

Gregory the Great instructed the missionaries and gave them ways to present the message gradually.  And as a result, there were substantial conversions amongst the Anglo-Saxon people.  King Ethelbert, himself, actually converted in 597.

There was still conflict between the Anglo-Saxons and the Celts.  The death of Ethelbert triggered a reaction against Christianity, and this reduced the cooperation of Augustine’s companions, in fact, they wanted to flee.  The Celtic people would not have anything to do with the Anglo-Saxons.  It was a mess.  The Irish monks had to step in, which created more confusion because their way of practicing the Faith was different and unique, which posed more conflict.

In 626, Edwin became king and converts to Catholicism, as a result of marrying a Catholic.  At the defeat of Edwin, the whole idea of missionary work was a disaster.  Then, in 634, Oswald, nephew of Edwin, comes to power.  He had been converted by Irish monks, not the Benedictines sent from Rome.  The confusion between the two groups of Christians, was cleared in the Synod of Whitby in 664, where the Irish-Benedictine interaction bore the  Northumbrian renaissance, and the issues were settled.


Shift of Power from the Merovingians to Carolingians, and the Significance of the Papal-Frankish Alliance.

(1) Discuss the shift in power from the Merovingians to the Carolingians. Why did it occur, and how?

The Franks were the most important of the various groups of Germanic people in western civilization.  Unlike other barbaric civilizations, the Franks did not engage in the beliefs of Ariansim.  After the conversion of their king, Clovis, to Christianity, in the year 496, there is a substantial growth of Christendom among the Frankish people.

The Franks were governed by the Merovingian family through the seventh century, and even into the early eighth century.  However, the Merovingian dynasty had undergone corruption over the years.  There were many problems that developed with the family and their leadership.  Merovingian leaders were not skilled or effective in their administration, they lacked the ambition to accomplish significant conquests.  Chaotic behavior began to arise within the family, they began to fight amongst each other and even slaughter one another.

The Frankish church was  in desperate need of reform.  The Frankish people, under influence of the Merovingian family, had brought corrupt practices into the church.  With all of these accumulating issues at hand with the Merovingian family, the administrations were being handled by the Carolingian family.

The Carolingian family held the office of mayor in the palace, they exercised power in the kingdom of the Franks.  Pepin the Short, a member of the Carolingian family, sees the need to legitimize his reign.  Pepin confronts Pope Zachary I, and describes the situation.  He asks the pope if it is good that, the men with the title have no power, and the men with the power have no title, Pope Zachary concludes that this is not a good situation.  In 751, the pope blesses a change of dynasty, from the Merovingian family to the Carolingian family.
(2) What was the significance of the Papal-Frankish Alliance? What were two factors that helped make the alliance possible?  

The papacy (referring to the office of pope), was seeking an ally and protector.  The Byzantines who had protected the papacy in the past, grew unreliable.  The Byzantines engaged in multiple heresies, and even harassed the popes at times.  The papacy could not easily break away due the military threat the the Lombards.  In the fall of 753, Pope Stephen the II, becomes the first pope to cross the alps, he does this in an attempt to negotiate with Aistulf, the leader of the Lombards, if that quest failed, he planned to address the Frankish leader, Pepin.

Upon meeting with Aistulf, the pope is unsuccessful in the negotiation, so he continues with his plan to meet Pepin.  The pope meets with Pepin, in 754.  Pepin was especially respectful and hospitable to the pope.  They meet again several times throughout 754, and build a strong relationship.  Pepin agrees to maintain the papacy’s rights, and also agrees to restore the land that was taken by the Lombard people.  The pope performs a ceremony which declares Pepin to be the king.  Pepin then goes after the Lombards, and he is ultimately successful in this conquest, land is restored to the papacy, and this becomes the origin of the papal states.  The Franks and the Papacy had built an alliance and there were multiple factors leading up to the success of this alliance.

The rise of the Carolingian family was a factor that played a role in making the alliance between the Franks and the Papacy successful.  The Carolingian family had ambitions that the Merovingian family did not have, and without the change of dynasties, the Frankish/Papal alliance would not have been successful.

Another important factor was the situation between the papacy and the Byzantine protectors.  The Byzantine “protectors” were more of a threat to the papacy than they were protectors.  Without this situation as it was, the papacy would not have actively sought out an alliance with the Franks.

The Frankish/Papal alliance was an important alliance for both parties.

The significance of Rome in the history of western civilization, and the significance of St. Augustine in Christian history.

1) Why was Rome significant in the history of Western civilization?

Rome was significant in multiple different aspects of the history of western civilization.  Roman literature, drama, law, art, architecture were all very influential throughout history.

One of the most significant impacts of the Romans, was that they took interest in Greek culture and made efforts to preserve it.  Without this preservation, the modern world would be unable to have any insight into Greek civilization.  Roman culture actually mirrors Greek culture in multiple aspects.  Early Roman religion is very similar to that of Greek religion.

Rome was the first civilization that enforced the idea of natural law, which is now enforced in western civilization.  This was the idea of a single standard of justice that every individual is subject to.  Prior to this, the judicial system was confusing and chaotic; this idea of natural solved the problem and made the laws well known.

Multiple Roman architectural and engineering vices are similar to what we see today.  Roads, bridges, aqueducts, dams, as well as buildings, are very similar to what we see in the modern world.  Rome had the finest quality, and workmanship, that have held up for centuries.

Roman literature was very influential.  The uses of rhetoric by Roman figures are foundational in the world of rhetoric.  The Latin language, itself, had an impact.  Many languages are derived from Latin, and more than half of the English language actually comes from the Latin language of the Romans.
2) What was the significance of St. Augustine in Christian history?

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was an early Christian theologian and philosopher.  His writings and teaching significantly impacted Christian history.  He was not always a devout Christian, he was born to a Christian mother, but he was far from being considered a Christian in his early years.  He was a smart man, and he sought fulfillment and explanation.  He encountered many philosophical and theological controversies.  He invested a lot of thought, and eventually came to believe that Christianity was the truth.

He wrote a lot of documents, including his own autobiography that impacted Christianity and also western civilization.  He explained things to help Christians further understand their beliefs, and he explained to pagans who did not understand the concept of Christianity.  Without his contributions, there may have been more Christian persecutions, and Christians themselves may not have found the teachings and understandings that St. Augustine concluded.

Lesson 75 writing assignment.

1) In what ways did Christianity represent a departure from the ideals and practices of ancient Greece and Rome? 

Christianity presents a very different perspective than the ideals and practices of ancient Greece and Rome.  Christianity changed civilization, and ultimately put an end to multiple corrupted aspects of the culture.

Christians value the virtue of humility.  Prior to Christianity, the Greeks and Romans did not value humility, in fact, they resented it.  Ancient Greeks and Romans did not view humility as a virtue. When humility was practiced, the practitioner was perceived by classic cultures as a weak individual.  Christians changed this perspective, and practiced humility as a virtue.  After the impact of the Christians, humility was perceived as a strength, not a weakness.

Christians also changed the ancient ideas of charitable work.  Prior to Christianity, charity was only done with the idea that the person would return the favor.  Ancient Greeks and Romans would participate in acts of charity only to achieve fame; or something in return.  Christians, however, practiced charity as a routine part of their daily life.  They developed systematic charitable institutions for orphans, homeless people, and widows.  They never expected anything in return, it was never an inconvenience for them, and it was just part of their lives.  Christian people also influenced the removal of the corrupted system of gladiatorial contests from Roman culture.  These are just a few of the examples of  how Christianity departed from the classic cultures.
2) Discuss the relationship between Rome and the Visigoths. 

In the 4th century, Rome encountered invasion attempts from multiple different Germanic tribes who wanted to be a part of Roman culture.  One of those Germanic tribes, were the Visigoths.  The emperor Valens, of the eastern region of Rome allows the Visigoths to enter the empire in 376.  However, the Visigoths rebel, Valens takes up arms against them, unfortunately, he is defeated at Adrianople in 378.

In 395, the leader of the Visigoths and his troops attack and pillage Italy, this requires Roman legions to abandon Britain, and return to defend their own land.  Britain then falls to the other barbaric Germanic tribes.  In 410, the Visigoths enter the actual city of Rome, they stay there for 3 days, then go on to take over Gaul, then Spain, and remain there until they are invaded by Muslims.

The Roman relationship with the Visigoths was very tense.  They were a barbaric tribe that pillaged Roman society.  They respected the Romans and they wanted to absorb the culture, however, they went about that in the wrong way.

The monks’ contribution to European society, and the attitude of Christian writers on toward ancient Greek philosophy.

1) What kinds of contributions did the monks make to European society?  Monasticism takes root early on in church history.   It gave individuals the opportunity to separate themselves from the material world so they can practice their spiritual life more intensely.  Monasticism can be practiced in two different ways; monks can be eremitic, or cenobitic.  Eremitic monasticism is the life of a hermit, and absolute isolation from the world.  Cenobitic monasticism is living in isolation from the world, but in a community brotherhood or, for women who became nuns, a sisterhood.  Cenobitic monks made a more significant impact, because people were more able to learn from them.  Monks lived spiritual lives of fulfillment, but they also made tremendous impacts on European society.

One of the most important things the monks did, was establish respect for the manual laborer.  Manual labor was looked down on, and considered to be the lowest position, however, the monks changed this.  The monks did everything to maintain their lives.  Their work ethic was extremely efficient.  They taught themselves and other young men different trades, and established respect from society on manual labor.  They also revolutionized both agriculture, and technology, in many different ways.  They preserved a lot of important historical manuscripts, that, without their transcriptions, we would never have today.  The monks, while they may not be credited for it, made a significant contribution to European society.

2) What was the attitude of most Christian writers toward the philosophers of ancient Greece?  The philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and many more ancient Greek philosophers were the first historically recorded thinkers to really challenge common thought, and ultimately attempt to uncover the truth.  It is important to take into consideration that these men had nothing to base their studies on, they were simply seeking the unknown truth.  What may seem surprising to some people, is that most Christian writers many years later, respected and used the work of these ancient philosophers.

A number of Christian writers pointed out that these philosophers were seeking the truth.  As Minucius Felix says, God can be known from reason, Greeks came to this knowledge.  The theories of the philosophers pointed to the existence of the omnipotent God.  The common attitude of Christian philosophers toward the ancient Greek philosophers was mostly positive.  They respected the Greek thinkers that came hundreds of years before them.  They did not regard the teachings of Aristotle, Plato, or Socrates, to be heresies, but rather the beginnings of trying to understand God.

Christian life between letter of Pliny and the Edict of Milan.

Prior to some of the great persecutions, there was not unrelenting persecution of the Christians.  Pliny, a Roman statesman, observed the Christians, and saw nothing wrong with the way they gathered and prayed.  They were not disrupting society, and they were causing no harm to one another.  They were not worshiping the Roman gods, but they were not committing any form of crime in the practice of Christianity.  Pliny is famous for writing a letter to the emperor Trajan, requesting answers.  Should these Christians be sought out and destroyed? Trajan replied with a policy that was less severe, but still had severe aspects.  He said that Christians will not be sought out, however if they are turned in with valid merit, then they would be punished for this.  This gave the Christians some relief, but they still had to be very cautious in day to day life.

Following this, there were several prosecutions that occurred.  Many innocent Christians were slaughtered.  The most significant of these was the Great Persecution (303-305 AD) under the emperor Diocletian.  The Christians were required to sacrifice to the emperor under pain of death.  There were many Christian martyrs during this persecution, but there were also people who conformed to the commands of the emperor, and lost their faith.

As you can imagine, the faithful Christians lived a life of fear, and they spent their days and nights watching for Roman prosecutors.

The Christians were relieved from this when the emperor Constantine came into reign.  He believed that he owed his success in the battle of Milvian bridge (312 AD) to the Christian God.  He returned property to the Christian people, which later leads to the Edict of Milan (313).  Toleration is extended to Christians and they are made whole.  The Christians were finally able to live without fear of being prosecuted.

Teachings of Christianity vs. the Values of Earlier civilizations.

Christianity and it’s teachings presented radically different views than the religions that were valued by civilizations before Christianity came. The religions of the Greeks and Romans had significant impact on western civilization, however, neither of those, or any other similar religion, had come anywhere close to the impact that Christianity had and still has on the modern world.  There are many distinct differences and ideas that set Christianity apart from the other religions.

The origins, the teachings, the levels of authority, the laws, and every other aspect of Christianity is different than the religious views that came before it.  The origins of Christianity track way back to the beginning of time in the Old Testament, but until the birth of Christ, this was regarded as the Jewish religion.  The Greeks believed that their religion originated with the god Cronos, and from him came a subordination of gods.  This is one of the chief differences, the christian view, is that there is one sovereign God, all powerful.  The Greeks however, have a system of gods, and each can potentially be defeated.  The Greek gods were brought into existence by bearing one another.  Christianity itself, really began in the New Testament, and it’s teachings changed mankind.

In the New Testament, God became man, to save the world from its wicked love for sin.  Christ came to earth as a Savior, to save mankind.  He performed many miracles, not to show off his ability, but to offer mankind examples.  He died on the cross so that mankind could be cleansed of their sins.  His teachings are basic and understandable.  In parables he provides example of the principles he teaches and offers them in a different context.  The Greek and Roman gods did not have this same sort of spiritual relationship with their followers.  They did not lay out their common principles in a way in which mankind could understand them.

Christianity provided truth for all those who sought it.  Christ, through his disciples, laid down the instruction to living a good spiritual life, and taught man how to avoid sin.  This distinct truth was not provided to the Greeks and Romans from their religions, there was a sense of mystery.

Man’s unique good according to Seneca, and Trajan’s Column.

According to Seneca, what is man’s unique good? How should a good man conduct himself?  Seneca (4 BC-65 AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher.  In his letters to Lucilius, he portrays the unique good of man that separates him form all other beings.  Human reason, according to Seneca, is the characteristic of man that separates mankind from animals.  Human reason is man’s unique good, therefore for a good man to conduct himself he must exercise this exclusive quality.   To live a good life, man must exercise and expand his ability to reason.  This is the real value of man in his opinion, therefore man must pursue that value.

Trajan’s column.  Among the many unique pieces of Roman art, Trajan’s column, has been one of the surviving architectural monuments.  The construction of this triumphal column began in 106 AD was completed in 113 AD.  The piece of art honors the Roman Emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian wars.  The depictions on this piece are extremely detailed, and well preserved. Every scene on the column demonstrates in detail the Romans in war with the Dacians, and their victory.  The detail of these depictions is very helpful to historians because they tell the stories of Roman life during the Dacian wars.

The figure that currently sits on top is a statue of St. Peter that was installed by a renaissance pope in 1588.  During the lifetime of the emperor, there was a bronze eagle on top which was replaced by a bronze statue of Trajan after his death.

Trajan’s column is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of the artistic architectural talent of the Romans Trajans Column


The Augustan settlement and Important Events in the Life of Julius Caesar.

1. What was the Augustan Settlement? How did Augustus balance his perceived need for absolute power with his concern to lend the impression that the republic had been restored and the old ways were being observed? 
Augustus, known as Octavian at the time, saw imbalance in the rising Roman empire.  He needed to take absolute power so that he could make accomplishments as dictator.  Up to this time, there had been many civil wars caused by single individuals attempting to take absolute power, and thus wars were caused by retaliation of the Roman people.  Octavian resented the idea of another civil war, so he attempted to give up some his privileges up to the consul, however they were given back to him and he was given the title “Augustus.”  He still had concerns that the Romans would fear having one person with absolute power over their city.  He attained their trust by restoring old rituals, as ritual was very important to the Roman people.  Augustus introduced social laws that prevented adultery, and in his progress, he proved himself an effective dictator of the Roman people.

He took a different approach than people who attempted to achieve dictatorship before him, and he thought on behalf of the city.

2. Use your reading and the video lesson to summarize important events in the life of Julius Caesar. 
Julius Caesar (100-44 B.C.) was an important figure in western civilization.  In 60 B.C., the first Triumvirate was formed, it was an alliance between Caesar, Pompey (106-48 B.C.), and Crassus (115-53 B.C.).  This was a secret arrangement, not yet known by the Roman public.  The purpose of this alliance was to combine their individual power (each of the three had significant power), to get things that each of them wanted, fro instance, Caesar wanted consulship followed by military command.  Caesar receives command in Gaul.  In 53 B.C., Triumvirate collapses, due to the death of Crassus and the death of Caesar’s daughter who was married to Pompey.  This leaves Caesar and Pompey, Caesar’s Gallic wars are a success which arouses jealousy in Pompey.  The senate takes the side of Pompey as the lesser of the evils, and he is ordered to return to Rome, this he refuses.  He maintains his army, and illegally crosses the Rubicon river, this march on Rome develops into a civil war against Pompey’s forces, and Caesar is victorious.

Caesar was made dictator for life in 48 B.C., and established the Roman empire, granting citizenship, establishing colonies for veterans, and making building and further military plans.  He is feared by some of the key senators and in 48 B.C. he was assassinated.