The Era of the Middle Ages and the Culture Epoch Theory

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Culture and the Culture Epoch Theory

Culture can be said to be a dynamic system of beliefs, values, and behaviors based on a shared conception of reality held by the great majority of people over a considerable period of time. In this case therefore, culture is a dynamic relationship that exists between a majority of people who share certain traditions, beliefs, values and behavior. According to the Culture Epoch theory, all dynamic relationships go through periods of Chaos, Adjustment and Balance. Chaos is the period when there is no common understanding of reality for the majority of the people over a significant period of time. What follows is the adjustment period when philosophers, theologians, musicians, artists among others create chaos while academics, leaders and businessmen study what has been created and interpret it to the society. On the other hand, Balance is when there is a shared conception of reality for the majority of the people. during the era of the middle ages (400-1400 CE) all the three periods were witnessed (Galbreath 12). This paper therefore analyzes how the era of the Middle Ages reflects on the Culture Epoch theory with reference to specific examples of art, architecture, literature or sculpture.

Early Middle Ages - A Period of Chaos

One of the notable examples of a period of chaos is the Early Middle Ages period believed to be between (400-800 CE) also known as the period of the Dark Ages. This period was characterized by the decline and fall of the Roman Empire which by the 3rd century was experiencing a chaotic period with the city of Rome no longer serving as the capital for the emperor. The period is also termed as the migration period due to the invasions into various empire territories. By this period, the Roman Empire had lost its strengths and powers and no longer had control of its Army, Roman population, its economy as well as the religious changes during the period. Although the causes of the is still debated until now, one of the most notable causes in the invasions by barbarians outside the Roman culture such as the German invasion in 476 which disconnected the Eastern Empire from the Western and led to the decline and eventual fall of the Roman Empire (Gibbon 16). However, it is important to note that Although the Roman Empire lost its political Authority, the Roman culture was still in existence after the chaotic period. The following is a piece of art showing Romulus Augustus Resigning after the decline and the fall of the Roman Empire;

Figure 1.1 Mary Yonge's artist rendition of Romulus Augustus Resigns the Crown to Odoacer.

The Romanesque Period - A Period of Adjustment

After the chaotic period came the period of adjustment in the Romanesque. The period is believed to have lasted between (800-1200 CE) and was divided into three periods namely; Pre-Romanesque, Early Romanesque and Mature Romanesque. The Romanesque period was characterized by increasing the stability of the age as well as the re-emergence of European culture. However, the period between (800-950 CE) which falls under the Early Romanesque period cast some uncertainty which led to the construction of Romanesque designs which would then be used as defensive structures in case chaotic scenes such as those of the dark ages were witnessed. Before the beginning of the 10th century, some form of relieve had been restored following the defeat of the Barbarian invaders by Emperor Otto in 955. This was then followed by political stability which allowed the Roman Empire to regain military power that facilitated the liberation of Holy Places in Palestine. In response to the harmony that existed in the Roman Empire then, Medieval artists and craftsmen began creating piece or art and sculptures that represented the Romanesque period and Romanesque architecture. The following is a piece of Romanesque architecture representing the period of adjustment of the Roman Empire;

Figure 1.2 Cluny Abbey Reconstruction (909-1131) Burgundy, France.

The Gothic Period - A Period of Balance

The end of the Romanesque period marked the beginning of the period of balance which occurred between (1200-1400 CE). The period was referred to the Gothic period, a period when there was a common understanding of a certain conception of reality for the majority of the people in the Roman Empire but across Europe. A majority of the people shared the European culture which was manifested in the kind of architecture they constructed. A style of art known as Gothic was common during this period which explains why the period was referred to the Gothic period. Gothic characteristics were first manifested in architecture before it spread to other forms of art such as literature. The Gothic architecture borrowed a lot from the Romanesque architecture. Since this form of art was shared between almost all the nations in Europe then, it created a balance and stability in the continent. This created a form of understanding until the Black Death that occurred in the 14th century which claimed the lives of almost half of the entire Europe's entire population. This again led to chaos erupting in Europe and the cycle of the periods of chaos, adjustment and chaos begun again. Below is an example of the Gothic architecture formulated during the Gothic period;

Figure 1.3 Domestic Medieval Gothic Architecture-Jacques Coeur Palace in Bourges.

Works Cited

Galbreath, Louis H. A Critical View of the Culture Epoch Theory. Public School Pub. Co, 1896.

Gibbon, Edward. History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: I. André Hoffmann, 2016.

Hodgett, Gerald A. A Social and Economic History of Medieval Europe. Taylor and Francis, 2013.

November 13, 2023

Medieval Europe

Subject area:

Middle Ages

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Expertise Middle Ages
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