Bibliographic Details

The encyclopedia of the Middle Ages / Norman F. Cantor, general editor.

Imprint New York : Viking, 1999.
Description 464 p. : ill. (some col.), col. maps ; 27 cm.
Language English
Subject Middle Ages -- History -- Encyclopedias.
Middle Ages.
Format Print, Book
URL for this record
Other authors / contributors Cantor, Norman F.
ISBN 0670100110 (alk. paper)
Notes Includes index.

Chapter One A ABBADID DYNASTY The kingdom founded by Abu al-Kasim Muhammad ibn Abbad in Andalusia, the rich province of southern Spain. Sensing the weakness of the Umayyad caliphate in Córdoba, ibn Abbad declared independence in 1023; he and his successors expanded the kingdom as the opportunity arose for the next 70 years. He began as a religious mayor and judge ( kadi ) of Seville, chief city of Andalusia--the kingdom is thus also known as the Kingdom of Seville. A poet not above using ruthless tactics against his enemies (he is said to have suffocated several of his adversaries in a steam bath), he established Seville as a center of Spanish Muslim culture.     By the time his son and successor, Abbad al-Mutadid, came to power after his death in 1042, the Umayyads had fallen. Al-Mutadid occupied Córdoba, but he concentrated on smaller prosperous principalities ( taifa ) that became available with the fall of the Umayyads. Hoping an alliance with the Almoravids would prevent the Christian RECONQUEST of Spain, al-Mutadid's allies deposed him in 1095, ending the Abbadid era and a golden age of Muslim culture. ABBASID DYNASTY The dynasty of Muslim caliphs that ruled much of the Muslim world from 750 to 1258. Descended from Abbas, paternal uncle of the prophet Muhammad, the Abbasids opposed the Umayyad policy of discrimination against non-Arab Muslims; they worked in secret against the Umayyads for decades before the opportunity arose to depose the caliph, Marawan II, at the Battle of the Zab in 750. The Umayyads retained power only in Spain, establishing the CALIPHATE of Córdoba.     First under Abu al-Abbas (known as al-Saffah), proclaimed caliph in Kufa (in southern Iraq) in 750, and then under his brother and successor, Abu Ja`far al-Mansur, installed in 754 in Baghdad, the new capital, the power in the kingdom shifted to the religious leader, the imam. Although the Abbasids were originally Shi'ites, and their opposition stemmed from their theology, the Abbasid rulers eventually adopted the religious views of the Sunnite majority. ( See Islam.)     The empire grew, reaching its pinnacle during the reign of Harun al-Rashid (786-809), during which it experienced a golden age of art and literature. While the acceptance of non-Arab Muslims into the social structure widened the appeal of the caliphate, it also put power into the hands of viziers not familiar or friendly to the caliph, which eroded his influence.     The authority of the Abbasid caliph was lessened by the establishment of the separate Fatimid caliphate in Egypt in 969. By the time the Seljuk Turks conquered the empire in 1055, the caliph exercised only spiritual authority over Muslims. The Mongol conquest of Baghdad in 1258 finally ended the reign of the Abbasids. ABELARD, PETER Though celebrated for his correspondence and long love affair with Héloïse, Peter Abelard (1079-1142) was an important medieval thinker who influenced the Scholastic movement and a stalwart advocate of independent and progressive thinking. Although he was condemned for his affair, his ideas--and his seemingly arrogant manner--were what drew the most criticism during his lifetime     Early Life. Peter Abelard was born into an aristocratic family in Le Pallet, a village in Brittany, in 1079. He showed himself to be an exceptional student early on, and he was sent to study in Chartres and then to Paris to study with Anselm of Laon. He was quick and gifted, but he was also extraordinarily self-centered. He would often engage his teachers in debate that deteriorated into vituperative attacks. No one, least of all Abelard, questioned his superior intellect, but he had already collected a number of enemies by the time he fell in love with Héloïse in Paris.     After the affair with Héloïse was uncovered, Abelard retired to monastic life, first at a small Breton monastery and then at St.-Denis. He was bored and restless, and took comfort in writing. Abelard followed the Scholastic school, which sought to find ways in which philosophical and religious ideas could complement each other. He was hardly an opponent of the Church--"I do not wish to be a philosopher in order to contradict Paul," he said, "nor an Aristotle in order to be cut off from Christ"--but he believed strongly in the importance of inquiry. His views on Church doctrine, particularly on the Trinity, were branded as HERESY, and he was summoned to a Church council in Soissons in 1121. He was found guilty, briefly imprisoned, and his works were burned.     Later Work. In 1122, Abelard obtained permission to establish the oratory in Le Paraclet near Paris. At Le Paraclet, he established a convent, which Héloïse joined in 1129, and wrote a series of essays, sermons, and hymns. His PHILOSOPHY stressed the importance of the individual--a personality with flaws as well as virtues.     His religious writings were still being questioned, however. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the influential Cistercian monk, strongly condemned Abelard's works. Bernard was as formidable a personality as Abelard, and his condemnations led to Abelard's appearance once again before a council, this time at Sens, in 1141, where he was forced to recant and more of his works were burned.     The abbot of the monastery at Cluny, Peter the Venerable, brokered a truce between Abelard and Bernard, and Abelard, by now quite ill, retired to Cluny. He died there in 1142. ABELARD AND HELOISE The story of Abelard (1079-1142) and Héloïse (1101-1164), one of the most famous romances in history, has often overshadowed the lovers' lives. The love affair has, over the centuries, inspired great works of prose and poetry, such as Alexander Pope's "Eloïsa to Abélard." Abelard was a noted scholar, key to the eventual founding of a UNIVERSITY in Paris. Héloïse was abbess of the convent of Le Paraclet and instrumental in the establishment of several others. ( See UNIVERSITIES.)     The Affair. Héloïse was the daughter and niece of church officials at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. She was intelligent, though not as headstrong as Abelard. Because of her family's position, she was afforded better educational opportunities than many women of her time.( See women in the Middle Ages.)     In 1120, Abelard, then teaching at Notre Dame, was hired to tutor the young Héloïse. Although the age difference between them was more than 20 years, the two fell in love. Given their respective positions, they felt compelled to keep their love secret; they eventually secretly married. Héloïse gave birth to a child in 1121; afterward, however, the relationship could no longer remain hidden. Héloïse's father, Fulbert, was so enraged that he sought revenge against the haughty Abelard, hiring two men to beat and castrate him. The child born from their union was raised by Abelard's sister and eventually became a cathedral canon.     The Correspondence. Disgraced, Abelard sought refuge in the Benedictine monastery of St. Denis, and Héloïse entered the convent at nearby Argenteuil. They would soon both be in Le Paraclet, but during the time they were separated, the pair carried on a lively correspondence. Some believed Héloïse's letters had been authored by Abelard, using her as a literary device. Modern scholarship, however, views the letters as genuinely from Héloïse's pen.     Like Abelard, Héloïse died at age 63. The pair were buried together at Le Paraclet, but were reinterred at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris in 1817. ABU BAKR The first caliph (ruler) of Islam (b. 573), ruling from 632 until his death in 634. A wealthy merchant from Mecca, he became one of the prophet Muhammad's early supporters; Muhammad was to marry his daughter, Aisha. He accompanied the prophet on the Hegira (Muhammad's flight from Mecca in 622 C.E.) and became his closest adviser.     Following Muhammad's death, Abu Bakr assumed control of Islam, brushing aside (or crushing by force) any dissension and creating a united Islam. This permitted him to spread Islam to every corner of Arabia, conquer Persia, and bring Islam to the brink of defeating Byzantium and capturing Palestine, a mission fulfilled by his general, Khalid ibn al-Walid, known as the Sword of Allah. Before he died, Abu Bakr appointed a successor, Omar (I) ibn al-Khattab. He was buried in Medina next to Muhammad. ( See Islam.) ACCURSIUS Known as Accursius the Glossator (c. 1182-1260), an Italian jurist whose notes, or "glosses," on the Code and two other works by Justinian became the basis of medieval LAW. Born in Florence, Accursius became a professor of law at Bologna, and he remained there until his death.     Accursius based his work on the work of earlier law theorists of Bologna, beginning with Irnerius and his student, Gratian, who composed the first code of canon law (laws regarding the administration of the Church and Church-controlled property), and the "Four Doctors"--Bulgarus, Martinus, Iacobus, and Hugo--all of whom took as their starting point the Justinian Code. These works, though they accepted the authority of the Church, ironically, proscribed the power of both pope and king severely by setting down careful, rational rules for a wide variety of situations. Bernard of Clairvaux was typical among ecclesiasts in decrying the fact that "the courts of Europe ring with the laws of Justinian and no longer with the laws of God." By the thirteenth century, the works of Accursius took on the aura of sacred texts, preventing the law from adjusting to new situations, leading to the decline of the teaching of law in Italy. ( See LAW.) ADELAIDE, ST. Saint Adelaide (931-999) was one of the most influential figures in medieval Germany. As the wife of Otto I the Great and regent for Otto III, she devoted much of her time to strengthening the role of the German church in what became the Holy Roman Empire.     The daughter of Rudolf II of Burgundy, she was born in 931 and married the Italian king Lothair in 947. Lothair died in 950 and Adelaide was imprisoned by rival forces. She escaped and sought Otto's help in regaining her throne. He succeeded in September 951 and married Adelaide three months later.     As empress of the Holy Roman Empire, Adelaide deftly forged a stronger alliance with the Church. After Otto's death in 973, she influenced her son, Otto II, who before his death in 983 named her regent to Otto III. After Otto came of age in 994, Adelaide devoted her life to founding convents and monasteries. ( See MONASTERIES AND MONASTICISM.) ADELARD OF BATH Adelard (1090-1150) was an English cleric who served as an important bridge between the SCIENCE of Greco-Arabic culture and the Christian society of northwestern Europe.     Adelard traveled widely and was exposed to the science and culture of many areas from ENGLAND to Asia Minor. He translated many scientific works into Latin, including an Arabic version of Euclid's Elements , which became a standard mathematics textbook in the West for centuries, and important mathematical works of al-Khwarizmi and Abu Ma`shar, making the best of Arab mathematics available to the rest of Europe. ( See Arabic language and literature.)     Adelard is also credited with introducing to the Western world the astrolabe, an astronomical instrument developed from primitive Greek versions largely by Arab astronomers, for fixing the position of stars, telling time, and determining latitudes and altitudes. ADHEMAR OF MONTEIL A leader of the First Crusade. Adhémar (955-1098), bishop of Le Puy, was a friend of Pope Urban II and was appointed in 1096 by the pope at the Council of Clermont to serve as the pope's personal envoy to the crusaders. He traveled with the army of Raymond of Saint-Gilles, but was looked to as a leader by all the crusaders. As such, he often rallied the soldiers during difficult times and preached to them when their resolve waned.     Adhémar negotiated an alliance with the Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus, which resulted in the conquest of Nicea from the Seljuks in 1095. He also kept the crusader armies unified under the leadership of Bohemund I during the siege of Antioch, resulting in the fall of the city and the establishment of the first crusader kingdom. He then rallied the crusaders for their final campaign, the conquest of Jerusalem, but he fell ill and died en route in 1098. ADRIAN IV Adrian IV (c. 1100-1159), whose original name was Nicholas Breakspear, was the only Englishman ever to serve as pope. He reigned from 1154 to 1159, during a time when the Church and the Holy Roman Empire were vying for power; as with most popes of the period, he achieved only moderate success in keeping relations between these two powers peaceful and harmonious.     As a young man Breakspear joined a community of priests near Avignon, eventually assuming the position of abbot. A strong preacher and a shrewd leader with good administrative skills, he quickly rose through the ranks, becoming cardinal of Albano in 1149. In this capacity, he set about reorganizing the Church in Scandinavia. He was, more than anyone else, responsible for the establishment of the Catholic Church in Norway. ( See Christianity; papacy.)     His Papacy. In 1154, Breakspear was chosen to succeed Anastasius IV as pope and took the name Adrian IV. One of his first acts was to bring order to Rome, where citizens were fighting for independence. He placed the city under an interdict (prohibiting the entire region from partaking of Church sacraments). This so overwhelmed the city that the revolt collapsed.     Later, Adrian crowned Frederick I Barbarossa Holy Roman Emperor. At first the two were allies, but their relationship soon soured. The rest of Adrian's reign was focused on building papal strength and minimizing imperial power over the Church. Although an able administrator, Adrian could not reach a compromise with Frederick. Adrian died in 1159, and it would be another 18 years before Frederick would make peace with the Church.     Adrian hired John of Salisbury, an Englishman educated in Paris, as one of his secretaries. In his book The Papal History , John offers an account of papal bureaucracy in Adrian's time, but highlights the importance of Adrian's pontificate. It depicts the era when canon lawyers and similar bureaucrats came to dominate papal administration and policy. AELFRIC A tenth-century English monk (c. 955-1010) considered the greatest prose writer of his time. Aelfric's works are basically instructional in nature, focusing mainly on religious teaching. He also wrote nonreligious works, however, including his Latin Grammar , which was used for generations. (In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries he was known simply as "Grammaticus.")     Aelfric was born around 955 and served as a monk in Winchester and Cerne Abbas. He later became abbot of Eynsham, near Oxford, where he spent the rest of his life. Although Iris works were essentially teaching tools--such as his Colloquy , in which a teacher instructs novices in several occupations--the clarity of his prose and his stylistic expertise were exceptional for the period. ( See MONASTERIES AND MONASTICISM.) AETHELFLAED The oldest daughter of Alfred the Great, Aethelflaed (d. 918) ruled the semi-independent English province of Mercia. Her leadership earned her the name "Lady of the Mercians."     In about 886 she married Ethelred, who went on to become alderman (nobleman) of Mercia. Together they organized the defense of Mercia against incursions by the Danes. When her husband fell ill and died in 911, Aethelflaed continued to govern Mercia by herself. During her rule she proved to be a woman of great political, diplomatic, and military skill. She successfully played the Danes, Scots, and Welsh off against each other, and, with her brother, Edward the Elder, king of Wessex, she directed military expeditions against the Welsh and Danes.     She and Edward captured Derby, Leicester, and York and recovered all the Danish-held lands south of the Humber River. With Edward, she also constructed a series of fortresses against the Danes, including those at Runcorn, Stafford, and Warwick. After her death in 918, Mercia was fully incorporated by Edward into the kingdom of Wessex. ( See England.) AFRICA The continent of Africa comprised a third of the known world for Europeans during the Middle Ages. Though the full size of the continent had been known by seafarers since antiquity, only the northern portion of the continent and northeastern rim bordering on the Mediterranean and Red Seas were inhabited. Occasional forays into the Sudan and the Sahara convinced many that the rest of the continent was uninhabitable. Serious EXPLORATION of the lower half of the continent did not take place until Portuguese explorers, encouraged by Prince Henry the Navigator and seeking to outflank the Moors in North Africa, fielded expeditions down the western coast of the continent in the late Middle Ages.     North Africa. Much of the history of the Middle Ages deals with the inhabitants and developments of North Africa (the Maghreb), particularly as it relates to the spread of Islam across the northern rim of the continent and into Spain. Most ancient civilizations gave way to societies based on Christian, Islamic, or Byzantine ideals. A notable exception was the Copts of Egypt, who blended ancient Egyptian, Hellenistic, and Christian notions into a unique religious amalgam that had little trouble incorporating Islam following the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 641. The Copts remained a generally Christian sect whose fortunes followed the ebb and flow of Islamic society through the medieval period.     By the time Islamic civilization was established across North Africa in the late seventh century, vestiges of the societies created by the Romans; by the Vandals, who ruled from their capital in Carthage; and by the Byzantines, who destroyed the Vandal kingdom in 534, made North Africa a hospitable area for culture and commerce. Under the Umayyads, North Africa enjoyed the benefits of a centralized administration and the support of the local populace, who saw Islam as heir to the glory of the Roman Empire. The Berbers in the northwest and the Nubians in the south, both descendants from central African tribal stock, gladly accepted Islam and were important allies in Islam's military campaigns there.     Central Empires. Finding that their status as second-class Muslims ( dhimmis ) was not likely to change, conquered peoples remained cool toward their Islamic masters and sought independence whenever the opportunity arose. Thus, following the Abbasid revolution in 750, and again with the establishment of the Fatimid dynasty in the ninth century, and following such upheavals as the Crusades and the Black Death of 1348, independent principalities sprang up in the outer portions of the prevailing empire. The Empire of Ghana, for example, flourished in a semiprimitive state in the Niger River basin for seven centuries until destroyed by the Almoravids in 1076. The Empire of Mali, consisting of a confederation of Malinke tribes, dominated the banks of the Niger and spread to include all of the western Sudan, reaching its height during the reign of Sundiata, who died in 1255. The influences of these African cultures were felt in the artistic output of Islamic centers like Kairwan and Fez.     The opening of trade routes to the Far East and the brisk trade Europeans did in African salt, gold, and slaves slowly brought the deepest, most isolated portions of the continent to light and out of the Stone Age. The rise of the Kingdom of Gao in the fifteenth century, comprised of both Italian settlers and Nigerian tribespeople, marked the beginning of the first serious meeting of European and African cultures. AGINCOURT, BATTLE OF The Battle of Agincourt, waged on October 25, 1415 (St. Crispin's Day)and immortalized in Shakespeare's play Henry V , saw a decisive British victory over France at the start of the second round of English conquests in the Hundred Years' War. English territorial gains in the fourteenth century had been undone by a French resurgence in the latter part of the century. In 1415, Henry V reinitiated hostilities because of internal French disunion and the mental instability of the French king, Charles VI. The Battle of Agincourt marked the beginning of this campaign; it culminated in the Treaty of Troyes (May 21, 1420) in which Henry was made French regent and Charles VI's heir. ( See Hundred Years' War.)     Henry invaded France with a large (10,500 strong), well-equipped and provisioned army in order to make good his claim on the French throne. He first attacked the Norman port city of Harfleur, which held out for five weeks, much longer than Henry had anticipated; it cost him 40 percent of his men, most through dysentery. Despite these setbacks, Henry chose to march his fired army 120 miles to the port city of Calais in extremely poor weather conditions. French occupation of the crossing over the river Somme forced the British army inland. When the French and English armies met at Agincourt, the latter was reduced to 6,000 exhausted men who were severely outnumbered by the French. The English had no choice, however, but to fight their way through the French to reach Calais.     The Battle. Henry's army consisted of some 900 unmounted men-at-arms in the center and 5,000 archers on the flanks. The British archers built protecting hedges of sharpened stakes in order to foil the French plan to disperse them with cavalry. The French army's first line consisted of 8,000 men-at-arms on foot and 1,600 cavalry. The second line was composed of 3,000 to 6,000 dismounted men-at-arms and 4,000 archers and crossbowmen. The third line consisted of the remainder of the 20,000 French fighters as cavalry. ( See ARMS AND ARMOR; WEAPONRY.)     The French plan failed from the very start. The French cavalry on armored HORSES failed to break up the English archer lines, and the archers were able to launch devastating salvos into the French lines. The retreating French cavalry collided with the advance of the 8,000 men-at-arms in the first battle line. The confusion was complicated by the mud-soaked field; the charge had little energy when it met the English. Despite this, the French advance made an initial impression on the English lines, and the outcome of the battle could have been different had Henry been killed by the blow to the head he received. The armored French attack, however, soon bogged down in the mud. British archers engaged the French KNIGHTS in hand-to-hand combat with hatchets and swords. Unable to cope with this new unarmored opponent, many French were killed or taken prisoner.     The charge of the second French line did not change the momentum of the battle. The woods on either side of the battlefield made for a small area in which to fight. The French soldiers found themselves in dangerously close quarters, and their proximity to each other made it difficult to even use their weapons; fallen knights were unable to rise. Much of the immense French army thus never engaged. Their archers and crossbowmen had no effect on the battle whatever, and only a few hundred men from the third battle line entered the battle. The others prudently fled the field.     The Aftermath. The entire Battle of Agincourt lasted only one hour, but the defeat was total for the French. Six hundred nobles were killed, and one thousand captured--6,000 total dead. The English losses came to 300 men dead. The battle ended with an egregious act of violence by Henry V, who ordered that the French prisoners be killed lest they rebel. When the English men-at-arms refused this unchivalrous action, the prisoners were massacred by the British archers.     After the battle, the British reached Calais on October 28, 1415 and sailed to England in November. The Agincourt campaign, in purely strategic terms, was more a raid in force than a systematic policy of conquest. The battle had, however, significant results. It confirmed Henry's genius at warfare, and solidified English support for him. The defeat intensified the French resolve to defeat the English, although the French were weary of battle; the loss of so many knights and noblemen crippled their war effort. Furthermore, the battle was another sign of the increasing importance of archery--both the longbow and the crossbow--and the continuing obsolescence of the mounted knight, marking the end of feudal warfare. (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 The Reference Works. All rights reserved.