Dark Ages is the term referred to as the period of cultural and economic regression that occurred in Europe succeeding the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476. This period refers to the Middle Ages, A. D. 450 until A. D 1000 and is called the Dark Ages because it denotes a period of grief, torture and plague. During this era, the Roman territory was divided where Kings and mounted Knights emerged. Vikings and barbarians from northern and central Europe conquered Rome and brought havoc to the fallen empire. Imperialism was replaced with feudal system where citizens were protected inside walled cities and castles guarded by the feudal lord’s soldiers and knights. Muslims and vagabonds invaded the city with their barbaric practices destroying all existing literature that resulted to inadequate education and cultural awareness of the people. There was a decline in agricultural production and population due to climate change and the outbreak of the plague known as the Black Death that killed thousands of people and wiped out the entire villages. Religious conflicts between Orthodox Christians and Catholics arose due to opposing doctrines while Monasticism and Islam developed. Despite of the religious clash, the church became the focus of the people who sought God for solace from their sufferings. Due to lack of literacy, the Bible was their only center of education making the church an important foundation that eventually attained significant power and authority in the European government.
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Preparation for the Modern Era
As Christianity was expanding along with education and literacy in churches, remarkable writers and intellectuals emerged. The literary and artistic endeavors of the middle Ages focused on the culture of antiquity which includes classical Greek poetry, drama and philosophy. From the ruins of the Roman Empire, the priests and the monks saved the treasures of classical literature and Holy Scriptures in their monastic and royal libraries so the future can reflect on the richness of the past. Through the efforts of the Byzantine society, the structure of the Western civilization has been protected and preserved in which classical literature that includes the works of philosophers Aristotle and Plato survived until today. The lost ancient traditions of learning and literature from the Western Empire were re-introduced in Italy, Venice, France and England and made an important significance in the field of Science and technology during the Renaissance Era. Aside from protecting and preserving, Byzantine scholars rebuild these classical knowledge and tradition and organized innovations on advanced studies of classical science, art, literature, architecture, engineering and medicine. Byzantine scholars were the best innovators who sacrificed so much to protect Europe and retained an equally advanced culture. Without their efforts, history and culture of the ancient Roman and Greek civilization would have been lost and forgotten.
Ireland’s Emergence from the Dark Ages
When the Roman Empire fell, Europe suffered a great deal of land invasions from Germanic tribes except for Ireland. The Irish monks diligently worked in their objective to spread Christianity. They travelled all throughout Europe sharing their knowledge on the gospel, literature and art. An example of this religious ministry was the dedication of St. Patrick to spread Christianity in Ireland and to teach the Celtic tribes how to read and write. He built a number of monasteries where educated monks copied the writings of Roman, Greek, Hebrew and Latin manuscripts. A book written by Thomas Cahill, “ How the Irish Saved Civilization” defines how the Irish saved civilization by preserving the Roman Catholicism. He illustrates the evolution of Europe from ancient Rome to the middle Ages and how the Western civilization was preserved by the Irish monks. It was claimed that the reconstruction of our cultural heritage was rooted in Ireland and this claim was strengthened by the writings of some clerics of the middle ages on stories of the heroes of Britain during the dark ages. The Arthurian legend written by Geoffrey of Monmouth illustrates the heroic conquests of Medieval Kings in the person of King Arthur with his gallant Knights and along with the concept of chivalry in which these Medieval Kings and Knights had a huge influence on English and Welsh thrones in our present civilization. Another important medieval work that represents Arthurian legend is the Morte d’Arthur written by Sir Thomas Malory which represents a great deal of heroic and chivalric conquests of kings and their gallant knights during the Middle Ages. King Arthur is assumed to be the Irish hero and his story was used to inspire the Welsh, Cornish and the Celts of North Britain. Some of the popular works in Irish particularly manuscripts of scriptures and doctrines were copied and recopied and were accessible by both the literate and illiterate, thus exposing them to the grandeur of literature. These literary works showed some evidence of how the Irish literature played a major role in saving our civilization through their huge contribution in world literature.
Legends of Knights on Modern Sense of Ethics
The evolution of knighthood and their stories representing the elite in the military from the medieval castles have been established in our culture for many centuries. It represents an ideal gentleman who is highly skilled in wars or combats and characterized by virtue of courteousness, personal honor and commitment to do the right thing even to the extent of risking his life, loyalty to friends and fair sex. Chivalry is also associated with romantic conceptions where honorable acts are the basis for winning a woman’s love. The ideals of knighthood and chivalry have influenced our modern conceptions of honor particularly in the military which attracted the young generation of today. Bravery and honor is recognized as noble when individuals act as they should or in the proper norms of conduct. Today, several countries continued to practice the ideals of knighthood specifically the Orders of Garter in England and the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. Good knights are associated with bravery and distinction and although time has altered the idea of chivalry and honor, some of its moral values and rules still exist in our present code of ethics. The modern concept of chivalry is the choice to adopt the right principles not merely because we are required to do so but because of our choice to follow what is morally right. These ethics should be practiced and taught to our children and unto the next generation.
The term chivalry is derived from the French word, “ chevalerie” which means horse soldier where armored mounted warriors served their lords on well-dressed horses. Feudalism in Europe greatly values the gallantry and honor of medieval knights in which their principles are a mixture of Christianity and military virtues. To set them as a good example, the knighthood institution have set traditional codes of conduct which is called the chivalric code. The code of Chivalry are moral guidelines that require all knights to protect the weak and defenseless such as widows, children and elders as well as to protect the honor of fellow knights. They should bear the skills and strength to fight wars, highly disciplined and committed to be loyal, generous, noble, honest and to respect women’s honor at all times. They are expected to obey those who are in authority and should not refuse challenges from other knights nor turn their backs on their enemies. They have to live in honor and glory and should fear God and keep their faith. The following are the Chivalric code or principles:
– Truth – Speak and seek the truth before applying judgment, value truth by setting aside personal interests or benefits.
– Honor – Identify yourself by your beliefs, by keeping your word, by practicing moral judgment and by adhering to the high standards of morale.
– Justice – To protect the weak and helpless and to fight against all evil whenever necessary.
– Valor – To be brave when faced with challenges and fight for what you believe is right regardless of other people’s views and opinions.
– Prowess – To discipline your mind, body and spirit by eliminating negative behaviors that could threaten your physical and spiritual being.
– Loyalty – To choose the right path and principles in terms of loyalty to friends, family, country and God and be ready to defend them.
– Largesse – Be fair and generous to your friends or to strangers.
– Courtesy – Be polite and respect other people and adhere to the rules of war by practicing humble winnings and graceful defeat.
– Noblesse – Nurture your life with all the goodness you can get by improving your skills and your worldly knowledge.
– Humility – Achieve all of the above qualities and to exercise chivalry with modesty.
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Classical Antiquity in the Middle Ages. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2013). Retrieved from http://www. metmuseum. org/toah/hd/anti/hd_anti. htm
Medieval Plague, n. d. Medieval Information. Retrieved from
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The Dark Ages-Darkness Defined. All About History. (2013).
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Why Byzantine Civilization is Important. Byzantium Novum, (2012).
Retrieved from http://www. byzantiumnovum. org/byzantium_important. htm