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Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Discussion of topics concerning life in the middle ages around the world, including architecture, history, and warfare.

Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Kevdragon » Wed May 02, 2012 2:27 pm

Its an interesting comparrison to compare the European medieval civilizations to the oriental/ Asian civilizations. Obviously each had their technological and cultural advances and, for want of a better word, set backs.

Casting further afield I wonder how Aztec/Olmec/Inca cultures would compare against the west. Against the late medieval world I think they would be military far, far inferior but comparing say their infrastructure ( I read once that the Inca had a road network more extensive than ancient Rome, (despite the fact they had no wheel!) and when the first Spaniards saw the Aztec capital they were in awe of its architectual size.

Incidently heir, as your arguing the case for England (and as a Brit I'm glad.) I'm currently reading a book about medieval England which gives a facinating insight into the day to day lives of it's citizens of that era that you might find facinating.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Time-travel ... 0224079948

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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby ELMAS » Wed May 02, 2012 8:52 pm

Kevdragon wrote: Casting further afield I wonder how Aztec/Olmec/Inca cultures would compare against the west.

Kevdragon

Good Point Kevdragon.
Most of the medieval civilization in the West would dwarf next to Teotihuacan

WHat most people don't know is that the Zenit of the Aztec civilization was in 1300-1400 A.D (ish).
Way before that Teotihuacan was already build with a pyramid (Pyramid of the sun) with the same base size as the great Pyramid in Egypt.
The amazing thing is that these Mexican Pyramids where completed by 100 A.D. And in Fact there is evidence of influence of these builders (Possibly Totonac or Toltec origin, nobody is 100% sure) on the Aztec culture.
And the population of Teotihuacan at this time had likely between 200k to 250k people.

The Pyramid stands to this day and it is mighty. Meanwhile in Europe people had not even reached the dark ages...
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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Heir of Black Falcon » Thu May 03, 2012 9:39 pm

Elmas,

The issue is they are just different. I would not say the civilization dwarfed Europe as by 1400 the entire population of the Americas (North, South and Central) is about the same that Europe was but they certainly had some amazing developments. Math and calendars are two that come to mind that are really interesting.

The Aztecs are of the pre-Columbian peoples one of the later ones. In Mesoamerica the major groups that come to mind (somewhat in order) is- Olmecs, Mayan and Zapotecs, Toltecs and around 1300 the Aztecs. The area the Aztecs came into around the lakes was being fought over by several cities. It is not till 1325 the Aztecs establish their home there and become a major force there. By 1434 they are more or less dominant there. Really by mid 15th they are still very strong but internal problems, largely with recent conquests will allow the Spanish valuable allies. Something people often miss is that The Spanish armies were largely local forces against the Aztecs.

Kev,

Yeah Ian's work is ok. He is generally right but you have to take it as a starting point as some of his 'details' are iffy at best. His book on his famous ancestor especially need be taken with care.

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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Kevdragon » Fri May 04, 2012 10:43 am

I did hear that the Spanish were aided by lots of local tribes against the Aztecs, who obviously had a few axes to grind! What has always astonished me is how a band of gold seeking adventures who would have endured months of the rigours of sea travel (scury, poor supply chain) and on alien soil thousands of miles from home managed to be one of the main instigators in the downfall of one of the worlds major empires. True they had superior weaponry and inadvertenly had biological weapons (smallpox and std I believe that raged through a population with no natural immunities.) But if you looked at the events from a strtegic viewpont the Aztecs should have fended off the europeans with ease.
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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby ELMAS » Fri May 04, 2012 7:30 pm

Kevdragon wrote:I did hear that the Spanish were aided by lots of local tribes against the Aztecs, who obviously had a few axes to grind! What has always astonished me is how a band of gold seeking adventures who would have endured months of the rigours of sea travel (scury, poor supply chain) and on alien soil thousands of miles from home managed to be one of the main instigators in the downfall of one of the worlds major empires. True they had superior weaponry and inadvertenly had biological weapons (smallpox and std I believe that raged through a population with no natural immunities.) But if you looked at the events from a strtegic viewpont the Aztecs should have fended off the europeans with ease.


Part is that the Spaniards where helped by the Tlaxcaltecas and others arround. But mostly they where killed by decease and treachery and internal turmoil.
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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Heir of Black Falcon » Sat May 05, 2012 10:25 pm

Very true. Some people put the Aztec population (including subjugated peoples) at 20-30 million people circa 1500 and within 100 years the population is 3-7 million. I do not think all the ways people arrived at the really high mortality rates is per se the best way to get such numbers but no matter the source those who died, largely from illnesses, was huge and really destroyed their culture in many ways.

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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Kevdragon » Tue May 08, 2012 7:58 am

Mind you, I have a thought going back to the original concept of this debate. What exactly are the criteria of classing a civilization as medieval?

I mean in the UK the general concensus is that it starts in the year 1066 with the Norman Invasion of England and ends with the death of Queen Elizabeth 1 circa 1599 and the begining of the Stuart dynasty in 1600.. Obviously it dosent relate to other European nations, and the Viking/ scandinavian cultures didn't stop raiding England and still were a strong influence in and after 1066, although technically they would be classed as a ( SO CALLED!) Dark Age civilization as would the Anglo Saxons, Danes etc...( never mind about the developed learning such as at sites including Lindisfarne, Iona as well as metalergical triumphs, artistry and explorations of the "dark ages!")

So what's the definition of a medieval civilzation? Is it defined by a time period, technological achievements ( some Roman engineering were as advanced as early medieval!) Any ideas?
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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Heir of Black Falcon » Wed May 09, 2012 12:58 pm

Kev,

Oh it gets much more complex. Dates for the start are anywhere from the last Roman Emperor, Last non-Roman Ruler in Italy for the start. Many like to term the period Early Medieval but Migration period is popular as it Late Antiquity. Few academics use Dark Ages now for this period.

The End focused on England can be Richard III, 1500, Henry VIII's death etc. I do not think of Henry VIII as being a medieval monarch. The entire system common through the Norman period on is largely not at work any more. Look at his fortification building system. These are no longer simply Royal castles but more modern type state defenses that are being built to replace the lack of such structures by nobles and others. His system for royal documents is largely changed as well from patent and close rolls to state papers framework divided by internal and external ones.

I simply use 500-1500 as it is a nice round number but the issue is not date itself changed history on its own really but the people living around that time.

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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Kevdragon » Thu May 10, 2012 7:39 am

500 AD to 1500AD in the UK would certainly cover a vast swath of British medieval History and bring into its boarders the Early Anglo Saxon Cultures (If like me ,your take on the legends of King Arthur are referrences to a Romano- British organised resistance against Saxon invasions, then then that would fall less than a hundred years earlier at the start of this period.) It would encompass the founding of the Saxon and Angle Kingdoms, The slow rise of christianity and the founding of the Celtic Church and the Scandinavian incursions in Northern and Eastern Britain, (Viking and Dane raiding parties and long term settlements)
It would include the Norman Conquest of 1066, the Crusades, The Norman occupation, The signing of Magna Carter. The establishment of the vast and ultimately very wealthy trade network of the Haseatic League which saw Eastern ports like King's Lynn and Great Yarmouuth trade with Scandinavia, Germanic states and the Russian ports on the Baltic. The rise of Edward the Ist and his "empire" building, The Peasants revolt, the Black death, the War of the Roses, The founding of the Tudor Dynasty etc.. as well as the cultural and technological developments such as the introduction of the motar board plough, crop rotation and the rise of castles and cathederals, from simple wooden structures to the the likes of Westminster abbey and castles such as Windsor.
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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby krzyzak » Mon May 21, 2012 6:15 pm

Wow. Lots of history we're learning today. Anyway, Poland for me. It spread so far that it touched the Black Sea. It was the biggest country in Europe at that time.
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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Heir of Black Falcon » Wed May 23, 2012 6:03 pm

Just like many places Poland waxes and wanes.

Up till early 14th not doing so well often but when merged with Lithuania later the century, talk about a game changer.
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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Sniezka » Mon May 28, 2012 7:22 pm

England and France were both very powerful and Russia was (and is) huge, but what about the Austrian Empire? I know that it isn't technically medieval, but they were pretty big and powerful.They also lasted the longest. So I guess I'll pick the Austrian empire and Poland ( the latter because I'm biased :P ).
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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Tastymuffins » Fri Jun 01, 2012 5:21 am

Nobody has said this but I think the Byzantines were the most powerful going into the dark ages for sure. Still holding on to all of the roman culture. Although they did fade out and were basically gone after the crusades...
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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Tria » Wed Jun 06, 2012 7:01 pm

My vote goes to (alphabetic order) Byzantine (law, city infrastructure (aqueduct), innovations ("ygro pyr" (greek fire)), England (shipping, military, rights) , Italy city-states (Venice, Firenze) (commerce and the routes of Renaissance in art, philosophy, music etc and my favorite Macchiavelli).
Generally, I think that medieval ages are somehow the dark ages of humanity... The medieval achievements cannot compare neither with ancient Greek and Roman Civilization nor with the Renaissance (of course Renaissance started in the late Medieval Ages...)..
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Re: Greatest Medieval Civilization?

Postby Heir of Black Falcon » Thu Jun 07, 2012 1:16 pm

Yes the Byzantine Empire was for much of the period amazing. Even after the mid 12th century when things are not going so well they are amazing at moving forward. Have to give it to them for lasting as long as they did in such a hostile place, 1453 is a long haul. The Komenus family had a great run in restarting things. Shame that John was killed so young (and in some ways foolishly). If only Manuel had been more like grandpa.

It is really sad and ironic it is really the crusaders who end the rebuilding of the empire as they were asked to come and help them.

Tria,

You have some good choices. The Italian city-states were indeed a 'happening' place. A bit more bellicose that I would like to live, but no doubt of the developments in all sorts of arts there.

The Medieval period is hardly dark, at least the entire time. The picture TV and Hollywood spin out about it is largely misrepresented. Perhaps the first few centuries are not so bright but they were far advanced of many groups in various ways including the Greeks and Romans by having more lasting political structures, much better agriculture (Greece and Romans are blown out of the water by better plows including the use of mouldboards- which were used in the west until the 20th century-, crop usage and other advances). By the late medieval period people are also living longer. As far as art though some rather amazing things are done during this period, especially the High and Late periods. A look at Gothic architecture shows the medieval designers were developing thing the Romans and Greeks never dreamed of.

The Renaissance is not all roses and rainbows either. People do not often realize this period of artistic movements and such often went along with near incessant warfare and increasingly strict religious views. The 16th century was a very tumultuous time in Europe and much of the world.

The early modern period has some fairly dark issues, the rise of witch trials and burning which likely exceeded medieval use of these many times over. Birth of absolute Monarchies where kings literally did what ever the heck they wanted like Louis XIV. And a rise in casualties of soldiers and civilians in warfare to a level medieval monarchs never would have imagined possible.

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