Early History Part V

The Christian literature of late antiquity

Originally the Christians had harshly rejected the whole culture of their pagan environment as belonging to this world that had to be overcome. During this time, up to about the middle of the 2nd century AD, the early Christian literature emerged: the writings of the New Testament and related works (Gospels, Acts of the Apostles etc.) that have not found their way into the New Testament canon; this corpus of texts was intended for the internal use of the congregations. Under the pressure of the persecution, the Christians changed their behavior: They tried to defend themselves against the Gentiles and to make them understandable. So a development took its course that reached its climax and conclusion in the 4th and 5th centuries: the Christian authors, the church fathers, brought forth an extensive literature, both Greek and Latin, in which they used the forms of argument and styles as well as the genres of pagan tradition to explain their beliefs and to protect them from misunderstanding. The rise of Christianity once more evoked a pagan reaction to the plan, and with it for the last time a literature in which pagan Rome was celebrated as the guiding idea. The dispute remained an episode and the Christian religion emerged unchallenged as the dominant spiritual power of late antiquity. At the turn of the 7th century, not only pagan (pagan) but also Christian productivity died out. At that time, an almost unimaginable cultural wasteland spread across Europe, even more oppressively in the west than in the east.

The adoption of ancient culture by the peoples of Europe and Islam

According to Insidewatch, the achievements of Greco-Roman antiquity, which had become Christian, reached the young peoples of Europe in three ways – through the “eye of the needle” of the 7th century. First, they persisted in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire until the threshold of modern times, until the Turkish invasion, and were conveyed to the Slavs from there. They also reached the peoples of Islam, especially the Arabs, and advanced in this detour to southern and western Europe. In the end, they passed mainly directly to the Germanic tribes and Franks, who initially wandered, then settled down and founded states.


In the Greek sphere, in the Byzantine Empire, the pagan-Christian mixed culture, as left by late antiquity, lived on unbroken; Both the written and book infrastructure as well as literary education and theological erudition enjoyed permanent maintenance there, albeit accompanied by some ups and downs. Byzantium, with its great persistence, was a prime example of continuity. In the 15th century, before it went under after almost a thousand years of history, it passed its legacy, the Greek language and literature, on to the humanists of the West.

The Islamic peoples

The Greek culture, which had worked far into Asia in Hellenistic times, was only partially adopted by the Islamic peoples. While the Christians of late antiquity, after some hesitation, even tolerated pagan myths, the religion of Muhammad brought with it a rigorous barrier to reception that excluded not only everything Christian but also all pagan poetry and historiography. The Arabs only adopted the philosophy and sciences of the Greeks, albeit with great thoroughness. In the high Middle Ages, a large part of what they had adopted and developed reached the Latin West via Spain. The works of Aristotle conveyed in this way contributed significantly to the scholastic heyday of philosophy and theology.

Southern, Western and Central Europe

The cultural takeover by the Germanic peoples was the most complicated and momentous process of reception in ancient European history. During the early days, in the time of the Great Migration, the takeover (by foreigners) was still strongly mixed with sheer continuity – in the case of the indigenous former imperial population and of the church as a firmly established institution. Considered as a whole, however, the takeover reveals two main phases, like that of Greek culture by the Romans: The young peoples and states initially limited themselves to the elementary and the practical life (to religion – in this case Christian – as well as to the Latin language including written and documentary systems and on handicrafts and trade); the appropriation of intellectual culture, on the other hand, was reserved for later epochs.

The first phase essentially took place during late antiquity; testify to her z. B. the German words of house building (such as wall, cellar, roof) and trade (such as buy, pound, coin), which come from Latin. It evidently consisted of direct imitation takeover. The second phase, however, was based entirely on the study of books. The Christian monasteries, a creation of late antiquity, had imposed the duty on their inmates to copy books, even if they were neither needed nor even read. From this store of philosophical, scientific, and other works, each epoch could choose what was appropriate; this explains the various waves of antiquity reception in the Middle Ages and in modern times.

Early History 5

Early History Part V
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