From time to time, I will plug certain books or ideas that challenge the present anti-Christian and anti-western worldview so common in today’s climate. In this case, an example of the modernist worldview is combined with modern chauvinism to create one of the most popular ideas found in world history surveys. The common narrative (mythology?) that is extremely popular in modern chauvinist circles roughly goes as follows:
“After the fall of Rome in the late 400’s, the Germanic Tribes launched the dark ages by destroying classical civilization. The western church would be a willing participant in this, and together the Germanic tribes and centralized church shut down learning and knowledge for almost 1,000 years, until the rediscovery of classical paganism during the Renaissance. Meanwhile, the Arab/Islamic world was a flourishing and enlightened civilization, which brought Europe out of the dark ages and kept classical learning alive.”
As mentioned in previous posts, this myth became enormously popular especially during the French Enlightenment with anti-Christian figures such as Voltaire and Rousseau, and of course the famous historian Edward Gibbon. Thankfully, the failure of the modernist worldview, the test of time, and continuing discoveries in archeology have made this wishful narrative laughable, in spite of those who hold to it due to anti-Christian and anti-western prejudices.
It is in this spirit that Emmet Scott has released his book “Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: A History of a Controversy (New English Review, 2012).” What Scott has done is relaunched the findings of early 20th century Belgian historian Henri Pirenne, who discovered that the fall of classical civilization in the west did not occur until the mid 600’s, due to the Arab/Islamic conquests. Since Pirenne did his work in the 1920’s, Scott has much more archeological evidence to back up the original thesis, along with advances in sociology and the failure of the modernist worldview.
For example, up until the 600’s, the Goths, Visigoths, Franks, and other Germanic groups continued to mint coins with the picture of the Byzantine Emperor, and virtually every system of government was based on Roman law and models. Most courts employed native Romans as officials, and many of the Germanic rulers were “adopted” by the Byzantine Emperor and given Roman titles. Emperor Justinian adopted Theodebert, and Sigismond received the title of “patrician” from the eastern emperor Anastasius. Scott notes that in almost all cases (the borderlands such as Anglo-Saxon England and certain parts of Germany being possible exceptions) the Germanic tribes were basically a local military caste, who willfully wanted to adopt the classical models, and continued to acknowledge the Byzantine emperor as a superior, governing as local “kings” (a more localized title). Further evidence of the Germanic adoption of the conquered culture is that the heresy of Arianism disappeared as they assimilated into local orthodox Christianity. The impact on the local languages was also minimal, as what became Italian and Spanish had virtually no loan words from the Germanic rulers, and French only had 300, which makes sense given its large border with Germany and proximity to England. In short, Scott demonstrates that the Germanic rulers not only adopted and encouraged the classical and Christian cultures, but that they also advanced them, with a bit of a revival taking place during the early 600’s (He uses evidences of trade, agriculture, population growth, and the continuing influence of Byzantium to demonstrate this).
So what happened? During the mid 600’s, trade seems to cease, papyrus (enormously important as an import from Egypt for literacy and trade) no longer is found, the cities start to de-populate, and massive amounts of soil erosion is evidenced by archeologists. It so happens that these events coincide with the rise of the Islamic conquests, and their resultant complete disruption of the Mediterranean world both politically and economically. As a result, people literally and figuratively “fled for the hills,” forming what would become the first medieval castles and feudal systems, as local economies and contact with Byzantium dried up. It was only then that local rulers started minting their own coins, and the culture became more what one would call “middle ages.”
While I won’t spend more time providing the volume of evidence Scott cites (he uses plenty of footnotes, and engages with those who believe the popular myth academically), the case he outlines is politically incorrect, and enormously challenging to the modernist mindset. His work gels nicely with Stark’s work on the Crusades and Kamen’s work on the Inquisition. With such resources, there is simply no excuse for traditional Christians in the west to be bullied or overwhelmed by the assumptions of modern chauvinism, especially when it comes to history.