Page:Western Europe in the Middle Ages.djvu/20

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WESTERN EUROPE IN THE MIDDLE AGES

living, the basic ideas and ideals of this century differ from those of the Roman Empire and those of the modern world?

In the first place, it is clear that we are dealing with a civilization which, in its complete form, covers only Western Europe. It has little influence on Eastern Europe and even less on Western Asia and Northern Africa. Graeco-Roman civilization had been Mediterranean, not European; it attained its fullest development in Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, and North Africa. Modern occidental civilization is oceanic, not European; it is as typical of America, Australia, and parts of Asia and Africa as it is of Western Europe. In the Roman period most of Europe was a backward, colonial region, receiving its institutions and ideas from more advanced communities to the south and east. In the modern period Europe has been first the center and then a segment of a world civilization. But in the twelfth century European civilization stood by itself, neither greatly influencing nor greatly influenced by the civilizations of other continents.

In political and constitutional developments twelfth-century Europe occupies the same middle position. The Roman Empire was not a national state; it was a union of all the peoples who shared the common Mediterranean civilization under a single powerful ruler. The modern world, though it recognizes the fact of a common civilization, is divided into sovereign national states. The twelfth century knew neither the single powerful political unit nor the modern state. Nationalism and sovereignty did not exist, and although the concept of a Commonwealth of Christendom did exist, it found effective expression only in the Church, not in any secular political organization. Every man was subject to many overlapping authorities to the local feudal lord or self-governing town in all ordinary affairs, to the more remote overlord (king, duke, or count) in special cases, to the Church in matters which concerned the welfare of Christendom and the Christian faith. This division of authority made absolutism impossible; neither the unlimited power of the Roman emperor nor the equally unlimited