Page:Western Europe in the Middle Ages.djvu/60
WESTERN EUROPE IN THE MIDDLE AGES
body of classical learning, and even this small fraction of the classical heritage was not yet fully understood. The Roman version of Christianity had no serious rivals in the West, but it had not yet made much of an impression on the people. They were Christian because they could be nothing else, but the Church in the West was too disorganized, and in many places too corrupt, to give them much leadership. Altogether, the situation of Western Europe in the seventh century was not promising. It had a rudimentary economic system, and an even more rudimentary political organization; it had inherited a few ideas about government and law, and a somewhat larger body of philosophical and literary material from Rome; it had accepted Christianity but had not yet developed either a well-organized Church or wide-spread individual piety. Western Europe was now on its own, but no one in the seventh century could have predicted that it would develop a civilization which would rival those of Bagdad and Byzantium.
V. THE WORK OF CHARLEMAGNE
We have been discussing Western Europe as a unit, in contrast to the Mohammedan and Byzantine Empires. This assumption was valid only for purposes of general comparison. The regions of Western Europe resembled each other more closely than any one of them resembled Syria or Asia Minor, but there were sharp differences between Frankish Gaul and Anglo-Saxon England, between Lombard Italy and Bavarian or Saxon Germany. The social and cultural heritage from the Roman Empire was unevenly exploited and was combined with new elements in different proportions by the people of each area. For example, the most active center of classical studies in the seventh century was in the British Isles, whereas Gaul, which had been much more thoroughly Romanized, rather neglected the work of scholarship. The authority of the pope was more respected in England, which had been converted by his agents, than it was in the Lombard kingdom