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Byzantine and Islamic Civilizations, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 275

Essay

To Bridge a Historic Gap: The Eastern Mediterranean and Western Europe in the Middle Ages

The civilization of Western Europe and those of the eastern Mediterranean differed vastly in terms of social, cultural and economic development in the Middle Ages.  The populations of the Byzantine and Muslim worlds were far larger than Western Europe, a region left in chaos and demise when Roman authority disappeared.  In the east, Byzantium and Islam were at the height of their greatness, both inheritors of great educational, scientific, philosophical and religious traditions.

The Middle Ages found Western Europe in a power vacuum, suffering from political chaosand the ravages of the Black Death.  The quality and ability of those who ruled the two great eastern empires far surpassed those who held authority in the west.Byzantine rulers, for instance, did not surrender military powerto regional allies as their Roman forebears had.  Basics like food and shelter were chronic problems in Europe.  The Byzantines, on the other hand,were able to rely on their Egyptian “breadbasket” for centuries.

Development in the West would owe much to the great scientific advances of Islamic scholars. The writings of Aristotle and other Greeks reached Western Europe through their transmission from Muslim civilization.  The Byzantines also played an important role in preserving the great legacy of classical Greece, spreadingthe traditions of Hellenistic learning to the Italian city states after Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in the 14th century.

However, there were fundamental similarities.A shared tradition of monotheistic religion kept open the lines of communication between the Christian east and west for centuries.  And the military threat posed by jihad had at least a superficially unifying effect between Byzantium and the west.

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