Thursday, January 25, 2018

Life in 7th C, Europe

How was life like in Europe during the 7th century?

Answer requested
by Jeff Jackson

Hans-Georg Lundahl
History buff since childhood. CSL & Eco added to Medieval lore. + Classics.
Answered just now
It was more rural than Antiquity.

Learning was more controlled by clergy in monasteries, less an affair of fashionable rhetors in cities.

Slavery was declining by masters freeing slaves, but not as much as later on, in fact the instability had slowed down that part.

As to instability, Christian kingdoms in Latin Christendom (as opposed to “Byzantine”) were often dividing, regrouping and - on top of that having troubles at the edges of Christendom.

Also in some places, Germanic invaders were not simply in control but prolonging Arianism.

As to Eastern and Southern parts of Roman Christendom, the century started with these still being free Christian countries and ended up with North Africa and Syria in Muslim hands and “Byzantine” power getting edgy due to defense work needing to get done.

For those who did read news from elsewhere in letters of private or diplomatic type (there was no system for news broadcast, except Churches, where news really relevant to all Christians, like invasion of Holy Land would be told), this was a worrying thing.

Latin was better in non-Roman or de-Romanised parts than in original Roman lands. In England, where native Latin was dead, ecclesial Latin was already a learned language. Venerable Bede reads a bit like later continental authors. In Spain and France, Latin was drifting away from Classical, more in pronunciation than in spelling, a bit like English has drifted away from that of Chaucer.

Towns and cities still existed, but were arguably less crowded. A city like Paris would back then probably have had a more decentralised and rural building concentration - not so much a supervillage around Notre Dame or royal castle, as several smaller ones surrounding these. The city existed since antiquity and there is no record of it being founded once again in the subsequent centuries, when many cities and towns got their charters - but archaeology suggests that the building concentration was less central.

This means, hygiene was certainly better than in Antiquity and maybe some than 600 years later.

England was even more rural, since de-Romanised, and Bavaria was also even more rural, since not having been Roman in the first place, in the heighday of cities.

Northern Europe was a separate largely Pagan world, but archaeology has found surprising traces of early Christians there. It was not yet the home base of the Viking raids, but obviously very exotic and far off. We have few written sources dealing with life then and there, mostly retrospective ones from later on, and they do not deal very much with common people, but we can gather, Northern nobles loved gathering in halls, this seems to have been or to be becoming predominant on the Christian continent as well. Hence, courts replaced cities as centres of culture, but in rivalry with the Church.

Ireland was already Christian, but its lifestyle was very close to the Pagan Northern Europe. It was influencing the Continent and some missionaries on the Continent were still coming from Ireland.

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