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13.1 The Post-Roman West in the Early Middle Ages

The early Middle Ages helped set the stage for a new society to emerge from Roman, Christian, and Germanic traditions, and for a revival of the classical world to influence the rise of Islamic culture. Kings, clergy, and scholars helped to preserve the classical past and maintain diplomatic and economic ties across western Afro-Eurasia. The growth of cultural and religious cohesion through western Europe and the crude but effective institutions of the feudal world laid the groundwork for a period of stability and growth to come in the High Middle Ages.

13.2 The Seljuk Migration and the Call from the East

The Abbasid rulers had established their control over the Middle East and created a multiethnic, multireligious society that promoted trade, scholarship, and urbanization. By the tenth century, however, the caliphs’ sphere had been reduced to Syria and Iraq. Religious and political rivals like the Fatimids, who established the only Shia caliphate, weakened the Abbasids. The arrival of the Seljuk Turks helped to push back the Fatimids and dealt a devastating blow to the Byzantine Empire. The Seljuks enjoyed their status as protectors of the Abbasid realms, and like other conquerors before them, they eagerly embraced Persian culture, art, and literature. The Byzantine emperors, suffering a loss of prestige and territory, looked west in the hope that renewed alliances with the Germanic kingdoms could help restore their power in Anatolia.

13.3 Patriarch and Papacy: The Church and the Call to Crusade

The period of recovery from the collapse of the Carolingian Empire brought about the ordering of society from the lowliest serf to the kings of western Afro-Eurasia. Popes wanted to reform the church and used their authority to challenge the secular rulers of European kingdoms. Those same rulers worked to create stability by integrating their warrior culture with Christian beliefs, both to justify and to restrain violence. The Byzantine emperor’s call to the pope for aid leaned on all these complex developments and helped to launch the Crusades, a new chapter in the history of conflict fueled by religion.

13.4 The Crusading Movement

The Crusades were a movement that signaled the growth of the papacy’s influence in western Europe and helped to stimulate trade, the growth of the Italian city-states, and contact with peoples across Afro-Eurasia. They were also complicated by the ways in which they failed their own ideals: the massacre of innocents, the betrayal of other Christians, and the too-frequent use of warfare to meet political or economic goals. The Crusades persisted in the European imagination for the rest of the Middle Ages, and in many ways, their legacy shapes the modern world today.

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