Initial post due Friday, 31 October by 1900 EST.
Student Responses due Sunday, 2 November by 1900 EST
Western Civilization – Discussion Forum – Week 4
Please choose ONE of the following questions to answer for the Discussion Forum this week. After you post your own answer, you will need to respond to three of your fellow classmates.
1. Given what you have read in our textbook, do you believe that the Roman Empire declined and fell? Or that society, politics and life in general simply evolved-for the good or bad – after Odoacer overthrew Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476? Use specific details and examples from the book to support your opinion.
2. On Christmas Day, 800 CE, Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor, a title that seems to imply a great deal. In what ways was Charlemagne himself “holy” or “Roman?” Does he fit either description? Why or why not?
3. Some historians have called the Crusades “successful failures.” Using what you learned from the textbook readings this week, explain how these historians could justify such an opinion. Do you agree with them? Why or why not?
Student Response #1
I believe referring to the Crusades as a “successful failure” is a stretch. The purpose of the Crusades were to win Christian control of the holy land, Jerusalem. The Byzantine emperor, Alexius reached out the Pope Urban II for help in recruiting troops. Pope Urban told crowds those who made the trip would be offered forgiveness of their sins, “the pains of the trip would substitute for ordinary penance” (Hunt, p331). Somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 people left their homes for a rough journey “to the Holy Land to fight for God” (Hunt, p331). The First Crusades did accomplish getting the holy land under Christian control but in the way Alexius had hoped. The leaders of these expeditions kept the newly conquered territories for themselves instead of handing to Alexius as he had hoped. Many more unsuccessful crusades happen later. The Muslims regained control in the middle east and the Christians lost the holy land. With the main goal of these holy wars being to gain control of the middle east, its obvious it was a failure. The Christians control of the holy land was short lived. In my opinion a “successful failure” can be defined as not accomplishing the main goal but still having a positive outcome in someway or another. Some historians do credit some positive advancements to the Crusades. Its they inspired “far-flung expedition like Columbus’s in 1492” (Hunt, p335). Its also been said that the Crusades stimulated trade and shaped our modern taxation systems. Our textbook states that “the commercial revolution would have happened with out them (the Crusades)” (Hunt, p335). I’m positive all of these things would have happened even without the Crusades. I feel the Crusades were a very dark time in history and the only real “success” we can take away from it is the need for separation between church and state.
Hunt, L., Martin, T., Rosenwein, B., & Smith, B. (2012). Commercial Quickening and Religious Reform, 1050-1150. In Making of the West: To 1750 (4th Ed., Vol. 1, Ch. 10). Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s.
Student Response #2
This week I chose to answer question two about Charlemagne. Charlemagne was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor on December 25, 800. Charlemagne could scarcely be considered Roman, at best. The Carolingian dynasty was allied with the Roman papacy and followed the Roman Christianity virtues and values , but the Byzantine dynasty was depicted as the most accurate representation of the “old” Roman Empire. Though Charlemagne did put a lot of stock into the liberal arts, education, architecture, “sponsored building programs to symbolize his authority, standardized weights and measures, and acted as patron of intellectual and artistic efforts.” He adopted quite a few aspects of old Roman leaders such as Julius Caesar, but he was hardly Roman himself.
It is fairly easy to argue Charlemagne’s holiness. He conquered much of Western Europe, bringing Christianity wherever he won. After thirty years of fighting the Saxon people, he forcibly won and immediately started forcing the baptisms of all Saxons with threats of death.  Charlemagne was a man for justice and church. He put a lot of faith in Christianity and the church. During the Carolingian Renaissance, Charlemagne had finally merged Christianity with the traditions of Rome and the Germanic people.  Scholars were studying religion and teaching religion in the church as well as looking back at old writings. Artists were also doing more with paintings of religious figures or mosaics of religious icons. Charlemagne was a devout Christian; it could even be argued that he was an extremist. He made leaps and bounds in establishing religious education throughout his empire and that speaks for his holiness.
Hunt, Lynn et al. Making of the West, Volume I: To 1750, 4th Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. VitalSource. 287.
Hunt. Making of the West, Volume I: To 1750, 4th Edition. 288.
Student Response #3
On Christmas Day, 800 CE, Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor, a title that seems to imply a great deal. In what ways was Charlemagne himself “holy” or “Roman?” Does he fit either description? Why or why not?When Pope Leo III placed the crown on Charlemagne’s head in 800 AD, he was doing so not as the holiest leader of Christianity, but as a man driven, as we all are, by personal ambition and a desire for greater power. Charlemagne himself had risen to his supreme position of power by the consequence of this same desire for power and prestige. The Eastern Roman Empire, or the Byzantine Empire as it was known, was led by Empress Irene of Athens. The Pope was uncomfortable with the head of a power descended from the Roman Empire being of Hellenic descent, and blamed them for its downfall. Crowning Charlemagne ‘Imperator Romanorum’ had the double effect of diminishing the power of the Eastern Empire and deeming the coronation as a gift from the most powerful man in Europe, the Pope himself. The fact that Charlemagne followed the teachings of Christianity is not, I think, a fair requirement by itself for the man to be seen as ‘holy’, especially in regards to his position, and especially when it was a requirement for every man in Christendom to follow the basic tenets of Christianity in the 9th century or be found shunned or outright murdered out of religious intolerance. In this way, Charlemagne was not given this great title because of his holiness or piety, but as a consequence of his powerful and influential position as the king of the Franks and Italy.
Charlemagne did not fall into this title as a result of his being in any way descended from the old leaders of Rome either. Charlemagne was born either in what is now Belgium or in western Germany. He was descended from a long line of Frankish rulers. Francia, which was ruled by the Merovingians after the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD, had been a part of the Roman Empire and it is this geographical ancestry that is all that Charlemagne shared with the original Roman people. In these ways, it is hard to see Charlemagne as either ‘holy’ or ‘Roman’, even as he sat at the throne of the new Holy Roman Empire.