THE SPIRIT OF THE MIDDLE AGES

The mediasval period comes to an end in the middle of the A fifteenth century. If we look back over the thousand years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the dawn of the modern world, we may note several broad sub-divisions of the period. There is the confused epoch following the break-up of the Western Empire, then a brief interlude of enlightenment and order in the age of Charlemagne and Alfred. The clouds again lower during the ravages of the Norsemen, but the eleventh century sees the beginning of a religious and intellectual revival which lasts until the beginning of the fourteenth. These years form the central period of the Middle Ages, and the one during which most of what is spoken of as being " characteristic " of medievalism nourished, before disintegrating and giving way to modernity. An analysis of the chief characteristics of mediasvalism will conclude our historical survey of the period.

The outstanding feature of medieval thought is its preoccupation with religious and theological matters; the intellectual history of the Middle Ages is largely ecclesiastical history. Learning was generally confined to churchmen;

most of the schools were under either monastic or priestly influence, as were the universities, which, beginning with Salerno, Bologna, Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge, arose in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The chief subjects of study in the medieval curriculum were the Trivium (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) and the Quadrivium (geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy). The pedagogic technique consisted mainly of dissertations and commentaries oh authoritative texts by the lecturer and of "disputations" amongst the students themselves.

During the intellectual revival, the seeds of which are to be found in Charlemagne's patronage of scholarship, there arose that characteristic product of the medieval intellect Scholasticism. This was an intellectual attitude rather than a philosophical system, and it strove to synthesise the philosophy of Aristotle (called by the Schoolmen " the philosopher," since he was practically the only one they knew) with Christianity, and to harmonise faith with reason. The attempt did not succeed, for the later Schoolmen found themselves compelled to withdraw many Christian doctrines from the realm of rational proof or criticism. Scholasticism produced 'acute and subtle minds, and gave to the world such illustrious names as Erigena, St. Anselm, Abelard, Albertus Magnus, Duns Scotus, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Occam;

but its emphasis was on order rather than discovery, on the systematisation rather than the extension of the bounds of human knowledge. As an experimental scientist, Roger Bacon (1214-92) was unique in Christendom, which until the Renaissance lagged far behind the Arabs and Moors in scientific knowledge. :