Medieval Essays by Christopher Dawson

By Christopher Dawson

Medieval Essays is the mature mirrored image of 1 of the main proficient cultural historians of the 20th century.

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She was rather an agent in the expansion of culture than its creator. Her part was that of the soldier and engineer who cleared the way and built the roads for the advance of civilization. The cosmopolitan culture which became common to the whole Roman Empire was itself mainly the creation of the Hellenic genius. It had its origins in the life of the Greek city-state and had already acquired the character of a world civilization in the great states of the Hellenistic world. Alexander the Great and his successors had made it their mission to spread this civilization throughout the lands that they had conquered.

It is true that Coptic is the poorest and least original of all the oriental Christian literatures and the one which had least direct influence on The Oriental Background of Christian Culture 21 Byzantine culture. But, in spite of the literary poverty of the Coptic tradition, it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the Egyptian contribution to medieval culture, for it was in the Egyptian desert among the representatives of the despised and oppressed native population that there arose the new institution of Christian monasticism and the new ideals of Christian asceticism which were destined to have such a vast influence on the future of both Byzantine and Western culture.

Unfortunately it marks an end and not a beginning. Although a few far-seeing minds in the West, like Roger Bacon and Ramon Lull, Philip de Mezières and Marco Sanuto, Gregory X and John XXII, had some inkling of the importance of the Christian East, Western Christendom as a whole was too divided by political and ecclesiastical rivalries to make a full use of its opportunities. The conversion of the Mongols to Islam deprived the Armenian kingdom of its external support, and the growth of Moslem intolerance which culminated in the disastrous reaction of Tamerlane destroyed the influence and even the existence of Syrian Christianity in Central Asia.

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