History Essay Sample

  1. What was the role and influence of the geographical locations of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Aegean?

Geography has always been one of the essential factors in the development of ancient civilizations. In this case, it was important to find a proper location in order to build upon dominant civilization that would have access to vital natural resources such as water, wood, and food. Accordingly, such ancient civilizations as Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Aegean occurred near the waters for the effective development of agriculture, infrastructure, and organized techniques of irrigation.

The geographical features of Mesopotamia almost consisted of two parts – Upper (Northern) Mesopotamia and Lower (Southern) Mesopotamia. Most of the territory was covered with sediments that were brought by Euphrates and Tigris from the Armenian highlands (Foster & Polinger, 2009, p. 72). The southern Mesopotamia had the largest wetland ecosystem in Western Eurasia. The Mesopotamian tillers learned how to compensate for a scarce rainfall by the irrigation facilities. The channels were designed to divert the excess water from the rivers as well as to deliver it to the field. The lack of stone and wood gave an impulse for the development of trade with the lands that were full of natural resources. Tigris and Euphrates were the comfortable channels linking the Persian Gulf with Anatolia and the Mediterranean (Foster & Polinger, 2009, p. 84). The geographical location and natural conditions enabled the valley to become a center of attraction for people and the intensive development of trade as well.

The geographical position of Egypt was completely dependent on the Nile River mainly because Egypt was surrounded by a desert. The Nile valley was a long and narrow oasis closed on both sides by two mountain ranges. The effective use of the benefits was not possible without the collective and organized work (Baines, 2011). The uneven spill was caused by the need for the unified system of regulation and distribution of water. The banks of the Nile were overgrown by a dense reed – papyrus, which strongly influenced the lives of Egyptians (Baines, 2011). It was a source for paper, baskets, and boats. Besides, a desert was one more important natural factor of ancient Egyptian civilization. On the one hand, it contributed to its isolation preventing contacts with neighboring nations. On the other hand, the pillar of warm air maintained a humid and temperate climate.

As for the Aegean, there was exuberant flora and fauna, but the access to the sea provided an opportunity to become one of the most powerful civilizations. The geographical conditions of Greece were quite complex and, thus, not very conducive to human life. The country suffered from a lack of irrigation because of the absence of large rivers. The mountain ranges divided the ancient Greece into many narrow valleys that gave access to the sea (Duchesne, 2012, p. 26). There was a plenty of forest resources that grew on the mountains. However, it was hard to feed a very large population of Greece, thus, Greeks started early to look for livelihood on the sea in the early stage of civilization. The coastal residents were usually fishermen and sailors. When the homeland of the Greeks became overcrowded, they had to look for new places to settle and found a world of islands that were not so different from the Greek mainland.

Therefore, the geography of civilizations is very dependent on the water because it was the main source of life. In Mesopotamia, the water was a resource for trade and economic relations. The ancient Egypt also has developed its culture around the Nile, which was the basis for life and culture. The Aegean civilization was mostly mountainous and poor in resources, thus, the cities were built on the sea full of the mined minerals and food.

  1. Conflict between church and state up to ~1400s and its consequences.

The fall of the Western Roman Empire meant the final collapse of the ancient civilization. The Middle Ages tried to reform the previous world, and the Christian church was the most effective method for this goal. The relationship of the state (royal power) and the Christian church (religious power) was very complicated, and thus, they often gave impetus to bitter conflicts, even caused the confrontation. In this case, the relationship between the state and the church had the evolutionary nature, when the church has transformed from a spiritual phenomenon to the autorotation institute in the world history.

In the Early Middle Ages, “barbarian” kings became Christians and, thereby, were obtained to support the Church donating numerous gifts, especially, in the form of extensive land holdings. In this way, the Church has gradually turned into a major landowner. It had the undoubted advantage in comparison with kings and secular magnates because medieval churches and monasteries were not a subject for fragmentation. However, from the 9th to the 10th centuries, the Church was not yet a political organization despite its political weight in the society (Epstein, 2009, p. 32). It was mostly a spiritual community that had a moral impact on the believers as well as contributed to the formation of European culture and identity.

The Church was under the auspices of the emperors and kings up to the 11th century (Epstein, 2009, p. 34). The royal power transformed the Church from public to private domain, which contributed to the growth of political ambitions and rights of the Popes. These ambitions divided the Christian Church into the Eastern (Greek Catholic) and the Western (Roman Catholic). In fact, at the heart of the split was primarily a political conflict – the struggle for leadership of the Christian world and the secular government.

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The authority of the Roman Catholic Church was based not only on the extended territory but also on the Scripture and religious feelings of believers. It had under control a powerful and centralized organization built on a clear separation of the clergy from the laity. Besides, many monastic and knightly orders also supported the Church and, thus, were the opponents to the state. In fact, when the Popes started to claim the leadership of the whole Christian world, the Roman Catholic Church transformed into a kind of pan-European over-territorial and theocratic monarchy in the 11th and 12th centuries (Epstein, 2009, p. 61). It created the political, financial, and judicial groups, and also a powerful diplomatic service and, therefore, had a strong administrative influence on people.

The Catholic Church as an independent political institution had the greatest power in the 13th century when Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) headed the whole reign (Epstein, 2009, p. 81). He created such a procedure when the coronation of the European monarchs had to be carried out as an act of the pope. At the same time, there was a fierce political struggle of the Roman throne for the abolition of the so-called “spiritual investiture”, i.e. the rights of the secular power to approve the election of higher ecclesiastical persons. In the struggle with European monarchs for the political influence, the popes resorted to such potent means as imposing the interdict. The main thing was that they could completely excommunicate the monarch from the Church.

Therefore, with the increasing authority of the Church, it tried to claim the duties of the state. Supported by the feudal lords, it had powerful resources for building its own organized system and, therefore, affected on the believers. After the 10th century, it used more violent methods to control the kings. As a result, the church became the only authority in the Late Middle Ages including the Inquisition and the right to excommunicate kings from the Church.

  1. Major ‘heresies’ to the Roman church, their response and consequences.

The heresy movements have spread in the Western Europe since the 11th century. For the Christian Church, it was important to prevent the spread of heresy that would undermine the authority of both the Church and Christianity (Bauer, 2010, p. 378). The development of the medieval heresies was also associated with the growth of cities, detection of acute social conflicts between the locals and the feudal lords. The struggle of citizens against the feudal system in heresies prepared a new kind of religious-ideological reform. Accordingly, such major religious movements as the Cathars and the Waldenses were directed against the feudal-Catholic Church, and the separation of believers from the Church was the result of this conflict.

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The Cathar heresy was the most common heresy in the second half of the 11th century. It was popular in the Northern Italy (Lombardy), and especially, in France (Martin, 2014, p. 16). On behalf of the French city of Albi, which has been one of the main centers of the Cathar movement, the followers of this heresy were called Albigenses. However, the origin of the Cathars was clearly associated with the Crusades. They had a strict dualistic philosophy. According to this philosophy, the aim was to liberate a man from the wicked world (Martin, 2014, p. 22). Condemning the outside world, the Cathars denied the necessity of the feudal Catholic Church and different feudal institutions. Yet, the Cathars tried to destroy the Catholic Church with its special clergy and secret meetings. Not only the citizens but also a part of the secular feudal lords were under the influence of the heresy, especially leaning in the hope of secularization of the Catholic Church. Pope Innocent III organized the Crusade against the heretics at the beginning of the 13th century, in which the north French feudal lords were attended (Martin, 2014, p. 48). As a result, there was a terrible destruction of the whole Languedoc, which was then attached to the possessions of the French King.

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The Waldenses was the second major heresy that was particularly popular in the medieval villages. It received the name from Lyon merchant Pierre Waldo, who gave his possessions to the poor people (Epstein, 2009, p. 142) and then preached about the philosophy of repentance. However, the doctrine of the Waldenses, including a protest against wealth, social inequality, and injustice, was especially popular among the urban plebeian elements. They did not want to separate from the official Catholic Church but still conflicted with it. They proclaimed the right to read the Bible and to preach independently and later questioned the Catholic teaching about the sacraments. Despite its evangelical rules, purity of morals and life, based mainly on the Sermon on the Mount, the Waldenses were persecuted everywhere up to the 13th century (Bauer, 2010, p. 382). Pope Sixtus IV even declared the Crusade against them. When they were subjected to particularly strong persecution, the Waldenses received a moral support and practical assistance from Geneva and England.

Therefore, the main reason for the fight against heresy was a possibility of decentralization, so the main method was the Inquisition, by which many people and texts had eliminated during the Late Middle Ages. The major heresy movements were the Cathars and the Waldenses, which declared the alternative ideas to the official doctrine of the Catholic Church. The Church organized the crusades against them and used the Inquisition as the most radical method of persecution. Consequently, heretics tried to undermine the authority of the Catholic Church, especially, in the urban culture trying to reduce its impact on the feudal, religious, and political level.

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