Thursday, May 29, 2008

Did They Tip in the Middle Ages?

May 29, 2008 - Did the Byzantines keep loose change in their pockets to tip the services of their arrow sharpeners? How much do you leave a Crusader after he's pillaged your village? 10%? 15%? 20? The Crusades "were a series of military conflicts of a religious character waged against external and internal threats to Christianity."1. The Pope and his army of Crusaders had a few enemies. There was the pending threat of the Muslims, the Slavs, the Jews, the Hussites.... I mean, where would the world end up if people were allowed to have their own culture and religion?

The Middle Ages saw the rise of William the Conqueror, eight Crusades, the Inquisitions, the signing of the Magna Carta, a Hundred Years War, the Bubonic Plague, the Canterbury Tales, Knights of the Round Table, and Joan of Arc.2. In bits and pieces it was a pretty cool bunch of stuff going on. It wasn't until I read a book by William Hopper "A Heathen's Guide to World Religions" 3. that the whole Middle Ages made sense to me. It boils down to this... There was Islam in the East. There was Christianity in the West. There was a guy born in Jerusalem. There was a Pope with boatloads and buildings full of money. For the Pope's Christians, there was this need to toss the Muslims out of Jerusalem. For the Muslims, there was a similar need to get the Christians (and the Pope) out of the East. There was a back and forth and a back and forth. There was battles (sorry, Crusades), and then there were the Ottomans (Turks), who eventually crossed over into Europe where they conquered Greece, the Balkans, and the Eastern Mediterranean, and finally, took Constantinople and caused the fall of the Byzantine Empire, and ultimately the end of the Middle Ages on May 29, 1453. Alas, today is the End of the Middle Ages Day.

We are yet to leave the middle ages in the middle ages. It seems we are still fighting the same battles, only we wrapped them up in new weapons, and new media. So while we fail to leave behind the religious wars, we wage new crusades. Will our ancestors read about the fall of the American Empire?

If we can't leave our history in the past, perhaps we can leave the change? Today is "Leave the Change Day". So when you pick up your newly sharpened sword, or a box of new arrows, leave the change. Leave a little extra. I'm sure the Ottoman's left change, even if the Crusaders did not.

1. Wikipedia has a boatload more info than what I could get through
2. Middle Ages Timeline is a long and convoluted history that seems is not yet done.
3. William Hopper's book "A Heathen's Guide to World Religions" is available online

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