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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A World Lit Only By Dim Bulbs

Just started reading A World Lit Only By Fire, and was struck by this bit about the Dark Ages on Page One:

[T]hroughout the Middle Ages, which lasted some seven centuries after Charlemagne, literacy was scorned; when a cardinal corrected the Latin of the emperor Sigismund, Charlemagne’s forty-seventh successor, Sigismund rudely replied, “Ego sum rex Romanus et super grammatica”—as “king of Rome,” he was “above grammar.”

Nevertheless, if value judgments are made, it is undeniable that most of what is known about the period is unlovely. After the extant fragments have been fitted together, the portrait which emerges is a mélange of incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness, obsession with strange myths, and an almost impenetrable mindlessness.

Sounds familiar...


January 21, 2014 | Permalink


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Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

And that was during the Renaissance, the period that named the period before it the "Dark Ages," the "Middle Ages," etc., etc., etc.

Living under the Pax Romana was no picnic either, unless you were not on the receiving end of the Roman Pax, or weren't one of the many Caesars trying to keep your family (and others) from killing you. The civilized Romans, after all, invented crucifixion, possibly the most horrific form of execution possible (death is by drowning; your lungs fill with fluid).

Besides, my sympathies are with the Emperor; I hate Grammar Nazis, too.

Posted by: Rmj | Jan 21, 2014 9:51:31 PM

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