The Middle Ages
As difficult as it is for Americans today to imagine a modern world without its own dominance, so must it have been for the proud Roman citizen of the aging Empire. For what reason would Caesar or pleb alike doubt the future of the Pax Romana never had there been a more successful political experiment. Yet, decisions made during Rome's waning years lay the foundation for what would become hallmarks for the post-Roman world. Great civilizations fancy their eventual demise as a grand collapse, but ironically it more often occurs as a whimper; they don't dramatically crash as much as over time simply become irrelevant.
The feudal Medieval worldview was a profound change from what had come before. Classical humanism gives way to Christian mysticism as the outer concrete world dims to the inner realm of the spirit. Sophocles' declaration glorifying the "wonders of man" was out of place in a world of "man's sin." God himself becomes miraculous and all but unknowable as any worshiper in a Romanesque cathedral would have intuitively understood. From plague to famine man was forever confronted with his disobedience. Death - ever present - was only one more reminder of man's inadequacy in the face of God. Like Job, the Medieval world posed a constant test to man's faith which finally placed more hope on the world-to-come than the life of misery before him. No place better than the arts do we see the transformation of Medieval society, and whether by technology or philosophy, light is brought into the faith and the dim cathedrals are illuminated. The west stood on the threshold of a rebirth.
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