VII

THE INTELLECTUAL RENAISSANCE IN THE SECOND FEUDAL AGE

1 SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF THE NEW CULTURE

THE appearance of the great epic poems in eleventh-century France may be regarded as one of the signs that heralded the immense cultural development of the succeeding age. ‘The twelfth-century renaissance’ is the phrase frequently used to describe this movement; and with the necessary qualification that the word ‘renaissance’, literally interpreted, is apt to suggest a mere revival, rather than a new development, the formula is valid—provided that it is not understood in too exact a chronological sense. For though the movement only reached its full development in the course of the twelfth century, its earliest manifestations, like those of the demographic and economic changes that accompanied it, date from the two or three decades immediately preceding the year 1100. This was the really decisive period. To this time belong, to mention only a few examples, the philosophic work of Anselm of Canterbury; the legal work of the first Italian teachers of Roman law and that of their rivals, the canonists; and the beginning of the serious study of mathematics in the schools of Chartres. No more in the domain of the intellect than in any other field of human activity was the revolution a complete one. But the second feudal age, closely akin as it was to the first in many aspects of its mentality, was characterized by certain new intellectual features, the effects of which we must now try to define.

The development of intercommunication, so manifest on the economic map, was no less clearly marked on the map of culture. The abundance of translations of Greek and Arabic works, especially the latter (though these were for the most part mere interpretations of Hellenic thought), and the influence which they exercised upon Western science and philosophy bore witness to a civilization that was coming to be better equipped with antennae. It was no accident that among the translators were several members of the merchant colonies established at Constantinople. In the heart of Europe the old Celtic legends, borne eastwards from their original home, began to imbue with their strange magic the imagination of the French romancers, whilst the poems composed in France—old heroic tales or stories in a newer mode—were imitated in Germany, Italy, and Spain.

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