Chapter 5: Physica-cum-Medicina in the Middle Ages
Chapter 5Physica-cum-Medicina in the Middle Ages
If we must have dates, then the Middle Ages may be taken to cover the period from the end of Roman civilization in the Latin West (500 is a good round number) to 1450, when the artistic and literary revival commonly known as the Renaissance was unmistakably under way.
– David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science (2007)
The term “Middle Ages” (or medieval period) stands for an expansive timeframe that, despite its popular usage today, resists a neat and tidy historiographic definition. It is rather apt that “age” is pluralized here. For, as the Lindberg (2007) says, “medieval culture (whatever exactly we take it to be) appeared and disappeared gradually, and at different times in different regions.” Along the way, there was, in fact, more than one “renaissance” (or “revolution”) of note. In the eighth-ninth century, for example, we see the “Carolingian renaissance” (sometimes called a renovatio – a “renewal”), linked to the dynasty of Charlemagne (Charles the Great). This was an era when Western Europe was being transformed, from the turmoil following the fall of the Roman Empire, into “a new and vigorous civilization” (Grant, 2007), characterized by centralized government, increasing urbanization, economic stability, and educational reform. There was a rise of state-supported cathedral schools, extending beyond the monastery system. Notably, one sees a heightened interest in the classical texts of old, attended by an increase in scribal activity and a proliferation of manuscript copies. “Philosophical learning...
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