Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/277

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NATURAL SCIENCE IN THE MIDDLE AGES

The results of this contact were felt first in Spain and Italy, but the new civilization became generally manifest throughout western Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This is the period of which I shall speak this afternoon, and I shall now remind you of some things in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that were modern in character, so that you may not be surprised when I suggest that modern science, too, began in the middle ages. A book has been written recently on what we owe to the Greeks; let us see what we owe to the middle ages.

In the first place, the Celtic and Teutonic races and the Roman Catholic church. Those races were absorbed, and were trained and inspired to erect a new civilization. In this work the church, as the greatest social force of the times, played the chief part. It has well been said that the Teutonic vigor and originality, and the spirit of western Christianity were quite as responsible for the Italian Renaissance as was the classical revival. There was no renaissance at Constantinople, though there was plenty of study of Greek there. At Constantinople classical culture remained as it were in cold storage. In Italy there was a fresh living movement. New blood and new ideals were responsible.

Secondly and more specifically, our modern languages and literatures began in the middle ages before the classical revival. Already in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the languages of modern Europe were taking on literary form, and poets were expressing in their own tongues the spirit of a new age. A specialist in comparative literature assures us that the popular literature of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries resembles eighteenth and nineteenth century literature more than it does that of the ninth and tenth centuries which were so much nearer in mere point of time.

In art we owe to the middle ages the marvelous Gothic style of architecture with its new structural conceptions and infinite resource of adornment.

In politics there began then national states in contrast to the city states and empires of antiquity. Representative government, too, was developed as it had not been in ancient times. Representative institutions were widespread in western Europe at the close of the thirteenth century, and survived in England through succeeding centuries to furnish a model for other nations which reintroduced parliamentary government in the nineteenth century. Bishop Stubbs limited his famous "Constitutional History of England" to the medieval period. During that time the English were busy making their constitution; ever since they have been busy breaking it.

The middle ages recovered from the economic dry-rot which had ruined the Roman empire from within before ever the barbarians broke through its military shell from without. The middle ages revived the