What is the meaning of the term “Dark Ages”? Is it an appropriate description of Europe in the period from 500 800 A.D.? Why or why not?
When does it become meaningful to speak of “Europe” as a distinctive civilization? What were some of its main characteristics (one clue: throughout most of the Middle Ages, the terms “Europe” and “Christendom” were more or less interchangeable).
What economic and social changes took place in western Europe during the period from 300 800 A.D. ?
The Birth of Islam
What was the basic message of Islam? What are the Five Pillars of the faith?
Who was Muhammad and how is he seen in Islam?
Why did Islam expand so successfully throughout the Middle East, North Africa and beyond?
The Western Church
Discuss the origins of the monasteries in Europe. What role did they play in the religious life of the period? Note in particular the Benedictine reforms.
What did Augustine mean by “the city of God”? How did he contrast it with the “the earthly city”? What was his aim in writing The City of God?
Discuss the rise of heresies in the early church. What is a heresy? Note in particular the Arian heresy and the importance of the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed (refined by subsequent councils).
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