Pirenne thesis summary

Any rigid dependence on the idea of strictly drawn delineations creates a false image of the actual situation. Just like space, time in the Mediterranean is just as layered. The first level of chronology is geographic time, that is the natural surroundings with its slow, practically invisible changes, its cycles of repetition. Such changes can be slow but they are still unavoidable, they cannot be resisted. At this level changes take place at a far faster rate than those at the level of natural, geographic environment.

This is the history of individuals with their personal names and identities. Braudel sees it as a time of the surface and of a deceiving appearance. The desert offers nomadic social organization, where the entire community is on the move, while life in the mountains is more sedentary. That, however, is by no means an immutable given. Fluidity, the circulation of men, livestock, agricultural produce and goods, the movement between the mountains and the planes or vice versa, at certain seasons of the year, is also a lasting and defining element of Mediterranean life and identity.

Thus, despite the numerous and various individual factors contributing to its fragmentation and division, he creates an image of the Mediterranean and its hinterland in their entirety.

Henri Pirenne - Mohammed and Charlemagne

Such a perception is crucially different from the vision of a divided Mediterranean proposed by Henri Pirenne almost eighty years ago. The great Belgian historian proposed what was at that time a novel and revolutionary interpretation of development of Europen in the epoch between Constantine the Great and Charlemagne.

His main thesis claims that Arab conquests and the spread of Islam lay at the root of the breach with the tradition of antiquity and the decline of civilization of Western Europe in the Early Middle Ages, and not the invasions of the Germanic tribes. From that perspective, Pirenne expounds his key thesis of how the explosive rise of Islam and the Arab invasions changed the course of development and life in Europe.

Thus, in his opinion, the Mediterranean became a frontier, a liminal area of Christianity and not its nuclesu.

Therefore, in what came to be known in historiography as the Pirenne thesis, the Mediterranean became a point of division, its was closed off by Islamic expansion of the VII century, the north being cut off from the south by an invisible line which divided the sea into two which was only overcome in the age of the first Crusades and the XII century renaissance.

From the time of its publication to this day scholars of the Mediterranean have been making attempts to distance themselves from such a simplified juxaposition of opposites and to create the possibility to observe the sea as a system, with an intention to understand it as a broader geographic, political and cultural phenomenon and to think of the Mediterranean in terms of connectivity and interaction and not only in the sense of a never ending series of particular and conflicting localities.

Speaking of the phenomenon of connectivity and the Mediterranean, and of the subject of the history of Mediterranean studies, a major contribution has lately been made by Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell. Over the fifteen years which have passed since the publishing of the polemic book by Horden and Purcell, and particularly over the last decade, the scholarly discussion over the meaning and identity of the Mediterranean has become very lively, with a growing number of historiographic contributions and an increasing number of conferences on the subject.


One can rightly say that in an entirely new field of Mediterranean studies is emerging in contemporary science. The declared goal of Horden and Purcell was to write a history of the Mediterranean which was not to be burdened by references to superficial similarities, since they know the terrain far too well and cannot neglect all its diversity, or by the tendency to produce a romantic, imperialistic and self-imposing stereotypical image of the Mediterranean.

They have no pretensions to offer a clearly drawn demarcation line between myth and history, literary topoi and scientific concepts. Horden and Purcell define the Mediterranean in the context of a combination of three elements: exceptional fragmentation and diversity of its landscapes, the so-called microregions, instability and sudden changes in its climate which require strategies of coping in states of exposure to constant risk, and an exceptional tradition of interdependence and communication enabled not only by the sea but also by the particular configuration of the terrain surrounding it.

Based on a combination of those three elements, the authors build a definition of the Mediterranean in the sense of the unforeseeable, the changeable and, above all, the local.

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Instead, Horden and Purcell set the standard of simultaneous observation and existence of both images, both concepts, both ways of life: they point out that it is a particular trait of Mediterranean life to be a combination of independent local microregions and an exceptionally high degree of connectivity. In my opinion, it is precisely that which defines, probably more than anything else, the very essence of identity of the Adriatic as one of the major microregions of the Mediterranean. The extraordinary and extensive study by David Abulafia is the latest in that series of great histories of the Mediterranean and presents a story of human history, a tale of the people who lived and live still on the Mediterranean, from Chalcolithic and the Bronze Age to the present.

The Mediterranean is portrayed as a place of encounter of a number of different ethnic and religious communities over an exceptionally long period covered by the text of this study, Greeks, Etruscans, Phoenicians, Jews, Christians, Muslims and many others. Gathered around and settled in large port cities, such as Marseilles, Palermo, Alexandria, Smyrna and a number of others, these groups interact not only at the level of official, high culture, but also in everyday life. That conflict is not necessarily and in every instance between political entities and ruler of different faiths.

Once these distinctions are made, it can be observed that there will be no clear and unambiguous distinction between some cases of failure sensu stricto and some cases of the destruction of a city by its own inhabitants. T his last observation, which may seem a bit overly-subtle and, believe me, I could go into in a much greater detail if I cared to do so , is germane to the present concern of why Roman cities failed.

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  5. If Roman civilization may be identified with the network of Roman cities, then the failure of Roman civilization in the West may be identified with the systemic failure of Roman cities. Since a natural disaster may destroy a few cities but it not likely to cause the failure of many diverse cities over a wide geographical range of distribution unless that natural disaster is global climate change , the across-the-board failure of Roman cities would not seem to be due to natural disaster.

    Similarly, cities destroyed in war tend to be localized to the theater of war, and this leaves definite signs that archaeologists can uncover. Similarly, again, cities intentionally destroyed by their own inhabitants is a measure of considerable desperation and is not likely to have occurred on a large scale, and it would moreover leave traces for archaeologists. This leaves us with the failure of Roman cities ambiguously related to the unintentional self-destruction of cities by their own inhabitants. I n the most famous case of a Roman city — the city of Rome itself, the Eternal City — its fall was as slow and as gradual as its rise.

    Domestic animals grazed in the Forum Romanum as the great temples and public structures were looted as quarries for stone to build ramshackle huts nestled in among the interstices of the ruins. I t was in the Eternal City itself that Gibbon was inspired to write his justly famous account of the fall of the Roman Empire, as he recounted in a beautiful passage from his Autobiography :.

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    F or Rome, the Eternal City itself, was not the first or the only Roman city to have animals grazing in the marketplace where once the business of an empire was transacted. Here, from Dio Chrysostom, is an account of haw far and how quickly some cities had already declined in classical times:. It is therefore surprising that orators trump up charges against the industrious people of Caphereus in the remote parts of Euboea, and yet hold that the men farming the gymnasium and grazing cattle in the market-place are doing nothing out of the way. You can doubtless see for yourselves that they have made your gymnasium into a ploughed field, so that the Heracles and numerous other statues are hidden by the corn, some those of heroes and other those of gods.

    You see too, day after day, the sheep belonging to this orator invade the market-place at dawn and graze about the council chamber and the executive buildings. Therefore when strangers first come to our city, they either laugh at it or pity it. Dio Chrysostom, this is taken from a long passage which Dio quotes in the Seventh, or Eoboean, Discourse, , pp. The Original is in Greek. M any cities, Rome and Caphereus among them, experienced depopulation, declining industry, declining trade, failing infrastructure, failing institutions, and the whole panoply of problems that simultaneously exacerbate each other when systematic failure compounds local failures in a vicious circle.

    B ut it was not always thus. The Hellenistic period was a time of bustling, wealthy cities surrounding the Mediterranean, and it was this network of cities connected by a transportation network that made the civilization of this period vital. Townspeople took pride in the status and beauty of their cities, their local gods and festivals, and the famous men who hailed from them.

    In that part of the harbor which lies towards the innermost recess, the harbor, with the outer sea, forms an isthmus, and therefore the city is situated on a peninsula; and since the neck of land is low-lying, the ships are easily hauled overland from either side.

    The ground of the city, too, is low-lying, but still it is slightly elevated where the acropolis is. The old wall has a large circuit, but at the present time the greater part of the city — the part that is near the isthmus — has been forsaken, but the part that is near the mouth of the harbor, where the acropolis is, still endures and makes up a city of noteworthy size. And it has a very beautiful gymnasium, and also a spacious market-place, in which is situated the bronze colossus of Zeus, the largest in the world except the one that belongs to the Rhodians. Between the marketplace and the mouth of the harbor is the acropolis, which has but few remnants of the dedicated objects that in early times adorned it, for most of them were either destroyed by the Carthaginians when they took the city or carried off as booty by the Romans when they took the place by storm.

    Among this booty is the Heracles in the Capitol, a colossal bronze statue, the work of Lysippus, dedicated by Maximus Fabius, who captured the city. T he booty that Strabo mentions was a symbol of civic status, and it true that when Rome or any other empire conquered a famous city they often took the most famous monuments and moved them to their capital. T he renowned prehistorian Gordon Childe painted a compelling picture of the prosperity and comfortable circumstances of ancient cities in his What Happened in History :.

    The private dwellings were tasteful and commodious. In a provincial watering place like Pompeii with at most 30, inhabitants archaeologists have uncovered street upon street of mansions with mosaic pavements, frescoed walls, colonnaded courts, glazed windows, running water, bathrooms, and latrines. A nd to account for this relative wealth:.

    The cities were united by a network of superb roads. Harbours were everywhere improved or constructed, and the seaways were now free from pirates. T his is a picture that rivals our best cities today. Civilization continued elsewhere in other modes, but it abandoned the dead cities that had once been prosperous and comfortable. And the wealth was not incidental.

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    The failed cities of Roman Hellenism that surround the Mediterranean basin are only there because they were first built and grew and thrived, only later to fail systematically and catastrophically. The prior success of Hellenistic cities is the conditio sine qua non of the collapse of an entire civilization, for without the civilization there is nothing to collapse. Moreover, the scope of a catastrophic failure of a complex system is commensurate with the scope of the complex system. This is easy to see intuitively since a catastrophic cascading failure in a complex system must penetrate through all levels of the system and encompass both core and periphery.

    T his is what happened in the Roman world. Each city is a complex system, and the network of cities that constituted the Roman Empire was an even more complex system. Moreover, each city is a micro-center of civilization, with its hinterlands as its periphery; and the clusters of cities tightly connected by roads and shipping networks were in turn larger centers of civilization, with the outlying networks of further cities as their periphery. T here is a systematic way to discuss these complexities, and that is in terms of metaphysical ecology and metaphysical temporality , though here, in the present context, I will not ascend to metaphysical concerns, leaving the idea of the ancient city aside for the time being.

    Simply employing the bio-ecological levels of Bronfenbrenner without further extension, we can see that the city is a meso-system, or, rather, that the city is at the center of a meso-system which also includes a peripheral region. A network of cities constitutes an exo-system, with further meso-systems at its periphery. T hese bio-ecological and bio-social systems collapse in reverse order as they emerged and grew.

    As the growth of complexity is attended by expansion, differentiation, and dynamic equilibrium, their collapse involved contraction, homogenization, and disequilibrium. The second topic is the advantages of taking a social marketing approach to the problem of childhood obesity. Genesis A 7 page paper that begins with the thesis that the serpent was the catalyst for disobedience, therefore, the serpent is the origin of evil.

    Interestingly, the experts for this text did not select most of the articles listed in the appendix citation tables. The editors acknowledged that articles published by anesthetists in nonspecialist and basic science journals could not be easily identified, especially by using the citation index methodology.

    That the authors have cited anesthesia articles in these leading journals in science and medicine is a major strength of the book. Specifically, topic anesthetic departments now have additional responsibilities that are not obstetric in this volume. Most obvious are critical anaesthesia medicine, acute and chronic pain management, separate preoperative evaluation clinics, and transplant anesthesia overall i. Also, anesthesia for ophthalmologic and ear, nose, and throat surgery is not considered. Each review follows a consistent thesis that includes a summary of the findings, citation count, related references, principal message, strengths and weaknesses, and relevance.

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    This format is superb and provides an excellent, organized approach for the reader to rapidly analyze each topic. Perhaps a brief discussion of the anaesthesia of the citation tables in the appendix would have been helpful to the clinician who does not have experience in short essay about apj abdul kalam evaluation of the literature.