Medieval concept of historical time
The original concept of historical time was the most impressive achievement of medieval historiography, which largely determined its appearance. The principle of the chronological organization of the narrative - of the sequential arrangement of facts in time - became decisive for medieval historiography, which distinguished it from the ancient, which was guided principally by the principle of cause-effect relations. The historical understanding of the Middle Ages is based on three different models: ancient, biblical and Old German. The first two were perceived and reinterpreted already in the writings of the early theologians and the Fathers of the Church , putting on alo medieval Christian conception of history. The latter, illustrating the understanding of the time, peculiar to the archaic Germanic culture, was replaced by the learned Christian interpretation of history, but some of its elements survived both in the mass experience of time and in the literary tradition.
The paradigm of the Christian historical consciousness, formed by the learned church culture, rested on two fundamental ideas: Divine predestination and the linear development of historical time.
An ancient narrative about the past has always been the history of a concrete political community, whose time of existence was the time of history. Time in relative units was conducted from an arbitrarily chosen reference point - as a rule, from acts of a ruler who personified the community as a political body. So, in Rome the number was calculated from the foundation of the Eternal City. With the Roman political institutions were also connected and additional systems of calculation - for the periods of consular government, the years of the emperor's rule, tax indices. The time of one political community did not correlate with the time of the other - these were torn apart and autonomous periods. The historical memory of the Germans in general was alien to the concept of date as a milestone on the time scale. In German historical legends, time is comprehended and experienced as a series of generations of ancestors or periods of reign of individual kings, the completion of each of which means the end of time, the break in its continuous flow.
The Judeo-Christian tradition, which was inherited by medieval historiography, brought to it the idea of a natural historical time. The history of the universe had the beginning of the Divine creation and will end - the Second Coming. If the content of history is the salvation of the righteous, the time of the God-chosen people appears as the absolute time of the universe, time in general.
The medieval perception of history was based on the recognition of the absolute importance of predestination, which guided the life of man, individual peoples and humanity as a whole. The existence of people in time acquired a special profound meaning, since it was the will of God and the completed plan for the existence of mankind. The divine design possessed qualities of completeness and absolute obligatory character. This theological idea destroyed the idea of history as a concrete phenomenon, which is always associated with a certain community (people, city or territorial community, clan). History began to be perceived as a universal process, in which all nations that exist now or have ever existed before participate.
Already in the period of early Christianity, attempts were made to present the whole history of mankind as a single interconnected process. At the center of this process was the history of the Jews and Christians - the chosen nations, the keepers of the true faith. The history of other peoples was perceived as a secondary phenomenon, significant only to the extent that they came into contact with Jews and Christians. At the same time, the main attention of the world history of the Christian model was aimed at presenting Christians as an elected community, replacing in this capacity the Jews who departed from the true faith after the coming of Christ. The paradigm of medieval historical consciousness was the Sacred History - the history of the existence and spread of faith among peoples.
In the III-V centuries. the first Christian chronographies were created, which were to coordinate historical events known to pagan writings with the image of biblical history and the own history of Christianity. The founders of exemplary schemes of world history were Bishop EUSEVIA KESARIAI (263-339) and one of the largest theologians of the Latin church HEROIN (347-419/420). In their chronographies, a version of the division of human history from Abraham to modern days is presented, and both biblical and real events were interpreted as turning points. This was the beginning of the tradition of dividing history into five epochs, as well as its delineation into the sacred history of the Jews, and then Christians and the history of other nations.
The first author of the universal Christian history was the faithful disciple of Augustine, PAVEL OROZIY (circa 380 - circa 420), who created the exemplary work for all subsequent medieval authors "Seven books of history against the Gentiles" This world history appeared in the critical period of the history of the Roman Empire, subjected to invasions of barbarian tribes, and its purpose was to comprehend the historical fate of peoples in the context of religious beliefs about the omnipotence of God. (Erosion follows the ideas of Augustine about the indisputable omnipotence of God and his craft, under the control of which are the fates and great earthly empires, and the true elect.
The composition of Orosia was an essay on the history of the rise and fall of the great empires - from the time of Creation to the time of the creation of the text (the first quarter of the 5th century). The author proceeded from the notion that great powers, from the Babylonian kingdom to the Roman Empire, could rise and achieve greatness and might, but ultimately were doomed to collapse, because the purpose of their existence was not the establishment of true faith. Like Augustine, Orosius counterposed the temporal, temporal and transient to the spiritual, the true and triumphant in eternity. Worldly greatness was condemned by him as unrighteous, based on violence and sin. The fate of Rome, humiliated and ready to fall under the blows of the barbarians, was for him one of the examples among a number of other crushed great powers whose history demonstrated the omnipotence of God punishing proud and unrighteous peoples.
The destinies of human communities could be different, but they were all elements of a universal and purposeful Divine plan. The modern idea of history as a single process embracing all of humanity is the product of the Judeo-Christian concept of the universe. Another important consequence of the interpretation of history as a divine plan was the actualization of the question of the causes of historical events. This pushed back the neutral attitude to the past as an obvious given. The search for the moral meaning of the facts was combined in medieval historians with an interpretation of the underlying causes of what was happening. The fundamental cause of any event was the will of God, but it was also necessary to explain what the Creator intended in each particular case.
No less important reason for the medieval Christian theology of history was the statement that the Divine plan for the existence of mankind runs in time and consists of a series of successive successive stages. The existence of people and peoples was included in the general process of the Sacred History, beginning with the act of Creation and having its completion in the Last Judgment. The most important stages in the history of mankind were the Fall and Salvation: for Christians the incarnation of God in human form and the crucifixion of Christ were both sacred events and real facts that open up a new historical epoch. The sacred acts of God had in the Christian world view not only an absolute mythological meaning - they were historical in nature, carried out in time and marked the beginning of special periods. Understanding of historical time as an uninterrupted chain of repetition and reproduction of events identical in nature and meaning was pushed aside or at least supplemented in the Christian model by a linear time scheme.
In the structure of linear time, each event was unique and single. Events of the past preceded the events of subsequent epochs, were connected by many threads. But individual phenomena could not be reproduced in their literal and exact content. The approach to facts, unique to the modern historical consciousness, as unique and unrepeatable, has its roots precisely in the scholarly Christian interpretation of history. Moreover, the notion that the plan of God is realized in time and inseparable from the earthly existence of mankind gave rise to the idea of development according to which each new epoch differs from the previous goals and tasks and at the same time is connected with it, since the new the period can begin only after the end of the previous one. In addition, the idea of development carried the idea of the improvement of mankind in time, because God gave him the opportunity not only for sin, but also for correction. It is no accident that the history of the salvation of man, starting with the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ, was comprehended not only as a continuation of the history of the Fall, but also as its overcoming.
At the same time, the Christian theology of history was by no means a rational doctrine of development and progress. The meaning of human existence, she saw only in the will and purpose of God.
The idea of the linearity of the process of human development, the uniqueness of events and the internal differences of individual epochs was not absolute. Between the facts of the Sacred history, reflected in the biblical tradition, and the events of the actual human history, we saw a typical similarity. The past was interpreted as the prototype of subsequent phenomena: the characters and events of the Old Testament not only preceded the New Testament events and heroes, but also were their prototypes. The method of allegorical typology - the correlation of some characters and events with other, earlier and indisputable - has become one of the main techniques of medieval historical interpretation. It extended not only to the characters of the Sacred History (first of all, to Christ, whose prototypes were considered many characters of the Old Testament), but also to real people. In historical and biographical works, kings, rulers, religious figures and devotees compared with the characters of Scripture and other authoritative texts. In essence, this type of typing was based on recognizing the fundamental frequency of the characters and events.
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