In his inaugural address, newly elected President John F. Kennedy demonstrated charismatic powers of oratory. He did more, however, for he also issued a challenge to his fellow Americans that was more dramatic, more sweeping, a tinge more arrogant, and perhaps more idealistic than they had heard, or would hear, for some time.
From the hand of Thucydides, the historian of the Peloponnesian War, we have an account of Pericles’ famous speech, delivered in the winter of 431 B.C., exhorting the Athenians to greater efforts by describing the ideal of an imperial democracy:
Political aims also governed the economic program of an emperor determined to promote national unity. French peasants wanted to be left alone to enjoy the new freedom acquired in 1789. Napoleon did little to disrupt them, except to raise army recruits.
At the death of Philip the Fair in 1314, the Capetian monarchy of France seemed to be evolving into a new professional institution staffed by efficient and loyal bureaucrats. Philip Augustus, Louis IX, and Philip the Fair had all consolidated royal power at the expense of their feudal vassals, who included the kings of England.
Soon, however, France became embroiled in a long conflict with England—the so-called Hundred Years’ War of 1337-1453—that crippled the monarchy for well over a century.
It is to these years under Henry III that historians turn for the earliest signs of the major contribution of the English Middle Ages to the West—the development of Parliament. The word parliament comes from French and simply means a “talk” or “parley”—a conference of any kind. The word was applied in France to that part of the curia regis which acted as a court of justice.
There was throughout the West a growing interest in scientific inquiry that served to unite peoples.
Science had always been international, since ideas cannot be restrained within the borders of a state, but technology—that is, the application of science to practical ends—may for a time be held within the confines of a single nation through legislation or restrictions on immigration.
Thus England, France, and the German states were cautiously setting themselves apart from the ready acceptance of all logic as deriving from churchly authority.
Fundamentally Luther succeeded because his ideas appealed to people of all classes. In its maturity his theology was seen as revolutionary in economic, social, and political—as well as intellectual and doctrinal ways. The printing press quickly made Luther’s ideas more accessible and assured that they were recorded in permanent forms. Political circumstances also favored Luther and Lutheranism. The protection provided to Luther by his local prince meant that Luther’s ideas took hold before resistance to them could be felt.
The nominal cause of the war was a dispute over the succession to the French throne. For more than three hundred years son had followed father as king of France. This remarkable succession ended with the three sons of Philip the Fair, none of whom fathered a son who survived infancy. The crown then passed to Philip of Valois, Philip VI (1328-1350), a nephew of Philip the Fair. But the king of England, Edward III (r. 1327-1377), claimed that as the nephew of the last Capetian king he had a better right to succeed than Philip of Valois.
The earliest account of Jesus (by Mark) comes from about A.D. 70, and the account by John is from the end of the same century. These accounts are Gospels, that is, statements about the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, written so that those teachings would not be lost. They indicate that Jesus was born in Palestine sometime between the years we now call 8 and 4 B.C. and was crucified probably in A.D. 29 or 30 in the reign of Tiberius.
In Greece, too, Bronze Age civilization had taken root. Greece was a largely barren land divided into small valleys and plains separated from each other, with none far from the sea. From earliest times the inhabitants took advantage of the rugged coasts and islands with their many shelters and good harbors to sail from place to place, profiting by the exchange of olive oil and wine for grain and metal and slaves.