The Holy Roman Emperors Vs. the Popes

Throughout the middle ages, and especially in the 12th-13th centuries, there was a power struggle between ruling monarchs and the Popes. Among temporal rulers, the Holy Roman Emperors often came into direct conflict with the papacy.

Frederick I (1122-1190) was a Holy Roman Emperor that hailed from the Hohenstaufen family and was very focused on ending political decentralization within his territories. He sought to bring the various Lombard kingdoms under his control, as well as their resources. The plunder he got from these towns would ensure a strong hold over his own German lands. Pope Alexander III (c. 1100-1181) was concerned with Frederick’s advances into Italy because he might try to interfere with Church matters, so he formed an alliance with the Lombard league of cities. In response, Frederick burned down the city of Milan. Eventually, the Lombard forces were able to drive Frederick back, and there was a reconciliation between him and the Pope, but this was not the end of tensions between the Holy Roman Emperors and the papacy.

After the death of Henry VI (1165-1197), Frederick I’s successor, there were two candidates for the title of holy Roman Emperor put forward by the rival Hohenstaufen and Welf families. The Hohenstaufens already had the kingdom of Sicily under their control, so a Hohenstaufen Holy Roman Emperor in the north would completely box in the papal states. Because of this, the Pope, Innocent III (r. 1198-1216), was very much in favor of the Welf candidate, Otto. Innocent offered support to Otto in exchange for promises to obey Church wishes, including not invading southern Italy, and allowing money from vacant German sees to go to Rome. As can be predicted, as soon as Otto ascended the throne, he went back on all of his promises to the papacy. He invaded Italy, and was declared deposed by Innocent, who shifted his support to Frederick II, Frederick I’s grandson.

Frederick II (1194-1250) was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1212 on several conditions. He had to abandon all claims to Sicily, follow the direction of the papacy, and lead a crusade. With what is becoming a familiar theme, Frederick broke his promise to the Pope, and united the Holy Roman Empire and Sicily, as well as finding excuse after excuse not to go on crusade. Frederick was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX in 1227. Frederick ignored this, and was excommunicated again in 1239, with the addition of an interdict wherever he set foot. Frederick then expelled all friars from Sicily and threatened to hang anyone who brought a papal document to him. In response, Gregory IX called a general council to meet in Rome in 1241 to discuss what should be done with Frederick. Frederick issued an order that said to arrest any bishops heading to this council. That same year, Gregory died and was succeeded by pope Innocent IV (r. 1243-1254).

Innocent IV attempted negotiations with Frederick, but failed. He then called a council at Lyons in 1245, where Frederick was declared deposed. An outraged Frederick called upon fellow monarchs of Europe to come with him and rid themselves of the meddlesome papacy. He said that the state had the authority to reform the Church, and that he intended to march on Lyons and imprison the Pope. This did not take place, however, because Louis IX declared that he would bar the way against Frederick if he attempted something so audacious. In 1250, Frederick died, and after the brief reign of his son, the title of Holy Roman Emperor was not held by anyone for nearly 20 years.

The struggle between the Holy Roman Emperors and the Popes had to do with power. Frederick I wanted to end political decentralization and regain power over his arrant lords, Otto IV and Frederick II wanted to increase their control over southern Italy and Sicily. This made the Popes nervous, so they intervened, which only led to more tensions between the Church and the state.

Essay 14: On Hormones Involved in Hunger and Satiety

The feelings of hunger and satiety are the direct result of hormones and cell-signalling. There are four major hormones involved appetite: insulin, leptin, ghrelin, and PYY.

Insulin suppresses appetite, and is released by the pancreas when the blood sugar reaches a certain threshold. Leptin also suppresses appetite, but is released by fat tissue. The burning of fat cells lowers leptin levels in the body, increasing appetite. From this it would seem that among the obese, there is very little appetite, which is often not the case. One possible reason for appetite to be retained even in the presence of more fat tissue than average is that with larger and larger concentrations of leptin, cells experience what is known as desensitization, and become less influenced by it. Ghrelin is sometimes known as the hunger hormone, and increases the appetite. Its release is triggered when the stomach is empty, and is stopped when the stomach is stretched. PYY stands for peptide YY, and is a short peptide that operates by counteracting the effects of ghrelin. It is secreted by the small intestine after a meal.

Cell signalling plays an important role in controlling appetite. The presence or absence of certain hormone directly influences whether someone is hungry or full. Without these hormones to limit the amount of food we eat, we would simply eat until we ruptured our stomachs.

Victory or Honor in ‘The Song of Roland’

In The Song of Roland, there was a great difference in the personalities and military goals of the two main characters; Oliver and Roland. The Song of Roland was a French epic poem written between the late 11th and early 12th centuries. It chronicled an actual event which took place in the 8th century; the invasion of Spain against the Muslims by Charlemagne, and more specifically the battle of Roncevaux pass. In The Song of Roland, Charlemagne was betrayed by one of his counts, Ganelon. Charlemagne was willing to discuss a deal with the nearly defeated Muslim king, Marsilie, and Ganelon was chosen to be the Frank’s messenger. Ganelon wanted to end the war with the Muslims, so he made a deal with Marsilie, saying that Charlemagne’s nephew, Roland was the real reason Charlemagne was so enthusiastic about conquering Spain, and if Marsilie would only kill Roland, the war would end. With the help of Ganelon’s persuasion, Charlemagne decided to put Roland and his friend Oliver in the rearguard, where Marsilie would attack. All the men (including Oliver and Roland) in the rearguard were killed by the Muslim forces after a long struggle. In the end of the poem, Charlemagne came back and revenged his fallen friends by killing all of the Muslims.

There was a great difference between the personalities and priorities of Roland and Oliver, which culminated in stanzas 83 through 87. As the rearguard began to notice the Muslims were advancing with an overwhelming force (20 to one), Oliver entreated Roland three times to blow his trumpet to signal for assistance from Charlemagne. Roland refused to blow his trumpet, on the grounds that he would be throwing away his personal renown, and the reputation of France if he called for help. He said, in stanza 86: “I would rather die than be overtaken with dishonor”. Oliver was concerned with winning the battle, not losing his personal renown. Roland’s idea of military success was honor and glory, Oliver’s idea of military success was victory.

The difference in personality between Oliver and Roland is clearly spelled out in stanza 87: “Roland is valiant and Oliver is wise”. Roland was a warrior, concerned solely with honor. Oliver was a soldier, concerned with military success. The whole epic focused on honor, glory, and vengeance. The wisdom of Oliver was not accepted, the righteousness of Roland was. The purpose of the military conflict, namely victory, was not prioritized in Roland’s thought, and subsequently the poem’s worldview. Prioritized over military victory in the poem was the idea of righteousness, honor, and sacrifice.

Political Ambition in Early Christian Literature

The early medieval Christian literature did not encourage any kind of political intervention among its believers in history. It was not concerned at all with any reform, except for the individual reform of one’s soul. Early medieval literature was not a call to political action, but to the spiritual enrichment of one’s soul.

Justin Martyr’s First Apology may seem like it does promote political reform, but in fact it is simply calling on the emperor to be just. It does not encourage Christians to take any action in political change at all. In fact, it encourages obedience to civil authorities among Christians. Speaking to the emperor:

“Whence to God alone we render worship, but in other things we gladly serve you, acknowledging you as kings and rulers of men, and praying that with your kingly power you be found to possess also sound judgement.”

Justin did not promote political activism among Christians, he simply called upon the civil authorities to exercise sound judgement and to do justice. He called on Christians to obey civil authorities, just not to worship them.

St. Augustine believed that Christians are pilgrims in this world, journeying into the next. He believed that Christians should have little to do with history, for Christianity’s ultimate end exists in eternity with God. He was not concerned at all with social or political reform. He had a somewhat stoic outlook on life, saying that when times are bad you shouldn’t be disheartened, for things will improve; and when times are good, you should pray to God and prepare yourself for tribulation. This outlook does not seem to promote Christians to attempt to change anything in history.

There was not a call to political reform in early medieval Christian literature. It called instead to reform the individual soul, not the political authority. Christianity was viewed as separate from history, and not intermingled with the temporal governments of the world. Christians were encouraged not to rise up against unjust governments, but to obey the rulers as best they could without sinning.


European Towns in Medieval Economy

The development of towns in medieval Europe contributed greatly to the economic growth experienced in the high middle ages. They contributed to decentralization of European governments, which ultimately resulted in more and more liberties enjoyed by the towns and their people. The Increase in liberties lead to greater economic productivity in the middle ages.

During the invasions in the 9th and 10th centuries by the vikings and others, fortifications were built for protection. These fortifications formed some of the first towns. People behind these fortifications needed supplies, so merchants began moving in to supply this demand. Merchants and craftsmen came from a new class, which developed partially from the younger sons of wealthy landowners or nobility who could not inherit. They went into business as a new way to support themselves. Towns also formed around monasteries, cathedrals, and cathedral schools, which attracted merchants and craftsmen to sell their products. Commerce gravitated towards these areas, which was how the first towns came to be.

The towns gradually pushed for more and more liberties from the Lords whose land the towns were built on. In the late 11th century, merchants demanded charters that gave the towns more freedom. Towns began electing their own officials, and the old feudal and barbarian laws were gradually replaced with more reasonable systems. With the gradual dissolution of the feudal system, serfs were granted more freedoms in towns. For example, a serf that took refuge in a town for a year and a day would be free from all of his obligations as a serf, and would be a free man. The towns upheld the serfs’ rights, and on one occasion, when the count of Flanders tried to reclaim a serf who was legally free, he was run out of town. The Lords had incentive to grant the towns more freedoms, because more freedoms meant more citizens would be attracted to the towns, and more citizens would mean the Lord could collect more money from taxes.

The towns’ gradual independence contributed to greater and greater political decentralization. Power shifted away from monarchs and arbitrary rulers, and came into the hands of smaller political units and local nobility. With a less centralized government, there was much competition between towns to attract citizens by not levying outrageous taxes, and granting other liberties. In an enormous empire, like the Roman Empire, citizens could do little about unfair laws, but in small political units, citizens could simply move to another town. There were charters that limited the taxes that could be imposed, and even a Papal document, In Coena Domini, that imposed excommunication on monarchs who levied arbitrary tax increase.

This much freer system fostered economic growth by allowing the merchant class more opportunity to trade. With the decrease of taxes, trade was much easier and more profitable. The reason for the unprecedented economic growth of medieval Europe was due almost entirely to the development of towns and the subsequent political decentralization.

Essay 13: On Amniotes

The reason that reptiles, birds, and even mammals are able to live terrestrial lives is due to the fact that they are all amniotes, that is, they all produce an amniotic egg. Fish and amphibians are not able to be born on land because they require lots of moisture, which they get directly from the water that surrounds them. Amniotes have overcome this limitation with the amniotic egg.

Amniotes are all tetrapods that exhibit an amniotic egg. The amniotic egg is named for the amnion, which is a fluid filled sac that completely surrounds the developing embryo. It protects the embryo, and allows it to be supplied with the moisture it needs without being in direct contact with water. This major development has allowed organisms to become completely terrestrial.

Other structures in the amniotic egg, called the extraembryonic membranes, include the yolk sac, the chorion, the allantois, and of course, the amnion. The yolk sac is the source of nutrients in the amniotic egg, supplying them to the embryo through blood vessels. The chorion is a membrane that allows gases to be exchanged. It retains moisture, while allowing oxygen and carbon dioxide to cross it. The allantois is the embryo’s waste storage system. It stores metabolic wastes, while also exchanging gasses with the chorion.

At first glance, mammals do not seem to be amniotes, because they do not lay eggs, with the exception of the monotremes (platypuses and echidnas). However, mammals are indeed amniotes, because the amniotic egg which they produce remains inside of the body. All mammalian embryos have an amnion and a chorion, while the allantois is incorporated into the umbilical cord; and the yolk sac cells develop into the embryo’s blood cells, and then migrate into the embryo. Most reptile and bird eggs develop a shell, which seals in moisture and protects the egg while allowing gas exchange; and an albumen, which stores additional nutrients. Most mammals (again except the monotremes) lack a shell and an albumen.

The amniotic egg has allowed animals to colonize land, and even become completely terrestrial, as is usually the case. It may seem like mammals are not amniotes, but they share all the important characteristics that define them as such.

St. Augustine: Christianity in History

The great early Christian thinker, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), had interesting views on the role of Christianity in history. He thought that Christianity was somewhat separate from the world. This was different from many of the ancient religious, which believed that their religion dealt explicitly with the world around them.

In his famous book, The City Of God,  St. Augustine presented an interesting idea. He said that there were two cities, one of God, and one of man. The city of man existed in history, and was perishable, carnal, and filled with war and strife. The city of God was eternal, spiritual, and peaceful. He said that the people of the city of man worship themselves, and ascribe all of their achievements to their own glory. The inhabitants of the city of God recognize God as the source of all of their good fortune and good qualities. The contrast is love of self, which exists in the city of man, and love of God, which exists in the city of God. Originally, all men belonged to the city of God, but that changed with the fall of Adam. Now  all men start as citizens of the city of man, and must work their way up to be citizens of the city of God

Augustine said that Christians are citizens of the city of God, but are forced to live as pilgrims in the city of man. The city of man exists in history, and the city of God exists in eternity. The city of God does not exist in history, and is separate from it. Augustine said that neither the city of God nor the city of man will triumph in history, but the city of God will triumph in eternity. Christianity, therefore, does not have victory in history, because it will have a much greater victory in eternity. This idea is different from that of other religions, particularly Islam and Judaism, which both seem to believe that their god (Allah and Jehovah, respectively) will directly intervene in history for the victory of his chosen people.

The idea that Christianity will not win in history is somewhat unique. Many other religions, such as Judaism and Islam, believe that they will have victory over the unbelievers. Augustine believed that is was not necessary to have victory in history, because a much more glorious victory awaited the citizens of the city of God in eternity.

Thomas Aquinas: God and His Attributes

The great philosopher, Aristotle, came up with a theory for the concept of change. He said that change is movement of matter from potency to act, or potentiality to actuality. The potentiality of something is the potential that that thing has to be something else. Actuality is the state of having realized that potential. Matter cannot move from potentiality to actuality without some external intervention. For example, a pot of cold water has the potential to boil, and if that same pot were boiling, its potential to boil would have been actualized. A pot of cold water, however, is incapable of realizing its potential to boil on its own. There must be an external heat source to actualize the water’s potential, like fire. Therefore, fire is the actualizer that realizes water’s potential to boil.

An object moving from potentiality to actuality is part of one of two different types of series; either an accidentally ordered series or an essentially ordered series. In an accidentally ordered series, the change of one member from potentiality to actuality is independent of its preceding member. For example, when a father goes from the potential of having a son to the actuality of having a son, he makes this change independently from his father, which is his preceding member. In an essentially ordered series, the change of one member is directly caused by the change of its preceding member. To go back to the water analogy, water cannot boil without its preceding member, fire. Fire cannot exist without a preceding member, such as a match, and so on. Thomas Aquinas will take these ideas formulated by Aristotle, and use them to prove the existence of God.

Thomas Aquinas will say that for every essentially ordered series, there must be a first member that actualizes all subsequent members of its series. As an example, consider a hand pushing a stick which in turn is moving a stone. The movement of the stone is not independent of any external force, because it moves only because the stick pushes it. Likewise, the stick is being moved by the hand, not by any power of its own. This series continues, but must stop somewhere because it cannot continue forever. Without an initial actualizer, nothing can change from potency to act because even an infinite number of members cannot actualize themselves. An infinite number of sticks will never be able to move a stone. Therefore, in order for this very first member to be indeed the first member, it must not be actualized by anything, because then it would not be the first member. It must be, according to Aquinas, pure act, having all its potentials completely realized. This is the way of the unmoved mover, or the unactualized actualizer, which is God. This way of proving the existence of God is one of the quinque viae, or “the five ways”, presented in Thomas Aquinas’s book, the Summa Theologica.

From this point, having proven the existence of God, Thomas Aquinas will proceed to derive the attributes of God. We will only discuss three, for there are many. First, God is one. If there existed more than one God, there would also have to exist a way of distinguishing them from each other. In order to distinguish one thing from another, one of the things must lack an attribute that the other has, in other words, one thing must have an unactualized potential that has been actualized in the other. This is impossible, because God by definition has no unactualized potentials, because then He would not be the first actualizer. Secondly, God is all-powerful. Reverting back to another Aristotelian principle, a cause cannot give what it does not have. God must posses all of the attributes which He actualizes as the first mover. If God possesses all attributes, then He is all-powerful by definition. Finally, God is perfect and all good. If God possesses all attributes, then He has to posses the attribute of goodness. An incorrect conclusion which may be drawn from the second attribute discussed here is that if God possesses all attributes, then he must possesses stupidity, deafness, injustice, etc. The answer to this is that these negative qualities are not attributes, but privations. Stupidity is a privation of intelligence, deafness is a privation of hearing, and injustice is a privation of justice.

Thomas Aquinas was an extraordinary thinker who proved the existence of God using only logic and reason, with the assistance of the ideas of an equally great mind, Aristotle. Aquinas’s proofs and writings have shaped Christian thought by doing the seemingly impossible: reconciling faith and reason.

Just War Theory

The conditions concerning the justice or injustice of war were discussed early on by the great orator Cicero. He wrote that war had to be a last resort, and that consideration must be made to those who surrendered. Much later, St. Augustine coined the phrase “just war” in his enormous book, The City of God. He wrote that war is only justified by the injustice of the aggressor, and that peacefulness in the face of grave wrong that could only be stopped with violence would be a sin. He did not however, address the issue of what should be done with noncombatants.

One of the most important Christian treatments of the idea of just war came from St. Thomas Aquinas. Thomas Aquinas drew from the authority of the writings of St. Augustine on the subject, and said that three conditions must be met for a war to be just in his work, the Summa Theologica: 1) The war must be waged by a proper authority. 2) The war must be waged for a just cause. 3) Peace, or the advancement of good, must be the intention of the belligerents in waging war.

In the 11th century, restrictions were placed on waging war by two documents, the Peace of God, and the Truce of God. The Peace of God dealt with what was to be the conduct of combatants during war. It said that women and children must be left alone, peasants and churches must not be robbed, houses may not be burnt, etc. The penatly for breaking these rules was excommunication. The Truce of God set aside certain days which fighting must be suspended, which included certain days of the week, feast days, and certain liturgical seasons.

In the modern world, several more conditions have been added for a war to be considered just. The people intent on waging war must have a probability of success, they cannot enter into a war which they have no chance of winning; proportionality must be exercised, retaliation to an offense must be proportional to the grievousness of the offense; and noncombatants must not be targeted. The just war theory has survived through the ages, and perhaps if modern governments would follow the principles of just war set down centuries ago by some of the world’s greatest thinkers, the world would be a much better place.

Thomas Aquinas: A Brief Overview

Thomas Aquinas was one of the most influential theologians in the history of the Catholic Church. Over the course of his career he wrote 8.5 million words. His ideas and writings have shaped Christian thought to this day.

Thomas Aquinas was born in 1225 to a family of influence and power. He went to the university of Naples, and at age 19, he joined the ascetic Dominicans. Quite predictably, his family objected and Thomas was imprisoned by them for a year in order to prevent him from bringing scandal to the family. During his imprisonment, Thomas memorized the Sentences of Peter Lombard, and the Bible. Finally he escaped his prison with the assistance of his mother. He studied under the famous scholastic philosopher, Albert the Great. Thomas then taught at Cologne, Paris, Bologna, Rome, and Naples. He also assisted three Popes throughout his career.

Thomas Aquinas wrote many books, including the Summa Theologica, the Summa Contra Gentiles, Commentaries on the Works of Aristotle, Two Precepts of Charity, the Angelic Salutation, and exegetical works on various books in the Bible and on the Song of Songs. His two most important works were the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles. The Summa Theological was a massive book (approximately 3,500 pages) which presented many  doctrines of the Catholic Church and defended them from 10,000 possible objections. It was written in a technical style, and was targeted primarily at theology students of the Church and laity. The Summa Contra Gentiles was structured differently from the Summa Theologica, and was targeted at people who were not acquainted with the Catholic faith. It presented proofs for the existence of God, and from these it established what must be the attributes of God. All of these were proven without reference to any of the Holy Scriptures or writings of the Church. He used reason alone to demonstrate these as truths.

Thomas Aquinas was an extremely prolific thinker who wrote many great works on the Catholic faith. He wrote millions of words, disproved thousands of counterarguments, cited tens of thousands of sources, and used reason alone to prove the existence of God and His attributes. After his death in 1274, he was canonized by Pope John XXII. His writings are still studied today by theologians, and will probably be studied for many centuries to come.