The Twelfth-Century Renaissance

The 12th century renaissance was a rebirth of classical Latin and Greek texts. Unlike the famous renaissance of the 15th century, which focused more on literature, the 12th century renaissance focused more heavily on philosophy and the sciences.

During the 12th century renaissance, many great works of classical literature were revived, but they were eclipsed by the revival of scientific and philosophical works of Aristotle and the other great Latin and Greek thinkers. The study of philosophy dominated most scholars’ time, and left little opportunity to study classical literature. There was however, a significant production of original Latin prose and verse in the 12th century, lending it to be called the last century of international poetry. There was the writing of historical works, not copied or based off of Livy or Tacitus (great Latin historians), but original investigation and study. By the year 1200, the works of Euclid, Ptolemy, Arabic mathematical and astronomical works, medicinal works of Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna; and the entire works of Aristotle were translated. However, the great works of classical Greek literature remained untranslated.

Despite all of these great developments of the 12th century renaissance, there were some setbacks. Many areas of science became the study of the great classical thinkers who wrote on those topics. For example, the study of physics became the study of Aristotle’s writings on physics, and the study of medicine became the study of Galen and Hippocrates’ writings. With the translations of Aristotle’s works, Islamic commentaries of his works also turned up which emphasized points that supported the Islamic religion, and that Aristotle himself did not necessarily emphasize. This lead to some suspicion of Aristotle among Christian scholars. This suspicion was resolved however, because by the mid-13th century, the mastery of all of Aristotle’s writings was necessary for a Master of arts degree.

The 12th century renaissance was a time of great development in philosophical and scientific study, despite the lack of original thought in some areas. A great deal of translations took place, in addition to lots of original Latin poetry. The 12th century renaissance is somewhat overshadowed by the 15th century renaissance, but it played a very important role in the development of western civilization.


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