How did the Crusades impact the Renaissance?
The Renaissance was a period of rebirth of Classical learning that blossomed in Europe beginning in the fourteenth century. The Crusades helped lay the groundwork for this by increasing European contact with the Islamic world. The Crusades did not provide the only contact, but they provided a significant source of interaction, especially in the Crusader States created in the 1100s and 1200s. These were a group of Western European–run areas created in the Levant, the region to the east of Venice. They included Palestine and parts of Greece and Asia Minor.
These regions had translated Aristotelian texts that were not available at the time in Western Europe into Arabic. When these texts were translated into Latin, they brought new currents of thought into Europe, some of which contradicted Church wisdom. While art and intellectual activity had been focused on the Bible and Church documents for many centuries, artists and thinkers began to expand their focus to Aristotle and the texts of other Greek and Roman authors. Artists began to depict scenes from Classical mythology, such as Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, completed in the late 1400s.
The contacts with the Arab world, both through the Crusades and other interactions, brought Islamic advances in mathematics and science to Western Europe and began to lay the groundwork for the dominance of empiricism or the scientific method. Rather than relying on received authority, European thinkers became more prone to test ideas to verify whether they were true or false.
- The Crusades provided an opportunity for the Europeans to rediscover Greek philosophy through contact with ancient Greek texts.
- The Crusades fueled the development of secular governments which later challenged the overall power of religious leadership. The situation also led to a direct challenge to Catholicism through the Protestant Reformation.
- The contact between the Crusaders and Muslims fostered knowledge exchange, and information about religion and literature was shared. This led to a shift in thinking among the European scholars who sought to discover new knowledge on various subjects.
- The development of art during the Renaissance period required money. The Crusades filled the gap by fostering improvements in transport and trade in Asia and Europe. Expansion of trade and transport also led to waning appeal for feudalism and monarchical administration. The situation resulted in the growing desire for political inclusion and freedom among the people.
The Crusades opened up new cultural experiences for the Crusaders. Europeans had access to ancient Greek texts in Byzantium and Arabic thinkers in the Middle East. The Crusades also encouraged European leaders to consider the wealth of the East, especially spices. The Crusaders enjoyed the abundance of spices available in the Middle East and a lot of the exploration during the Renaissance would be fueled by attempts to get these spices while going around hostile Arab lands.
The Crusades also generated a lot of wealth for Europe. The Crusaders sacked Byzantium in the Fourth Crusade and hauled back a lot of its treasures. The church made money off relics from the Holy Land. Kings also felt as though they could ask for more money from their people if the money was to be used for a Crusade. This empowered many of the heads of Europe and they would soon create nation-states.
The Crusades impacted the Renaissance through the ways in which they made knowledge from eastern cultures increasingly accessible to the Latin west. Much of Greek knowledge of science, medicine, and philosophy had been lost to the Latin west after the fall of the western half of the Roman Empire. This knowledge was preserved in t5he original Greek in Byzantium and in Arabic translation (and commentaries which built on and improved the work of the Greeks) in Islamic culture, especially in the regions of Damascus and Baghdad. Although the main point of contact between the west and Islam culture was in Spain, the Crusades also served as a point of contact. Also, more importantly, Crusaders became acquainted with the Byzantine tradition of Greek learning both in the Crusades and from scholars fleeing the fall of Constantinople. The Renaissance was the rebirth of this learning.