Tape Episodes 11th Century – Century of the Sword

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11th Century – Century of the Sword

As the second millennium began on the Eurasian continent, vibrant civilizations were concentrated in China, India, and the Islamic World. The sword symbolizes the 11th century, not because the 11th was any more violent than other centuries of the millennium, but because it was riven by fundamental divisions within and between many cultures. Among these divisions were conflicts between China and her neighbors, conflicts connected with the expansion of Islam, and conflicts within the Christian world. The sword also represents cleavage, separation, and insularity. Such was the case in Japan, where ties with outside cultures were diminishing or virtually non-existent. Yet despite violence and separation, the 11th century was marked by vibrancy, creativity, and a great deal of cultural transfer, especially in the Islamic World and in East Asia.

As the world began a new millennium in the 11th century, only within Christendom did the word "Millennium" have much significance. Only there was chronology counted from Christ's birth. The rest of the world marked time in other ways, a fact which symbolizes the world's cultural and regional disconnectedness during this period: although cultures met, touched, interacted, and exchanged, for the most part they remained separated and separate. Looking at Eurasia, there were in the 11th century four great cultural constellations-China, the Muslim World, India, and Christendom. China considered herself the center of the universe, dominant in the world of technology, and home to a vibrant internal market and culture. When outsiders attacked, China often survived by absorbing her enemies rather than beating them on the battlefield. Yet, China was set off from the rest of the world by barriers, some geographical like the Takla Makan Desert. Meanwhile, Islam expanded, absorbed and preserved Greco-Roman science and arts, and then produced a brilliant synthesis of Islamic and neighboring cultures. Such a cultural fusion is richly reflected in the Spanish city of Cordoba. India, to the east, was also affected by Islamic travellers and conquerors who occupied northern India in 1000 AD. Eleventh century India, a relic of a former great civilization that had produced two world religious traditions was, at one time, at the forefront of the sciences. Nowhere, except perhaps Ireland, in the 11th century is isolation more evident than in Japan. After centuries of borrowing from China, Japan in the 11th century solidified her imperial tradition in splendid isolation. Separation occurred also within Christendom. In 1054, a split that had been brewing for centuries, finally forever divided Christendom between East and West, Orthodox and Catholic. The East became more vulnerable to Islam while the West entered the second millennium unencumbered, ready to begin the creation of a dynamic new society that formulated institutions and ways of thought that were destined to change the course of world history.

Segments – 11th Century
CHINA - Summary
In China, barbarians from the north swept down to seize some

of China's wealth. In the course of this invasion, the bustling,

cosmopolitan city at the heart of China-Kaifeng-was sacked.

Confucian scholars remained confident, however, that China's

culture would endure. As it turned out, they were more or less

right: China was a center of world innovation and would not be

restrained for long. Chinese civilization had produced the print

block, paper money, the compass, the seismograph, an

accurate water clock, acupuncture, medical sciences, and

gunpowder. The invaders, rather than crushing these

achievements, were seduced by such sophistication and

adopted Chinese ways.


JAPAN - Summary

Treacherous seas separated the Japanese from much of the

world. At the heart of the Japanese islands was a court where

manners had became increasingly refined. Female courtiers

were expected to be skilled in many things. Writing talent in

particular was highly valued. Sei Shonagon was one such

courtier skilled in letters. Her portrait of court life has been

preserved, as fresh today as it would have been in the 11th

century. Perhaps because her world was confined to the walls

of the palace complex, she observed her surroundings in their

minutest details: the raindrops on a spider's web, the wind

created by a mosquito's wings, the play of light on water as it is

poured into a vessel. She also recorded awkward and

embarrassing moments, such as when a man lay awake at night

talking to his companion, only to have the companion go on

sleeping. Sei Shonagon's nights were full of intrigue as various

lovers tiptoed around the palace complex to visit her and the

other ladies of the court. Although this court culture was only a

small part of Japanese reality, it typifies this introspective and

insular society, which would show no signs of initiative for

several centuries to come.

INDIA - Summary


For centuries, India had provided much of the rest of Asia with

sacred scriptures and scientific texts. In the 11th century, the

Muslim scholar Alberuni visited India to learn the secrets of

Indian wisdom. He travelled around the subcontinent for 15

years, visiting sacred temples and studying Sanskrit. He

marvelled at the industry of the various Indian peoples he

encountered but was puzzled by the behaviour of India's

religious leaders. The priests did not take shelter, nor did they

wear clothes. The great learning of the previous millennium was

no longer in much evidence; instead he found a civilization that

had become self-absorbed.
SPAIN - Summary
The Islamic World was a young and vigorous civilization in the

11th century. Over the preceding four hundred years, the

warriors of Islam had conquered vast tracts of territory. Once

converted by traders, the nomadic tribes of the Sahara and

central Asia proved to be even more zealous evangelists than

their mentors. During this century, Turks displaced Arab rulers

in Asia and Egypt, and real military expansion occurred on

many fronts, including sub-Sahara Africa, North Africa,

Afghanistan and Spain. Muslim traders also extended and

consolidated Islamic influence. They operated across great

distances, connecting the African continent to the Middle East,

Christendom and Asia. At the heart of the western Islamic

world lay Cordoba. Like many Islamic cities, it boasted

hundreds of gardens, shops and baths. It was a mirror of

paradise.
JERUSALEM - Summary

Christendom was also on the fringes of the greater civilizations,

and in the 11th century was split irrevocably into two separate

geographic and ideological factions. The West held the wealthy

Eastern Church in contempt, while the more urbane Eastern

Church considered the Christians of the west to be barbarians

of little faith. In 1054, years of political wrangling reached a

climax. The Pope in Rome issued a document formally

excommunicating the Eastern Church. It was a rift that would

create divisions within Europe for centuries after. At the time, it

appeared that prospects for this part of the world in the future

were dim. However, the drive to clear the forests and spread

the Christian faith into the corners of the continent proved to be

a powerful force of revival later in the millennium. Rapid

expansion would begin on all frontiers-the seeds of Western

dynamism were already in hand.



12th Century – Century of the Axe

In CNN's MILLENNIUM, the Century of the Axe was an age of ambitious building, as world populations beeomed and cities thrived. Filmmakers chose the axe as a fitting symbol for the twelfth century because people used it to clear the land for food and housing, thereby transforming and remodeling the world. Some builders created monuments to their gods. Other individuals chose not to build but insead worshipped the land that gave them sustenance.

According to MILLENNIUM's filmmakers, the twelfth century was most conspicuously the century of the axe in Western Europe, but other parts of the globe displayed innovative building and creativity. In Western Europe, life and building rebounded after centuries of stagnation under feudalism. In France, ever more elaborate churches were constructed; in Italy, a frenzy of city-state building reflected growing competition between independent city-states over trade and wealth. In other quite distant parts of the world, building of other types took place. In Ethiopia, Christian temples were carved out of mountains and the Chaco Canyon in the Americas, the Ancient Pueblo people built complex, urban-like structures on canyon floors. And for the twelfth century hunter-and-gatherer culture of the Aborigines in Australia, the axe is symbolic of artistic creativity and control over the environment.

Segments – 12th Century


AMERICA - Summary

In North America, a civilization arose which transformed a

semi-desert into a cultivated landscape. The Ancient Pueblo

peoples of the Southwest imposed a new geometry on the

landscape. At Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico,

stand the ruins of what was once a complex of structures with

more than 800 rooms. The rooms were stacked on top of one

another in a huge semi-circle, a plan that the Pueblo people

devised and kept to for 200 years. The timbers that supported

the vast roofs of the dwellings were brought by hand from

forests over 60 miles away.

Around the buildings lay carefully cultivated fields with crops of

maize and squash. To allow crops to grow in such an arid

environment, the Pueblo people created an ingenious system of

irrigating channels. Dug deep into the rocks and dirt of the

surrounding mesa tops, these channels captured droplets of

rain from passing storms or melting snow. The water then fed

into fields where it was retained by built-up earth around each

plant. This "waffle" irrigation system sustained a growing

population for several hundred years. But after a series of

persistent droughts towards the end of the twelfth century,

even these levels of ingenuity could not help the settlement. It

was eventually abandoned.


FRANCE - Summary
In northern France, forests were cleared at faster and faster

rates. As the population grew, the pressure for land increased.

Churches and houses were usually made of timber, but as the

number of suitable trees dwindled the structures had to change.

At St. Denis in Paris, Abbot Suger dreamed of rebuilding the

old abbey. His inspiration was a mystical vision of heaven. He

envisioned slender stone columns, huge windows, and a mighty

roof that would draw the eye upward toward heaven.

Skeptics told Abbot Suger he would never find trees large

enough to stretch across such an expanse, but he persevered.

He finally found twelve trees tall enough to span the roof and

was able to build his dream cathedral. St. Denis, a mixture of

stone and wood, was completed in Suger's lifetime. However,

it would go through several renovations; as cathedrals

continued to expand, more and more stone was used. The

construction of St. Denis sparked the beginning of the new

style of "Gothic" architecture. Over the next 150 years,

cathedrals sprang up throughout Europe.

ETHIOPIA - Summary
While churches sought to rise to the sky in Europe, in Africa

they were being carved out of the earth. In the highlands of

Ethiopia during twelfth century, a man called Lalibela rose to

power, was crowned King, and went on to establish a

Christian empire spanning the highlands and stretching to the

sea. His ambition was to build a religious state and a spiritual

center to rival Jerusalem. He claimed to have been shown - in

a vision - the most holy of churches in Heaven. He ordered

tools be made to carve temples out of the rock like those he

had seen.


Craftsmen toiled in the stony mountains for over twenty-four

years to create these unique rock churches. Some of Lalibela's

motivation to build these unusual structures stemmed from a

desire to claim legitimacy. He belonged to a dynasty that had

seized the throne and the churches helped him gain acceptance.

His efforts paid off: today he is revered as a saint and his shrine

attracts a continuous flow of pilgrims. While all religions at one

time or another have constructed shrines and physical symbols

to serve an ideological purpose, striking awe into to the layman

and establishing the clergy's direct connection to the power of

God, Lalibela clearly lacked legitimacy and used these temples

to insure his leadership.


ITALY - Summary

In the twelfth century, cities grew worldwide. In Italy, a

booming economy and population explosion meant increased

demand for goods and space. People gathered in cities to

trade and settled in increasingly cramped spaces. Despite

feuding between factions within cities, a spirit of citizenship

emerged. In many towns and cities republics were established,

consuls were elected, and citizens assigned rights. Residents

were proud of their cities and strove to make them more

glorious than their neighbors'. In Sienna, in Tuscany, an event

known as the Palio originated and became a tradition. This

bi-annual bareback horse race round the central piazza

celebrated the city spirit while also serving as a peaceful outlet

for the rivalries among different quarters of the town.

AUSTRALIA - Summary
In Australia in the twelfth century, the Aboriginal culture

flourished. Though they did not build, the Aboriginal' creativity

centered around art: they endowed every landmark with

sacred significance and celebrated it with rituals. The journeys

of ancestors were retraced again and again over centuries; a

physical pilgrimage through artistic celebrations. The

Aborigines' universal language was art. For forty thousands of

years they created paintings in galleries of rock intended to be

overlaid by other artists over time.
Aborigines left their mark on the land in other subtle ways. Fire

was a core technology, and they used it to modify the

wilderness by burning sections and clearing it for grazing

animals. Fire sticks were used to chase animals out of their

burrows. They did not cultivate crops, but instead gathered

foodstuffs offered up by the land. Aboriginal culture developed

a detailed and crucial knowledge of what was edible and

exactly where it was to be found. Aboriginal society survived in

isolation until Europeans began to colonize in the 18th century.

13th Century – Century of the Stirrup

Early in the thirteenth century, the Mongols became a formidable power in Asia. Their new, bureaucratic way of organizing their army - by tens, hundreds, thousands - broke up the older Klan groupings. While horses and stirrups had been familiar for centuries, the Mongol's skilled horsemanship made them powerful and profoundly changed the course of history. Thus, the filmmakers of MILLENNIUM chose the stirrup as the symbol of for the thirteenth century.

The symbol of the stirrup captures the essence of the rise of the Mongols and their remarkable thirteenth-century advance across Eurasia. It also evokes the importance of travel along the reopened transcontinental Silk Road which transported both goods and knowledge. Few areas of Eurasia were untouched by the Mongols, but their advances and conquests meant different things to different peoples. For western Europe, the Mongols were the means of transmission of important knowledge and goods that a century later would enable Europeans to set sail across oceans. For China, Mongols established their rule but not cultural subjugation. The Mamluks in Egypt gained fame as the first to successfully defeat the Mongols, thereby protecting Mamluk Islamic culture. And for the Mongols themselves, their horse-riding prowess meant the beginning of the end of nomadic existence and control of the Eurasian steppe.

Segments – 13th Century

MONGOLIA - Summary
In the Century of the Stirrup, the Eurasian landmass was

transformed by the emergence of a new force in history: the

Mongols. Genghis Khan founded an empire that would

eventually stretch from China to the Middle East, blocked only

by the Mamluks in Egypt. While regular caravan travel

between China and Mongolia began in 101 B.C.E., after the

creation of the Mongolian Empire the trails connecting the East

to the West became safe to travel. As the "Silk Road"

flourished, Chinese knowledge flowed westward, stimulating

new approaches to science and religion.


Genghis Khan grew up among the Mongols, then rose quickly

to prominence, proving himself to be an extraordinary leader.

He quickly dominated the tribes of Central Asia and then went

on to conquer parts of Northern China and the Islamic world.

He used terror tactics to scare people into submission, sparing

only skilled artisans if a town failed to surrender. Once a land

was conquered, however, the Mongols were very tolerant

rulers, allowing other faiths and traditions to continue. The

method of Genghis Kahn's leadership was so strong that the

army and empire he founded continued to grow after his death.

CENTRAL ASIA - Summary

The Mongols enforced law and order across Central Asia,

policing a network of routes connecting East and West. They

built post stations throughout the empire from which messages

were carried at high speed across vast distances. The hostile

impressions some foreign visitors formed changed as they

spent more time with the Mongols. William of Rubruck found

that in Karakorum, the main Mongol city, there were "very fine

craftsmen in every art, and physicians [who knew] a great deal

about the power of herbs and diagnose[d] very cleverly from

the pulse." The religious tolerance Rubruck discovered would

have been unimaginable in Europe at that time.

CHINA - Summary
Kublai Khan continued the work his grandfather, Genghis

Khan, had begun. But he also made significant land gains in

China, achieving a prize that had eluded the Mongols for

decades. Kublai Khan eventually rejected the harsh life of the

steppes and built a luxurious palace complex in what is

present-day Beijing; the poet Samuel Coleridge called it

Xanadu. A visiting Venetian named Marco Polo recorded his

impressions of the palace¹s grandeur: "the walls are of gold and

silver. It glitters like crystal and the sparkle of it can be seen

from far away." The Khan had many concubines and the

women in his court held great sway over him. When Kublai's

senior wife died, he lost the will to rule and retreated into a life

of increasing decadence. In 1368, the conquered Chinese

seized the opportunity to regain their independence.

EGYPT - Summary

After the rule of Kublai Khan ended, others followed China's

lead and challenged the myth of Mongolian invincibility. The

Mamluks in Cairo, Egypt, were the first soldiers to halt the

Mongol military advance west. Their leader was a man called

Baybars, who, like Genghis, excelled on the battlefield. He led

an elite mounted corps that trained on the polo fields. At the

battle of Ain Julut, in Palestine, the Mamluks dealt the Mongols

their first defeat in an Islamic area and were able to protect

Islam from further Mongolian domination. While not a defeat

for the Mongol army as a whole, this small-scale battle had

great symbolic significance. Much of the architecture in Cairo

today dates back to the Mamluk era when a secure empire

ensured flourishing trade. Cairo remained a leading cultural

center within the Islamic world.

EUROPE - Summary
Europeans who had contact with Eastern knowledge often

embraced new ways of thinking. A scientific revolution

resulted, as Europeans began to explore and test the laws of

nature. Frederick II of Sicily conducted numerous experiments,

including disemboweling men to see how their digestive

systems worked. Working in Paris, France, and Oxford,

England, Roger Bacon dissected human eyes. His discoveries

contributed to the invention of spectacles. A new religious

movement encouraged people to regard the natural world as a

thing to be loved and studied rather than feared. But these

innovative movements would be stalled in the following century

as disease and climatic change wiped out much of the

population.

14th Century – Century of the Scythe

The 14th century was an age of dynamic interaction between the great cultures of the world. But some of the promise of the previous century was cut short by climate change, plagues, and peasant revolution. Even so, obstacles to progress in China, the Islamic world, and Christendom created opportunities for previously marginalized parts of the world. The empires of Mali and Java, for example, flourished in this period. The "scythe" of this century was death itself, which swept through many parts of the world, either by disease or through imperial expansion.

For MILLENNIUM's filmmakers, the 14th century demonstrates an important aspect of world history: its dissynchronous nature. In other words, not all parts of the globe experience things simultaneously. Certainly this was true in the 14th century when Europe and China were laid low by disease, climatic change, and socio-political dislocation, even as in Africa (Mali), Central Asia (Uzbekistan), and Indonesia (Java) empires flourished.

Segments – 14th Century

EGYPT - Summary
Cairo was one center particularly hard-hit by disaster. At ten

times the size of Paris or London, Cairo was one of the

greatest cities in the world. But it lost 20,000 people a day to a

mysterious and devastating disease called the Black Death.

The bubonic plague was a pest-borne bacterial infection, which

originated in Central Asia and spread along the flourishing

trade routes both to the East and West. Christendom was

especially hard hit. People struggled to understand why the

disease had struck. Many looked for scapegoats. Jews were

massacred and heretics burned. But when people noticed that

the Jews and heretics were also dying, they began to blame

themselves instead, recognizing the plague as a scourge sent by

God. China, the Islamic world, and Christendom were all held

back from expansion while the disease ran its course.


MALI - Summary
Beyond the reach of the Black Death, other cultures flourished.

In West Africa, where the great Sahara desert provided a

barrier against disease spread from the north, the empire of

Mali was busy trading its abundant gold for essentials such as

salt. An Islamic traveler from Tangier named Ibn Battuta wrote

at length about what he saw in the empire of Mali. The

mosques, libraries, and schools of the region's cities were

gathering places for Muslim intellectuals and became

comfortably familiar to him. Ibn Battuta was particularly

impressed by the humility of King Mansa Musa's subjects and

their devotion to the Islamic faith.

Among the Mongols, all men rode horses; by contrast, in

Mansa Musa's army only a tiny elite of professional soldiers

rode. The skill of these cavalry units enabled Mansa Musa to

dominate large swathes of the desert and grasslands of west

Africa. The gold that provided him with the means to support

such a huge empire became well known as far away as

Europe. It was said that when he went on pilgrimages to

Mecca, his extravagances upset the economies of the towns he

visited.

UZBEKISTAN - Summary

In Central Asia, another empire was able to flourish. A

nomadic conqueror, known as Timur, laid siege to vast

swathes of territory. He began life as a sheep rustler, then rose

to become a leader of armies. Claiming Mongol descent, he

aspired to rival Genghis Khan. But as a convert to Islam, he

also saw himself as a champion of the faith. Using terror and

slaughter, he created an empire that stretched from the Indian

Ocean to the Mediterranean. He used his gathered wealth to

build extraordinary monuments in Samarkand and Bukhara,

inside present-day Uzbekistan. Timur's ambitions seemed to

know no limits. Almost blind and too weak to walk, he set off

on one last campaign to conquer China. But he died before the

invasion could begin - and his empire did not survive his death.

Timur's memory lives on among the people of Uzbekistan, who

hail him as a national hero and a symbol of might.


INDONESIA - Summary
Across the Indian Ocean, at the heart of the world's busiest

trade routes, lay the island of Java, home to the kingdom of

Majapahit. The regular monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean

had helped sailors move East and West across the water for

millennia. For half the year the winds blew in one direction and

for the other half in the opposite direction. In between, ships

idled in ports waiting to take off again. The main island of

Indonesia, Java, was one such stopover point. It was also an

important provider of specialized woods, spices, and rice.

Much of Java's culture had its roots in India. Buddhism and

Hinduism had mixed with local Javanese traditions to create

hybrid faiths. Some of the traditions that originated in the 14th

century are kept alive on a large island to the east of Java,

called Bali. Here they tell the story of Hayan Wuruk, one of the

kingdom's greatest leaders. Like others in this century, he had

ambitions to create a huge empire stretching to China and

India. But for the most part he was content to simply receive

visitors from afar, offering them grand feasts and displays.

Artistic performance was a way of entertaining and of honoring

the gods. The island flourished under his rule.

ENGLAND - Summary
Back in Christendom, things were going from bad to worse.

Not only were the people afflicted with the plague, but

temperatures were plunging. A mini-ice age had struck.

Icebergs floated farther south, and the northern seas grew

treacherous. Marginal lands to the north were deserted and

crops everywhere failed to grow. The poor suffered the most.

What little food there was became astronomically expensive.

Turning to their rulers for help, the poor were rewarded with

oppressive laws and harsh taxes. Peasants across Europe

began to challenge their rulers - rebellions erupted. The poor

sought justice and equality, but their demands were largely

refused. In the next century, some would decide to seek

properity beyond the bounds of Christendom, across the

oceans.



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