The Latin-Christian sphere is treated in terms of a rather elusive multiplicity of objects of perception that form part of an ever-changing cluster of societies at the western fringe of the Asian landmass. In spite of important differences, common features bound these societies together. These include their geographical position west of the Byzantine zone of influence as well as north of the Mediterranean coastlines subject to Muslim rule, the pre-eminence of Christianity in almost all sectors of society, finally the use of Latin as the dominant language of cult and intellectual endeavours. Most labels used for this cultural orbit, e.g. ‘medieval Western Europe’, ‘Latin Christendom’, ‘Occident latin’, ‘Christliches Abendland’, ‘Lateineuropa’ etc., tend to highlight at least one of these aspects.

Even if they refuse to think in terms of ‘civilizations’ or criticize ‘holistic’ conceptions of culture, most historians working on the European Middle Ages operate on the assumption that medieval Europe—heir to the Roman West and prelude to an age of expansion into the Atlantic sphere—constitutes a legitimate object of study.[1] [2] This assumption is carried by the conviction that certain standardizing forces have formed the societies defined here as ‘Latin-Christian’. These forces include the Roman and, to a certain extent, the Carolingian administrative heritage.2 The spread of Christianity led to the development of a specific form of ‘Latin’ (as opposed to ‘Byzantine’ and other forms of ‘Oriental’ as well as ‘Mozarab’) Christianity, centred on Rome and embodied by characteristic institutions such as the papacy and the monastic orders.[3] An increasingly diffused socio-economic model is described, very summarily, as a form of expansionist feudalism.[4] [5] External stimuli also count among these standardizing forces. According to Henri Pirenne, the Arabic-Islamic expansion sealed off Europe from the Mediterranean and ushered in a period of European idiocentrism.5 Others have highlighted that it strengthened cohesion by confronting European Christians with an Islamic ‘Other’, which then came under joint attack by the proponents of crusades, Reconquista, and missionary expansion.[6] Formative stimuli also include the ancient Greek heritage[7] and cultural imports hailing from farther east that were transmitted via Byzantium and the Islamic world.[8]

The term ‘Latin-Christian’ has specific connotations. In a late antique context, ‘Latin Christianity’ is associated with the exponents of patristic literature in Latin in a sphere of activity—the Roman Empire—that was not confined to the European continent, but included North Africa among other places.[9] The terms ‘Latin- Christian Europe’, ‘Latin Christendom’, or their equivalents have a stronger geographic connotation. They demarcate a medieval cultural sphere of influence vis-a-vis ‘Byzantium’ and ‘Islam’[10] that excludes the successors of Roman North Africa,[11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] but encompasses northern and eastern parts of the European continent that never witnessed direct Roman rule. It also includes territorial extensions such as the crusader principalities of the so-called ‘Latin East’.i2

Late antique and medieval sources contain numerous Christian forms of self-identification in Latin and regularly have recourse to the Roman or Latin heritage. But although ‘Latin’ and ‘Christian’ elements pervaded contemporary identity patterns, they were neither dominant nor used identically in a landscape of diverse and fluid cultural composition. Neither is it possible to grasp a well-defined concept of ‘Latin Christianity’ that was common to the peoples and societies of late antique and medieval Europe.13 Imposing the category ‘Latin-Christian’ on medieval Western Europe disregards that Roman and Christian influences permeated the various parts of Europe to a different degree, as is obvious if one compares the medieval ‘Romania’14 with its contemporary Scandinavian counterpart. 15 It also stresses certain unifying factors of medieval Europe to the detriment of cultural diversity and hybridity.16

In view of this, the term ‘Latin-Christian’ can only function as a label to be used with caution when generalizing, comparing, and juxtaposing on a macro-historical scale.17 As will be shown, the Arabic-Islamic records analysed in the present study repeatedly formulate the rather diffuse notion that the Christian societies of the northwestern hemisphere constituted some kind of entity. However, none of them did this by using a single and clear-cut term or concept.[18] [19] [20] [21] [22]

  • [1] Burke, ‘Europe’ (1980), pp. 21—9; Boer et al., History (1995); Schneidmuller, ‘Konstruktionen’(1997); Oschema, ‘Europa-Begriff (2001), pp. 191—235; Borgolte, ‘Perspektiven’ (2001), pp. 13—28;Le Goff, LEurope (2003); Mitterauer, Europa (2003); Oschema, ‘Europa’ (2006), pp. 11—32;Oschema, ‘Identitat’ (2007), pp. 23^3; Herbers, ‘Europa’ (2007), pp. 21^2; Dainotto, Europe(2007); Oschema, ‘Europes’ (2008), pp. 37—50; Oschema, Bilder (2013).
  • [2] Dawson, Making (1932), part I; Wickham, Inheritance (2009), parts I and IV.
  • [3] Milman, History (1867), 9 vols; Heron, Evolution (1919); Dawson, Making (1932); Brown, Rise(1996); Padberg, Christianisierung (1998); Carver (ed.), Cross (2005); Dumezil, Racines (2006); LeGoff, Birth (2007), pp. 4—5; Konig, Bekehrungsmotive (2008).
  • [4] On its beginnings, see Devroey, Puissants (2006); on its later expansion, see Bartlett, MakingofEurope (1993); Balard and Ducellier (eds), Coloniser (1995); Feldbauer et al. (eds), Querschnitte 2(1999); Baschet, Civilisation (2006).
  • [5] Pirenne, Mahomet (1937/1992); Ehrenkreutz, ‘Remark’ (1972); Hodges and Whitehouse,Mohammed (1983); Frank, ‘Pirenne’ (1993), pp. 371—83; McCormick, Origins (2001); Horden andPurcell, Sea (2000), pp. 26^9.
  • [6] Erdmann, Entstehung (1935/1955); Kedar, Crusade (1988); Tolan, Saracens (2002).
  • [7] Haskins, Renaissance (1927/1970); Hunke, Sonne (I960); Berschin, Mittelalter (1980); Vernet,Europa (1999); Lyons, House (2010); Al-Khalili, House (2011); refusing to accept the Arabic-Islamicworld’s role as an important transmitter: Gouguenheim, Aristote (2008).
  • [8] E.g. Hollander, ‘Spiel’ (1993), pp. 389—416; Sezgin, Numerals (2007).
  • [9] Roberts et al. (eds), Christianity (1885/1995); Campenhausen, Fathers (1969), p. 179; Gemein-hardt, Christentum (2007). Compare the biographies of Tertullian, Cyprian of Carthage, Ambrose ofMilan, Jerome, Augustine of Hippo, and so on.
  • [10] Mazal, Byzanz (1995); Pitz, Okumene (2001); Lachmann, Zukunft (2007), p. 210; Burman,Reading (2007).
  • [11] Monceaux, Histoire, 7 vols (1901—23), ends with the advent of Islam.
  • [12] Riley-Smith, ‘Families’ (1997), pp. 1—12; Balard, Croisades (2003).
  • [13] Konig, ‘Historiographers’ (2012), pp. 427—30.
  • [14] 14 Understood here in the linguistic sense of ‘Romance-speaking areas’ as used in Ernst (ed.), Sprachgeschichte, 3 vols (2003—08).
  • [15] See the overview on Scandinavian history by Derry, History (1979/2000), pp. 1—85.
  • [16] Borgolte and Schiel, ‘Mediavistik’ (2008), pp. 16—17; Mersch, ‘Diversitat’ (2009), pp. 8—12.
  • [17] Schneidmuller, ‘Konstruktionen’ (1997), pp. 6—16; Herbers, ‘Europa’ (2007), p. 25; Oschema,‘Europa’ (2006), p. 15.
  • [18] See Chapter 9.6.
  • [19] For ‘Western’ perceptions of Islam, see Daniel, Islam (1960/2009); Southern, Views (1962);d’Alverny, ‘Connaissance’ (1965), pp. 577—602; Rodinson, Fascination (1982); Senac, LOccident(1983); Tolan, Saracens (2002); Tolan, Sons (2008). For literature on ‘Muslim’ perceptions of medievalWestern Europe, see Chapter 1.3.
  • [20] E.g. Welsch, ‘Transculturality’ (1999), pp. 194—213; Ruggles, ‘Mothers’ (2004), pp. 65—94;Epstein, Purity (2006); Mersch and Ritzerfeld (eds), Begegnungen (2009); Burkhardt et al., ‘Hybridis-ierung’ (2011), pp. 467—557; Zorgati, Pluralism (2011); Dakhlia, ‘Metis’ (2012), pp. 45—57.
  • [21] E.g. Dawson, Making (1932); Pirenne, Mahomet (1937/1992); McCormick, Origins (2001);Wickham, Framing (2005); Wickham, Inheritance (2009).
  • [22] Verlinden, Beginnings (1970); Bartlett, Making (1993); Balard and Ducellier (eds), Coloniser(1995); Feldbauer et al. (eds), Querschnitte 2 (1999); Muldoon, Frontiers (2008).
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